Cat no. 328

This Was England

Running time20:07 Black & White Sound 1936 Suffolk

Loading the player ...

A history of farming and some countryside skills still in use.


AgricultureDocumentaryWomen's Filmmaking

The titles of the film are shown over a map of East Anglia that is a recurring feature of the film. Each section begins with a caption shown over this map. We see pictures of the sea at Dunwich and of ruined buildings, including cottages and a church. The film repeats the legend that the bells of the ruined churches beneath the sea can be heard on a winters' evening. The commentary uses the analogy of the tide to compare with the tide of trade and business. Over agricultural shots showing a farmer bringing in his sheep and a tractor and plough, the commentary explains that this second tide is ebbing away and leaving behind the ruins of a Suffolk that was once the richest part of England. After these introductory pictures the film begins its main task of tracing the historical origins of farming and countryside skills still in use.

The first of these, dating from prehistoric times, is flint mining and flint knapping. At a flint quarry at Lingheath Common we see 'Pony' Ashley mining for flints. In Brandon, a flint knapper, George Edwards, is shown at work. He cuts rounded flints for building and gun flints to be sent abroad for use in flintlock pistols and muskets that are still in use in the third world. After a shot of St. Peter's Church, Theberton illustrates the building usage of flints.

The next sequence illustrates a skill taken from the early Britons, that of brush drainage. This sequence is introduced by Mr. Flloyd Peecock, of Wood Farm, Sibton. His farm workers are shown marking out the course of the drain and then digging it out, which is done by hand. They lay clay pipes where the drain runs into the ditch and then lay the brushwood in the trench. They re-fill the drain, the brushwood holding up the earth and preventing the drain from becoming clogged.

The Romans introduced the skill of making silage, the topic of the next sequence. Green crops are cut by a tractor driven reaper, carted away in a tumbrill and emptied into a hole dug in the ground. When the green crops are piled above the hole, described in the commentary as a half buried haystack, they are earthed up. By winter they have become brown, like chewing tobacco, and can be cut by the slice and fed to cattle.

The Anglo-Saxons are credited in the film with introducing broadcast sowing into Britain. Mr. William Aldred, described as being over 80, explains his skill to the camera. He can cover 10 acres of land with 10 pints of seed. He also explains his early career. He was a seaman and was shipwrecked three times. He fills his box with seed and then illustrates double handed broadcast sewing.

Mole catching is attributed to the Middle Ages. A mole catcher, Old Brushey Whincop, is seen at work on the Sibton Abbey Estate. He lays a trap, removes a mole from a sprung trap and pegs the dead creature up on a wire fence. The camera reveals moles pegged along the length of the fence.

The next sequence concerns a visit to a sawpit in Walpole. This skill is attributed to Tudor England in the commentary although the captions use the term The Elizabethans. At the sawpit George Aldridge, top sawyer, and William Quinton saw a tree trunk in half length ways.

The eighteenth-century sequence involves thatching and shows Ebenezer Joshua Rackham and his sons re-thatching a cottage roof. They carry up the straw, put it into place and the peg it down. In his speech to the camera, Mr. Rackham explains that the roof was thatched by himself and his father 36 years previously.The nineteenth century contribution to modern Suffolk farming was artificially powered machinery. A steam powered portable threshing machine is filmed working on a farm near Leiston.

The twentieth-century contribution is depicted as more advanced machinery. A gyrotiller is shown at work, made by Fowler of Leeds. The film ends with scenes of a horse-drawn plough. This scene is taken directly from an earlier Mary Field film, 'Farming in Winter'.


'This Was England' was first shown on 7th September, 1937 at the Regent Cinema, Ipswich. 'Pony' Ashley was the last flint miner to work on Lingheath common. He worked until the late 1930s, when he was over 80. The flint knapper at work is Mr. George Edwards of Brandon. Mr. Herbert Edwards features in other Archive films. The double-handed broadcast sower is William Aldred, of Sibton. Reports of his age vary from 77 to 89 years of age. When he went to see the premier of the film in Ipswich it was the first film he had ever seen. He said after the film that he liked it wonderful well and told a reporter from the East Anglian Daily Times that he was going to Norwich on Monday to see the film again. Mr. Aldred was the last person in the country to practise this method of sowing.The mole catcher is Old Brushey Whincop. Described as the last of the mole catchers, he was a gamekeeper on the Sibton Abbey estate. He died some months before the film was released.In 1947, the sawpit at Walpole was filled in. As recently as 1980 it was being used as a builder's yard. Mary Field had been a teacher of history. She championed the cause of educational films and in 1951 was involved in the foundation of the Children's' Film Foundation. In 1933 the Gaumont-British Picture Company formed two subsidiary companies, Gaumont-British Equipment and Gaumont-British Instructional. This was designed to be a double attack on the scarcity of films and equipment in schools at that time.

Featured People:

Mr. William Aldred, sower; Mr. George Edwards, flint knapper; George Aldridge, sawyer; Mr. Flloyd Peecock, farmer; George Quinton, sawyer; Ebenezer Joshua Rackham, thatcher; 'Pony' Ashley, flint miner; Old Brushey Whincop, mole catcher

Featured Buildings:

St. Peter's Church, Theberton

Gaumont-British Instructional Ltd.

Mary Field

George W. Pocknall; Frank A. Bundy

W.F. Elliott

Terms and conditions

The Terms and Conditions apply to the website (the Website) and by accessing the website you are agreeing to abide by them.

 We may modify the terms and conditions or withdraw or deny access to the Website at any time at our sole discretion.

In your use of the Website you agree not to, at any time:

  1. Conduct or promote any illegal activities
  2. Attempt to reverse engineer or jeopardize in any way the correct functioning of the Website and its services or otherwise attempt to derive the source code or other code or software that enables the operation of this website.
  3. Use any automatic, electronic or manual process not provided by this website to access search or harvest any information from the website or to interfere in any way with its proper functioning.
  4. Mirror or frame the website or any portion thereof, place pop-up windows over its pages or otherwise affect the display of its pages.

Every effort has been made to exclude or flag content that may be upsetting or cause offence and not to include films that are unsuitable, however the East Anglian Film Archive bears no responsibility for people under the age of 18 viewing the Website or for any offence that may be caused by people viewing the Website. If you feel that some items could cause offence please contact us in the first instance. If you would like to have access to any of the films available for purposes not permitted by these Terms and Conditions, including any commercial venture, then please contact us.


The content of the Website including but not limited to the text are Copyright © 2011 The East Anglian Film Archive of the University of East Anglia.

The copyright in the original film materials and the digital reproductions of all still and moving images herein and their arrangements in many cases may be owned by a number of parties. Any requests for copyright clearance for use of the material should be directed to the East Anglian Film Archive in the first instance. It is the requester’s responsibility to obtain such necessary clearance and the East Anglian Film Archive will not be held responsible for any failure on the requester’s part to do so.

The contents on the Website may be accessed as view only and purely for non commercial personal, educational and cultural interest. Under no circumstances shall any content be downloaded, transferred, copied or re-produced in whole or in part in any manner or in or on any media without the prior written consent of The East Anglian Film Archive.

The East Anglian Film Archive would like to thank those who allowed copyright permission for the use and display of works that appear on this site.


The East Anglian Film Archive has made every reasonable effort to locate, contact and acknowledge copyright owners. There are a small number of cases where, despite our efforts, the copyright owner has not been identified. In these cases, we welcome contact from copyright owners and will take immediate action to gain any appropriate clearances or remove the items if requested.

We do not guarantee that the Website will be compatible with any and all hardware or software which you may use nor that the Website will be available all of the time or at any specific times.

The East Anglian Film Archive makes no warranty that the Website is free from computer viruses or any other malicious or impairing computer program.

The Website contains links to other websites with their own terms and conditions. The East Anglian Film Archive is not responsible for the terms and conditions of these websites.


The East Anglian Film Archive is committed to a high standard of quality in all its work and with this in mind every attempt has been made to present up to date and accurate information on this website. However, visitors need to bear in mind that it is possible that information contained on this website may be out of date, incomplete, the opinion of the author or the opinion  “of the time” and may contain technical inaccuracies and typographical errors. We accept no responsibility for keeping the information in these pages up to date or liability for not doing so. If you notice information that needs to be updated or corrected, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Personal data

The Website may contain some personal data such as names of film-makers, some film participants etc. We have taken all reasonable care to ensure that we operate within the provisions of data protection legislation. If you believe that any of the data on the Website causes or is likely to cause damage or distress to you or any other living person, please contact us with details.

Liability and indemnification

Any unauthorised use you make of the University of East Anglia or East Anglian Film Archive copyright and/or trademarks will constitute an infringement of the University of East Anglia’s Intellectual Property and may lead to legal action and other such remedies in accordance with the governing law.

You agree to indemnify and hold harmless the University of East Anglia and its employees, affiliates and students

Except to the extent prohibited by the governing law the University of East Anglia accepts no responsibility for any use you may make of the Website.

The University of East Anglia is only liable to you for direct losses which you may reasonably be expected to suffer where you can show that such losses were as a result of our breach of these terms and conditions. Any implied warranties and conditions are fully excluded.

Our Liability to you shall in no circumstances include any loss of profit or revenue or any other indirect losses you may incur whether foreseen or not.

Governing Law

The Laws of England and Wales shall govern and the Courts of England and Wales shall have exclusive jurisdiction over

  1. The formation, existence, construction, performance, validity and all other aspects of these terms and conditions whatsoever
  2. Any and all claims made by you or us for any and all breaches acts omissions, misuses, liability and copyright claims as set out in these terms and conditions.

The East Anglian Film Archive is owned and operated by the University of East Anglia

© 2011 The East Anglian Film Archive of the University of East Anglia.