S is for Spence and slaughterhouse

If the history of Springhill in C19 was dominated by the Ashworth/Patrick families (‘A is for...’ and ‘F is for...’) then the virtually constant family during C20 was the Spences of Springhill Farm.

William Spence farmed Springhill Farm from at least 1910, buying it in 1923 when the properties came on the market after Mrs Turner’s Trust was dissolved (“H is for...”). He married Annie Pickup and their three children (Billy, Harry and Betty) inherited the farm from them. Betty married and Billy moved out in the 1970s but Harry lived there until 2004.

The 1947 national farm survey describes the farm as being 32 acres of heavy soil used for dairy but also recording 7 pigs and 30 fowl. The location is ‘good’ as is the condition of the farmhouse whilst farm buildings, ditches, drainage etc are fair. As noted under ‘G is for geology’, the use of the land is limited by its underlying clay nature which turns to bog/mud at the slightest rain... arable farming was limited to fodder and it seems a bit harsh for the farm to be given a ‘B’ rating in the national farm survey due to ‘personal failings’ of the farmer, these being his lack of experience in arable farming.

The farm was never mechanised and was regarded locally as old fashioned in the 60s. It was sold to a local developer in 1988 and 6 des. reses. erected on it. Billy had by this time moved out of the farmhouse (causing a bit of a local scandal at the time) and Harry continued to live there. The house is still known as ‘Springhill Farmhouse’ although the farm has now gone.

The cattle didn’t have far to go when the time came as the next farm along had a slaughterhouse which ran until it fell foul of EU regulations in 1985. This farm, Johnny Barn Farm, ran a cattle auction in the 1920s but I’m unsure when slaughtering began there, or auctioning ceased. I well remember the cattle being herded in as I walked to school.