East Harting

Harry talks about farm practices in his younger days.
Harry Prior (b.1881; male, retired gardener)
C908/33/C3 © University of Leeds

Transcript for Danesford

Michael: Tell us about those old wagons and things they used to have.

Harry: Wagons?

Michael: Aha.

Harry: What was that?

Michael: Well, you know, what they used to be like and that.

Harry: Oh, the old Sussex wagons?

Michael: Yeah.

Harry: Oh, we used to, they used to have these old Sussex wagons and, and what they had for, for ladders for their, take their big loads was, uh, well, they called them varnicles.

Michael: Yeah.

Harry: See, so and they had the old rope swing along behind to tie the loads on with.

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: And that’s how we used to get about and get all the harvest in.

Michael: Hmm. So how did you used to harvest the corn in those days?

Harry: Oh, rake it.

Michael: Ahem.

Harry: Used to put it in stacks and that’s how we used to do all that. And then, uh, we had them covered in, thatch.

Michael: Right, yeah.

Harry: Though I don’t know about hayst, now what else did you want to know?

Michael: Tell us how you did thatch.

Harry: Hmm?

Michael: Tell us how you thatch.

Harry: Oh, uhm, put a heap of straw down and shook it all up and watered it. And then drawed out these bundles and took it up on a fork.

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: On your backs. And, uh, and let it down in courses.

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: That’s how that was all done. Anything else?

Michael: Hmm. What about this place Uppark1, you know, up there, what’s that like?

Harry: Uppark?

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: Oh, that’s a, that’s a big place where they used to keep all the deers and that in.

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: Deers running and cows, cows one end of the park.

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: What they called, uhm, Con, uh, Comptonside, Compton Down. They used to keep cows all round there. And now they’ve done away with all the cows at Uppark and they’ve let, let the land to some farmers, for to grow corn.

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: There’s no deers now.

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: They’re all gone.

Michael: Hmm. Tell us how you came to this place and made that garden, you know: all that.

Harry: Over there?

Michael: Aha.

Harry: Oh, that was a, that place was made from a, from a little cottage into a big house. And there’s two acres of land there altogether. And what else you want to know about it?

Michael: Yes, how you made it, like.

Harry: Yes, oh, we made it in, in, uh, herbaceous borders and kitchen gardens and flower garden and rose gardens and, uh, lily pond we had. Uh, all s, what, what else we had there now?

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: What else do you want to know now?

Michael: Hmm. Do you think that farming today is as good as it used to be?

Harry: Oh, oh, lot different to what it used to be. Oh, it’s nothing like that, like it was. Still we can’t tell today, they don’t employ the labour, do them?

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: Well, they do ploy the labour, but they, it’s the wages now, I suppose, more than anything.

Michael: Hmm. Then why, do you think it’s better though now than what it was?

Harry: Hmm?

Michael: Do you think it was better when you were at it?

Harry: Well, I can’t say. Well, we, we had to traipse the land then, today they ride it.

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: We didn’t, we used to have the harrows and all that, but today there’s all riding, nothing else.

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: Tractors, you see.

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: No horses, everything’s done with machinery. Cause you can do it now.

Michael: Hmm, hmm.

Harry: Used to have to get up in the morning at about, about five o’clock and get them in, feed them, clean them down, ready for seven o’clock, out to work on the land.

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: Up to break for lunch and then an hour for dinner.

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: And then I was in about four o’clock to clean them down, finish them up for the day.

Michael: Hmm, hmm.

Harry: Yeah. And that’s about right, too.

Michael: How do you plough?

Harry: Oh, and had a one-wheeled plough. Used to reckon to do acre a day.

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: That was a day’s work for a man for to plough acre a day; two horses, up and down the field all day.

Michael: What was the plough like?

Harry: Oh, wooden, one-wheeled plough.

Michael: Hmm.

Harry: Wooden plough. Yes, what they called AR2, Cannings AR2 Plough: that was the name on them.

Michael: Ahem.

Harry: Yes.

Michael: What was it up on the Downs those days? What did you have up on the Downs those days?

Harry: Oh, sheep, sheep, sheep then. Yes, sheep on top of the hills all day. They used to come down nights, in the folds, in the hurdle folds, get a drop of water and bide there all night and back up on the hills next day. Yes. And they used to fetch, used to be fetched down nights, you see.

Michael: Yes.

Harry: And for their food.


1 Uppark refers to a country house just to the southwest of East Harting.

Commentary for East Harting

Harry’s speech is interesting in a number of ways. He uses some vocabulary that sounds a little dated to modern listeners, such as ploy for ‘to employ’ and bide for ‘to stay’. The latter is seldom heard in England nowadays, although it remains pretty common in Scotland. Likewise one or two grammatical constructions echo earlier forms of English, such as the use of for to with an infinitive in the statements they've let, let the land to some farmers for to grow corn and that was a day's work for a man for to plough acre a day, where Standard English would simply require ‘to grow’ and ‘to plough’.

Rural rhotic vowels

Generally Harry’s speech seems relatively familiar, although most people would be surprised to discover that he comes from Sussex, as there are several aspects of his accent that we might nowadays more readily associate with the West Country and with the far South West than with South East England. Above all, he is a rhotic speaker — that is, he pronounces the <r> sound after a vowel. Listen carefully to the way he pronounces the words for, ladders, their, varnacles, harvest, covered, watered, fork, your, courses, Uppark, deers, park, farmers, there, acres, altogether, herbaceous borders, gardens, flowers, more, tractors, morning, work and hour. In fact the <r> in all these words would at one time have been a feature of speech across the UK and it remains very much a part of the English spoken in Scotland and Ireland. In present-day England, however, it is increasingly restricted to the West Country, extreme southwestern England and an area of Lancashire to the north of Manchester.

Listen also to the vowel sounds he uses in words in the following two sets:

  1. about, down, out, how, cows, now, house, flower, hour and plough
  2. behind, tie, Comptonside, like, ride, riding, five, right, nights and bide

These vowel sounds were typical of speech in rural England to the immediate west and south of London until relatively recently. Today however, you are only likely to hear them used by older speakers in this area.