DATA BASE REF: A/F 1004
PETER AND CLARE HARRIS OF TOP LODGE FARM, UPTON nr PETERBOROUGH
Peter And Clare Harris live at Top Lodge Farm, Upton, and farm in partnership with his brother Brian.
Family: Jack Harris
John Harris – lived at Ferry Lodge was the Clerk of Works at Milton
John William Harris m Louisa Wright – farm at Castor
Frank Charlie (Frederick) Arthur Jimmy m Ethna Bill
1900 1902 1905 1912 1914
Martin Brian Peter m Clare Dean Roger
Katie Ian Jack
1982 1984 1986
Farms Associated with the Harrises:
John William Harris born 1872 was the son of John Harris who lived at Ferry Lodge and was the Clerk of Works at Milton Estate. His mother was keen for him to get on in life. In 1895 John William Harris took on a farm at Castor, the house was at what is now called The Old Smithy (lived in by JT and Julie Taylor nee Speechley, 47 Peterborough Road Castor). He also took on the Towers Farm at Longthorpe. His sons Charlie and Arthur farmed with him. John William Harris was obviously a character, hardworking, generous, an Alderman and a Mason. He was also very enterprising and took on a number of business ventures in addition to framing such as supplying gravel and stone.
His farm at Castor included much of the land now framed by Jim Wood of the Hollies Farm, such as the meadows down Mill Road. His mother lent him £20 to get started , to start up on 6 Apr cost him £28-10sThe farm was a mixed farm and included arable, sheep, a dairy and a milk round. He was also a big horseman, and bought and bred some serious horseflesh eg:
Bought brown mare on 16 Mar 1895 for £30-19s-6d at Lutton from Mr J Brawn
He also had a stallion
His sons Arthur and Charlie worked with him, and Arthur spent much of his time breaking horses.
John William Harris stopped farming at Castor in 1933.
The windmill at Castor Mill was called Louth’s Mill. John William Harris used to have rows with Mr Louth who tried to bar him using the footbridge to get to his meadowland.. One day, when Mr Louth barred him John William Harris chucked Mr Louth in the river.
In 1905 the following were employed by JW Harris at Castor: J Hall, M Glover, F Hill, A Hill, Pell Albert Griffin , Ward
Other names before that were Sharpe, Neville, Jim Pywell, Brown, Cooper. These names all come from old account books.
In the 1920s Joe Pickersgill, lately Master of the Galway Blazers, came to take over the Milton Fitzwilliam Hunt; he suddenly appeared one night, with his horses and baggage to stay at JW Harris’ farm at Castor. He was told it was the best place for him. He was clearly a character, who liked his drink, and also polo. John William Harris prepared and cared his polo ground for him at Ferry Meadows
His sons Arthur and Charlie took on Lower Lodge Farm Upton in 1933, and Arthur lived at Primrose Cottage, Church Walk Upton (at the end where Dave and Elli Burton now live).
Eventually in 1940 the brothers went their separate ways and Arthur Harris took on Top Lodge Farm in 1940 (rent free for the first three years).
The farmhouse at Top Lodge is very old, the Northern end probably being Elizabethan. At Top Lodge Farm framing was mixed and included arable, sheep, pigs, hens beef cattle, cows and a dairy. The milk all went to Horrells, and had to be delivered to the roundabout on the now A47 (along with the milk from Manor Farm Upton) by 8am everyday, never mind frost or snow – sometimes using a tractor and snowplough if necessary.
Peter Harris, Arthur’s son, remembers 3 or 4 Shire Horses, including 2 greys and a bay. Arthur was very mechanically minded; he had a tractor in the war – it was an American Alice Caterpillar Tractor, the War Ag lent him £1000 to buy this in 1943/4. Pat Thompson, ex Raf, came as the mechanic in 1945 on demob.They finished with working horses before 1950. They stopped the dairy in 1968. Horrell’s dairy used draught horses for their milk rounds until the 60s.
They got their first combine in 1955, an Alice Chalmers American combine towed by a tractor. Before that they still used a binder, cut the corn, bundled it into sheaves; picked up the sheaves two-at-a-time by hand, and put them into stooks. They were manually loaded into a cart, and taken into the stack-yard. The Gibbonses men would come up from Castor with their threshing machines and thresh in the yard. Loose straw was collected up, put into a stack and used as bedding. Threshing took place at harvest or as soon as possible after. The grain was put into sacks from the threshing machines and the sacks carried up into a loft, upstairs on your back. A sack of grain weighed 18stone and beans 19stone.
Peter took on the tenancy on Top Lodge in 1973, although he had been active on the farm since the 60s. His father Arthur died in 1980; and Peter and Clare were married in 1981. That same year his mother Violet moved to Ailsworth.
The farm land at Top Lodge was very wet, and since Peter took over, with his brother Brian, he has drained a lot of land, and ploughed up a lot of pasture, turning it back into arable. He has also taken over 100 acres from the Nene Park Trust since Theo Hensman gave up farming(land which his grandfather had farmed in the past). He now farms 560 acres, mostly beef cattle, sugar beet, arable, sheep and suckler cows (home-bred) since the 1980s.
In 1927 they got electricity at the Towers Longthorpe. At Top Lodge they used a generator, but were mains supplied in 1957. They were on mains water after the war.