Archive for the ‘News’ Category

April on the Farm 2024

Tuesday, April 16th, 2024

The last pigs to be reared in Sulgrave, twenty years ago
Photo: Colin Wootton

Richard Fonge writes:

I started last months notes by saying that there had been a much needed break in the continual wet weather allowing some field work to be done. Sadly it was just a short break, and now in mid April the continual rain persists. It is now a very serious situation for farmers and growers, which could have an impact later on in the year on food prices. You only have to look at the unplanted fields up the concrete road and on the Moreton rd to realise that the chances of planting a crop this spring is unlikely. The effects of the excessive rain can be seen in the winter wheat crop on the Stuchbury footpath. Multiply these field situations across the country and you have a serious situation. We are less than 60% self sufficient food wise as a nation anyway, so we do not want to be sucking in more imports.

In the grass field off the Helmdon rd there is a flock of young sheep. They are ewe lambs which will be bred from this autumn to have their lambs next spring at two years old when they will be called theaves. Sheep terminology is endless and confusing as it varies from different regions of the country. This wet weather has not been good for the lambing season, making it an extra pressure at a busy time. It must be remembered that lambs are born with a coat that is there to protect them from wet and cold, with wet the most threatening of the two. However providing the ewe has the milk to feed her lambs and they are born strong all should be well.

At our forthcoming fete in June there will be skittles played with the winners receiving prizes. This game was once called bowling for the pig, with the first prize of a weaner pig being hotly contested between the men of the village and others from neighbouring villages. Up until the mid 1950s the pig still paid a vital part in the household economy. The saying went. “The only bit of a pig you couldn’t eat was its squeak.” A valued prize. The pig was fed on waste food and fattened up to a good size before being humanely slaughtered by the local pig sticker. The sides were then salted and hung from hooks in the out shed and cottage kitchen. The bacon often 80% fat was vital to that cottager’s family along with the fresh vegetables from his allotment. It must be remembered that work was far more physically demanding, especially farm work where there was often a bike ride to work after a hard days labour, so the high fat meat was soon burnt off.

A man I knew who had been a teenager during the Second World War, said how well they had lived in the country during that time, with vegetables, the pig, fresh eggs, and always the odd rabbit and pigeon and cockerel to supplement their healthy diet. For that is what it was. Living off the land with no preservatives!

Richard Fonge

Neighbourhood Policing Team Visit to Sulgrave on Saturday 13th April.

Monday, April 8th, 2024

PC Mel Carter will be with a marked Police Vehicle near to the Village Shop on the Saturday morning to discuss any concerns you may have.

Advance Notice. Sulgrave Super Saturday Fete. June 8th 2024

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024

The Organising Committee are always open to any ideas, so please don’t hesitate to come forward with any ideas or help on the day.

Richard Fonge. Chairman. Sulgrave Parish Council.  [email protected]


Village Shop Newsletter for April 2024

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024

March on the farm 2024

Friday, March 22nd, 2024

Roman coin found on Sulgrave Castle Hill in 1961
Photo: Colin Wootton

Richard Fonge writes:

It’s nice to have some drying weather after what has been one of wettest of late autumns and winters for many a year. The fertiliser spreaders have been out applying much needed nitrogen to the winter sown crops. The oilseed rape off the Magpie Road will soon grow at a pace and be coming out in flower before the month is out. Some of the wheat on the Stuchbury footpath is suffering from the incessant wet and it will be interesting to see how well it recovers, whilst the fields up the concrete road which were cultivated last autumn will take sometime to dry out before they can be planted.

All fields have names, most of them going back many generations. The field nearest the farm was usually called the dairy ground for the obvious reason as that is where the cows grazed. There are three fields in the Stuchbury Parish, I can recall, Gallows field where the hangman’s scaffold once stood. Washbrook where the stream at the bottom of the field has a sheep wash and Newpiece, so called as it was the last field to be cleared of woodland in the early nineteenth century.

Near to the new junction of the temporary road as it meets the Welsh lane was a triangular field of an acre, used by the drovers to rest their stock, such as there is at the Magpie junction. That history has been destroyed by HS2 as have other field names, by developers. Field names tell you a lot about the former characters and history of the parish.

When farming I had a 25 acre field called mushroom after a sudden crop of mushrooms appeared many years previously, and in 1992 two metal detectorists found a horde of Roman coins dating from 79 AD to 210 AD. It was thought that a pot had been buried which had been broken by the plough and spread in a small area. The Coroner’s court ruled they were not treasure trove but Warwick museum catalogued and kept most of them.

Richard Fonge

Village Shop Newsletter for March 2024

Friday, March 1st, 2024

February on the farm (2024)

Saturday, February 10th, 2024

Vincenzo Luigi Cugini at work on Syresham church roof in 1970. Photograph by Colin Wootton

Richard Fonge writes:

The countryside remains much the same as it has for last three months, with hedge trimming the only task being carried out. Whilst some is done by the farmer himself, most hedge trimming is done by a contractor. With some dispensation allowed in August to cut, the season extends from September to the end of February. A contractor therefore has six months to plan his work, and one man has been doing this for well over fifty years. Many of you may have recognised a small blue Leyland tractor at work in the parishes around here, cutting hedges in winter and mowing grass verges for the council in summer. This combination of senior citizen and tractor of sixties vintage still do a high class job, and have created quite a record for longevity.

Noel is a great character always happy to break off for a chat and recite a yarn or two, and this brings me to mention a past Sulgrave village character, known only to those of you who have lived in the village for a long time. In Manor Rd you may have noticed a cottage between Nutcracker and Hill Farm house that has a wide oak front door with raised and fielded panels and inscribed in the stonework above are the initials V.L.C. 1956. This was the home of Vincenzo Luigi Cugini, an Italian carpenter, joiner and cabinet maker who worked for the village builders, Wootton Brothers. He made the door in the company’s carpenters’ workshop between the telephone exchange and the present village shop to advertise his skills. Vince was conscripted into the Italian army, serving time in Abyssinia before surrendering along with many other Italians at the battle of El Alamein. He then came as a prisoner of war to the Sulgrave camp situated on the left up the Helmdon Rd (a stack of white silage bags mark the area today). This was in 1943 and the prisoners, all Italians, were sent to work on the local farms. Vincent like many of his compatriots stayed on after the war and was offered a job by Sid Wootton, father of Colin (who has been kind enough to supply this information) and he was to stay with the firm until his retirement. He was a master craftsman and I have witnessed some of his work in a friend’s house built in the late sixties. Married with a family before the war separated them, he was to marry a Sulgrave lady called Connie, who outlived him by some twenty years.

Sulgrave has a rich history and this true story needs to be remembered for posterity.

Richard Fonge


Sulgrave Village Shop Newsletter for February 2024

Wednesday, January 31st, 2024

January on the Farm (2024)

Thursday, January 18th, 2024

Snow Drifts at the Magpie – January 1963.          Photograph: Colin Wootton

Richard Fonge writes:

With the weather turning colder in the middle of the month, it is much more seasonal and healthier after the milder wet spell we have had. In 1962/63 I had to keep a diary before going to Agriculture college, and looking back we had hard frosts from Christmas to late February, with a deep snow that lasted most of that time. A winter not to be forgotten. Amazing to think but the villages were dug out by hand! Because of the continual frosts after the deep snow in early January, you could walk on top of the snow without sinking in. It was the bus route that was the main priority as few people had cars, so the bus was vital to get to Banbury for work and shopping. The Alcan works on the Southam Rd (now Amazon) was a large employer, as was The Spencer Corset Factory which was opposite where Morrisons now are. It wasn’t till hire purchase came in a couple of years later and a car could be bought on instalments that we saw more motorists. The Greatworth cricket team before 1963 went to away matches in Arthur Barrett’s bulk grain lorry. This meant the team stayed long after finish of play, as the older players liked to visit the pub and have a game of dominoes or crib.

Remembering those days with nostalgia, and good memories of when life was less complicated, but farm work was hugely physical and so very hard work. Most farms were mixed farms and much smaller in size, but with cows to milk, pigs, sheep, beef and some corn to grow, very demanding. It was from the early sixties with the advances in mechanisation, the use of hydraulic power and the coming of the herringbone parlour, where cows could be milked in batches of five or so that specialisation took place, also hastened by the coming of other industries coming to our towns, such as Bird’s or Maxwell House for example in Banbury.

This brought about a much more efficient farming industry, but by so doing with less employed on the farms, we lost many of the characters of our villages. A final note from that diary says that my Father and I went to Cheltenham on the 13th of March to see a horse called Baulking Green, owned by a distant relative, win the Foxhunters’ Chase for amateur riders and later that month Ayala won the Grand National just beating Carrickbeg ridden by the late Lord Oaksey.

Richard Fonge

Sulgrave Village Shop Newsletter for January 2024

Thursday, January 4th, 2024