The Animals

Our Pigs

There’s a lot to farming that people don’t know about. My aunt used to buy the pigs when they were little and rear them. When they were big enough we used to have the butcher up from Wombourne to kill them for bacon and meat. They never used to tell us when they were going to kill a pig. If we were at home we would be sent to Gospel End, to do a pile of shopping, which would take us ages because we used to play about, swinging on trees and one thing and another. We were sent out of the way so as not to hear the pigs squealing. You’ve only got to look at a pig and it will squeal. They knew the butcher from anyone else. By the time we got back the pigs were killed and hung-up. The pigs were hung-up for about a day. We had a back kitchen as we used to call it, where you went in through two double doors and they used to hang the pigs there. They were hung upside down by their two hind legs. I went rushing in from school one night and landed with my arms around this pig hanging up.

Baggeridge Cottage.

After about a day my cousin used to cut right down the middle of the spine and take the legs off them. I had to fill the boiler in the boiler house with spring water. My aunt would light the boiler and the carcases would be scalded to remove the hair. The butcher used to come from town and cut the carcases up for bacon and ham and things like that. We kept the meat for us. Two pigs would be killed at a time and one would be given to my cousin who lived across the way.
A man would come from Gornal with a flat float pulled by two horses and bring bricks of salt. The bricks were a couple of feet wide and I used to help to cut them up with a chopper. The salt had to be rubbed all over meat, inside and out and then it was hung up again until it was ready to be used. Salted bacon tasted so much better than bacon that hadn’t been salted. 
When you’ve got a farm you grow up with the idea of animals being killed. You’ve got to do it; it’s a way of life. 
I used to love the scratchings. It’s like a layer of fat all the way down the middle of the back. It peeled off as clean as can be. It was my job to cut it into squares and I had to sit there until it had cooked and the lard had come out. The lard was strained off and the fat was pressed and then dried out in the oven. The scratchings were lovely. They tasted much better than the ones that you buy today.

Some of the cattle that can still be found on the common. In the background is Nash's cottage.
Our Cows

I had an aunt who lived at Cleobury Mortimer, right out in the wilds. Sometimes we would have a cow brought over from there on a cart. The cows were milked in the cowsheds which had to be cleaned every day. The milk inspector used to come around and check. Even the ceiling had to be wiped. The walls were regularly lime washed and the floors and feeding troughs were scrubbed out twice a day.

These cows are in one of the fields next to Penn Brook.

Len, my cousin, used to go to Chapel Ash, to Banks’s Brewery and come back with two big churns full of the wheat that had been used in making the beer. They used to mix it with their food and they also had the grass in the fields. Len used to be coming back from the brewery as we came out of school at about 12 o’clock and he used to tell us to get on the back. We did and there was this big pile of wheat. It was still steaming and hot. It used to smell lovely. We used to pinch a bit sometimes to eat. He did that every Monday for years.
We used to buy straw from Shrewsbury way, I think. My cousin had a barn where he kept the straw and used to look after taking the cows to market. He used to occasionally take some to Bridgnorth market. He could get two on his float at a time.

Our Chickens

My cousins used to take the milk out in churns and a lot of people used to ask for a fowl, and we would get it ready for the next morning. My brother used to kill the fowl, they were always dressed, plucked and gutted, it was a lot of work. They were never sent with their feathers on. Most of the fowl were killed while we were at school and then I used to have to pluck them. I didn’t mind doing that; we wouldn’t have any dinner if we didn’t do it. That was a big job of mine on a Saturday, plucking fowl, I didn’t like gutting them though.

Alton Cottages behind the old brewery.

I used to have a black apron on that came down to my feet and had the bird on my lap. It’s quite easy to do. My aunt would do all the rest like the gutting.

The feathers were sterilised in the oven to kill any fleas or anything else that was on them and made into cushions and pillows. We didn’t throw any feathers away, only the big ones, the wing feathers, they were no good. The feathers were put into paper bags and placed in the oven to sterilise them. They made nice soft pillows.

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The Woods