Voices in the Coalshed: Food for Thought
Research volunteer, Pam Utley surprised by a story discovered in Coal magazine, wonders if anyone recalls this happening in their former coalfield area.
Written in the December 1951 edition, it suggested that the milk, eggs, chicken, beef and pork that the miners and their families would be having for their Christmas Dinner that year might have come from farms owned by the Coal Board.
The NCB at this time administered and leased many thousands of acres to tenants. The majority of these were ones which colliery companies had taken over in pre-vesting days so they would avoid having to pay the farm owners for subsidence.
The example in the article was of the Ashington Coal Company group of 18 farms which comprised of 3,000 acres of arable land and stock (including 1,700 head of cattle, 2,500 hens, 1,900 ewes and 2,500 hogs). One farm was for poultry and two for dairy farming. The details given for the Ashington Dairy Farm was that the amount of milk it sold daily to local customers (mainly miners) was 1,000 gallons, and milk was bottled in a modern bottling plant on the farm.
Farm workers could buy a quart of milk at half price each day – but the farm cat was allowed free milk (1 pint per day). A large central granary at Ashington housed all the cattle feed grown on the farms. Chopped hay from the farms was supplied to the 1,150 ponies working in the pits of the area.
As recently as 1995, a report in Hansard detailing a debate in the House of Commons about the disposal of NCB property, stated that there were still 110,000 acres of agricultural land at that time.
Can you recall this happening in your coalfield area?