In his history of Arborfield in WWII,
Burley Ridler spoke with authority on poultry-keeping and produce,
because he was on the committee of the Village Produce and Domestic
The local newspapers reported regularly on this Association and its predecessors, the Cottage Garden Show of August 1939 being one of the last peace-time village celebrations.
Some villagers were involved in rather larger-scale agriculture. The owner of Arborfield Hall, was featured in 'Reading Mercury' on October 21st 1939 in: “How to Increase Crops –Rain when it’s Needed” – an article and photographs of Guthrie Allsebrook & Co. of the Artesian Works, Crown Street, Reading.
Caption for photos: "Artificial Rain" plant at work. The agents are Messrs. Guthrie Allsebrook and Co.
Meanwhile, most villagers had no access even to a hosepipe, but they were able to grow impressive amounts of food.
On July 26th 1941, under the heading 'Formation of Domestic Poultry Keepers’ Club', The 'Mercury' reported that a meeting was held at the Village Hall on the Tuesday to form a Domestic Poultry Keepers' Club, with Mr. A. H. Capper as president and Mr. B. Ridler as secretary. The Cappers had taken over Ridgefield Farm from dairyman Charles Crocker, and converted it into a poultry farm, on rather more than a domestic scale.
November 21st 1942:
Arborfield – Village Produce Association
A meeting, held at the school on Tuesday to consider the formation of a Village Produce Association, was addressed by Mr. K. Paisley, of the County Horticultural staff. The speaker said that the Ministry of Agriculture was anxious to organise as one body all village organisations, so that the village could become self-supporting, particularly from January to June. A recognised organisation could buy seeds, plants and fertilisers, etc., at considerably cheaper rates.
Short reports appeared with great frequency through 1943:
January 23rd: Arborfield: Village Produce Association: A meeting of the Arborfield and District Village Produce Association was held at the Village Hall on Saturday, with Major Morris in the chair. The secretary (Mrs. Moore) reported that over thirty members had been enrolled, and storage space for purchased seeds and fertilisers had been obtained at a central point in the village. It was left to the secretary to obtain the best possible quotations for bulk orders of seed potatoes.
February 20th: Arborfield: Poultry Meeting: At a meeting of the Arborfield and District Domestic Poultry-Keepers’ Council on Saturday, with Mr. A. H. Capper in the chair, it was unanimously decided to accept the invitation of the Village Produce Association to amalgamate with them. A poultry sub-committee of the association will be set up.
The secretary (Mr. B. Ridler) reported a membership of 50. Although there was no official pullet raising scheme this year, one or two breeders had again agreed to supply 8-week-old pullets at 10s. per head. A limited supply of non-rationed feeding stuffs would also be available to members.
June 5th: Arborfield: The secretary of the Village Produce Association (Mrs. Moore) announces that since its formation last December, £17 worth of seeds, 13 cwt. of seed potatoes, 2 tons of lime and 5 cwt. Of general fertiliser have been purchased. Future activities include a “Brains’ Trust” arranged for June 7th, a whist drive on June 15th, and it is hoped to hold a show in the autumn.
June 12th: Arborfield ‘Brains Trust’: A ‘Brains Trust’, organised by the Arborfield and District Poultry Keepers’ and Village Produce Association, was held at the Village Hall on Tuesday. The Question Master was Mr. J. H. Simonds, and the experts were Dr. N. S. Barron (Advisory Veterinery Officer, Reading University), Mr. Barnes (County Horticultural Instructor), Mr. A. H. Capper and Mr. Goddard.
August 25th: Arborfield: School Garden: In a competition for the best kept plot in the Arborfield School allotment, the plot tended by R. Rich, R. Harper and R. Aitchison won the first prize. Mr. Hunt of Arborfield Court was the judge. Through the generosity of the school authorities, the gardens of several villagers whose husbands or brothers are serving in the Forces, have been dug and cultivated by the boys of Arborfield School.
October 16th: Arborfield: Successful Produce Show: The first annual show of the Arborfield Produce and Domestic Poultry Keepers’ Association was held at the Village Hall on Saturday. [There were 173 entries, and a long list of prizes. The Women’s Institute's monthly report noted that the normal produce show wasn’t held this year, but many W. I. members participated in the show mentioned above ]
November 20th: Produce Association: The annual meeting of the Arborfield Produce and Domestic Poultry-Keepers’ Association was presided over by Major H. Morris. […]
In 1944, the Association waxed and then waned:
February 19th: Arborfield Produce Association: A lantern show on gardening was presented at Newland Farm (by permission of Mr. and Mrs. Lee) on Saturday by Mr. Langham and Miss Chown, of the County Horticultural Staff, and this was followed by an interesting discussion on different types of modern vegetable production. [Was this venue chosen because of its access to electricity?].
Future activities of the association include a meeting at the Village Hall on February 19th to consider the formation of a pig club, a gardening “quiz” in March; and a poultry lecture in April.
July 15th: Arborfield Village Produce Association – The committee of the Village Produce and Domestic Poultry-Keeping Association has now made its final arrangements for the annual show to be held on September 16th. There will be garden produce, poultry and rabbit, women’s and children’s sections comprising 42 classes. It is also hoped to stage a small instructional exhibit, dealing with horticultural and poultry-keeping subjects.
September 23rd: Arborfield Produce and Poultry Show – The annual show of the Arborfield Produce and Domestic Poultry-Keeping Association was held at the Village Hall on Saturday. After the show a sale of produce, in aid of the Red Cross Prisoners of War Fund, raised £16 12s. [There was a long list of prize-winners from the 176 entries].
November 25th: Arborfield: To Be Discontinued: At a meeting of the Produce and Poultry Keepers’ Association held at the Village Hall, with Major H. Morris in the chair, it was agreed that owing to a fall-off in support, the Village Produce and Poultry Keepers’ Association would be discontinued. The funds of the Association will be held by Major Morris and Mr. W. J. Verrall, as joint trustees, for the benefit of any future revival of the Cottage Garden Society. The wish was expressed that in spite of the winding up of the association it would be possible to hold a show again next year. It was decided to present a notice board to the village for the benefit of all the village organisations.
On December 1st 1945, the revival was announced:
Arborfield: Cottage Garden Society
At a meeting held at the Village Hall on Monday with Mr. Welham in the chair, it was decided to revive the former Cottage Garden Society. A small committee was formed, consisting of Messrs. Hatcher, Ayres, Hunt, A. J. Bentley, Welham, Chitty, Wheeler, Wells, Middleton, and Mrs. Kent, who were asked to arrange a meeting at Barkham Village Hall in order to ascertain the amount of support the society would be likely to meet in the area.
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