Traditional farm machinery on display at County Durham show

Traditional farm machinery, dating back as far as the early 1900s, will be on display a County Durham agricultural show later this month

Traditional farm equipment restored by Paul Coppen and Stan Mitchell
Traditional farm equipment restored by Paul Coppen and Stan Mitchell

Traditional farm machinery, dating back as far as the early 1900s, will be on display a County Durham agricultural show later this month.

The collection, owned and restored by Gilmonby farmer Paul Coppen with the help of retired farmer Stan Mitchell, will be among the draws of this year’s Bowes Agricultural Show, to be held on September 14.

Among most significant pieces will be two wooden sledges, once pulled by horses or ponies as a method of transporting hay from fields to barns - a practice that continued on some farms up until the 1960s.

One is a sturdy specimen originates from Holme Farm, Gilmonby, where the Bowes Show itself is held.

The other, of a much lighter design, comes from neighbouring White Close Hill Farm.

“This sledge was purchased for the princely sum of £1 at the farm implement sale in 1975 and stored until recently in a field barn,” Mr Coppen said.

“Two local retired gentlemen remember this sledge from their childhood when they would visit the farm after school and use it with the help of a horse to bring in the hay.

“They recall that it was exciting to be working in the field after a day’s academic endeavour in the classroom, but once they had left school and spent an exhausting day labouring on some building project the prospect of making hay at White Close Hill in the evening began to lose some of its appeal.”

While the upland regions were using relatively primitive methods for hay collection, however, more sophisticated mechanised systems were being operated further south.

An example to be displayed is the Bamfords hay loader of 1916, a clever device that loaded hay on to waggons automatically, cutting down on manual labour.

“The Bamfords hay loader will be attached to a farm waggon, painted and lined out in the traditional manner, and made by Crosskill of Beverley in East Yorkshire in the early 1900s,” Mr Coppen said.

“Waggon builders took great pride in their workmanship and one story has it that having finished making a waggon the builder decided to deliver it by pulling it himself to the customer’s premises, just to demonstrate how free-wheeling and easy on draught his creation was. Waggon design varied from region to region and unlike modern vehicles waggons never got a puncture. Farmers were also reported to be very proud of their painted waggons. Pulled by a pair of well groomed heavy horses with gleaming harness they would drive in style through their village to the admiration of all their neighbours.”

Bowes Show also features one of the largest horse entries in the north, shown over eight arenas, as well as a wide range of competition classes for cattle, sheep, dogs and the industrial section. Throughout the day, there will likewise be trade stands, craft stalls, refreshments, a trail race and fun run, a licenced bar and a range of facilities, including toilets and parking.

Admission costs £5 for adults and £2 for children aged five and over. For details contact show secretary, Paul Tranter, on 01833 631125 or see www.bowesshow.org.uk

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