Memories of the Orphans at Hollybush Farm - 1904 to 1920.
Hollybush Farm, Skelton.
In 1920, Stephen, the last Emmerson of Hollybush Farm, Skelton emigrated to New Zealand.|
He sent letters back to his sister, who was Alice Judson of the Royal George Skelton. These have been preserved by Alice's family, Anne and Neil Judson, now of Saltburn by Sea.
Josie Bland of Skelton and herself a descendant of the Emmersons has edited them and kindly contributed the following family information and extracts from the letters, which give wonderful glimpses of life in the early 1900s.
The Emmerson family had owned Hollybush Farm since the sixteenth century.
Stephen Emmerson [1892 to 1970] and his sisters were born on nearby Hagg Farm, where their mother’s father was bailiff.
They moved into Hollybush in 1897, when his father inherited the farm.
Stephen’s mother sadly died in the same year and then tragically his father died in 1904, making Stephen and his three sisters, orphans.
Stephen was the rightful heir to the farm, but was unable to take possession until he reached the age of 21.
So at this point the children, Lily (14), Stephen(12), Ethel(11) and Alice(9) were separated and sent to live with various relatives.
Stephen, the last Emmerson to run Hollybush Farm, Skelton with his wife, Edie and son, Stephen Charles in New Zealand.
Ethel moved in with her father’s younger brother, John Foster Emmerson and his family, on Myton Farm in Ingleby Barwick.|
Alice went to the farm of her father’s older sister, Elizabeth (Polly) Seymour at Low Worsall.
Stephen went to an Uncle Jack, who later sent him to the Stockton Hirings where he obtained a job as a Horseman on a farm at Girsby.
Lily remained in Skelton, living with and working for her aunt Alice Hannah (Emmerson) Taylor and her husband, John Lightfoot Taylor, in their grocery and draper’s shop at 141 High Street. In 2016 it is Hargreaves, Opticians.
Their father’s cousin, Mary Young, and her husband Thompson Gilderoy, became temporary custodians of Hollybush Farm.
Stephen reached the age of 21 on the 13th May 1913, when he and his sisters Alice and Ethel returned to the farm. (Lily had married in 1912).
He fancied himself as a poet and sent the following verses to his sister, Alice, sometime in the 1950s recalling how they had coped.
"Time marches on", they always say, but I always remember the thirteenth of May.
The thirteenth year of the century old, two teenage girls and boy in a venture bold.
An adventurous trio will be bound, who settled down to till the ground.
Twas "Hollybush", their very own at last and a chance to remember the centuries past.
The sandstone house with pantiled roof had proved through years to be stormproof.
This was their refuge, their ancestral home, no more need for to seek to roam,
"Just teenagers", the villagers said. Many were the shake of wise old head.
"How can they manage, they're nobbut bairns. 'Tis no good talking, experience learns".
A twitch of grief and sorrow showed on their faces, as the youngsters moved in and took their places.
The sisters took the household over, the brother strolled the farm with his dog, Rover.
Then he whistled and he sang, as he went to plough and tilled the land ready to sow,
But alack and alas disaster fell ! The harvest was ruined by a wet spell.
But these youngsters set to with a yeay and a will. It would take more than that their spirits to kill.
Alice Judson [nee Emmerson] 1895 to 1978,
who received the letters at the Royal George.
They must brace up to it and work harder. They could not exist with empty larder.|
So the girls reared turkeys, chickens and geese and even made soap from the fats and the grease.
The boy shot rabbits, a hare now and then and killed a fat pig from out the pen.
He ground his own wheat to make brown bread. The girls made brawn from the piglet's head.
The blood and oatmeal black pudding made and dripping was used like butter first grade.
And so through the season they scratched and they scraped and from disaster gradually escaped.
Then the Spring broke forth with verdure green. There was life and laughter all eyes were agleam.
The great rapture of youth it cannot fail and when the heart is right all must prevail.
The harvest was bountiful full of merit, a true reward that they could inherit.
Another poem was sent from 32 Sutherland Road. Point Chevalier. Auckland. New Zealand probably in the late 1960's.
As children nothing mattered, although we were coldly scattered.
We were torn away without thought or care and driven away to almost anywhere.
We had uncles and aunts’ mournful faces, parading their feelings with airs and graces.
They searched our house and took the ‘loot’, for us kids they did not give a hoot.
We were bundled into strange surroundings, and looked upon as little foundlings.
We were separated for eight long years, with living memories of joy and tears.
But optimistic youth can see the light that follows the great darkness of the night.
‘The Coming of Age’ great joy it brought, and we found the freedom that we sought.
Our old homestead we had acquired, this was all that we required.
Though a depression stalked the land, we were home and this was grand.
We were ridiculed on account of youth, we were juvenile in very truth.
We had two horses, Dutch and Nance, they were young and frisky, full of prance.
They got plenty of grooming and plenty of feed, all in all they were very good steed.
Seventeen cows filled the byres, that was the contract our milk requires.
Ethel and Alice no need to ask, took on the arduous milking task.
They fed the chickens and the hens and tended the pigs in the pens. |
And I with my mighty draught, whistled and sang and even laughed.
At the end of the day, homewards plodding, with the heads of the horses drooping and nodding.
We were greatly troubled by shortage of cash, but we had plenty of bacon and potatoes to mash.
What cared we? There was no rush, we were safely housed in Holly Bush.
Then war broke out, we were unprepared, we carried on a little scared.
Would this again cast us adrift? The ‘calling up’ could cause this rift.
At joining the army I was tempted, and then I was told I’d been exempted.
At producing food I would have to stay, the food production had their way.
For seven hectic years we survived. A healthy partnership contrived.
Till marriage sent us various ways, twas the parting of the good old days.
Migration entered our romantic minds. We tasted the difference of ways and kinds.
The die was cast, our ship was free. We took the journey over sea.
The only contact now is by letter. We can express ourselves better.
With a few chosen words of cheer as we drifted to the end of a lifelong career.
We cannot lose or be bereft of happy memories still left.
The Holly Bushers have vanished but our thoughts cannot be banished.
The Emmersons at Hollybush Farm.
Stephen is seated on the Right Front. Alice the recipient of the letters is immediately behind him. Lily is standing Top Right and Ethel seated just below her.
In other letters Stephen recalls incidents from the years 1904 to 1913, when he and his orphan sisters were farmed out to live with relations and 1913 to 1920, when they lived together at Hollybush Farm.|
"Imagine 60 years ago standing in the Stockton Hirings with Uncle Jack, who sent me to Over Dinsdale for a year. £5 for the year and £1 I had to pay for my washing.
Remember passing on the road at Worsall when you and Martha came to meet me,. You remarked at the cheeky boy nodding to you as we passed each other not realising brother and sister.
Four years had made such a difference in our growth etc. New Year’s Day with Aunt Polly was a great treat to me."
"Memories of hard work, ‘threshing days’ after harvesting. The old gallop down to the station with our daily milk supply etc.
Then we had the dances with the Videans, Blaise Ventresses, Billy Mills, Hy Symons, George Smith and all the rest of girls and boys."
"It is nearly half a century since we said goodbye to each other – 48 to be correct and it only seems like yesterday when you mention the ‘old times’, Ted Ventress, Bob Stevenson and many others;
of course my mind goes back to the Gibson Girls, Sally Stevenson, Connie Videan and all the other ‘flowers’.
The good old hockey matches with Stokesley, the air force etc. The Xmas pig killings and getting the geese ready for market. My holidays at Thornaby Grange and trips onto the pantomimes, Frank Black with his swanky moustache etc.
Gone are the days of family gatherings. There are no Aunt Pollys or other aunts and uncles."
"Time speeds along at a tremendous pace.
It only seems like yesterday, when 55 years ago, we spent our first New Year’s Day together. Dear old Holly Bush and all its memories of youth and all that goes with it.
Our dogs, cats, horses and all, not forgetting the cows, which all went to make up this happy home. We were only three juniors but what a great time we had.
The war years and Zeppelins with their nightly raids only added to the excitement.
The harvest and threshing days were all marked on the calendar.
Ethel’s tantrums, ‘comings and goings’, ‘Billy Mills’ God Bless and our Steve who gave their lives at Xmas time fighting in foreign lands.
Dear Aunt Polly in her simple way being one of the very dearest of mothers to you.
In this passing parade there are countless memories that make any heart throb and throb again.
You and I Alice have always been closely linked and we have gone through life as an example of careless ecstasy.
You mention the Thompsons. One of them is mentioned in the ‘History of the Emersons’ as W Thompson Junior of Marske who was a witness to a will in 1584.
But I know that old Tommy Thompson of Boosbeck always claimed relationship."
"Fifty five years have drifted by with many ups and downs in our wanderings. You are still within gunshot of the old homestead which to us holds for ever many sacred and happy memories.
The stamping of horses hooves on cobblestones, the cries of guinea fowls and the raucous noise of the flock of geese and turkeys.
The smell from the stackyard of new mown hay and the beautiful perfume of a field of beans in flower.
Even the cows, when brought in to munch their feed had a clean and fresh beauty of our country life.
Old Nero our faithful old dog, who guarded us when we were young springs to memory.
I can hear the sparrows quarrelling in the holly tree outside my bedroom window. Now is the time of year when the …….pears were hanging around the bedroom windows.
They were sacred fruit when we were kids and there was a penalty for any stealing that went on.
Remember the station when it was built and Ethel as usual was jealous of the Charlton girls and got into a fight after calling them poppycocks.
Ethel was a proper sticky beak and I didn’t correspond with her for 40 years.
Of course to her we were always ‘slap happy’. This brought to mind cousin Steve and he was one of us, Also Billy Mills many a ….. session we had when Ethel bundled him off home for being late for an appointment.
How silly could she get in those days landing back with bag and baggage after telling us she had left for good.
I often laugh in retrospect and realise how tolerant we were with her and her polished fender etc etc.
Can you remember me throwing a tin of gunpowder on the fire and Dad couldn’t find a cane to give me a hiding.
Remember when you were stuck fast in a hollow tree and dad told us to leave you there.
I rescued you and got a hiding for my pains which included torn hands.
Remember when he made us gallop around the front fields in our bare feet in 1 foot of snow you and I enjoyed it much to his disgust.
"I remember a terrifying night when the Zeppelin hove in sight.
Our hearts stood still and missed a beat till it dropped a bomb in a nearby street.
Of course our gunners got their reward and treated it with slight regard.
The shells struck home abaft the deck and tumbled down the Zeppelins …….
It tumbled in the search light’s flare and so ended one great Zeppelin scare.