Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Red Gates Farm, .......... and one of the lost farm houses

I know more about the farms here in the township during the first 60 years of the 19th century than I do about them in the second half of the last century. True there are far more photographs of the buildings but what really tells you the story of these places are the family documents, the census records and the countless bits of paper which never get kept.

And even photographs rarely capture the feel of a working farm, which is why I like this one of Red Gates Farm. It is another of the pictures kindly lent to me by Carolyn Willits and what makes it all more exciting is that one of the men staring back at us is her Uncle John who worked on the farm for the Wood family.

I guess we are looking at the farm on a Sunday in late summer. It is a quiet enough moment on a working farm. 
John and the other chap are out of their everyday working clothes into something smarter as befitting a day off. To the right of the picture are the farm’s chickens pecking away and even further to the right some farm equipment has been left propped up against the tree.

The picture is actually a postcard and reminds us that travelling photographers would record scenes like this to sell back to the residents as well to commercial postcard companies. In this case Uncle John used the past card to send to

And we can date the picture to sometime before 1906 when the postcard was sent to James and Florence Wood at 78 Manchester Road. James was the son of Thomas Wood who had been farming Red Gates since 1881.

Now it might seem bizarre that Uncle John would send a postcard from Red Gates which was just a few minutes walk from number 78 but that was how they did it then. With frequent collections and deliveries in a day people did really send a card in the morning to arrange to meet in the afternoon.

Ours was sent at 8.30 in the evening to arrive at breakfast time and the message was simple enough “ Another view for your collection taken while harvesting.” And it was to be one of the last.

Thomas Wood the farmer had died in 1902 and sometime in 1913 or ’14 the farm house was demolished to make way for the new library. It says much for the way that Chorlton had changed since Thomas Wood had taken over Red Gates. It had been one of the larger operations at this end of the township and had still employed three farm workers in 1901. But Thomas Wood was the last to farm Red Gates. Already two of his sons had chosen not to follow him. James had become a commercial clerk and John a music teacher.

Their farm house with its seven rooms went the way of many of our farm houses, so it is good that Carolyn’s picture has survived.

Picture; Red Gates Farm circa first decade of the 20th century from the collection of Carolyn Willits.

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