Farming goes on. Gypsy Hall farmhouse is improved.

When Jack and Frankie married they commissioned a house which was designed and built by Walter Gropius, assisted by Maxwell Fry. Thus they had standards to live up to, but Frankie could not either find or pay for an architect to design anything which they would have liked, and she needed accommodation as quickly as possible. These cottages were built first, and housed the Highman family, left hand cottage, and the Price family, the cowman, in the other. Later they commissioned a second set of cottages from Maxwell Fry.

farm cottages
Farm workers cottages built at Gypsy Hall, 1943

14/10/42   The cottages are going to be dreadful, but you mustn’t mind, at least not more than I do, because they are going to make the efficient running of this farm a possibility. I must say I have been lucky in running into Shellabear and his talkative Mr Wilson. Everyone says that, even with permission, it is really impossible to get the material for building now. I have applied for licensed materials but only as formality because Mr Wilson will start pouring on to the farm long before the licences get through.

The farm is going really well, and there is no doubt I did the right thing. It is incredibly hard, really rather too hard, but immense fun and a wonderful life. Highman is a miracle —- really so. Pat argued with me about making him foreman and thought he wouldn’t be good enough, but he now thinks he is one of the best men he has ever known. He is so nice and easy to get on with, and never obstructive or trying to get out of things, and no inferiority complex. It is immense luck having him and one should be very grateful. Then Cyril Wheeldon has blossomed so much since I had the farm. I gave him a rise and I had to give him responsibility because there was no-one else and he has risen like a bird to it.

Then I have a girl tractor-driver which is a thing Carling would never have, and between them and me the two tractors never stop even at meal-times and if it only won’t rain we shall finish the drilling earlier than Carling ever did with 30 acres more than he had. But I am afraid it will rain to-night. It looks and feels like it.

The cowman I have engaged and who helped at the sale is a super-man, and he seemed most frightfully nice and awfully unassuming. If I get the cottages built in time to get him it really will be a good team. He had a really nice wife and four children tho’ he is only 28. I have a lot to make me content and, instead of hurrying the week on I am always trying to hold it back, as I can’t get enough done. You will love it, either as a job or as a background to life.

Gypsy Hall Farmhouse

Gypsy Hall Farmhouse, Wilmcote 1940
Farmhouse at Gypsy Hall

15/10/42   You never can imagine how pretty this house is. It is quite incredible that such a dingy place can be so completely transformed, and I myself am staggered. It is absolutely different from the Wood House and of course not nearly so luxurious, but honestly I think it is every bit as pretty. Anni said that Gypsy Hall Farmhouse  was like a house that had pernicious anaemia and was suddenly cured.

I never seem to mention the war and the truth is I don’t know very much about it. I know that Stalingrad is still holding and somewhere or other deep down I remember to give thanks for that, but otherwise I know nothing. Still, things are beginning to settle down and I have at last got back to writing regularly to you. One trouble is there are no curtains in my room so I can’t sit there at night.

23/10/42  The children are back and Rose has grown about two inches and is nearly as tall as Thomas. Rose went away with a very strong Warwickshire accent but she has come back enunciating every syllable like an elocution class in an extremely refined and affected way. When I told Anni she was very shocked. She said everyone had obviously kept on at her and told her she must do something about it and nothing but Rose’s toughness had stopped her being turned into a stammerer. I said “O Rose wouldn’t react like that” and she said crossly “No, but that’s Rose’s luck, not their wisdom”. However I think my old Rose will survive and as a matter of fact something has got to be done about her, because, apart from the accent, she has started keeping her mouth open. They are very sweet and I am very pleased to have them back. Think what a lovely little family we shall be when at last you do get back. The background of the farm makes it all so much more whole, somehow — something for everyone to do and to concentrate on.

When I was in London I had dinner with Buck. I made some remark about the war, and he said “O, let’s face it, we’ve won the war now”. Apparently this is what people think. They think there is a long way to go, but the fact that they couldn’t break the Russian resistance this year has broken the Germans and won us the war. Rather good isn’t it? Even if they will be thinking something quite different in a week or two. Perhaps we can hope you’ll be here for the 1944 harvest even if not for the 1943.

25/10/42   I have been asked if I will do a five minute question and answer broadcast to America some time in the near future. An American farmer asks questions and you answer. It is a trifle nerve-making as you don’t know beforehand what the questions will be and you have to be careful not to say the wrong thing. The other thing is that Mary Grigg of the Farmers’ Weekly has asked me if she may tell the M.o.I that I will do a 1000 word article to be syndicated in America on first woman war time farmer.

26/10/42   I want to start discussing what school Thomas should go to. I think he ought to go when he’s 7 unless the war is over by then — which is not likely now. He can’t get educated here and, unless you’re back by then I think it would really be better for him.

28/10/42  I am going to London to-day to broadcast to America to-morrow. I do think I’m silly about broadcasting — I always say yes and there is no point.

Now I must tell you about Rose this morning. She really was so sweet. We went up together to pull up pea plants for the cows. She worked very hard but she began to get bored and she kept saying “I don’t really like pulling peas. Of course I know it wins the war but it makes my hands so cold.” or “Thomas is so naughty. He won’t do anything he doesn’t want to and although pea-picking is beastly it does win the war.” Don’t you think it’s heavenly?

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A Woman's War