Many years ago Brighouse was surrounded with farms and land.
Brighouse and most of West Yorkshire originally were, strong with small to medium farms, also this area was also big in mining both open cast and deep mines along with local mills and factories, although moving back even further in the early days pre 1800s most of the rich landowners were quarry and mine owners along with a few mill owners, many of these super rich land owners would move their mining and quarry activities on to rich and new sites leaving the old disused sites behind which they used to let off to small holders and farmers to settle in the area as tenant farmers, their first job was to restore these former mines, capping the mine heads and seeding the land, which many were rough stony ground also many of these farmers would spend a lifetime in restoring these former mining area into farm land.
Many of these early farmers had large families to help with all the hard and heavy unpaid work, they often built their new farm house and buildings out of the stone that they had recovered from the former quarry land also much of the fields had large stones all over this land as the new farmers cleared the land of stone they would use these stones in building new field walls.
By the turn of the century many of these farms were on their second or third generations, with the former mine area now resembling small holdings and larger farms where the farmers could now concentrate their efforts in livestock farming and several small farms became root vegetable growers and Chicken or Pig farmers. Brighouse area had around 50 small farms by the turn of the century most less than 30 acres although following the end of the First World War several lost their land to new development of houses and business premises some bought their neighbours farm land as many had become uneconomical or had lost family members in the war.
Also between the war years some of the land owners disposed of some of their spare land to the farmers that rented the land, some was sold for development as Britain was becoming a booming country like several around the world with other countries becoming more accessible resulting in full production of many companies in the UK working flat out to supply the worlds needs including Blakeboroughs, Brooks, Firth’s, Sugden’s, etc and the small business’s and shops around Brighouse at this time along with the local farms were working as many hours as possible to supply local needs.
Unfortunately the Second World War came and farming sector suffered with all produce and efforts going to the war efforts, most small farms as well as small business’s struggled to make ends meet, some resorted to the Black Market some even became rich with these illegal activities, although for many it was devastating not only losing their livelihood but their strong young healthy sons had given their life for their country leading to hundreds of farmers not been able to cope and ended up taking their own life (although many families had lost their sons and daughters it was the kind of isolation that the farmers had to endure that made them take this drastic action).
Following the end of the Second World War There was not only a boom spending, leading to people buying some of the things they could not have during the war years and much of this was farm produce, fresh meat along with eggs, etc. The next two decade farming became a rich business with small farms producing thousands of Pigs, Lambs and Beef, partly due to the new fridges and freezers that could keep produce longer and fresher, at this same time farms became more compact as well as more profitable with the introduction of more intensive farming ways, with Battery Hens, Milking Parlours, Deep Litter, Store Cattle where animals were kept in smaller areas so produced more meat as they did not move around wasting energy.
At the same time the baby boom following the war meant, that these now grown up people wanted homes of their own so with the farmers who did not need as much land were glad to sell some of their spare land off. This pattern was not just applicable to Brighouse but all over the UK and beyond.
This brings us on to the present day were some farms especially in small towns and villages around Brighouse which have almost lost the plot as big tractors move more in a day than the small tractor could move in a month, they also produce more crops, more milk and more meat than a small farm could ever produce in a lifetime, added to this most people buy at the supermarket where these big farm factories are geared up to supply them with their mass produced products.
Today in Around Brighouse as well as many villages and towns around the UK and their small farms that may keep a few Chickens and grow a bit of hay, some have opened up as ‘Farm Shops’ or Garden Centres’ while others tend to make a living by livery of horses for the ‘Rich Yuppies’ of Brighouse area or anywhere else for that matter?
So what next for these small surviving farms, unfortunately the small farms in most places are set to become a thing of the past, while the super large farms will go from strength to strength as they become bigger and more intensive producing more and more supplies for the ever increasing populations needs, with the small town farms selling their land off for development for more money than they could ever earn out of farming in two hundred years?