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Bygone Stanley - Rhubarb Growing in the 1920's and 1930's

RHUBARB GROWING IN THE 1920's and 1930's

As I walk around Stanley to-day, I walk past masses of houses, most of them I must say are very well built, and it gives me pleasure to look at their well kept gardens. But it brings back some pleasant memories on what it used to be- - -

The area of land between Lime Pit Lane and Aberford Road, as far as the church, was all open fields farmed by a Mr Moore. He was deaf and dumb and known as 'Dummy' Moore. He was a wonderful man and he allowed us to play and wander about his fields. Then on the west side of Lime Fit Lane and south side of Rooks Nest Road, it was all open spaces through to Outwood. Most of this large plot of land was farmed by the Jacques family who grew rhubarb. So did many others, the Cains family and Humphrey family, and the Macaulays. All these lands are now housing estates. The Moorhouse, off Aberford Road, was a large orchard owned by Macaulays. The Barratts estate from Rooks Nest Road to Canal Lane and Baker Lane was Humphreys. Growing rhubarb in Stanley and the surrounding districts was the main source of income for these land owners.

The rhubarb was, in the first place, grown outside in the acres of land each farmer had until it was mature. It was then put into large sheds, some of which were more than 200 feet in length and probably 6-8 feet in height and up to 20 feet in width. They held 5,000-6,000 roots. Each root would, under the right conditions, produce 4 to 5 lbs of tender pink rhubarb. I am told that 50/60 degrees F was the usual temperature in which the product was grown. There was a good market for this product; so much so that special trains took rhubarb from Stanley Station to the various markets, mostly in the London area. Local housewives were employed as pickers and packers during the season. In summer they were employed part-time picking peas and potatoes.

During one period in the 1930's it was said that more than 90% of the rhubarb grown in Europe was grown in the West Riding of Yorkshire and the village of Stanley made a substantial contribution. I estimate approximately 300 tons came from the Stanley Market Gardeners in a season.

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