The farm was deliberately run on commercial lines, to provide a model for local farmers and workers to visit and at the same time, trials of new farming techniques, demonstrations of new fertilisers and seed trials were begun. Detailed records of milk and meat production and crop yields were kept in large ledgers, written up daily in neat copperplate. In addition to the courses
and talks that were held at the farm, staff continued to go out into villages and farms to advise and educate. At the time there was some opposition in the press to introducing full-time courses for young men because farming traditionalists held that in such a labour intensive industry men could not be spared after the war years. Many believed that the country needed them on
the farms where, it was argued, in any case, workers would learn far more than at a farm school. Nevertheless, the first 22 week course for men began in October 1921 – finishing in April, in time for the lads to go home and help with the harvest.
There were short summer courses (11 weeks) for women, beginning in 1922. Courses were advertised in the Staffordshire Advertiser for those, “Sons of farmers and others who intend to make their living from the land,” and courses for women were advertised, “To meet the needs of the daughters of farmers and others who wish to study milk production, butter making, cheese making, poultry keeping, bee keeping, and farmhouse cookery” (then called rural domestic science).
In 1926 as more funds became available from the county, the farm buildings were extensively remodelled and developed. A new dairy for butter and cheese making was built and the old dairy in the yard converted into a laboratory. A new wooden piggery was built, the cow houses were re-equipped and the milk dairy given new equipment for bottling milk. This was state-of-the-art at the time, since before then milk was traditionally sold “loose” from churns into housewives’ own milk jugs from the back of a horse-drawn milk cart.
Following World War II the Farm Institute became ‘Staffordshire College of Agriculture’. Teaching was arranged so that each course was divided into two groups, spending alternate weeks out on the farm, and then indoors for lectures. The outdoor group was divided into smaller groups who worked on the farm under supervision, learning about cows, sheep, pigs and poultry. This was all out on the land with a 6am start each morning! Wednesday afternoons were designated sports afternoons for football, hockey, tennis, putting and croquet. Students were in full time residence so no replacements for farm duties were allowed at weekends. If students wanted to go out at any time a pass had to be obtained from a senior member of staff. All students had to be in by 10:30pm otherwise they would be locked out.
What the students of the 1950’s remember…
A member of staff at the time, Peter Gillard, remembered that it was a very strict regime, when the students were, in his phrase “almost internees” at the college. The strict level of discipline was still going strong when he arrived at Rodbaston
in 1957. Everyone had to be properly dressed – i.e. shirt and trousers, collar and tie, and jacket for all meal times.
Grace was said, in Latin, before all meals and latecomers had to apologise to the Head Warden at the high table. Peter remembered that latecomers were almost always from the distant pig department. They would rush in with an apology, all just about properly dressed, but still giving off a strong odour of pig! No alcohol at all was allowed on the campus but there were stories of suspiciously heavy trunks arriving at the start of term.
Another member of staff, Ken Brammer, remembered being a student in 1951, sleeping in a dormitory on the top landing. When he arrived high tea was still being provided every afternoon in the dining room – now the Holtom Room. This was a very grand room and it remains relatively unchanged from the original décor – complete with chandelier, marble fireplace and over it, an enormous gilt framed mirror. There was a staff table where the teaching staff and matron would sit and all the service was
provided by a uniformed waiter and waitress. When he arrived in 1951 food rationing was still in force, so each student was allocated a cocoa tin with a name and number on top, containing a week’s supply of sugar. Butter was provided, carefully measured in individual portions at each high tea. High tea was held every day at five o’clock and afterwards there was
a compulsory one hour’s prep.