Lilac Farm

By Sue Miller

Photo:Lilac Farm (shaded  pink) in 1910

Lilac Farm (shaded pink) in 1910

This is the only Orwell farm that has grown in acreage since it was set up and it is now worked by the third and fourth generation of its founding family.

In 1910 George Breed was renting ten acres of land close to his cottage and yard, known as The Lilacs, in Orwell High Street. (Shaded pink on the map.)  George was disabled, having lost a leg through tuberculosis at the age of twelve, and his father – a horsekeeper at Manor Farm – had apprenticed him to a grocer. He must however have set his heart on being a farmer and he increased his holding in the 1920s by renting land  one of the three County Council smallholdings on Barrington Road, created on land compulsorily purchased from the owners of Spring West Farm.

George succeeded in supporting a wife and family on his small acreage through the Depression of 1929 to 1933 and by 1941 he had taken the tenancy of the two remaining council smallholdings on Barrington Road, where he grew cereals. At that time Lilac Farm, as it was then known, covered about 67 acres, and George’s two sons – Roland and Clifford – were sharing the burden of farm work.  The land adjacent to George’s cottage was devoted to poultry keeping, fruit growing and the rearing of calves, but it was mainly the local sale of milk from his eight cows that kept the farm going during the ‘30s.

George bought his first tractor, a second hand Fordson, in 1937, paying for it in instalments, but it was not long before guaranteed prices associated with the government’s wartime food production campaign brought relief to the Breed’s subsistence level enterprise and a brand new Fordson was purchased.  The tractors were mainly used for ploughing and horsepower was still used until the early 1950s for lighter work such as harrowing, moulding up potatoes, hoeing and carting.  A horse-drawn cutter and binder was used at harvest time until a combine harvester was bought in 1952.

Photo:Clifford Breed and his cows

Clifford Breed and his cows

In 1955 George bought all three former council smallholdings.  He and his younger son Clifford continued to live at The Lilacs, but Roland had married and travelled daily from Arrington to work with them.  When George died in 1959 Roland and his wife bought Bay House, opposite The Lilacs, and this became known as Lilac Farm, as it is today.   
Photo:Lilac Farm and farm bungalow 2013

Lilac Farm and farm bungalow 2013

Modest acquisitions of land were made during the next 50 years whenever the opportunity arose and the Lilac Farm acreage stands at 360 in 2013.  Crops in the 1950s and 60s had included sugar beet, potatoes, and oats (for the horses), as well as cereals, but by 1975 these had been dropped in favour of the more profitable wheat, barley, beans and rape. The farm’s storage and machinery sheds are located on the former council smallholdings where the old grain store has recently been replaced (December 2012) by a new building.  The long established permanent pasture survives and is rented to local livestock owners for short periods.

Photo:Lilac Farm land in 2003 (shaded red) extends further east , beyond this map, in 2012

Lilac Farm land in 2003 (shaded red) extends further east , beyond this map, in 2012

A fourth generation of the family, in the person of Christopher Harding, now works Lilac Farm with his Uncle David and has recently moved into a bungalow built for him next to the farm house.  The old ‘Lilacs’, now Lilac Cottage, and its farm yard have been sold and are being renovated in 2013 to serve perhaps another 250 years as a family home.


This page was added by Sue Miller on 12/01/2013.

If you're already a registered user of this site, please login using the form on the left-hand side of this page.