Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Eddie Wormington's Story - Webbs involvement at Astwood

This article has been reproduced with permission form “Memories of Wychbold before the Motorway” by Robin Skerratt

“We lived in (Astwood Lane Cottages) when my father Alfred Wormington was instrumental in pioneering Webb’s Seed Trials at Astwood.

There were two cottages “end on” to Astwood Lane, which housed farm workers and in order to accommodate gardeners two pairs of semi’s were built near the canal.

These housed the foreman Mr. Hale, Ted Moring who came from Sutton Seeds at Reading, Alfred Wormington and Ben Pugh. Harry Hall from Hanbury and several from Stoke Works also worked there. When the days work was finished the men walked up the fields carrying their spades on their shoulders like a platoon of soldiers. Their spades shone like mirrors as the land was all dug by hand and the spades were needed to cultivate their own produce in their own gardens front and rear in the evenings and Saturday afternoons.

Webb’s land reached the Four Crossings including the cottages down on the west side of the canal abutting Astwood Manor Farm, then farmed by Mr. Hill (Joyce Gill’s father) and continued to roughly the Ashbeds Coppice below Warner’s Lock.

In the early 20’s Webb’s were in the farm seeds and fertilizer business and were producing farm seeds all around the country. Potato seeds in Scotland, hops in Kent, cereals in various places including Astwood. The main factory and head office being at Wordsley, Stourbridge where the seeds were processed and packaged.

When the crops were ready for harvesting as seed, a load of workers would arrive from Wordsley to walk through the crop field and methodically pull out the rogue plants. They carefully disposed of them before the “binder” cut the wheat, oats or barley, and were “stooked” to dry before going to the threshing box.

In the mid 20’s Webb’s branched into the Garden Seeds business and developed a Garden Seeds Trial ground in the large field between the canal and Bristol Rail track extending from one field below Astwood Lane to beyond Warner’s Lock.

In those days the main rail track carried trains like the “Devonian” with their “well to do” passengers from the north en route to the south coast. The trial grounds were considered a valuable site to display the crops of flowers and vegetables grown from Webb’s seeds.

In 1933 the trial grounds were moved to Kinver, hence Mr. Hale and Wormington were moved to Kinver. Ted Moring went to the factory at Wordsley and Ben Pugh chose to go on the farm.

Webb’s later developed another site alongside the A38 at Henbrook in 1935.

Go directly to Eddie Wormington’s story – Webbs Trial Grounds

Astwood Locks & Astwood Cottages

Behind the Lock-keeper’s Cottage can be seen a pair of houses, which were originally built to house the families of men working on Webb’s Trial Grounds

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