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Sons of the Soil

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Sons of the Soil

Ilford's Fairlop Plain provides the battlefield for ploughing matches between local hands and Essex outsiders.

Non-Fiction 1915 1 mins


The bare earth looks heavy going, but there's a competition to be held at the annual October meet of the Ilford Farmers' Association. The horse drawn plough is still a working tool here, not yet a pub-side ornament, and each contestant steers teams of three shire horses hitched in single file, driving straight furrows through the clay of Fairlop Plain.

Although we only get a short glimpse of the spectators here, the annual Ilford ploughing matches are recorded as attracting thousands of onlookers. Typically for a newsreel item, we only get a hint of the competitive event, which required each participant to plough a plot 40 rods long by two rods wide - about 2000 square metres. Despite the enthusiastic following, the event didn't continue long into the 20th century - suburban expansion drew agricultural Essex into urban municipality and WWI took the young ploughmen to ply other fields.