Market Lavington Museum

A land girl at Grove Farm

We have been following the life story of May Cooper, based on her oral history recording held at Market Lavington Museum. (See An interwar childhood in Market Lavington and Life in service in the 1930s.) May had been working as a scullery maid but, at the outbreak of World War II, she said the options for girls were to work in an ammunitions factory, to join the forces or to become a land girl. Her father had told her that farm work was too heavy for a girl, but now she had her chance.

She started work on a dairy farm in Tinhead with two other girls who had come from London, with little experience of country life. She enjoyed opportunities to play tennis, skittles and darts with them in the evenings. There were 200 cows on the farm and she had to know them all by name to ensure she milked them in the correct order. Unfortunately, May got cowpox and had to give up milking.

She moved on to work at Grove Farm, in her home village of Market Lavington. The Community Hall has now been built near where the farmhouse stood. In this 1972 photograph of Grove Farmhouse, we can see the cows in the yard just below, but May was able to do farm work other than milking there.

She spoke of ploughing, working with horses and with tractors. In the mornings she was involved with the milk round, riding a bicycle with a two buckets of milk on the handlebars. She recalled being on Northbrook on one occasion, when the photographer’s car came round the corner on the wrong side of the road and knocked into her bike, spilling all the milk.

Later, May moved to Mr Snook’s farm in Urchfont and married from there.

For more information about land army work in Market Lavington, see A land girl at Knapp Farm.