Memories of Fruit Picking in the 1940s

Fruit Workers on Chiswick Farm in the 1940s. Names L to R: Reg Chapman, Eddie Waldock, Peter Jacklin, William George Chamberlain and Ernie Dash
Photo courtesy of Terry Dash
Fruit Pickers in the 1940s. Names L to R: Sylvia Gipson, Mrs Plumb, Sarah Harper, Nell Jacklin, Muriel Gipson, Gladys Clarke and Mrs Colbert.
Photo courtesy of Terry Dash

During this interview Gladys describes how she picked fruit for several years, for Alwyne Howard, owner of Chiswick Farm, on land at Mettle Hill.

Normally the fruit pickers would arrive at 8.00am to start the picking. For one year Gladys also delivered the post in Meldreth as well as fruit picking.  Starting at 6.00am with the post, she would then go picking from 9.00am until the evening.  She mentions fellow fruit pickers being Noel Gipson, Mrs Plumb, Alice Jones and Mel Jacklin.

Picking gooseberries started on Whit Monday every year and continued later with plums. Gladys was known to be the best plum picker.  The wages would be reliant on the weight picked. Gladys had a secret weapon, a ladder made for her by Gus Harper, which was originally for his wife.  He gave it to Gladys and it was longer and lighter than other ladders.  Gladys could then pick the best and heaviest plums from the top of the tree, earning her more money.  The pickers has baskets to collect the fruit to minimise any damage to the fruit.

All the pickers were on piece work.  The fruit would be weighed and the weight recorded against the picker’s name. Cyril Webb and Joyce Howard (Alwyne’s daughter-in-law) weighed up the fruit in a small weighing station in Chiswick End in the 1940s.  Alwyne Howard also grew strawberries and potatoes at the end of the season.  Some of the trees were pulled up and new apple orchards planted after 1947.

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