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"We all learnt a great deal about Farming - it helped the children to understand the idea of Farming more. A real hands on experience!"

By Reading School Year 4 teacher

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28 Jan 2022

When Lindsay and I came to Bradfield in 1974 to work for the Cumber family we inherited, along with sheep and a small herd of Aberdeen Angus cattle, two Shire mares.  They were all that remained of the 40 breeding stallions which had been based in Wiltshire in the nineteen twenties. Crossed with a race horse they produced a horse which could carry a good sized man for a day in the saddle. We were employed by John Cumber.  He was the only son in a family of five girls.  Ellen the eldest went to Cambridge and was involved in the resettlement of refugees at the end of the war, a harrowing experience including going into Belsen.  Mary became a missionary in India, Beth married George, one of the eight Strang sons from Wickcroft Farm, and Olive and Barbara both became nurses. The family had butcher shops in Theale and Reading and farmed at Beansheaf, Bradfield, Buckinghamshire and Wiltshire.  They were known nationally for their quality Shorthorn and Aberdeen Angus cattle, and Shire horses. It was a huge business and run without the benefits of the instant world we know so well.

John Cumber was a kind man. My first few years here were not without incident.  We wrote off a brand new combine in my first summer and crashed his precious Ford Escort Estate. Some wild Scottish Blackface sheep I bought from Scotland remained wild, running amok through Reading Market. And the farm? It was not that good at producing profitable crops and I was short of answers.  So why did we move to Bradfield from an easy to manage large estate on “boy’s land” above Blewbury?  It wasn’t just that the Pang Valley was a beautiful piece of land to be entrusted with, but also that my father was a shipping manager working for BP in London. Most nights he would come home and complain about his boss.  I resolved not to do that, but after 3 years as assistant manager I found myself doing exactly the same thing.  John Cumber was different.  He was a Christian and as we toasted me getting the job he welcomed us into his family and I was keen to learn about the faith which made this man different.

Why am I telling you this?  This time last year His daughter Mary asked if I would help her with the John Cumber Hall in Theale put up in his memory in 1980. I said I would, so we are busy painting it now, and as I paint I think of him and his family with gratitude.

 

John Bishop