Farming for verses

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A poem was written years ago featuring the pretty names of farms surrounding the village of Husthwaite, North Yorkshire.

In my dad’s 1981 archive of columns that I’ve been reading over the past few weeks, he mentions several times a particular verse that was associated with some farms in the Hambleton area of North Yorkshire.

It is a pretty rhyme made up of the names of those farms and I wonder if anyone else has come across similar in their part of the world? It went like this:

‘Rising Sun and Peep o’Day, Throstle Nest and Flower o’May,

Acaster Hill and Baxby Mill, Well Pots Green and Providence Hill.’

A slight variation of the same poem was sent in by a reader who lived at Bickerton near Wetherby, and it read:

‘There’s Rising Sun and Peep o’Day, Throstle Nest and Flower o’May,

Then lying in the mist so far, is Thornton Hill and Acaster.’

According to my dad, the farms were on land surrounding the village of Husthwaite, and the questions in my mind were: When was this poem written and by whom? And did these farms really exist? If so, were any of them still there now? Of course, I set out on a mission to find out.

I’m pleased to report that I have had some success. Listing them in the order of the poem, I found a Rising Sun Farm a mile and a half north-east of Easingwold, although it is some four miles away from Husthwaite. Is it the right one? Peep o’Day Farm is still there, a couple of miles south of the village, next to Peep o’Day Wood. Part of the address of this farm is listed as ‘Thornton Hill’. Is this the Thornton Hill mentioned in the second version of the poem? But if so, would they mention both Peep o’Day and Thornton Hill in the same verse if they were in fact the same place? I couldn’t find another Thornton Hill Farm in the area around Husthwaite. 

I found a Throstle Nest Farm, slightly south of the village, and in the course of my research, I came across two Throstle Nest Plantations (one near Norton-on-Derwent, and one near Darlington) and two Throstle Nest Woods (one near Giggleswick in the Dales, and one near Pocklington in East Yorkshire). Incidentally, my research led me to discover that ‘throstle’ is an old word for a song thrush (of course, my dad would already have known that, as I’m sure many of you reading this do too! But as I said when I first started writing these columns more than four years ago, compared to my dad, my knowledge of such things is scant indeed!).

Flower o’ May is still there, just south of Husthwaite, and Acaster Hill Farm is almost opposite it. ‘Castre’ is the Latin word for ‘camp’, so I wonder if there are any Roman connections?

As for Baxby Mill, I believe the mill itself is either no longer there or derelict, but its location, as you’d expect an old water mill to be, is on the Ings Beck in Husthwaite, at the bottom of the hill heading west out of the village. I drew a blank for Well Pots Green, but there is a Woolpots Farm, a short distance to the south. Is that the one they mean? Providence Hill is still there, to the south west of Husthwaite.

So, clearly, there are still some questions arising out of these two similar rhymes, such as when they were written, but it is clear that most of the farms mentioned do still exist. I will put money on the fact that a reader will be able to furnish me with a some clues as to how these farms got their names. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if someone can tell us more, and perhaps even share their memories of the farms in question?

One of dad’s readers drew his attention to the most unusual name for a farm that he had come across which was ‘Gateway to Happy Sparrows’! Dad doesn’t mention where it was, nor whether it still existed in 1981. Not entirely surprisingly, I could find nothing out about it either, but would love to hear from you if you know of it, or have tales about properties with unusual names and how they came about them. If you want to get in touch, either write or email this newspaper, or go to countrymansdaughter.com and use the contact page to sent me a message.

Contact me, and read more, at countrymansdaughter.com. Follow me on Twitter @countrymansdaug

This column appeared in the Darlington & Stockton Times on 17th and the Gazette & Herald on 15th September 2021

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