Farm History

To date I am able to trace my relatives residing in Barnston on both my parents family trees to the mid 1600’s with the Bostock and Longley families. Over the generations most of the agricultural and associated trades have been represented , Farmers, Husbandmen, Blacksmiths, Teamsters, Drainers and Grave Diggers to name a few and there is little doubt that most of them would have had close working relationships with Manor Farm and neighbouring Barnston farms.

In generations past many more farms of small acreages existed in the area supporting the families of many rural workers. I have a photograph of my grandfather, William Jordan, sitting on his mother’s knee with his Father and brother’s standing alongside outside their one roomed thatched cottage which looks barely large enough to house them. All the boys having lost their mother the following year grew up learning multiple land based trades which allowed them to exist and provide for their own families as they came along. This was a common existence for many Wirral families which for many generations has been , predominantly,  a rural economy.

In 1891 the local census shows that my great grandfather at the age of 17 and my great grandmother at the age of 18 were both in the employ of Charles Hancock at Manor farm, Samuel Collins was a stable groom and Margaret Preston was a house servant. They were married in 1892. Farms at that time would have maintained a self- sufficient lifestyle trading with other local farms for provisions that they did not produce and selling their own produce to the locality. Most would have a range of livestock, cattle, sheep, pigs, poultry etc and a labour intensive work force growing crops to both support their small livestock  systems and sell to local markets.

During the twentieth century agricultural practices began to intensify and gradually became more specialised. Manor farm became a dairy farm and for the greater part of the century milk production became a way of life. Post World War 2 the labour force began to shrink as mechanisation replaced horses. The teamster became a redundant tradesman and mechanics and tractor drivers were required, and both my grandfather Stephen Prance  and my Father Colin Prance were trained to accommodate the changes.

When I joined the work force Agricultural intensification was beginning to have a financial impact on rural economies and there was a requirement to expand to survive. My training involved a Dairy Herd Management qualification to allow for the sudden impact of intensification. Nicky and I got married, started a family and continued the family tradition of life on the farm. We have been share farmers here with our then Landlord John Milner before becoming tenant farmers in our own right.

It was with great sadness in 2000 that we had to disperse our pedigree dairy herd but the reality was that at 130 acres Manor farm was simply too small to meet the intensive needs of modern dairy production and indeed Barnston lost all four of its dairy farms over the next few years for the very same reasons. There are always alternatives of course although at the time I think my farming neighbours may have thought that mine was a little eccentric. I decided to purchase two, category 3 endangered, rare breed Longhorn Cattle.

The Laycroft Longhorn Herd of pedigree Longhorn cattle is now the focus of our main farm enterprise. Since our initial purchase of two cows in 2000 we have now grown to 50 breeding females producing youngstock to both provide quality meat for our farm shop and breeding females to move on to other Longhorn breeders. We have acquired Red Tractor label farm assurance and pride ourselves on high standards of welfare as part of our duty to this ancient breed and to our small flock of pedigree Shropshire sheep.