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This water colour is probably the earliest picture of Low Hall Farm and even predates the road which now runs in front of where the building used to be. This picture and the others on this page were sent to me by Diana and John Pritchard descendents of James Soper, the owner of Low Hall Farm. Diana herself lives on Guernsey. Unfortunately I have no date for the painting. It is probably true to say Diana was perhaps more than a little bemused to find a photograph of my father, Donald Jack Gowing and James Sopers milk cart on the World Wide Web. The photograph (which can be viewed here) was taken about 1936 and represented my father's first real job after leaving school. This page is a brief record of the Soper Family and Low Hall Farm.
The picture on the right was taken in 1954 and shows the farm as perhaps my father remembers it. The building to the right of the house was the "dairy" and we now have the road (Low Street) in front of the house. somewhere around the back was the stables where "Queenie" and "Dolly" and the other horses were looked after, the roundsmen remembered by Donald Jack were Dick Jessop, Jack Cannon and a Mr Fitch.There was a herdsman who has chosen to remain safely hidden away in the memory somewhere and Arthur Banks who was responsible for the processing and bottling of the milk.
"James Soper took over Low Hall Farm and a small retail milk business in 1896 and the farm was known locally as Soper's Farm. It was originally 400 acres but during the 60 years he farmed there it had dwindled to 25-30 acres as land was given over to building. He also owned Gomm's Farm and farmed at Mount Echo Estate and Hawkwood (where-ever that is)1. He was a regular worshiper at North Chingford Congregational Church and was a member of the Connaught Bowling Club. Also a founder member of Chingford Rotary Club and in 1953 was made an honorary member. I also heard somewhere that he gave some land for a football pitch2 or playground which has probably been built on by now."
This photograph dates from1963 and is taken from almost the same angle as the watercolour was painted. The bricked in windows evident in this and the 1954 photograph were possibly the result of the window tax first introduced in 1696 but increased in 1746 and not abolished until 1861. I do not know when Low Hall farmhouse was built so it may the case that the windows are false and were purely an exercise in proportional uniformity which was also a common practice. The tree obscuring the right hand window on the watercolour rather leaves us guessing.
James Soper came by train from Cornwall with all his stock andfamily of 11 children in about 1890. He took a farm called"Stonebury" Farm, near Buntingford in Hertfordshire. His son James farmed at Low Hall and, in turn, his son William started a farm at Harlow. This photograph was taken in front of Stonebury Farm House
The little girl in the picture is my mother. The old man died aged 94, his son at 90 and William (my grandfather) just before his 90th. I have found a copy of my great grandfather's obituary in the 'The Guardian' (Local paper). He would have been in his 70's in 1938-40 somay have had help.My grandfather, William, was always referred to as 'Will' and would have been about 40 at the time.
Donald Jack left the employ of James Soper and Low Hall Farm about 1938. By this time war was almost imminent and it was only going to be a matter of time before he was called up to the armed forces. He remembers with fondness the time he spent at Low Hall Farm and is quick to acknowledge it was there he learnt the basics of a process that gave him a living for the rest of his life.
In June 2017 I received an e-mail from from a former Chingford resident Mrs Celia Pattle. Celia married the son of Mr George Downes Pattle who lived opposite Low Hall Farm. Mr Pattle, on occasion, worked for James Soper and told Celia how he and one of Soper's horses helped rescue a lorry stuck in the snow on Kings Head Hill. The irony here being a horse coming to the aid of a lorry, the very machine built to replace it. Celia used to make saddlery and was given a "crown" buckle with James Soper's intials many years ago. The buckle was purely decorative and Celia described it thus:
"...this piece would normally have been attached to the head piece of the bridle and would have gone under the brow-band (the piece of leather that goes just under and across the ears to the cheek pieces) which would also have been quite decorative. Alternatively it could have been attached to the back or belly band, aka the girth, or even on the horses hindquarters...Mr. Soper's horses must have looked amazing."
Celia has kept the buckle for forty years or so but regarded herself as the guardian rather than the owner and has decided the time was right to pass it on. The buckle may well have been part of Queenie's tack but equally, it may have been shared with the farm's other horses, nevertheless, Celia felt the buckle should be passed on. She was keen it should go to someone with a connection with Low Hall Farm who would treasure the buckle for its historical value. With this in mind, contact with Diana Pritchard was re-established and the buckle is now back with the Soper family.
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