My name is Mark Kinnish, I am keen to write a local history book about Dale Farm Oldfield Road Heswall. Not just about the farm as it is today but the history of the farm before it was taken over by the council in the 1970’s.
Any information on how the farm was managed in the 1960’s and before when it was a working farm with animals when the McGrath family were the owners. I do know a fair amount of the history of Dale Farm but I do need to know much more.
If anyone has any information maybe even photo’s of the farm I would be very grateful if you could pass the information to me.
I have been working at Dale Farm as a volunteer for the last four years, I can be contacted at the farm (Mon,Tues,Wed) or via the contact form.
History of Dale Farm Heswall
Around the early 1900’s a family called the McGrath’s moved to Dale Farm Heswall. They started off as tenants at the Farm and lived at Dale Cottage right by the old main entrance what the ranger users now for his office. The owner of Dale Farm then was a James Barlow the Barlow’s where very popular round Heswall in them days and they had quite a number of jobs like Farmers, Blacksmiths and mariners. In the McGrath family there were George, his wife Margaret, and son and daughter Edith and William also known as Billy or Bill. George McGrath was from a place called Belturbet in CountyCavan in Ireland. As a young man he had been labouring and became a gardener and progressed to be a selection gardener (foreman would be the next step) at a grand house in Ireland before coming to Heswall. There is a bit of uncertainty whether or not he came straight to Heswall or worked else where first. What I do know is he did at some point come to Heswall and settled at Dale Farm.
When George arrived in Heswall he was coachman to the local doctor. George married a Heswall girl by the name of Margaret Price who was also in service. One of the members of the family told me that their grandmother Edith McGrath nee Cameron was born in NailSea near Bristol. Family members have informed me that the climate didn’t suit Margaret she needed good fresh air and so this may have prompted the return to Dale Farm. I’ve also been told that just like with the Cleaver Sanatorium next door Dale farm was also great for the fresh air.
Another member of the family has told me that he used to go and stay with his aunt Edith and uncle Billy at Dale farm back in the 40’s and 50’s. He was from Liverpool and used to spend the long summer holidays at Dale Farm each year. He told me that back then Dale Farm had a collection of 3 or 4 cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys and geese. There was also a selection of fruit and vegetables growing in the fields.
I’ve also been told that old kitchen contained an old well that used to provide water for the Farm.
The McGrath’s and the Cameron’s at Dale Farm
There were no hives or honey in those days. This is why it’s such a pleasure nowadays that the Farm now sells it. Neil Cameron grandson of Edith McGrath nee Cameron and John Cameron told me that years ago if you walked up the old track towards the old Farmhouse and walked towards it, on your right would have been the old shippon with about 10 stalls for the dairy cattle.
Before the extension was completed in 2008 there was a stone wall enclosing the Cottage garden and stone yard with a step up to the front door. In the Farm yard there was a wooden lean to the gable end of the Farmhouse, That was the perch area and feed store for the hens who ranged around the Farm. They then all brought back in and secured at night to stop the foxes getting at them.
Ahead of that back then there was an old stone building at the head of the yard, which incorporated a hayloft and 2 or 4 stalls for pigs, and some storage. Where the cleaner‘s store is today used to be a wooden lean to that was served as the dairy where butter would have been made from the milk. Milk and eggs would have been delivered by carrying it in churns with a yoke, real heavy work.
Neil Cameron also told me that there was no electricity at the Farm until the mid 1950’s. The pigs were killed on the Farm a local man who did this would call specially and dealt with it with assistance. It was certainly used for the table as rabbits were picked off by John Cameron Jack Cameron’s dad and Neil’s granddad. Neil told me a crack shot and former instructor in his WW1 days with the Cheshire Regiment.
Further round the Farm you would have come to the stone built lean which contained the old kitchen. Inside the old kitchen was the very old Well that provided the water for the Farm. Further on round the Farm you would have come to the rear of a large wood and pebbledash white washed bungalow. This was pulled down in 2008 to make way for the new extension we have at the Farm today. The old bungalow with 3 bedrooms, wash house, coal house and WC as brick outbuildings was used as a holiday bungalow bringing in extra income to the Farm.
So many families I’m sure will have some very happy memories of staying there. I do know one family who stayed there by the name of the Roach family they used to holiday at Dale Farm in the old holiday bungalow every year between 1966 until the McGrath’s had to sell up in May 1973.
The lady who I’m in contact with called Michaela Bradley told me she remembers they were from Liverpool they found out about it from seeing the bungalow advertised in a shop in Liverpool. Now her dad used to order a taxi car from a firm on Breck Road called Pouts. Michaela told me that Pouts was a firm of undertakers so she said it was like leaving and returning in a funeral car. Michaela said also that the lane was red sandstone colour. The only entrance that she can remember to the Farm was the gate in front of the Farmhouse bearing the name Dale Farm. Michaela thinks the same gate is still there.
At the side of the Farm there was a little Cottage which is still there today. The lady who rented and lived there was a lady called Ena Callister. She had a husband called Bob he died in the late 1960’s so she remained on her own until her death in the early 2000’s. She used to drive a land rover and had an Alsatian dog. Michaela told me they did used to speak to her a few times. Michaela said they would then carry on up to the Farmhouse and were greeted by Edith Cameron and Bill McGrath and Robbie the dog. Michaela then told me at the right hand side of the Farmhouse she remembers they had geese. And she told me they used to call one of them Mary. Where Michaela and her family stayed for two weeks was the old Holiday bungalow. There used to be a gate to that used to divide the Farmhouse and Holiday bungalow. There was a front lawn area in front of the holiday bungalow and Michaela told me she remembers sunbathing on that lawn when she was about 12. Also at back of the bungalow there used to be a swing. Michaela said she remembers she used to be on that swing and Edith Cameron used to come and sit out with her and her two sisters and she used to sing to them. Michaela also said after that Edith would then go and feed the hens.
Michaela also told me that Edith Cameron told them that in order to catch a rabbit in the big field where west paddock is now you had to put salt on it’s tail. So Michaela told me she tried it and said she ran around with a salt cellar for days but sadly she told me she never got close enough to put salt on a rabbits tail. Michaela also said the big field then ran alongside the bungalow challey and was then fenced off to keep animals in. Michaela said that the only animals that she can remember in that field were three heffers ( young bulls) and Michaela told me they got called Mick, Pat and Harry. Michaela said they weren’t always there because they used to play rounder’s in the field. Michaela then told me there was a gate in the field which led straight t onto the Dales.
Neil Cameron also told me that when you walked in through the front door of the Farmhouse, you would have come to stone tiles where there you would have seen a door that led you into the parlour. Ahead of that you would have come to the enclosed staircase with a 2 seat settee and a large valve radio on a separate table. Then to the left of that was a table in front of the window with chairs all round the open fire and black metal range with a warming locker and what would have then been served as an oven, coal and chubs of timber were burned. To the right of the fire was the passage to the kitchen and bedroom were you would then have to duck your head because the roof was so low down. Through this passage was a latched door which would lead to the very steep staircase and then on to the very low ceiling bedrooms upstairs. I’ve been told by Neil that there was no landing up there, only two rooms communicated by a single door. I‘ve been told Neil that there was a parlour against the internal wall. The rooms were well ventilated y the wide chimney and the fire lit for the evening chairs, settee, large wood cabinet and carpeted. The TV was also in there and was a very old set from radio rentals with a picture that waved. Neil told me that it was in this room he watched England win the world cup in 1966 aged 10.