All the farms in the Herrington area were originally owned by the Lambton Estates, with the Lambton’s mark (glazed earthenware ram’s head) being displayed prominently on one of the buildings in each farm. Today (2002), Holme Lea and its neighbouring Ivy House Farm are no longer farms but the farmhouses remain as private dwellings. Holme Lea farmhouse is now called Greystones. East Herrington, from being a separate village some three miles from Sunderland, is now a residential area well within the City boundary.

Holme Lea Farm House, East Herrington. Farmed by the Hutchinson family.

The Holme Lea farmstead was situated approximately 200 yards east of the junction between the A690 trunk road and the B1286 road linking Herrington Burn with New Silksworth (OSGR NZ361530). The present farmhouse was built in 1800. From 1800 to 1918 the farm was occupied by members of the Brown family, which came from Northumberland. Latterly, the farm was occupied by brothers Thomas and Joseph Brown, and their sister Mary. Mary had suffered brain damage in an accident and therefore needed constant care. A Miss Mary Hutchinson was engaged to provide this care and to act as housekeeper.

The Hutchinson family at Helm Farm, Northumberland, approx. 1900.
Back row (left to right): Mark, Anthony, Harry, Joe, Francis.
Front row: Hannah, Mary (mother), John, John (father), Elizabeth.

In 1918 the tenancy of the farm passed to Mary Hutchinson, and then in 1928 to her brother Joseph, who farmed until 1948 with help from his brother Matthew and, later, his son Jack and grandson Terry. The Hutchinson family came from The Helm Farm at Felton in Northumberland (OSGR NZ188964) and prior to that, Selby House, Stanton, Longhorsley (OSGR NZ132898). Joseph and Mary came to farm at Holme Lea. The remaining children emigrated to Vancouver, Canada.

The Hutchinson Family in front of Holme Lea Farm, East Herrington, approx. 1920.
Back row (left to right): Jack (eldest), Joe (father), Matthew.
Front row: Joe, Norah, Maisie.

Shortly after Joe’s death in 1948, while Jack and Terry were elsewhere, his widow Agnes was visited by agents of the Lambton Estate. What transpired at this meeting is not known, but within a short time the family vacated the property, the operation of the farm being taken over by Sandy Greenshields, tenant of Ivy House Farm.

Joe Hutchinson (Balmoral Terrace is in the background).

The farm covered approximately 130 acres in two main parts separated by the A690 road. This area was progressively reduced over the years as a result of housing development.

The entrance to Holme Lea farm at the bottom of Sandringham Crescent on the right. Road to Board Inn crossroads at the left.

The farmstead was composed of the following buildings and features:

Holme Lea farm plan

  • farm house (A)
  • dairy (B)
  • farmworkers’ cottages (C,C)
  • byre (cowshed) for 14 cows, with an adjoining turnip shed (D, E)
  • byre for 10 cows, with an adjoining tumip shed (F, G)
  • stable for seven draught horses and two milk-cart horses (H)
  • pig sty with dovecote above (J)
  • loose boxes for 30 young cattle (K)
  • hemel (part-covered yard) for 20 young cattle, with granary above (L)
  • loose box for a bull (M)
  • hay barn (N)
  • cart shed for eight carts or other implements (P)
  • small orchard (Q)
  • stackyard (R), with a portable threshing machine beneath a canopy (S) driven by a powerful Higgs electric motor housed in first floor granary (T)
  • poultry yard with pond (U)
  • machinery store (V)

Holme Lea Farm produced annually approximately 200 tons of potatoes, also wheat, barley, oats, with turnips hay and kale as animal fodder, eggs, one hundred chickens for the Christmas trade, bacon pigs and prize-winning fat cattle. A small non-pedigree herd of dairy cows, mainly Shorthorns, but also Friesians and Ayrshires, produced approximately 60 gallons of milk daily.

Cattle from Holme Lea farm wandering to the farm at milking time.

In the earlier years, milk was delivered twice daily to customers in the village and the nearby town of Sunderland. After the Second World War, with the formation of the Milk Marketing Board, the milk was collected by lorries belonging to the Houghton Dairymen’s Association (HDA). Throughout, eggs from the free-range chickens were sold at the farmhouse door.

The chickens came from two sources: they were either hatched in the farmhouse, using a paraffin-heated “Sanspareil” incubator, with eggs supplied (in later years) by a Mr Owen, of New Silksworth, or supplied as day-old chicks by Fairbairn’s hatchery in Caldewgate, Carlisle. In the latter case they were delivered by rail to Sunderland, thence to the farm by railway lorry, the ubiquitous Scammell Mechanical Horse. The chickens were mainly Black and White Leghorns, with, occasionally, Light Sussex and/or Rhode-Island Reds.

Apart from approximately 20 acres of pasture for the cattle, the fields were planted with oats, wheat, potatoes, turnips, and cabbages/kale, using the rotation/fallow year system.

Terry Hutchinson of Holme Lea Farm

In the early years staff was approximately 10. Mechanization and the reduction in the size of the farm due to land being sold for development (Thorney Close and Farringdon housing estates) warranted only two farmhands in later years, although this was supplemented by casual labour for harvesting, threshing and potato picking.

Terry Hutchinson cutting corn (Summerhill is in the background).

When the threshing machine became beyond economical repair, contractors were hired to do the threshing. The preferred contractor was Bill Raine, from Ryhope. His tackle was, successively a Fowler, a Clayton and Shuttleworth and a later Fowler (Works Number 15649 “Providence”) steam traction engines and a Ruston & Hornsby threshing machine. The transit of this equipment through the village was an event of wonder for the schoolchildren. Bill reckoned that by disconnecting the governor of his “hingin”, the faster rotation of the threshing drum made for a more efficient process than could be provided by any “modern” tractor. Whatever the reason, Bill always made a superb job. But woe-betide anyone who attempted to hurry him (it took him ages to level the machine before starting), or otherwise try his patience.

Joe Hutchinson cutting corn (Cairnside in the background).

On occasions when Bill was not available, B. M. “Billy” Stafford of Houghton-le-Spring would be engaged. Billy’s was a much larger enterprise, using TVO-fuelled Case “LA” and E27N Fordson “Major” tractors and a variety of threshing machines and balers. All 14 people involved in threshing came into the Farmhouse for a two course meal.

Terry Hutchinson (son of Jack Hutchinson) harvesting on Holme Lea fields, East Herrington
(Hastings Hill is in the background)

Dairy farming has continued in Herrington these 800 years. What would Hugh de Hermas have made of Professor Wheldon’s famous Jersey “Moors Pacified Diana” who in February 1950 smashed the world record with a yield of 120¾ lbs in a single day.