Farmer Moving South (1952)
(A Winter Journey)
17 minutes

The true story of a farmer who decided to sell his land in Yorkshire and move his entire stock - cattle, pigs and poultry, machinery, ploughs and tractors - south to Sussex by rail in December, on - as it turned out - the coldest night of the year.
In this filmed record, A.G. Street, writer and broadcaster, discusses some of the unusual problems of the move with Inspector Barr of British Railways.

Director: John Taylor, Charles Delautour
Director of Photography: James Ritchie
Cameramen: Reg Hughes and John Page
Commentator: A.G. Streete
Editor: Kitty Marshall
Music Composer: Thomas Henderson
Producer: Edgar Anstey

16mm & 35mm

See below for additional information.

Actual screen shots reproduced by kind permission
of the British Film Institute.

Additional Information - Steven Foxon (Screenonline): Stokeley station, Yorkshire. A farmer has sold his land and prepares to move his entire stock south to Sussex, by rail. The farm, cattle and farmhouse are cleared and the farmer takes one last look at the scene that greeted him each day.

The frost that arrived the previous evening has taken hold of the hen house and the wheels are stuck fast. A crude but effective solution is found and, for a moment, it looks like it might be roast chicken for dinner.

Cattle are loaded on to the train and with night setting in the train departs for Hartfield. Eighteen and a half hours later, it arrives at Hartfield, the load being divided so as not to choke the yard, with less urgent items following later. The unloading begins and as it is getting dark there is no time to lose in getting the cattle into the warm and dry.

By next morning the cattle are settled and a new story is beginning. Inspector Barr of British Railways has completed his part of the move, and all that remains is for the Yorkshire lads to see what Sussex soil can do for them.

Farmer Moving South is one of the finest examples of the early British Transport Films. Sponsored by the British Transport Commission Railway Executive, and produced by Edgar Anstey, this atmospheric and often humorous film, which follows a farmer's relocation from Yorkshire to Sussex, offers superb black and white photography from James Ritchie, Reg Hughes and John Page, and features a touching narration by one of the most famous broadcasters and authors on rural topics of the day, A.G.Street.

Typical of Anstey's desire to produce films which were technically excellent, Farmer Moving South describes a complicated railway transport operation, made all the more difficult by the small capacity of the rural stations.

The farmer's move from Skutterskelf Hall Farm, near Stokesley in North Yorkshire, to Perry Hill Farm, Hartfield, Sussex takes place on the 31st December 1950 - a date that was recorded as the coldest night of the year.

Anstey entrusted directors who he knew by reputation were capable of making technically perfect productions, and John Taylor and Charles de Lautour were two such people. Anstey had met Taylor (brother-in-law to John Grierson, the father of the British documentary movement), at the GPO Film Unit, where Taylor began as a cameraman, later working for the Strand, Realist and Crown Film Units, before eventually joining Anstey at BTF and becoming a major influence in the unit's output.

With music specially composed by Thomas Henderson, the film leaves its audience with a heartwarming feeling that, despite the cold and the blizzard conditions, something new and positive is waiting:

"In the house there will be the discussion about whether the piano should go against this wall and whether Aunt May's present should go in the dinning room or the attic. For the animals, good hay tastes the same in Sussex as it did in Yorkshire; and for the farmer, under that snow is Sussex soil. It's different, it's new to him, and it's waiting for him."

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