Watercress Beds

Women on the land…
“Mr. Frank Bedford, a Northchurch farmer, is a pioneer in the employment of female labour on the land. It is of interest to note that Mr. Reuben Bedford, his father, started the watercress industry at Berkhamsted. With enterprise and judgment he arranged with Ashridge (Earl Brownlow), widened the Bulbourne stream and turned to account the pure water power. Mr. R. Bedford employed a good number of people, and on one occasion 50 of them sat down to pea-feast, at which Mr. George Loader presided.

Another son of Berkhamsted, Mr. John Edward Lane, of the Nurseries… with Mr. Thomas, was the founder of the Berkhamsted and Northchurch Cottage Garden Society, one of the most valuable institutions of the kind. Dean Hole, well known as an enthusiastic leader of the National Rose Society, was associated with Mr. Lane, who introduced fruit culture, and a large number of women were employed in gathering it. He was impatient with a class of people – now it is to be hoped extinct – sleeveless incompetent, agitators who ‘thought the moon was made of green cheese, who the more they knew the less they worked.’ Instead of that class we have a reserve of cultured, capable women who ‘the more they know the better they work.’ Anyone who has seen the ‘butter tent’ at the Tring Agricultural Show can have no doubt about the value of woman labour in connection with agriculture. Yours truly, G. Loosley.” (Bucks Herald, Jun 1916).

Photo of watercress beds at St John’s Well Lane, where Frank’s son Harry Bedford lived in 1901…

Watercress beds_St John's Well Lane

Watercress Beds in St John’s Well Lane