Charles Page

1870 - 1940

Fruit Grower at Old Rectory Farm

Charles Jacob Page was a member of a local farming family who spent all his life farming Old Rectory Farm (also called Church Farm) and Highams Farm. His father was Robert Wesney Page who farmed Highams and Longwick farms from 1870s, and Charles was probably born at Highams. Charles’s brother, Ernest Page farmed Beckingham Hall and William Robert Page, another brother, lived and farmed Follyfaunts between 1888 and 1903. Benjamin Page farmed White House in Tolleshunt D’arcy in the early 1800s, who was Charles’s grandfather. Early postcard scenes of “The Apiary” and “Poultry Run” have the name “Ralph Page” on them, but it is not know what relation Ralph was to Charles. Over a period of 40 years in the fields to the east of the Church and village Charles developed a mixed soft fruit orchard with apple, pears, plums, cherries, greengages. He employed many local workers who he called his “boys”.

The Page family also owned the barge shown in this postcard moored at The Shoe, which was used to transport farm produce to London and return with “manure”. The registered owner was Robert Wesney Page of Highams Farm...

Charles always had an interest in cars and mechanical devices, and was said to be the first person in the village to own an automobile. His interest may well have stemmed from his brother-law, Frank Wellington. Charles’s wife was Ethel Beatrice Page, née Bailey. Frank’s wife was Ellen Maude Bailey.

Charles in the rear on the right, his brother Ernest is next to him, Frank Wellington is the driver in the photo on the left and he is in  his 1906 Oleans car near the Old Rectory on the right…

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Robert Page on a bicycle outside Follyfaunts

These two photographs below taken around 1900 at Highams Farm are said to show Robert Page (in left-hand photo) and Charles Page (in left-hand photo)…

Charles Page’s interest in all things mechanical led him to develop equipment for processing the fruit. He acquired several old Ford Model T trucks. Initially he used to them to transport produce to local railway stations which led to one bazaar circumstance involving these trucks. but later he converted them to become spraying machines. He also developed his own jam making facility, complete with his own version of a jam jar washing machine that used water extracted from a well by a wind pump. He employed several local girls to make the jam. The sketch is based on the a description of the facility given by one of his workers…

 

The 1901 census lists Allen Carter, horseman - worker on farm, as head occupier of the Old Rectory, so Charles was probably living at Highams Farm at that time.  Hoever, in 1906 all of the properties of former Rector the Revd. C B Leigh were offered for sale. This extract from the brochure shows that Charles was the tenant and he probably purchased it at that time…

In 1922 the Chelmsford Chronicle reported that were was a fire at the Old Rectory that caused substantial damage to the roof. Charles seems to have taken this as an opportunity to add a third floor to the building as can be seen by these 1900s and 1950s photos…

He is said to have acquired surplus building material from HMS Osea to undertake the work, and the third floor extension and a new barn in the farmyard adjacent were build in part with WW-1 round tent poles. The tent poles are still in place in the barn, complete with the ferrules.

 

Charles’s wife Ethel Beatrice Page participated in many village activites, was a founder member of the Goldhanger W.I. and its president between 1949 and 1954, and for many years was a village school manager. She was well known locally as a musician, pianist and poet. Several of her poems describing local scenes was published in the Essex Chronicle in the late 1930s and two were included in the Goldhanger Millennium Calendar. Charles and Ethel had three children, Sadly however Alan was killed at a very young age when he fell from a tree in the Old Rectory garden. He is in this 1908 photograph (below on the left) in a donkey cart with Rex and Winsome. The later photo (on the right) shows just Rex and Winsome. After Charles’s death in 1940, Rex continued to run the Old Rectory Fruit Farm until the 1960s.

 Rex, Winsome & Alan with Aske the Donkey                                  later Rex and Winsome

These postcards of The Apiary and the Poultry Run have the name “Ralph Page” in the titles, but it is not know what relation this Ralph was to Charles. Local records from around 1910 identify a “Ralph Page” as owner of the impressive “French Gardens” in Tiptree that specialised in growing fruit and vegetable under glass, but it not know if this person was related to Charles or the person referred to on the postcards.…

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an extract from… The Essex Chronicle - 28 December 1934

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extracts from… The Chelmsford Chronicle - 24 May 1935

A TRAGIC TOUR

Frost ruins fruit crops

Farmers face bankruptcy and men unemployment

Damage to the extent of many thousands of pounds was done to the Essex fruit crop by the unusually severe frost that occurred towards the end of last week. Many small fruit farmers are ruined, and it is doubtful whether some of the larger growers will weather the storm.

A few days ago the crop promised to be the best of recent years. Trees, bushes, and plant, were blossom covered. Today that which would soon have been young fruit is blackened and useless. Some of the apple and pear trees appear to be untouched, but careful examination reveals the fatal black mark of frost. Some of the younger growers have not yet fully realised what a loss they have sustained. The whole county is affected, but the frost has caused terrible havoc in those districts which may be considered as the heart of the industry - Goldhanger, Tiptree, D'Arcy, Totham and Maldon. It has always been considered that Goldhanger, because of the salt air, has been more or less protected from frost. But this time there is not a tree untouched.

I went round several farms with Mr. Charles Page of the Old Rectory Fruit, Farm, Goldhanger. It was a tour of tragedy.  Mr. Page has been fruit farming for over 35 years. He knows the business right through. His crop is wiped out. First of all he took me round his own well ordered orchards. A day or so ago they were a picture and many people were asking permission to walk round and see them. I can't find a tree untouched, and I’ve been looking all day." said Mr. Page. Together we examined apple, pears, plums, cherries, greengages. It was always the same story.

Then Mr. Page took me to see some of his neighbours. On the way he said: "The troubles is that the fruit farmer gets no help  from the government at all. Farm after farm, and smallholding after smallholding, all revealed the tragic truth. We came to a field owned by Mr. H. D. Smyth. Mr. Page spoke sadly: “Here is two and a half acres of what was one of the best crops of strawberries I have ever seen. There could have been none better in Essex. They were worth £250 at the least. Then the frost, - and now Mr. Smyth will be lucky if ho gets a few shillings. Mr. Page added: "It is a shame that so many will be out of work. Many of us have trained our men - and good boys they are too. But the farmer cannot keep them on. There is nothing to do and money will be scarce." 

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extracts from… The Chelmsford Chronicle - 10 May 1940

A NOTED FRUIT GROWER

Death of Mr. C. J. Page

We regret to report the death, which occurred suddenly on Wednesday morning, of Mr. Charles J. Page, a noted fruit grower, of the Old Rectory, Goldhanger. He was about as usual on Tuesday, when he drove his wife into Maldon. He was seized with illness during the night, and Dr. Phillips was called. In the early hours of Wednesday be chatted with the doctor, who was about to leave, when Mr. Page collapsed and died in a few minutes. Mr. Page, who was 70, lived all his life in Goldhanger. He bought the Old Rectory many years ago, and developed fruit growing, particularly apples of the D'Arcy Spice variety, of which be was a pioneer, becoming well-known over a wide area, and last yew he realised his ambition in producing a full crop.

He was skilled in mechanical appliances, which he applied to both fruit growing and horticulture. He also reared poultry extensively. In his early days he also had much to do with horses. His wife was always an interested partner in his life and work, and as a capable musician she has been of great help in the social life of the village. Mr. Page was a kind and generous man, never refusing aid for any deserving cause. Ho leaves a widow, a son (Mr. Rex Page, who assists at the farm), and two daughters. A brother is Mr, Ernest Page, of Beckingham Hall. The funeral is to-morrow (Saturday), at Goldhanger Church at 2.30 p.m.

An Appreciation

What exactly was it that made Mr. Charles Page through his long life in Goldhanger a unique personality and one which an of us should endeavour to imitate? It was, firstly, the mechanical and agricultural versatility that made him one of the builders and producers of this present England of ours; and secondly, his broad democratic principles which endeared him to his work people. He was everything that Defoe's character Robinson Crusoe, was and more than this, because he produced beautiful fruit for the market second to none. He never sought popularity - it just came to him without the seeking - and anyone who found him a friend never lost him as one. He knew how to forgive and forget any passing difficulty.

From the childhood day when his father held him up at the bedroom window at Highams in winter to show him wild geese over the Blackwater he had loved and protected wild life. One has only to ascend Goldhanger Church and look north, south and east over the forest of fruit trees he had planted and the buildings he had constructed, to say, "If you seek his monument look around." Some of the trees he planted from seed nearly half a century ago, and others he grafted. The Old Rectory, a ruin when he came, he reconstructed, and with the help of Mrs. Page made it into a beautiful residence. He had an inborn sense of justice. and was every inch a Briton. He died as he would have wished. in harness, surrounded by what his unflagging energy made a landmark of a lifetime and a proud feature of the district and the county.

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After Charles’s death in 1940 his son Rex continued to manage the Old Rectory Fruit Farm while living at “Four Winds” in Church St. His daughter Winsome continued to live at the Old Rectory until her death in the 1990s. Winsome trained as a nurse and met her husband Bill Hopwood in a London Hospital. He was killed during World War Two.  Most of the photos on this webpage were given to the History Group by Winsome. The scale of the orchards that Charles created is shown as the dotted areas on the east side of the village on this 1960s map…

The orchards were destroyed in the early 1970s as part of a Common Market scheme to reduce the number of fruit orchards in northern Europe.

The late Cyril Southgate’s wrote in his early Goldhanger memories...

“Charles Jacob Page (Paddy), Old Rectory Farm, was buried in May 1940.

His grave was lined with apple blossom from the orchards which he planted in this younger days and farmed all his life”.

 

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