With the All Wales Ploughing and Hedging Championships having taken place recently in Breconshire, the staff at Brecon Museum took the opportunity to look at ploughing photos in the Museum collection.
“The farming and rural life of the county is well-represented in the Museum collection through both objects and art work,” said Senior Curator Nigel Blackamore. “We also have many photos which provide an invaluable record of rural life and agricultural events in the county.”
Amongst these is a set of six postcards showing ploughing taking place in 1937. Nigel said: “The postcards were kindly donated to the museum by a lady from Aber, near Talybont on Usk. The pictures show the plough being worked by ploughing champion Charles Douglas Mason of Pwllwlead Farm, near Talybont. The photos were taken by PB Abery of Builth Wells and the postcards produced by O Jackson of Brecon.”
Much can be learnt from these pictures. “They almost certainly show a competition taking place, as some of the images show crowds of people in the background”, said Curatorial Assistant Jacquie Morgan. “And close inspection reveals details of the harnesses, the ploughs, and the clothing worn by the ploughmen – and the immaculate furrows are testament to their skill.”
Ploughs have been used for thousands of years, with the first animal-drawn ploughs being used by the ancient Egyptians. Nigel said: “The introduction of cast steel shares and mouldboards in the mid-nineteenth century transformed ploughing. Furrows could be made deeper and wider, and consequently crop production increased. Ploughing competitions started, initially as parish competitions during the winter. They are now held across the UK and throughout the year, usually with many different classes including those for conventional, reversible, and horse-drawn ploughs. National and international competitions have taken place since the mid-20th century”
The Welsh Ploughing Association was founded 1958 by the Radnor Valley Ploughing Society. It organises an annual championship for both ploughing and hedge laying. The 57th All Wales Ploughing Championship was held on September 17 this year at Mill Ground, Tregoyd, near Three Cocks.
“This is the fourth time that Breconshire has hosted the Championships, and the first since 2004. The initial occasion was in 1966, on the Home Farm at Glanusk Estate,” said Nigel. “This year the eleven ploughing classes attracted 108 entries, with the classic and vintage classes being particularly popular. Several class winners will now go on to represent Wales in the British, European and World Championships.”
“Agricultural events such as ploughing and hedging competitions are a valuable part of Brecon life, said Nigel. “They have survived, but many rural activities that once were common have not. Keeping a record of rural life is an important part of the Museum’s work.”