February 3, 2010

A Hundred Years of Burnfields in Longstock

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:31 am by Aleksan

Isobel, Rob, Sandy(author) with baby David and Jane 1957

My grandfather, Alexander Burnfield, was born in Caputh, Little Dunkeld, Perthshire. He first became a blacksmith and then after learning latin from a Dominie – a country schoolmaster who was also a Presbyterian minister – he qualified as a vet from the Royal Dick Veterinary College, Edinburgh. He married Isabella Mary Young and they had three sons – Robert, my “Uncle Bob” – Alexander “Alister”, my father – and David, who became “Uncle Bunt.” A fourth brother, James – born between my father and Uncle Bunt – died from diphtheria aged eighteen months – the family was grief stricken and little Jimmy has never been forgotten.

The Foreigners
100 years ago my grandfather and his family travelled down to Southampton from Dundee in a potato boat. It was quite rough and all apart from my father, a little boy of 6 years old, were sick. Their destination was Hazeldown Farm in Longstock, and my grandfather left behind a thriving veterinary practice, a blacksmith’s and farrier’s business and his position as a Baillie (councillor) in the Perthshire town of Crieff.

He had decided to move to England because he was advised to stop working so hard for medical reasons and to avoid long and hilly journeys through the glens in his pony and trap on veterinary business. But the reason he came to Longstock was that his wife’s brother, David Young, farmed at Westover in Lower Clatford and had sent him word that Hazeldown Farm was for sale. Although the family travelled by boat to Southampton, their car (rare in those days) and furniture came by train to Stockbridge Station – (or was it Fullerton?)

When they arrived at Hazeldown my father was 6, Uncle Bob was 9 and Uncle Bunt was 18 months old. The family continued to keep in close touch with their family connections in Scotland and my father went back to farm there, once for a three year spell when in his thirties.

Apparently we, the Burnfields, were known as The Foreigners in Longstock for about 30 years! Certainly there are many stories of locals not understanding the broad Scots accent they brought with them. By all accounts my grandfather was easy going and sociable but my grandmother Isabella could be fierce and sharp tongued, and was very hard working, expecting others to work hard too.

A few years later my great grandmother, Marjory Burnfield, joined the family to live in a specially built cottage next to Hazeldown Farm – where “Brommer” Webb now lives.

Captain Alexander Burnfield MRCVS of the Black Watch
The three boys went to school in Longstock and then Andover Grammar School. During the First World War my grandfather was in the Black Watch (Scottish Highland Regiment). Captain Alex. Burnfield served in the Veterinary Corps and his duties included vetting horses at Windmill Hill Down, near Tidworth, before shipment to France for use by the Army. Sometimes a horse would be in-foal and these were often taken to Hazeldown for safekeeping, and only returned when the foals had been born. These apparently remained at Hazeldown!

My mother Joan Bright first met my father when he was accompanying his father on a veterinary visit to her father, John Bright, who farmed at Bossington, Houghton. They married in 1943 at the little Bossington Church of St James (where I was later christened.) They used the same horse-drawn gig for their wedding as my father’s parents had done for their wedding, and that my sister Jane and her husband Chris, rode in years later for theirs. This gig is in Isobel’s safekeeping awaiting its next call to duty.

A. Burnfield and Sons Ltd.
By this time the three brothers had bought two more farms so that each could have one of their own. Uncle Bob lived at Little Ann Bridge Farm, Andover and Uncle Bunt at Windover Farm at the Stockbridge end of Longstock. My father lived at Hazeldown with my mother and me, my brothers Rob and David and sisters Isobel and Jane. Our Uncle Bob and Uncle Bunt never had children of their own but were very much involved with us and our education. Uncle Bob died in 1958 and eventually the three farms became our family business – A. Burnfield and Sons Ltd. (A. Burnfield being our grandfather and the sons, his three boys – Dad, Uncle Bob and Uncle Bunt.) Our grandfather and Uncle Bob had died by then so the farming business was run by Dad and Uncle Bunt, and then later by my brother David and sisters Isobel and Jane.

When Mr Lewis (of Partnership fame) came to Longstock he sometimes invited my parents to tea with him – on these occasions he and my father argued about lots of things – he had been very pleased when the family bought Windover Farm and did not bid against us – he assumed that they would move there and he could buy Hazeldown – but to his chagrin we kept both!

My father learnt a variety of smithing and veterinary skills from his father – and spent many hours in the shop at Hazeldown mending broken parts and fixing stuff generally on the farm – I used to be his boy when he was working on the blacksmith’s forge at Hazeldown, and worked the bellows for him.

I was the oldest and decided I wanted to be a doctor rather than join the farm – my brother Rob studied law, and is now a Tribunal Judge in Southampton.
I thought my father and Uncle Bunt would not be pleased – but they were very accepting – and said every Scottish family should have a doctor and a lawyer in it. My father pointed out that his grandmother Marjory’s first cousins were the brothers Sir James Mackenzie and Lord Amulree, brought up on a farm near Crieff. James was a famous heart specialist and inventor of the venous-arterial polygraph (precursor of the ECG) while his brother had been a renowned constitutional lawyer.

The extended clan and Longstock
So Isobel, Jane and David now manage our family business. Hard working and inventive in true Burnfield style they are managing to adapt the farming enterprise to the 21st century – the farms will be totally organic and managed even more environmentally by 2008. From the first our family has always had close connections to the villagers of Longstock and involvement in village activities. My youngest brother David, following in the footsteps of both our father and grandfather, is currently serving the community as chairman of the parish council.
We have been well supported by the men and women who have worked and still work on the farms – they have become friends and honorary members of the clan and are an integral part of the farming enterprise. Foremost among these is “Brommer” – Alfred Webb – who first came to work for us when he was 14. He is still working for us, now part time, and his service has been continuous for the last 76 years without a break. Brommer, now aged 90, has known all the Burnfields and he is a link for us between the generations as well as being an entertaining historian of Burnfield times.

There are lots of younger Burnfields about nowadays, but I think they should be included in the next article in this series which will be due in 2107 and titled 200 years of Burnfields in Longstock.
Alexander (Sandy) Burnfield

From: The Longstock Newsletter – Issue No. 170 – June/July 2007


  1. jennifermarcy said,

    My birth name is Burnfield. My father William C. Burnfield told me that we have Scottish roots. I love your history, I wish I knew more about mine. I read that you are a doctor, My son is going into the field. My parents are from West Virginia, myself and my father and brother live in Jacksonville,FL USA

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