LETTER: Clear memory of local history

I read your article about oxen in Sussex (December 16) – very interesting.

Sometime in the summer of 1971 an uncle of ours, John Honeyset, visited us on Stonelands Farm.

He was born in 1881 and had a clear memory regarding local history and past farming methods.

As he sat at the kitchen table he told us about the last commercial team of Sussex White Oxen in 1923. They pulled a portable steam engine from Church Farm Warbleton to Bodle st Green.

The four oxen were harnessed in tandem and used collars.

The engine was prevented from rolling downhill by placing cast iron shoes under the cart wheels. It must have been an all-day job, what with waiting around for them to chew the cud.

John said that that breed of cattle, when fully grown, were six foot at the shoulder and weighed well over a ton. They were intelligent, obedient and usually gentle to handle.

He told us about using these Sussex Whites to skid oak logs from the woods, apparently they competed with each other in harness and loved their work.

As they pulled out the heavy timber, the oxen would bellow and roar with their heads down.

If the oak log got hooked up on a stump the oxen displayed dynamic power.

Robert Ford

British Colombia, Canada