About this image
Threshing at Gothic House Farm on Langford Lane, Holme probably in the early 1930s. The church in the background is St Giles' and the photographer is looking north-east with the shadows indicating the picture was probably taken mid-morning. Threshing takes place in the latter part of the year and this is confirmed by the relatively leafless trees and the fact that all but one of the men are still wearing their jackets.
The threshing machine on the left is half-buried in chaff and straw, a common scenario. Threshing machines were first invented in the 1780s but this is a much later version. Originally they were animal-powered but steam power took over in the the second half of the nineteenth century and continued until replaced by tractors after World War One. Threshing machines themselves were supplanted by combine harvesters (first developed around 1910 in the USA) and seeing one in use had become a rarity by the mid-20th century. While an individual farm might own a threshing machine, more often both the traction engine and threshing machine would be hired in from a contractor as and when required.
The traction (or 'general purpose') engine depicted appears to have been made by Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies of Ipswich, a company first registered in 1884 but with its origins going back into the late eighteenth century (incidentally, it also made threshing machines). RSJ's large circular transfer (with crown and garter) can just be picked out on the side of the boiler but the oval brass maker's plate on the cylinder valve cover (on top of the boiler) is unfortunately not legible, nor is the road registration plate in front of the chimney. Consequently, it is not possible to arrive at an individual identification for this engine but it is quite a small machine, perhaps only 5 or 6 horsepower.
To the rear and left of the engine a cart is visible - this has perhaps been used to bring the sheaves to where they are needed. Possibly out of shot to the left is a baler, which will be forming the discarded straw into bales in conjunction with the thresher. The sacks for the grain are probably on the opposite side of the thresher so not visible here.
Langford Lane leads into Holme village from the east and although not obvious lies between the traction engine and the church. Gothic House Farm is situated to the south of it, but the farmhouse is separate and lies on the north side - it is believed to derive its name from a former hostelry, which must have closed down prior to the mid-1880s as it is not marked as such on the First Edition of the Ordnance Survey's 25-inch to the mile mapping.
St Giles' Church in the background, with its distinctive broach spire and its two-storey porch, includes fabric of 13th and 14th century date but was largely rebuilt in 1485 at the behest of John Barton, a Lancashire-born wool merchant who appears to have traded between Newark and Calais. Until the mid-nineteenth century it was a chapel, subsidiary to North Muskham Church on the other side of the Trent, the two villages being connected by a ferry. St Giles is notable for its 'exceptional collection of early Tudor carved poppy heads of birds, animals and angels' plus the tomb of John Barton and his wife. The room over the porch (which was added around 1550) is known as 'Nan Scott's Chamber', Nan Scott being an inhabitant of the village who left her house to live in the chamber during the Great Plague of 1666. Apparently, 'when forced to visit her house for supplies she found the parish deserted except for herself and one other, and was so horrified she returned to the chamber and ended her days there'.
By 1900 the church was in a poor condition, having suffered 'centuries of neglect' and in 1932 a local historian and member of the British Association of Master Glass Painters by the name of Nevile (sic) Truman embarked on a scheme of restoration which extended throughout the remainder of that decade. This might serve to date the photo more precisely, but much of the work involved the detail of the structure and its interior so is not obvious. However, close examination reveals a ladder, not seemingly leaning against the building but supporting some sheeting, to the rear of the traction engine's chimney. From its position this may be protecting the church's west window and since the windows were a major emphasis of the restoration project, this could be evidence that the photograph is 1932 or later.