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The Farm


In 1856, the number of patients within the Hospital had yet again increased and it was decided that a new building was needed for female patients.  Along with this came new farm buildings. This was completed by 1858.  Again, in 1865, more farm buildings were built and the excavation and carpentry work was carried out with the help of patients. In 1866, 9 cows were bought and in 1873, three fields were bought from Mr Trood of Trood House for £800 and in 1888 a further 92 acres were bought for the farm.  With a further 75 acres being purchased, again from Mr Trood, for £3000.   

The Great War years meant that food was scarce and of poor quality regardless of the farming. Post war years saw the return to near normality and the hospital had settled down and had recovered from the worst effects of the War.  

In 1921, The Committee, through Mr Lawrence, a member of the Farm Committee, purchased 22 acres of land for £1150 at public auction without the consent of the Board of Control who declined to give permission, giving the reason as 'there was an urgent necessity for the restriction of local expenditure'.  After a lengthy correspondence, the Board of Control stayed with their decision and a Government Auditor notified the Committee that he intended to surcharge the whole amount so far paid in deposit and fees and this would mean that Mr Lawrence would acquire the land and 'let' it to the Committee.  The County Council intervened and with protests from the Committee, the Board of Control sanctioned the purchase.  1927 brought about the remodelling of the cattle sheds (known as farm shippons) and "Linden King" stalls were erected.  Also in this year, milk recording came into force and a milk receiving house and milk cooling apparatus were provided.  Milk pasteurization was introduced.

The second World War brought about similar restrictions to the Great War but once again the Hospital rallied round and things got back to normality within a short time.

In 1951, the farm had built up a pedigree South Devon herd of cattle and pasturisation was introduced 2 years later.  Ward 13 was now known as the Farm Ward because the patients that worked on the farm were housed there.

Sadly, in 1954 the Committee had to, reluctantly, sell the herd of over 100 cattle due to a review by the government and the National Agricultural Advisory Officer stating they were reducing the Exminster estate from 307 acres to 122 acres including 66 acres of farmland and the fact that it would be difficult to use the the farm buildings left in the Committee's possession and a source of income of £5000 a year would be lost. It was also stated that there was little patient labour used on the farm apart from in the milking parlour.  The land was to be leased not sold and in 1956, 125 acres at the hospital were leased for £725 a year. The policy was now to buy cattle, fatten them up along with sheep for slaughter and consumption by the hospital. The number of pigs was increased to 500 and they were to keep more poultry. Although more farmland was sold in 1960, this practice continued until 1962.  When once again, the Board announced that this should cease apart from keeping pigs and poultry.  Pigs were not to be slaughtered in the hospital but sent to bacon factories - approximately 12 - 14 pigs a week were sent.  In July, approximately 100 turkeys would be bought in and reared and killed for Christmas. They were all plucked on site with the help of patients, who got paid per bird, and the turkeys were then cooked in the hospital kitchen.

All this change within the farming at Exminster altered the environment of the hospital for staff and patients.  This was to continue until the hospital closure in 1987.