St Peter’s Feast Day: The farming family at the heart of a Yorkshire village who 'do their bit' on special day

A farming family which has been at the heart of a village for decades will be laying on the food at a community celebration. Chris Berry reports.

Raising Peter, Burying Peter, parading Peter around the village. We’re talking effigies of what actually happened as the mainspring of some kind of fun event in the village of Nun Monkton for years.

If this all seems a bit Midsomer Murders then here’s the good news. It isn’t a custom that has been maintained, but St Peter’s Feast Day still exists, today a lot less pagan, which was allegedly the reason a vicar eventually saw fit to end the custom, and it will be held again next Saturday (June 29) when this historic little village will come alive on the village green.

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Everyone in the community plays their part and, much as there would have been all those years ago, there is one farming family that plays an integral role with Annette Brown’s family at Pool Bridge Farm providing the food.

Annette Brown, with family,  Pool Bridge Farm, Nun Monkton.  Picture Bruce RollinsonAnnette Brown, with family,  Pool Bridge Farm, Nun Monkton.  Picture Bruce Rollinson
Annette Brown, with family, Pool Bridge Farm, Nun Monkton. Picture Bruce Rollinson

“The school PTFA runs the Feast Day,” says Annette. “It’s their main fundraiser and we’re happy to help and support it. The children all get involved and we’re all there for the afternoon and the evening.

“I didn’t go to the school because we were originally on the A59 when I was that age and our nearest school was Kirk Hammerton. For a lot of years Nun Monkton School was low on numbers, but it is now thriving.

Annette’s family is one of far fewer farming families in the community than would have been the case when those weird things were happening with Peter around the maypole in the centre of the village.

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Annette says she has always enjoyed being part of the community and being on their farm, which is on the road towards the village.

Annette Brown's grandfather. Picture Bruce RollinsonAnnette Brown's grandfather. Picture Bruce Rollinson
Annette Brown's grandfather. Picture Bruce Rollinson

“We came to Nun Monkton when my father, Colin Johnston, bought Pool Bridge Farm in 1965 paying £40,000 for its 140 acres. I’ve always liked the way of life on the farm and have been quite happy to be a stay-at-home farmer. We don’t take holidays, we just enjoy our work and go to the St Peter’s Feast each year doing our bit.

“My dad built the harness racetrack next door. That field was part of our farm. I was very involved in harness racing too and was a driver. It’s also where I met my husband Trevor. Glen, one of our sons, is still involved and has a couple of successful horses.

Annette’s father sadly passed away in 1998, aged 62, which left her mother Jean, herself, Trevor and their three teenage children to farm what is today 300 acres Westfield Farm having been inherited and added from Annette’s grandfather Don Johnston, a popular, respected livestock auctioneer in the area at markets like Pateley Bridge, Pannal, Otley, Wetherby and York.

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“Our eldest son Scott was 16 when dad passed, he was thrown in to run the farm, which he still does now with his partner Katie. We now have 200 suckler cows with followers; and 800 B&B pigs. We are mainly all grassland with a little bit of fodder beet to feed the cattle in winter. I run the farm shop, mostly on my own with help from my daughter Kirsty. It’s a no frills, straightforward farm shop and selling fresh meat, Yorvale ice cream and Voakes’ pies. There’s no café, no playground.

“Scott and Katie’s daughter Rosie is very interested in the farm. Our daughter Kirsty and our other son Glen are a massive help along with Glen’s two children Arthur and Daisy who are keen future farmers, and my mum Jean is very supportive and at the heart of all we do. Her father was a butcher, which is where the butchery side of the farm shop comes into it. I learned from my grandfather John Thompson on mother’s side of the family.

Annette is very much from the old school of children from farming families that would have been part of the Nun Monkton community and has always been devoted to the farm since she can remember.

“I’ve been involved since we came here when I was 4 years old. I loved going to the market with my dad. I did all the markets with him when I was a teenager, we travelled all over including Penrith and Kirkby Stephen. I always liked collecting the luck money.

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“My late father was a farmer, cattle dealer and wholesale butcher. He used to do a bit of wholesale meat from the farm in his spare time. When he passed away, I decided I’d carry on doing what he had done. But things moved on, I was spending more and more time on the butchery, so I decided we might as well have a farm shop that was open to the public, something that has grown over the past 20 years and has led to us supplying St Peter’s Feast. We get a fair amount of trade from those who live in the village so it is nice to support.

“The cattle are our biggest operation on the farm. Our sucklers, mainly Limousin, are crossed with a Limmie bull and we have six stock bulls. We sell the followers mainly as store cattle in Northallerton Mart at 12-18 months and finish a few. We graze them.

“A lot of our land is riverside land which floods quite heavily and we’re still flooded now. When the River Nidd gets full, Pool Beck backs up. The River Nidd runs right through Westfield Farm. We also have pigs for Yorkshire Farmers Livestock which go as fatteners. We have them 12 weeks.

Villager of 48 years, Jennifer Oxtoby, came to Nun Monkton because of her husband’s work.

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“He was estate gardener for the Priory,” says Jennifer who is also new county chair of the Yorkshire Countrywomen’s Association. “My children, grandchildren and niece all attended the school.

“The green outside the school lends itself to hosting a lovely day. It’s a very colourful day with fancy dress, maypole dancing, welly throwing and all kinds of traditional fair games, and fortunately no burying or raising of Peter!

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