Old Buckenham farmer keeps Norfolk’s farming heritage alive with museum project

A lifelong farmer is aiming to keep Norfolk's agricultural heritage alive by expanding and improving a fledgling museum.

The Askew Agricultural Museum began three years ago when Old Buckenham farmer John Askew decided to showcase his vintage tractors and the vast collection of tools and machinery from his more than 50 years as a dairy farmer.

The 78-year-old is hoping to attract more visitors and school groups to Scales Farm by making further improvements to the museum, which is housed in an old cattle shed.

Mr Askew and business partner Alan Blakey are putting the finishing touches to a Heritage Lottery bid to enhance the site, which opened to visitors for the first time this year at the weekend.

The museum began after the two got talking whilst travelling to watch the bowls at Potters Leisure Resort at Hopton and decided to do something with Mr Askew's collection of rusty tractors and old agricultural tools.

The pair received a grant of �9,600 from Awards for All to repair the tractors, including vintage Fordsons, Fergusons and a Massey Ferguson, and the agricultural museum was born.

Mr Askew, whose father and grandfather were Norfolk farmers, said he hoped to be successful with an application for almost �50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to create an old fashioned milking parlour and other new sections and to modernise the museum building.

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'I have been in farming all my life and I was able to get this small farm of 70 acres when I was 20-years-old and I now farm 500 acres. I had 20 dairy cows when I first came and got up to 130 before I have to get rid of them five years ago. We were talking about what to do with all this stuff and decided to make a museum out of it,' he said.

Among the exhibits are a 1920s standard Ford tractor, a Ransoms single furrow deep plough, and a horse harness that was made especially for the 1953 coronation and used in a local parade. It also includes photographs and farming memorabilia, cultivators, ploughs and dozens of hand tools.

Mr Askew added that it was important for the younger generation to find out about old farming techniques and give an insight into a family that has been in farming for 250 years. He added that he would soon have to find more space to accommodate his growing collection.

'Farming has changed tremendously. It is definitely easier and better, but I like the old fashioned ways,' he added.

Mr Blakey added that they hoped to make the attraction more 'professional', if they were successful with a new lottery bid.

'The UEA at Norwich and school groups come down and they think that milk comes from out of a fridge and do not realise a lot of these things were done by hand when now they are done by machines,' he said.

Askew Agricultural Museum is open on the second Sunday of every month between April and September and on appointment.

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