Event Factfile -

Farmer Moving South

Great Broughton Village Hall

Film and Talk

Friday 17th January 2014  7.30 pm

Ian Pearce

Ian Pearce of Gt Ayton Local History Society showed the film “Farmer moving south – a winter journey” and then expanded on the background to the film, which he had researched. The result was a fascinating evening which made the film itself far more interesting.


The film showed the owner of White House Farm, Skutterskelfe, moving all the machinery and all the livestock of his farm as well as household goods and furniture by train from Stokesley Station to Hartfield Station in Sussex and then taking over Perryhill Farm, Sussex, which was a similar acreage to White House Farm. The move took place in 1950 in December and there was snow throughout the journey, which was overnight and took 18hrs 30 mins. 50 wagons were needed and the train was divided into 2 at some point on the journey, the second half following later. The film was a British Transport Film narrated by A G Street and released in 1952.


Ian had managed to identify many of the people in the film and it transpired that the farm was part of the Skutterskelfe estate, owned by the Ropner family of shipbuilders and shipowners, and the farmer was no ordinary North Yorkshire farmer but Bob Ropner, a member of the family. The farm bailiff was Henry Hill who was the only employee from North Yorkshire to move permanently south with the farm. He and his family settled in the south and stayed there even after Bob Ropner gave up farming in 1954. Bob Ropner then started a catering business, but it had little success and he re-located with his family to Switzerland. Inspector Barr, who was the British Rail manager of the journey, returned to Middlesbrough after completing the transfer and the farm workers looking after the cattle, bull, pigs, ducks, chickens and cat all returned home to North Yorkshire.


Ian then told us the fascinating history of the Ropner family and how the original Sir Robert Ropner (full name Emil Hugo Oscar Robert Ropner 1838-1924) was born in Magdeburg, lost his parents to cholera, went to sea but suffered from seasickness and so abandoned his sailing career when he arrived at Hartlepool. There he settled, marrying a local baker’s daughter and gradually building up his business interests to become a shipping magnate. At one time he owned both the Preston Hall estate and the Skutterskelfe estate.

There were many questions which Ian was happy to answer and the evening was highly entertaining and informative.