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Guarlford History Group

Joan Violet Bradshaw, village historian (1918 - 2007)

Joan Bradshaw (left) at book launch in 2005 The village of Guarlford owes an immense debt of gratitude to Joan Bradshaw as it was from her detailed research that the Guarlford History Project developed.

The stories and history of the village fascinated Joan from childhood, and as a true historian she recorded all she was told about Guarlford, later researching the history of Guarlford by visiting the County Records Office and consulting old maps and documents in dusty storerooms and attics. This was of course before the advent of the computer and Internet, and Joan's notes were compiled in manuscript in notebooks. She also assembled a wonderful archive of local photographs.  Joan's painstaking research was an invaluable source and inspiration for the Guarlford History Group and for their two books, The Guarlford Story and The Guarlford Scene, so we are delighted that Joan, with her friend Joan Newell, was the guest of honour at the launch party for The Guarlford Story on a memorable day at Cherry Orchard in August, 2005.

Joan was born on 28th June 1918 just before the end of the Great War. She was the daughter of Oliver Victor George Bradshaw, son of Absalom Bradshaw of Guarlford Court, and Florence Ada Price, at that time an assistant teacher at Guarlford National School.

Victor and Florence farmed White House Farm as tenants, where Joan  was born. The couple then moved to Guarlford Court, where Joan's father worked with her grandfather. Joan's brother Colin John Kenelm Bradshaw was born there in 1919. 

The younger Bradshaws lived at Guarlford Court for a few years before the family moved across the road to Grange Farm and its newly built farmhouse, so that the young Joan grew up in the centre of village life and close to the church.

Joan spent most of a long and fulfilled life in Guarlford. She did leave the village before World War Two to take a College Diploma in Dairying in 1938 at the Midland Agricultural College (MAC), Sutton Bonnington in Nottinghamshire.  She was helped by Miss Pritchard, the County Dairy Instructress who specialised in butter-making and the like, and who recommended Joan to her sister, a tutor at MAC. At this time MAC was the country's progressive educational and research agricultural institution where many important careers started, for example that of Sir Frank Fraser Darling who studied Animal Genetics at Edinburgh University.

In the Second World War Joan was recommended for the newly created Womenís Land Army, and she returned to Malvern to train factory girls for agricultural work.  Joan spent much of her time at Mr Tolley's farm at Lower Woodsfield, near Madresfield, where advanced equipment had been installed, including new milking machines, which Joan taught the recruits to use. During this time she received five commendation badges,  together with a letter of congratulations. 

Joanís greatest joy was working with animals, especially horses, and she was a successful point-to-pointer.

After the Second World War Joan took over Grange Farm and set up a small livestock farm there with her friend, Joan Newell. They kept dairy cows, sheep and pigs, and bred hunters.

When they could no longer manage livestock farming, the two Joans founded Grange Farm Nursery, which has continued to flourish since Carol Nicholls bought it in 1980.

 Indeed, on the very day of Joanís funeral in 2007, it was announced that Grange Farm Nursery had won an RHS Gold medal at the Spring Garden Show held at the Three Counties Ground, Malvern. 

At the funeral service to celebrate Joanís life, Meriel Bennett described the familiar sight of Joan on a summerís day in one of her trade-mark floral skirts and a wide-brimmed straw hat, trug on her arm, and one of her beloved dachshunds at her heel tending the garden or cutting flowers for St Maryís Church. Joanís final journey to the church she attended so often and which was so dear to her heart took place on the 10th May, 2007. 

The very large attendance of villagers and others was a fitting tribute to a true Guarlfordian. So was completed another chapter in the story of Guarlford.