Film ID:
YFA 1329



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This is a documentary by Vera Media Production, part of the Yorkshire Media Consortium project, about the rhubarb growing in West Yorkshire.  It features the Oldroyd’s Farm, and through Robin Hood’s School and local historians, it tells the story of rhubarb in the past and today.

The film begins with people, young and old, giving their views on eating rhubarb.  Janet Oldroyd Hulme, a rhubarb grower, states that it is low in calories and used by people on diets.  In a field of rhubarb in a shed Janet gives a demonstration of how it is harvested.  A school girl says that this is called ‘forced rhubarb’.  Two local historians, Frank Goddard and Kath Miller, explain that it was grown in sheds so that it could be grown out of season and have an attractive colour.  A schoolboy explains that when grown indoors the leaves are yellow.  The rhubarb is shown being harvested by candlelight, while Kath Miller states that Beryl Burton, the cyclist, used to work in the shed.  The rhubarb is then shown being boxed, and the workman explains that they supply specialist jam-makers and many places across the country.

The variety is Stocksbridge Arrow, which was developed at the Stocksbridge centre of Horticultural Research International, near Selby.  Julian Davies, a vegetable Agronomist, gives an account of what is done there as we see some of the large greenhouses.  He explains how they got their name ‘arrow’ from the shape of the leaves.  They are shown being sold in Asda and on market stalls.

Pupils from Robin Hood’s School visit Oldroyd’s Farm where they are greeted by the owner, Janet Oldroyd Hulme.  She shows them the harvester working in the outdoor fields.  The rhubarb is pulled out by hand and put onto a conveyor belt to go into the machine.  Inside the machine they are checked and packed.  Kath Miller relates how she used to walk through the rhubarbs fields as a child and pick and eat it with a bag of sugar.  Frank Goddard states that about a hundred years ago the West Yorkshire area, from Wakefield to Leeds and Dewsbury, used to be the centre for rhubarb growing.   Standing at the White Rose Shopping Centre he explains that all that area used to be rhubarb fields.  He and Kath Miller look at an 1894 ordinance survey map showing the fields.  AT that time, it was called tusky, not rhubarb.  They also show where it used to grow where there is now Elland Road Stadium, with Beeston have a very large ‘tusky shed’.

Back in the classroom at school, the children use their expedition to do a project, making their own rhubarb boxes.  As we see fields of rhubarb growing, a school girl explains the name probably comes from the Greek word for the River Volga, and that it was first recorded in China in 2,700 BC.  It was first imported as a medicinal drug.  It was possibility brought west by Marco Polo.  Centuries of horticultural experiment have unveiled its uses in chemistry, medicine and pharmacology.  Janet Oldroyd Hulme explains some of its benefits: high in fibre, potassium, calcium and natural oestrogen.  Helen McIntyre, Class 5 teacher, explains some of the history of the plant.  Then they interview various people in White Rose Shopping Centre
about whether they like rhubarb and how they eat it.

At school, the pupils make and eat rhubarb crumble.  Janet Oldroyd Hulme explains that the connection with West Yorkshire is through shoddy, which is used as compost.  Rhubarb also likes the rain, though it does smell.  Frank Goddard states that when he was a boy everyone had a rhubarb patch, and he has a picture of himself to prove it. Kath Miller still has a patch.  A school girl explains that 90% of forced rhubarb comes from West Yorkshire, as we are shown some newspaper cuttings on rhubarb.

With thanks to:
Beeston Local History society
Martin Hague, Groundwork Leeds
Oldroyd’s Rhubarb
Robin Hood Primary School
HRI Stocksbridge House
Philippa Ventom, development Dept. Wakefield MDC
White Rose Shopping Centre
Commentary Sophie Howarth
Research Kate Davies
Camera  Marie Skins, Jan Wells
Sound  Dean Hincliffe
Editor  Tam Carr
Production Assistant  Sally Barrow, Sue Hamelman, Vicky Kell
Runners  Gayle Edmond, Carla Newsome, Emma Williams
Directed and Produced by Al Garthwaite, Catherine Mitchell
The Rhubarb Triangle is part of the A4 Contemporary Video Collection
A Vera Media Production
© 2000 Vera Media