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Making Connections

In the next local history series, Jill Kashi of Westwood Heath History Group shares research on the history connections linked to Tocil House Farm.
Gibbet Hill landscape pre-University of Warwick c1960

The Clayton Brothers of Tocil House Farm

Tocil House Farm c1960
Last year, on a visit to the Modern Records Centre, I found photographs related to the brothers David and Reg Clayton, who had lived and worked atTocil House Farmuntil 1967, when it became the property of the University of Warwick. I later found their oral testimony, recorded by the university in 2015, as part of the celebration of its 50 years of existence. After this discovery, I wanted to learn even more about the brothers and their lives at Tocil before the surrounding scenery was irrevocably changed. Martin Sanders, Senior Assistant Archivist at the Modern Records Centre, kindly put me in touch with them. They were pleased to hear of our interest and a meeting was organised at Scarman House between the brothers, Ian Harrop and myself as representatives of the Westwood Heath History Group. It was a great pleasure to meet David and Reg and to hear their reminiscences of the landscape, places and people before the building of the university commenced.

Long service

Two men at work on a tractor in a field c1960
David told us that he had begun his working life at 16, with the Coventry Corporation parks department. When he was offered work on the Bostocks’ farm at Tocil, the Parks Department tried to tempt him to stay, by offering him a promotion to foreman at 18, if he remained with them. But David was drawn to Mr Bostock’s offer and began his work there, one of 10 other workers at that time. The farm produced potatoes, swedes, corn and hay as well as mangels, grown chiefly for feeding livestock through the winter. They also raised cattle for beef production. The work was hard, demanding and could be dangerous in the days before health and safety regulations. David showed us his cup, presented to him by Princess Anne at the Royal Show, Stoneleigh in 2005. He is justifiably proud of this, as it recognises his 49 years of service in agricultural work, employed for all that time by Messrs Bostock and sons.

Peter Clayton’s poems

David Clayton receiving his long service award from HRH Princess Anne, 2005
Reg told us that their late elder brother, Peter, had written some poems inspired by the local countryside and invited us to their home to see them. Peter had joined the army at 18, but followed his younger brothers into agricultural work in his 30s. On visiting David and Reg, we were surprised to discover that Peter had written over 1300 poems, some of which had won prizes in amateur competitions and been printed in anthologies. Many of Peter’s poems are poignant, covering a range of themes: from love and loss, growing old, fear and loneliness to the harsh realities of the cityscape as he perceived it, with dirty, littered streets and a prevailing bleakness. However, Peter’s passion was the natural world; the animals, insects, flowers and trees he saw around him growing up and later working on the land in the Westwood Heath area provided a rich source of inspiration to him.

David and Reg have generously donated their late brother’s poetry collection to the Westwood Heath History Group. We hope to find different ways of sharing them and incorporating them into our local history research.


I have found a bank with no silver or gold

But it has riches untold

As the wild flowers sway in the wind

And where the rabbits skip all day long

A bank with all its riches laid out before me

For when I look at the bank I am the richest man in the world

I open the gate like opening the door of a vault

To reveal all the bank has to offer

For the scent of the flowers floats on the wind

As Mother Nature opens the door on the first day of spring

All the wealth comes pouring out to land at my feet

One Hour

Just one hour before dawn

The owl returns to where he was born

And screech his song across the fields and meadows

To welcome in the coming day

A lone blackbird started the dawn chorus

Then all the birds of spring began to sing their song

Then Mother Nature stirred in her bed

She cast aside the blankets of mist

Then we saw what Mother Nature had to hide

All her beauty lay now before us

And as the day was started by a beautiful dawn chorus

We heard the last hoots of the owl float away on the morning breeze

And a wild goose goes gliding by

At the beginning of this glorious day

And as the sun warms the cold waters of the lake

All is silent except the calling of the goose looking for its mate

And then came the ducks with their young all in a line

Swimming into the warm sun of the day

And the owl seems so very far away

Jill Kashi,Westwood Heath History Group
June 2022


With grateful thanks to David and Reg Clayton. Peter Clayton’s poems are reproduced with their permission.

Stephen Hill and Dan Smith, ‘University of Warwick Archaeological Evaluation Summary’ (in papers belonging to the Clayton family).

Find your own sources

You can access thousands of primary sources online in the University’s Modern Records Centre (MRC).