18th October 2018

Colin's Father, George Evered and Grandfather, Frank Evered farmed the land where Stoke Mandeville Stadium and track was built, and the land immediately the other side of the railway track where William Harding School now stands from the late 1800s. Colin farmed here from the 1940s to 1971 and has shared some wonderful memories with the National Paralympic Heritage Trust team.

The area where the Olympic Lodge stands was called Four Acre Field and the area where the Stadium and track are was part of Eleven Acre Field. The fields were divided by a hedge and half way along the edge was a large old willow tree that is clear in the arial photography of the early Stoke Mandeville Hospital.

Four acre field was crop based, mainly corn, but one year they grew brussel-sprouts and trying to pick them in winter as a boy was hard, freezing his fingers, so he had to stop. Eleven Acre field was for hay and grazing.

Haymaking at Elm Farm in the 1890s

There was a prisoner of war camp at Hartwell House. The Farm had a German and an Italian POW working on the farm with them but when a drainage ditch needed clearing out six additional Italian POW came to help and they were kept under guard, and Colin and his brothers were told not to go into the field or they would be shot, so they kept well away that day. The work done to the ditch was a very good job, carried out to a high standard and shaped perfectly. In addition there were refugees from London who were bombed out provided with temporary accommodation in old caravans.

Lamb in foreground and caravans upper left to house people bombed out of London

Caravans provided temporary accommodation for refugees from London

The Hospital and addition of the National Spinal Injuries Centre (NSIC) was all hut based and spread out, so that if the area was bombed it minimised the damage. The nurses huts were long and spread out in a fan for the same reason, and were surrounded by grass that the farm used as hay. Colin recalled a quiet nurse from the NSIC coming on night duty and being scared by the boiler room men, one of whom had dressed as a ghost and climbed the old willow tree.

Before the NSIC was built there was a large vegetable plot tended by Mr Mortimer, who provided vegetables to the hospital. Pigs were kept by the Hospital in the top corner of the Eleven Acre field, when they were dismantled the Farm took the iron sheets for other uses.

Colin can't recall the building of the Spinal Injuries Unit as an addition to the Hospital but he does recall how he couldn't often attend the Games as they began and developed because it always clashed with the haymaking.

I recall being on the tractor haymaking but the noise of the Games and the cheering crowds was so loud I could hear it above the noise of the old tractor and wondering what was being cheered, but the haymaking while the sun shone had to take precedence.

There is a picture of Colin on the tractor with his dog Peggy, a terrier. Peggy was given to me by a family who had been bombed out of London and were staying in a caravan on the site temporarily. She was the best dog I could have hoped for. She had a friend called Bruce, an Alsatian mix, he was a perfect gentleman. They would go to the kitchen window of the Spinal Injuries Unit and Peggy would bark for a bone. They were normally successful and she would come back to the farm every muscle in her as proud as punch. Bruce let her have the spoils first. On one occasion my Father was in the general hospital for a hernia operation, he was alongside another farmer Pit Evitt, and we were haymaking outside. It was decided that it would do both of them good to bring in Peggy the dog to see them, and we were allowed on the ward, and it did do them good.

Colin's brother

I did get to go to the opening opening of the Stadium, I was sat in the back row of the tiered seating in the balcony, I recall as clear as day the Queen coming in from a side door at the bottom end of the Sports Hall, and thinking how small she was. She went to the plaque and opened the small curtains declaring the centre open, to enthusiastic applause. It is a great memory.

Elm Farmhouse with Grandparents, Frank Evered in 1895 Cows in the field at Elm Farm

Photo on the left -Elm Farm House and Colin's Grandparents in 1895
Photo on the right - View of Elm Farm buildings and bungalow on the site where Stoke Mandeville Stadium is now built

George Evered with milk pails collected for Nestle factory Colin Evered standing by a hayrick

Photo on the left - George Evered, Colin's Dad, with milk pails collected for the Nestle factory
Photo on the right - Colin Evered by a hayrick

Pigs at Elm Farm fed from Stoke Mandeville hospital slops Colin Evered and his dog, Peggy, sitting on a tractor

Photo on the left - Pigs fed from the hospital slops
Photo on the right - Colin with his dog, Peggy

Sunday School girls visiting Elm Farm in 1955 Head and shoulders photo of Colin Evered

Photo on the left - Sunday schoolgirls visiting the farm in 1955
Photo on the right - Colin Evered today

Oral history interview with Colin

Interview by Dr Rosemary Hall, 31st August 2022

Colin talks about farming life and how the family run Elm Farm was farmed by his Dad and Grandad. Part of the farmland is where Stoke Mandeville Stadium is now built. The stadium was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the 2nd August 1969. You can listen to the full interview below or download the transcript.