|Approaching Abberton and Langenhoe on the main road towards Colchester from Mersea, there is a large, old, dilapidated house on the left completely swamped by overgrown trees, shrubs and brambles - a sharp contrast to Catalpas next door with its manicured hedges. Abandoned to the elements, and I suspect the odd uninvited visitor, first the house's windows were broken leaving tattered remnants of curtains to flutter in the wind and the rain to come in and now the actual structure of the house is crumbling. This house was the home of the Nymanns. Its name, given in the 1939 register, is Stoke-Courci.
The Nymanns were from Denmark and met in this country working on a Buckinghamshire farm at the end of WW1.
Charles Emil Poulson Nymann or 'Nymann the Dane' as he was often referred to, used to move his cattle around Pete Tye Common being one of the last locally to exercise a farmer's right to graze animals on common land.
There is a reference to him and his wife in the UK Police Gazette listing them as Aliens Traced in 1922 in Boston in Lincolnshire. During WW1, the Aliens Restriction Act of 1914 required foreign nationals to register with the police. This was continued into peace time with the 1919 act which further restricted employment in sensitive areas like the civil service and was designed to safeguard the UK's security. Denmark was neutral during WW1 but, with the British blockades at sea, Denmark had been forced to send exports to neighbouring Germany. In German territories that had formerly belonged to Denmark many people of Danish origin were forced to fight for Germany. It sounds as if the Nymanns had moved, a common enough occurrence with farm workers, but had neglected to inform the authorities!
In the late 1920s and throughout the thirties Nymann is listed in Langenhoe as a farmer in Trade Directories. In Kelly's Trade Directories of 1933 he is listed as a poultry farmer.
In 1942 in his Journals of Wartime Colchester, E J Rudsdale writes
Went down to Mersea this afternoon with Capt. Folkard and Nott. We stopped at Pete Tye Common and I fixed a notice to one of the telegraph poles, stating that possession had now been taken by the War Agricultural Committee. Rather a pity, although the whole place is now in a terrible state. I wonder if it ever will be laid down to grass again? At present I believe Nymann the Dane, is the only 'commoner', although sometimes Spall at Pete Tye Farm puts a few cows there. I could see Nymann's cows moving across in the mist as I nailed up the notice. There are about 40 acres altogether and we have taken 37. It was really the increase of traffic on the Colchester - Mersea road which led to the Common becoming disused as it is unsafe to leave stock unattended there.
E.J. Rudsdale's Journals of Wartime Colchester Monday 9th February 1942
As the activities of the War Agricultural Committee stepped up in WW2 and the emphasis on arable farming as opposed to livestock meant pastures were ploughed up and animals killed, many farmers were evicted from their homes and land.
Back to Colchester over Pete Tye, and saw the engines ploughing up Nymann's big field. The old man refuses to part
with his cattle, which were standing miserably about on the clods. He has nowhere to put them yet refuses to sell.
E J Rudsdale's journals of Wartime Colchester 10th August 1943
Nymann clearly managed somehow, for, over a forty year period, riding his bicycle, he used to move his cattle around the common, taking them out daily to graze. Bernie Ratcliffe, a farm worker from Little Wigborough remembers Nymann often being found having a nap while sitting on his bike! The cattle would generally go where they pleased and when Eric and Jan Coan arrived at Pete Tye Farm in 1968 they had to erect fencing to keep Nymann's cattle off their land and out of the garden. Nymann continued grazing the cattle on the common into the mid - 1970s.
His long career as a farmer was picked up by the Essex County Standard in around 1975.
Langenhoe's Great Dane Standard Special by Dick Barton
Is he the oldest working farmer in Essex? At 87, the amazing Charles Nymann must be at least a leading contender
for the title - but his wife wants him to relinquish his claims to it.
Single-handed, the Danish-born Mr Nymann looks after his 30 head of Friesian-Herefords on 72 acres at Langenhoe, including the 40 acre Pete Tye Common. To him quit is a four-letter word.
'I just feel I want to go on as long as I am well enough' he says.
But his wife, who will be 80 tomorrow, feels differently. Mrs Nymann, the former Stephanie de Courcy Beamish said 'I wish he would stop working. The cattle are a perfect nuisance.'
The Nymanns have been farming at Langenhoe for 40 of their 53 married years. They first met when they were both working on a Buckinghamshire farm at the end of the First World War.
Theirs was an unusual match. Charles was the son of a Danish farmer; Stephanie's family started the Beamish and Crawford Brewery in Ireland in 1792. Her great grandfather, Francis Bernard Beamish (1802 - 1868) was MP for Cork for 16 years and was mayor of the city in 1841.
By coincidence, another relative had a link with Denmark. In 1841, the military writer and antiquary North Ludlow Beamish (1796 -1872) published a summary of researches by the Danish professor Rafn about the discovery of America by the Northmen in the 10th century.
Essex National Farmers' Union secretary, Philip Shaw didn't know anything about that. But he said:
'Remarkable. I don't know of anyone older than Mr Nymann who is still actively farming in Essex'. Essex County Standard circa 1975
Stephanie died in April 1978 at the age of 83 and Charles lived to 91 dying in Black Notley Hospital the following year on 22.3.1979. They had one daughter, Mary Patricia de Courcy Nymann who married Henry H Morgan in Colchester. Local reports say she lived in London and they had one child who it is understood still owns the house. Mary died in 1993.
Their house is still empty.
Peldon History Project