Get­ting to grips with the old way of bring­ing in the sheaves

Chiltern Open Air Mu­seum


stand­ing po­si­tion, re­mov­ing the need to stoop as you would with a shorter sickle. Later ver­sions in­cluded a cra­dle to catch grain, al­low­ing other crops such as wheat could also be cut with a scythe.

Scythe-men kept their right arms straight, swing­ing the scythe to­wards their left-hand side.

Some­times known as mow­ers, they worked in small teams, with one man start­ing at the front and the oth­ers fol­low­ing be­hind and slightly to the right at a safe dis­tance. They main­tained a con­stant pace and steady rhythm, each cut­ting up to an acre a day. Women and chil­dren fol­lowed, rak­ing and turn­ing the cut grass so it could dry.

This paint-spat­tered scythe, tied with dark blue cloth, be­longed to Thomas George Hale (1910-2013). He worked for London Trans­port, main­tain­ing the track. In sum­mer, he used this scythe to cut the grass along the Met­ro­pol­i­tan line.

Since the 15th cen­tury, scythes have ap­peared in images of the Grim Reaper – a skele­tal fig­ure in a black cloak and hood. This stems from the no­tion of death cut­ting down hu­mans to har­vest their souls, so scythes are now more fre­quently seen dur­ing Hal­loween than at har­vest time.

For more in­for­ma­tion about this year’s Hal­loween Spec­tac­u­lar, visit www.coam.



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