The roots of the Mason and Sandford families go deep into the heavy flinty clay of Essex and Suffolk farmland. Like many families of the north east corner of Essex the principal occupation was that of the ubiquitous ag. lab.
Our corner of Essex has always been well farmed. The remains of a large Roman farm found on the border of Bulmer and Gestinghtorpe, and records of Saxon and mediaeval landowners as well as the way in which the farm houses are scattered throughout the area rather than concentrated in villages all attest to this fact.
In the earliest days most people spent their whole lifetime on the land where they were born. Before the enclosures of the 18th and 19th centuries any strong healthy person could obtain the basic necessities of life from whatever land he chose; wild untamable fen or strips of common land. After the land was enclosed the folk found themselves working for the local landowners. Despite the rural idyll image of simple country life that persists today life was hard, working conditions and pay were poor.
The 19th and 20th centuries saw increasing mechanisation on the Essex farms. Fewer people were required for general agricultural labour. In Essex the number of agricultural labourers fell from 48,016 in 1861 to 21,199 in 1931, a decrease of 56%. By 1991, the number of farmers and agricultural labourers accounted for less than 1% of the population of Essex.