12.12. Comparison 1770 to 1850

Sir James Caird, an expert on farming in England, visited the majority of agricultural counties in 1850 and 1851, and wrote a number of reports on the farming activities in each area for “The Times”, which were then published in book form. He also noted the labourers’ wages and the cost of provisions, and presented in his letters a comparison of the 1850-52 numbers with those of Arthur Young in 1770:

(Caird, 1852, p. 474)

            His general evaluation was as follows:

“In twenty-six counties the average rent
of arable land, in 1770, appears from
Young’s returns to have been  
 s. d. 
13 4 an acre
For the same counties our returns in 1850-51 give an average of       26 10    “
Increase of rent in eighty years 13 6
or 100 per cent
In 1770 the average produce of wheat was     23 an acre
In 1850-51 in the same counties it was26 ¾     “
Increased produce of wheat per acre  3 ¾ or 14 per cent
   s. d. 
In 1770 the labourers’s wages averaged  7  3    a week
In 1850-51, in the same counties they averaged  9  7       “
Increase in wages of agricultural labourers  2  4   or 34 per cent
 Bread   Butter   Meat
In 1770 the price of provisions was1 ½ d.   0s. 6d.   3 ¼ d.
per lb.
In 1850-51 it was1¼       1  0       5           
   s.  d.
In 1770 the price of wool was  0   5 ½   per lb. 
In 1850-51 it was  1  0           “
In 1770 the rent of labourers’ cottages   s. d.
in sixteen counties averaged            56  0   a year
 [arithmetical error,
 should be 34]
In 1850-51, in the same counties          74  6     “

It thus appears that, in a period of 80 years, the average rent of arable land has risen 100 per cent., the average produce of wheat per acre has increased 14 per cent., the labourers’ wages 34 per cent., and his cottage rent 100 per cent.; while the price of bread, the great staple of the food of the English labourer, is about the same as it was in 1770. The price of butter has increased 100 per cent., meat about 70 per cent., and wool upwards of 100 per cent.” (Ibid., p. 475)

He also gave a comparison of costs and wages for an area of North Lancashire: 

In 1770in 1850
Rent, 21s. an acreRent, 41s. an acre
Rates 3d. per poundRates, 3s 9d. per pound
Tithes compounded forTithes commuted, and included in rent
4-7ths of farm in grass4-5ths of farm in grass
3-7ths arable1-5tharable
Annual produce of a cow, 4l.Annual produce of a cow, 9l.
Six horses in a plough, and do an acre a day.Two, and sometimes three, horses
in a plough.
First man’s wages, 9l. a-year,and his boardFirst man’s wages, 15l. to 16l.a-year, and board
Second man 5l. a-year, and boardSecond man, 10l. a-year, and board
Dairymaid, 3l. and boardDairymaid, 7l. 10s., and board
Bread (oat), 11 lb. for 1s.Bread, 4d. per 4 lb. loaf, coarse wheaten bread; 5d. per 4 lb., best.
Cheese 3d. per lb.       Cheese, 5d. per lb.
Butter 8p. per lb.        Butter 11d. to 1s. per lb.
Beef, 2 ½ d. per lb.     Beef, 5d. to 6d.
Mutton 2 ½ d. per lb.Mutton, 6d.
Labourers’s house-rent, 20s. Labourer’s house-rent, 50s. to 100s.

(Caird, 1852, p. 283)

We also have a report, made by John Wade in 1832, of prices of wheat and husbandry wages from 1770 to 1832:

YearWheat per QuarterWages per WeekWages in
pints of wheat
      s.  d.  s.  d. 
1770    47   8   7   479
1790    50   0   8   182
1796    64 10   8 1170
1803    91   8  11  565
1811    96   8  14  676
1819    84   8  12  073
1824    57   2  10  089
1829    62   1  11  091
1832    63   9  12  090

(extracted from Wade, 1832, p. 538)

One pint dry measure of wheat was one pound weight, so that the usage increased from 20 4-lb. units in 1770 to 22 4-lb. units in 1832, but passing through difficult times in 1796 to 1819.


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