12.14. Cottages, Allotments, Potatoes, Cows

The figures as to monetary incomes are not complete if they do not take into account the rents paid, and the food from their own acivities. 

“Taking the three counties of Shropshire, Denbighshire and Flintshire, should you say that the condition of the labourers now, as compared with their condition in 1800, was better or worse?” “I think it is full as good.”

“You mention that the wages in Cheshire are reduced only about one-sixth, and that the articles consumed and used by the, generally speaking, have fallen 25 per cent., and that the consequence is that their condition is, generally speaking, better; does that observation apply to the labouring classes of those three counties?” “Yes, I think it does.”

“Have the labourers generally cottages of their own?” “They have cottages belonging to gentlemen. Sir Rowland Hill I suppose has 300 or 400 cottages. They have had of late (Lord Kenyon began it) for each cottager a small portion of land; his Lordship sent me down a paper from the Labourers’ Friend Society, and I subscribed, and got many other gentlemen to subscribe and circulate them, and it has improved the condition of the labourer, I think, more than anything I know.”

“How much land is given?” “From a quarter of an acre to an acre, and in some cases where they are provident and likely to keep a cow we have given them three acres; a quarter of an acre for garden ground.”

“Enough for spade husbandry?” “Yes, very much; I have told all the gentlemen around that I think giving the cottages small portions of land will do more good than anything I could possibly suggest.”

“Do they pay rent for those lands?” “Yes, but not much; the rent is at the same rent the farmers have been used to pay to the landlord; I said they should let to cottagers at the same rents as to they do to farmers.”

(Select Committee on Agriculture, 1833, Mr. Joseph Lee, Agent and land valuer, p. 283)

“Have you any labourers that you employ yourself all the year round?” “Yes, mine are all employed the year round, and at a birth-day dinner they will muster 40.”

“Do you make any difference between married and single men?” “No, none at all.”

“What do you pay to men in constant employ?” “Seven to nine shillings a week.”

“Are there any other advantages or indulgences that you give them?” “Yes; I always give them a quantity of land rent-free to plant potatoes upon, and the land is prepared for them, and they have beer or cider daily, from one quart to four, according to the work and the time of year.”

“Do you give him any other advantage?” “They have always an extra price in harvest, and sometimes work by the great, whereby they get more, if they like.”

“What quantity of land do you let your men have at a rent?” “Enough to keep a cow; sometimes eight or ten acres.”

“Does he pay you no rent for that?” “Yes, he does.” 

“Do you let the man have that land when he wishes it?” “If he is enabled to purchase a cow, I let him have the land to keep it upon.”             

“What quantity of land do you let him have?” “From five and six and sometimes they have had 10 acres.”

“What rent do they pay?” “Thirty shillings an acre if the land is good, exclusive of taxes.”

“Do they occupy a cottage at the same time?” “Yes, a very decent house, garden and orchard.”

“What rent do they pay for that?” “Fifty or fifty-two shillings a year.” 

(Select Committee on Agriculture, 1833, Mr. John B. Turner, Farmer, Herefordshire, p. 390)

“Is three acres of land sufficient to keep a cow during the winter, and leave sufficient for the labourer the potatoes he requires and other articles?” “Yes, I think it sufficient, but it depends a great deal on the quality of the land.”

“Has he sufficient spare time to attend to his usual labour as a servant in husbandry and to cultivate three acres of land for his own advantage?” “Yes, no, doubt, with the assistance of his wife.”

“You think the labourers there are as well off as they were in 1800; is the farmer as well able to pay them his wages as then?” “No; but their wages have varied very little.”

“Do you think that the labourer is paid his wages out of the profits of the farmer?” “He is forced to pay him, but it is not always out of his profits, I fear.”

“You state that a cottage and three acres of land let for 6 l. 10 s.; what sort of cottage is it?” “They have a living room, a small pantry or place to keep their meat, milk, and so on; and in some of the cottages they have two bed-rooms upon the first floor, what they call bed-cabins, or little rooms running out from the living rooms, with a fire place put in the centre, and they go into the lodging rooms, on each side of the fire-place, then the living room takes the whole space of the building, with an outer lean or shoring, or a side for a pantry; in other houses they put a roof over the cottage, then their sleeping-rooms are above, and they generally reduce the ground floor, that it is not so large.”

“What are the cottages with gardens and a quarter of an acre let for?” “About 50s. or 3l. for the two together.”

 (Select Committee on Agriculture, 1833, Mr. Joseph Lee, Agent and land valuer, p. 285)

“When you take into consideration the vast increase of the manufacturing population, do you conceive there is a less consumption of wheat in the manufacturing districts than there was five, ten, or twenty years ago?” “No; I do not believe there a less consumption, but a less consumption in proportion to the population.”

“Do you not conceive that many of the population eat more wheaten bread than they used to do?” “I think that they eat more potatoes.”

“Do you think that there has been an increase in the consumption of wheaten bread among the population?” “I should think that there is, in proportion to their numbers.”            

“Are you aware that in many districts there used to be oats, or barley, or rye consumed to a much greater extent formerly, and that wheat has been substituted?” “Yes; but that has ceased, to a great extent, particularly the eating of rye and barley bread, I believe, in my time. I recollect when nothing else was eaten by the labourers but barley bread; now, in those parts of the country, they eat no barley bread.”

“Is not a good deal of the bread called wheaten bread made of potato flour?” “I believe that it is, and very good bread too.”

“Do you remember when there was scarcely anything but potatoes eaten in the west of England?” “No, I do not recollect their being so much eaten in the west of England as they have been of late, and on the noble Chairman’s estate in Dorsetshire there are more than ten times the potatoes grown now than formerly.”

“What do you conceive to be the average consumption of wheat in the British islands?” “I have looked at the subject; formerly, five or six years ago, I calculated it was about six bushels per head of population.”

(Select Committtee on the State of Agriculture, 1837,  Mr. W. Jacob, Comptroller of Corn Returns, Board of Trade, p. 13) 

“If the allotment system is only carried to the extent of sending the garden produce to market, or the feed of a cow, in that case should you think that was injurious either to the labourer or to the farmer?” “No; the allotment system enables the poor men to grow their own potatoes, whereas they used to buy them. All respectable persons in country villages grow their own vegetables, and they, the poor, have no means of selling any vegetables; they grow half wheat and half potatoes, and sell the wheat.”

“You think one of the effects of the allotment systems is, that the labouring classes have grown more potatoes and consumed less corn?” “Yes.”

“Do they keep pigs?” “Yes, in some instances.”

(Select Committee on the State of Agriculture, 1837, Mr. John Lewis, Farmer, Suffolk, p. 57)

“What is your opinion of the cultivation of wheat in your neighbourhood?” “It is very much lessened.”

“How do you account for that?” “By the greatly increased growth of potatoes.”

“Is that greatly increased growth of potatoes by farmers?” “By small farmers.”

“What has induced them to make that change in their food now that wheat has become so much cheaper?” “It has been increasing, and has now become such a habit, I think the people are more satisfied with potatoes than bread, as they used it since my recollection.”

“Do they eat more meat?” “I think they do; I think there is more bacon eaten, and more pigs killed by the poor people; in my recollection the labourer used to take his crust of bread in the morning, and live upon it for the day; and now the wife or some of the family bring them their potatoes twice or three times a day.”

“Hot potatoes?” “Yes.”

“Do they generally bring them with the potatoes any meat?” “Sometimes they do; sometimes nothing but potatoes.”            

“Do you consider that the change has arisen from the labourer being in a more distressed situation?” “Yes, I consider that the original cause; and perhaps it now operates in a measure.”

“When you consider the price of wages now and the price of corn, do you think that they are in a worse situation than they were?” “No, I think they are better off in the neighbourhood than I ever knew them.”

“Then the change of food does not arise from their being in a worse situation?” “No, I think not.”

“What do they do with the rest; do they put it into the savings banks?” “No, they go to beer-shops with it.”

“Then the inference is, that there may be more barley consumed?” “I think there is.”

“Can you estimate the proportion of the decreased consumption of wheat; suppose a labourer consumed before 12 bushels of wheat, what would he consume now?” “I should think that it would be very nearly half the difference within my recollection.”

“Do you speak of a labourer, his wife and three children?” “Yes; that they do not use the half the quantity of wheat and flour they used in my recollection.”

“Do you recollect their using any inferior article of corn than wheat?” “Yes, they used barley.”

“Do they use it now?” “No; I think that they use peas sometimes.”

“Peas are as dear as wheat, are they not?” “Yes.”

“Do peas go further than wheat?” “I think they do; but that is merely a matter of guess; in some parts of our country we have very good fine white peas.”

“How do they use them?” “They boil them and make soup.”            

“Do you think they have increased in the use of them?” “No, I do not think they have.”

“You think the potato has supplied the use of barley?” “Yes.”

“Barley is scarcely eaten by them at all now?” “I think not.”

“The crop of potatoes is worth more than the crop of wheat?” “Generally speaking, it is.” 

(Select Committee on the State of Agriculture, 1837, Mr. William Summers, Land-surveyor, Somersetshire, p. 324)


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