Tag Archives: agricultural labourer

The importance of Betley

29 May

One thing I didn’t mention yesterday when I wrote about my short walk to Betley Bridge was that the area has an important role in my family history.

Just south of the River Adur are two properties, to the west of the old railway line is Great Betley and to the east is Little Betley. The river itself marks the parish boundary between Henfield and West Grinstead in West Sussex so both these properties are just inside the parish of Henfield.

The family connection begins in the 1861 census, when my 3x great-grandfather John Fairs is to be found at Betley (presumably Great Betley) employed as a cowman. Prior to this he had been living “across the river” in West Grinstead, but I can’t pin down when he did start work at Betley.

The railway from Horsham to Shoreham was opened in 1861 and cut through the farmland on which John must have worked. A far more important event however was John’s marriage in 1862 to Mary Ann Weller.

By 1871 the couple had five daughters and were living at Little Betley, probably sharing the small cottage with Henry and Emma Nye and their three young children.

A decade later in 1881 the couple were still at Little Betley, with two of their daughters and sharing the cottage with William and Elizabeth Pierce and their daughter. Just across the fields however at Betley is the 15 year old Ebenezer Trower, my 2x great-grandfather, working as an agricultural labourer.

Although John’s daughter Annie wasn’t living with them in 1881, she obviously wasn’t away that long because in 1889 the she and Ebenezer were married in Henfield Church.

In 1891 the widowed John is still at Little Betley working as an agricultural labourer, and sharing the house with Annie and Ebenezer (also an agricultural labourer) and their two children. One of these was the newly born Henry John Trower my great-grandfather.

By 1901 the families had split up, Ebenezer and Annie with their children to Sayers Common and John had moved closer to the village of Henfield itself.

It is easy for me to forget just how lucky I am to live so close to the house were my great-grandfather (Henry John Trower) and my 2x great-grandmother (Annie Fairs) were probably born and where my 3x great-grandfather (John Fairs) lived for at least 20 years and not forgetting of course my 2x great-grandfather (Ebenezer Trower) and 3x great-grandmother (Mary Ann Weller). And they are just my direct ancestors.

I probably ought to devote some more time to studying this house and the farm on which they lived and worked, it only seems right that I knew more about this particular area, especially considering it is practically on my door step.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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From my (virtual) bookshelf: A General view of the agriculture of the county of Sussex

4 Oct

For anyone with ancestors who were farmers or agricultural labourers in Sussex this book makes fascinating reading, and provides a valuable insight into almost every aspect of farm life at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century.

A General view of the agriculture of the county of Sussex is available on Google Books, but I have also seen a relatively recent reprint in second-hand bookshops. It was published in 1808 and written by the Rev. Arthur Young for The Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement.

The book occasionally mentions individual farms or farmers and it is not really a how-to book, but more a general survey of virtually all aspects of farming. An idea of the topics covered can be seen from the list of chapters.

  1. Geographical state and circumstances
  2. State of property
  3. Buildings
  4. Mode of occupation
  5. Implements
  6. Enclosing, fences, gates
  7. Arable land
  8. Grass lands
  9. Orchards
  10. Woods and plantations
  11. Wastes
  12. Improvements
  13. Live stock
  14. Rural economy
  15. Political economy
  16. Obstacles to improvement
  17. Miscellaneous observations

It is fascinating to just dig into sections at random and get an insight into farming life, and there are many unexpected and unusual descriptions such as the section below on opium, which comes under the heading of crops not commonly cultivated:

The largest quantity of this invaluable drug that was ever cured in this country, was raised in 1797 from the Earl of Egremont’s garden at Petworth; and the fact now indeed thoroughly ascertained, that all the foreign opium is highly adulterated, renders it an object of immense consequence to encourage the domestic growth. Mr. Andre is convinced, that in all his practice, he never made use of any of this drug that could be compared with this. The operation of collecting the produce, is effected by a gentle incision on the heads, as they grow, with a knife or other sharp instrument, which is frequently repeated; and the juices which exude from the wound, are scraped into an earthern vessel, dried by the sun, and preserved for use.

I know that farmers are have been encouraged to diversify, but I suspect this might be frowned upon slightly these days. Less controversial, but nonetheless interesting is the description of how lime was obtained for use ‘manuring’ the fields in the eastern part of the county:

As the chalk-hills extend no further than Eastbourne, in order therefore to supply the rest of the county, the chalk is shipped in sloops from Holywell pits at Beachy-head, from whence it is carried to the Bexhill, Hastings, and Rye kilns: here it is burnt into lime, where the farmers come with their teams and take it away at 6d. per bushel. In this trade 16 sloops are considerably employed from April to the month of November. Nine of these belong to Hastings, and seven to the port of Rye. The total quantity consumed at these kilns, for one year, amounts nearly to 633 sloop-loads of chalk, each containing 550 bushels, or about 350,000 bushels.

These are just two examples of the contents of this book, there is quite a large number of tables of figures, and a few illustrations, although many appear to have folded out and they have not been reproduced in the Google Books version, still it is well worth reading if you have an interest in the history of agriculture.

Holiday at the Victorian Farm

17 Dec

Karen over at Twigs to Roots posted about the Christmas specials of the BBC programme Victorian Farm (entitled unsurprisingly Victorian Farm Christmas).

I commented that I would like to go and have a look at the farm where it was filmed because it is a historic working farm, so I thought I would have a look on the internet and see if I could find out more.

As well as an interesting website about the Acton Scott Estate and the historic working farm, I also discovered that the cottage (Henley Cottage) where much of the series was filmed can now be rented as a holiday cottage.

The unusual twist is that Henley Cottage has been restored as a 19th century farm labourers cottage. Water must be pumped from the well by hand, the place is lit by candles and oil lamps and cooking is done on an old fashioned kitchen range.

The only concession to modern comfort appears to be the converted outside toilet which hides a modern bathroom with a hot shower and toilet.

To me this sounds like a fascinating chance to experience a small taste of how the majority of my ancestors lived, although without the hard work that being an agricultural labourer entailed, I am not sure it would be completely realistic.

I would feel a bit of a fraud, turning up in modern clothes, probably by modern transport, but I still think it would  be a great experience. My wife on the other hand was not convinced that this would be such an ideal way of spending the week!

Could Texter make your data entry quicker and easier?

29 Oct

Last night as I entered the phrase “agricultural labourer” for the umpteenth time I decided I need to find a short-cut to save having to keep entering it over and over. The majority of my relations were agricultural labourers, and I don’t like using the phrase “ag lab” preferring to spell it out in full.

I turned to a little application, that I had played with briefly before, called Texter. There is nothing new or revolutionary about this program, but it is quite powerful, and I have only used it at its most basic level.

What it does is watch what you type for “hotstrings”, which are certain combinations of letters, and when you type the correct combination, it converts them into something else. A bit like using find and replace, but it happens as you go along.

In my case I set it up so that when I type the word “aglab” it replaces it with the phrase “agricultural labourer”. It is pretty simple to install and set-up. All it takes is a little bit of thought in selecting the hotstrings and a few minutes to set it up. I set up two hotstrings, “aglab” and “Aglab”, for the second one the word agricultural is capitalised.

The great thing is that it appears to work in almost any Windows program, such as Family Historian, my family history software. The best thing of all is that it is free, so if it doesn’t work you haven’t lost anything.

I have previously used it to speed up the entry of several family surnames, but there is probably no limit to what you could set it up to do, such as surnames, place names, addresses, occupations, in fact anything that you find yourself have to type repeatedly.

There are a couple of videos on the Lifehacker page, showing the basic use of Texter, plus some of the more advanced techniques.

I think this is going to save me a serious amount of typing in the future, I don’t know why I didn’t start using it sooner. Make sure you have a look and see if it could make your life easier, whether it is for family history, blogging or elsewhere.

I should have been filing, but got distracted

16 Sep

Last night I was supposed to be filing, but I couldn’t help adding another pair of 4x great grandparents to my tree. I was looking at me tree wondering when the birth certificate for William GEERING would arrive, when I noticed that I didn’t have parents for William’s father-in-law William GREEN.

It was once again surprisingly easy to find the information I was looking for. There were two William GREENs of the right age in Seaford, Sussex in the 1841 census, so I had to find further evidence of his father’s name. William’s marriage to Charlotte TEMPLEMAN was in 1843 in Seaford, so I thought I would either have to wait for a marriage certificate or until I could get to a record office.

I was check the West Sussex Record Office’s holdings to see if they had the bishop’s transcripts (they do) and noticed that the Seaford marriages are on the International Genealogical Index. That gave me the evidence I needed (I will confirm the entry is correct on the original register eventually), his father’s name was Charles GREEN, that narrowed down my choice and I had his parents in the 1841 and 1851 census.

From the Sussex Marriage Index it looks like Charles GREEN married Mary TUCKNOT in Seaford on the 10th June 1811. Charles was an agricultural labourer, so no surprise there. He was from Seaford, born around 1788. Mary was from nearby Bishopstone and was slightly younger than Charles. So far from the census I have found seven children including William, but like the LEWRYs yesterday I still have some gaps to fill in.

I seem to have quite a few ancestors now from the Seaford area, and I am wondering now if perhaps I should go and pay it a visit this weekend rather than go to a record office. I am sure a visit to the church would be quite productive and I can always go for a walk on the hills to the east if I get bored of the town. In the back of my mind is the thought that as the seasons change my opportunity for going exploring is getting less and less, so I might just seize the opportunity and spend a day exploring Seaford this weekend.

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