Monday, February 26, 2007

86 Ox-power traction

Written at the bottom of this drawing is the following:
"This mill was drawn on the 28th of March 1797 from
Regency Square to ye Dyke Road Brighton a distance of over two
miles by 86 oxen which belonged to the following gentlemen.." (the rest is

If you click on the picture you'll get a bigger version, and you'll be able to see the white-smocked farmers directing their teams with long sticks. Some sticks have rings at the ends - for what reason I do not know.

Although this picture isn't directly related to farming, it does show what was involved in directing an ox-team. These beasts seem to be of the Sussex breed.

In those days, most farmers expected to work an ox for five or six years before slaughtering it for sale. They were not overworked as it was believed that making the animals exert themselves to their full was detrimental to their fattening abilities. Training an animal started at about two and a half years .They were yoked in sixes or eights, with teams of twelve working very stiff land.

The Weald and Downland Museum in Sussex is training a pair of Sussex cattle to work in the same way. See :

Harriet's Little Welsh Cow

"... she had spent two very happy months with them, and now loved to
talk of the pleasures of her visit, and describe the many comforts and wonders
of the place. Emma encouraged her talkativeness -- amused by such a picture of
another set of beings, and enjoying the youthful simplicity which could speak
with so much exultation of Mrs. Martin's having "two parlours, two very good
parlours indeed; one of them quite as large as Mrs. Goddard's drawing-room; and
of her having an upper maid who had lived five-and-twenty years with her; and of their having eight cows, two of them Alderneys, and one a little Welch cow, a
very pretty little Welch cow, indeed; and of Mrs. Martin's saying, as she was so
fond of it, it should be called her cow; "

Cattle born in the Welsh mountains were the stock of the droving trade, being herded down to eh midland pasturelands, fattened for several years, and then sent on to the London market. The Welsh Black wasn't really a developed breed in Jane Austen's time, although the commonest colouring was as in the picture above. These two cows, painted by Daniel Clowes in 1825, were named Bethal and Bran. They were owned by Sir Robert Vaughn , who was interested in developing the milking qualities of this breed. It may not be obvious in the scan, but Bethel and Bran have brass horn finials, presumably to make them a little less dangerous to their milkman!
Since Harriet is so emphatic about her 'little' cow, it just might be that it was of the kind known as an 'Anglesey Runt'. From:, A Topographical Dictionary of Wales (1849), pp. 25-52. URL:

"In this county, where the rearing of cattle is in most cases the
farmer's principal object, and the dairy is almost entirely neglected, the
calves are not weaned until they arrive at double the age at which they are
generally weaned in other counties. This partly accounts for the bull-like
appearance of the oxen about the head and dewlap; but it is a received opinion
that they are hardier in consequence, and may be kept on coarser pasture. The
characteristics of the choice Anglesey oxen, commonly called Runts from their
small size and peculiar appearance, are (says the Rev. W. Davies, in his View of
the Agriculture of North Wales) the same in most points with those of the Roman
oxen described by Columella. Their colour is coal-black, with white appendages;
they have remarkably broad ribs, high and wide hips, deep chest, large dewlap,
flat face, and long horns turning upwards: their average weight, when fat, at
three or four years old, is from eight to eleven score lb. per quarter. These
deep-chested and short-legged oxen are much esteemed by the graziers for their
aptness to fatten; but they are not quite so well adapted for

Unfortunately, I don't know who Davies was, sorry.

Edward Ferrars, Farmer

"Mrs. Jennings's prophecies, though rather jumbled together, were
chiefly fulfilled; for she was able to visit Edward and his wife in their
Parsonage by Michaelmas, and she found in Elinor and her husband, as she really
believed, one of the happiest [couples] in the world. They had in fact nothing
to wish for, but the marriage of Colonel Brandon and Marianne, and rather better
pasturage for their cows. "

One can only speculate as to what Parson Ferrars' cows actually looked like, but this is a possibility. The Sheeted Somerset breed was much mentioned from about 1722 onwards . Low's book of 1842 describes both polled and horned varieties , but also indicates that they were becoming rare. One particular herd was associated with Broadlands House in Hampshire from 1736 but elswhere it seems to have died out. Pity!
One of the worlds most famous bovine products was first created and stored in the limestone caves near the Somerset village of Cheddar, which makes me wonder how much of a cheese-maker Mrs Ferrars was.

Robert Bakewell

Here's the famous farmer as he is not often portrayed- mounted on one of the horses he bred. Painting by Boultbee, some time before 1795.

His horse looks rather like a 'Yorkshire Horse', the general all-purpose riding and light carriage horse that later became known as a Cleveland Bay.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Ware to Cold Christmas.

This walk was really interesting to me as it was not altogether obvious what the story was. The landscape was not obviously "Planned Countryside" created from enclosure of Champion landscape, or "Ancient Countryside" enclosed well before the agricultural revolution. Very large arable fields contrasted with "Severall" features such as sinuous hedgerows and a fair amount of woods - though nothing like the amount to the South of Hertford and Ware. The number of "Ancient Countryside" clues on the map, such as moated houses and lots of rights of way meant I had not expected the huge size of some of the fields.

My guess is that though this countryside was no doubt less wooded than the area south of Hertford around Broxbourne Woods, Wormley Wood, The Great Wood, etc, it was "Severall." The size of these fields may owe more to the subsidised destruction of hedgerows in the seventies and eighties than the Agricultural Revolution. In fact, in places you could see where hedgerows had been.

This is no more than an inexpert guess though and I would like to hear Caroline's opinion on the subject.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Chillingham White Cattle

The White Cattle of Chillingham in Northumberland have been enclosed (or, if you like, emparked) since medieval times, and allowed to be wild. Some were hunted for meat and sport (or just euthenised after injury) as you can see from this engraving by Thomas Bewick. Nowadays they are studied for their gene pool and because they are, literally "wild", apart from the occasional hay feed in winter. Records show that some culling and selection went on (under the supervision of Charles Darwin, no less ) but no culling, castrating or other interference has been done since about the end of World War I .

White "Forest " Cattle

This engraving, from a painting by Shiels, dates from about 1840. The White , or "Forest" cattle of South Wales, were another unimproved breed, almost invariably of the colouring shown on this cow. White cattle had, and have, an almost mythical status as direct descendents of the wild Aurochs, connected to the Roman cult of Mithras, and generally of ancient and mysterious stock. These are not the same as the White Park Cattle of Chillingham and elsewhere, though they could be related.

Hollow Way ?

Looks like a track for feet only, doesn't it?

Downs- Dry Valley

An abrupt break of slope- shows how, even in the winter, the chalk is a really "dry" land- very porous rock, very thin soil above it. "Dry Valleys" are thought to have formed
in glacial and periglacial times when the rock would ahve been frozen, so water flowed on the surface. (NB, much of the Chalk lands in Britain are south of the last major ice sheet, so you cannot really see any particularly glacial features.) Anyway, the trees seem to like it in the bottom there, even if they don't grow on the top.

Soil Types Chilterns to Vale

Again, Spencer can explain...

Nothing New Under The Sun

I'll let Spencer explain this one! ;-)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Close-up pf the Ridge and Furrow

A close-up of that Ridge and Furrow

Downs- Ivinghoe Beacon

This pic shows a sharp change in land use with the break of slope.

Spencer's photo's #1

Spencer took this photo on Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire. In the middleground is a field with what looks like the remains of an ancient Ridge&Furrow field pattern. The foreground field lines are modern, I am sure. Click on the photo for a bigger pic. That Windmill looks abit odd, stuck there in the middle of the field...

There's agood map of this picture at:

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Unimproved Gloucester Cow

This is Blossom; a lousy copy of a painting that's in not-too-good condition anyway at the Edward Jenner Museum in Berkely, Gloucestershire. Blossom is famous because she gave her milkmaid Sarah the cowpox, and Dr Jenner used the infection to vaccinate a little boy against smallpox. However, Blossom is here because she's an example of a breed that didn't get "improved" in the Agricultural Revolution. She's dark brown, with that "finch back", i.e. she's got a white stripe from nose to tail. She doesn't look like much of a cow, does she? Yet Gloucesters were , amongst other things, responsible for supplying the milk for Double Gloucester cheese.

Shorthorn Cow

This Shorthorn heifer is dated 1811. She's been painted in her stall, probably because she spent her time there, rather than outside. Shorthorns were the pride of the nineteenth century improvers, and commanded high prices. She's obviously lumpy, and it's probably real, not fake. Although "fat beef" was the aim, it was as much so that the fat could be rendered into tallow as it was to provide more calories.

Southwest England

Okay, this one was created the old-fashioned way. It's not in the book, but any discussion of JA would not be complete without Southwest (or South-west) England on some kind of map.

Fig 28map

This is the Map of Northern England- dark spots are moorland 1940. Scribble is JA locations, plus a few extras, just to get you orientated.

The Agricultural Revolution book .

Figure 7-with Austen locations added (and a bit more)