Sunday, March 18, 2007

"Hartfield pork is not like any other pork. "

This mezzotint of a Moreland painting was first published in 1802. It's cozy rusticity is probably far from the reality of most pig lives, however it does show a couple of things that make it interesting. Firstly, it seems to be a purpose-made building: newish wood and carefully thatched, with a pig-sized doorway with a half-door to let in light, but not draughts. Lots of nice straw for bedding will keep those piggies warm and they will grow faster because of it. Whether the rosy-cheeked farm girl is giving them leftover scraps or specially provided food isn't clear. What is obvious, to me anyway, is that this is definitely the "new" style of pig farming advocated by the Improvers. The pigs themselves, though, are old-style, with long snouts, prick ears and relatively small bodies. Or maybe they are still piglets?

Almost every small-holder and cottager would have tried to have a pig to keep them in bacon over the winter. What happened with the changes of the Agricultural revolution and population drift was that areas close to the great Metropolis (such as Hartfield, and perhaps even Longbourn) often tended to to specialise in larger-scale pig rearing. So apart from donating the odd leg of pork to the needy of the village, you may like to imagine Mr Woodhouse breeding for the London market.