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Agricultural progress in the eighteenth century; enclosures necessary to advance; advocates and opponents of the enclosing movement; area of uncultivated land and of land cultivated in open-fields; defects of the open-field system as a method of farming; pasture commons as adjuncts to open-field holdings; the necessary lead in agricultural progress given by large landowners and large farmers; procedure in enclosures by Act of Parliament: varying dates at which districts have been enclosed: influence of soil and climate in breaking up or maintaining the open-field system: the East Midland and North Eastern group of counties: improved methods and increased resources of farming; Jethro Tull the "greatest individual improver"; Lord Townshend's influence on Norfolk husbandry.
THE gigantic advance of agriculture in the nineteenth century dwarfs into insignificance any previous rate of progress. Yet the change between 1700 and 1800 was astonishing. England not only produced food for a population that had doubled itself, as well as grain for treble the number of horses, but during the first part of the period became, as M. de Lavergne has said, the granary of Europe. Population before 1760 grew so slowly that the soil, without any great increase in farming skill or in cultivated area, produced a surplus. Under the spur of the bounty, land which had been converted to pasture was again ploughed for corn, and proved by its yield that it had profited by the prolonged rest. The price of wheat, between the years 1713 and 1764, in spite of large exports, averaged 34s. 11d. per quarter; poor-rates fell below the level of the preceding century; real wages were higher than they had been since the reign of Henry VI. In England, at least, there was little civil war or tumult, no glut of the labour market, no sudden growth of an artisan class. The standard of living improved. Instead of the salted carcases of half-starved and aged oxen, fresh meat began to be eaten by the peasantry. Wheaten bread ceased to be a luxury of the wealthy, and, at the accession of George III. had become the bread-stuff of half the population. Politically and morally, the period was corrupt and coarse; materially, it was one of the Golden Ages of the peasant. The only drawbacks to the general prosperity of agriculture during the first half of the century were the visitations of the rot, and of the cattle plague. Ellis in Shepherd's Sure Guide, 1749, speaks of the rot in 1735 as "the most general one that has happened in the memory of man . . . the dead bodies of rotten sheep were so numerous in roads, lanes, and fields, that their carrion stench and smell proved extremely offensive to the neighbouring parts and the passant travellers." A newer and more mysterious scourge was the cattle plague. Starting in Bohemia, it travelled westward, devastated the north of France, and three times visited England. The only remedy was to slaughter infected animals; in a single year the Government, paying one-third of the value, expended £135,000 in compensation.
The great changes which English agriculture witnessed as the eighteenth century advanced, and particularly after the accession of George III. (1760), are, broadly speaking, identified with Jethro Tull, Lord Townshend, Bakewell of Dishley, Arthur Young, and Coke of Norfolk. With their names are associated the chief characteristics in the farming progress of the period, which may be summed up in the adoption of improved methods of cultivation, the introduction of new crops, the reduction of stock-breeding to a science, the provision of increased facilities of communication and of transport, and the enterprise and outlay of capitalist landlords and tenant-farmers. The improvements which these pioneers initiated, taught, or exemplified, enabled England to meet the strain of the Napoleonic wars, to bear the burden of additional taxation, and to feed the vast centres of commercial industry which sprang up, as if by magic, at a time when food supplies could not have been provided from another country. Without the substitution of separate occupation for the ancient system of common cultivation, this agricultural progress was impossible. But in carrying out the necessary changes, rural society was convulsed, and its general conditions revolutionised. The divorce of the peasantry from the soil, and the extinction of commoners, open-field farmers, and eventually of small freeholders, were the heavy price which the nation ultimately paid for the supply of bread and meat to its manufacturing population.
Neither the reclamation of wastes, nor the break-up of open-field farms, nor the appropriation of commons, were novelties. For the last three centuries the three processes, which are generally spoken of as enclosures, had all been proceeding at varying rates of progress. But in the period from 1760 to 1815 each received an immense impetus, partly from the rise in the price of corn, partly from the consequent increase in rental values, partly from the pressure of a growing population, partly from the improved standard of agriculture. The literary struggle in advocacy or condemnation of enclosures still continued. But the advocates were gaining the upper hand. In the first half of the eighteenth century, there are at least two notable contributions to the literature of the subject by champions of enclosures, and only one of any importance by an opponent.
By the new writers, the unprofitable nature of the use of land under common tillage or common pasture is insisted upon. Thus Timothy Nourse, Gent., in his Campania Foelix; or Discourse of the Benefits and Improvements of Husbandry (1700), vigorously attacks commons as "Seminaries of a lazy Thieving sort of People." In his opinion their live-stock were as unprofitable to the community as the commoners themselves. Their sheep are described as "poor, tatter'd, and poyson'd with the Rot," their cattle "as starv'd, Tod-bellied Runts, neither fit for the Dairy nor the Yoke." So, also, an anonymous author in a short and pithy tract, An Old Almanack (with some considerations for improving commons) printed in 1710. With a Postscript (1734-5), suggests that, if the landowner and two-thirds, in number and value, of those interested in an open-field farm and common agreed to an enclosure, their consent should override the opposition of the minority. "Will the Commoners complain," he asks, "for want of their Commonage? This they can't do, for few of them have any Cattle, and whether they have or not, there is Recompence out of the Inclosures will more than treble their Loss? Will the Incumbents complain? What! for converting the dry Commons into Corn, and the Fenns into Hemp and Flax. Will the Ingrossers of Commons complain, who eat up their own Share and others too? This they dare not. But won't those honest Men complain who now live upon the Thefts of Common? And not with the least Reason, but then there will be Work for them." But the two important advocates of enclosures were the brothers John and Edward Laurence. In A New System of Agriculture (1726) a note is struck which sounded more loudly as towns grew, as, with their growth, the demand increased for meat, milk, and butter, as agriculture improved, as communication was facilitated. The author, the Rev. John Laurence, Rector of Bishops Wearmouth, treats open-field farms as obstacles to agricultural progress. He insists on enclosures and separate occupation as the best means of increasing produce and of raising rents. He dwells on the rapid progress which enclosures were then making, points out the great rise in rental value consequent on increased produce, and argues that so far from injuring the poor, enclosures will rather create a new demand for labour by the introduction of improved tillage and pasture-farming, will give employment in fencing and ditching, and remove the attractions of wastes and open spaces, which "draw to them the poor and necessitous only for the advantage of pilfering and stealing." In The Duty of a Steward to his Lord (1727) Edward Laurence, himself a land-surveyor, and apparently agent to the Duke of Buckingham, argues the case from the point of view of better and more economical management. A new skilled profession was growing up. It is prophetic of future changes that Laurence points out the evils of employing "countryAttorneys (not skilled in Husbandry)" in the management of landed property, and argues that the gentry should allow handsome salaries to their stewards, who could, if inadequately paid, adopt other means of enriching themselves. A champion of "engrossing," he insists on the advantages of consolidating small holdings in larger farms. He urges stewards to prevent piecemeal enclosures by individuals, to substitute leaseholds for copyholds, to buy up any freeholds on the estate which lie in intermixed strips, as necessary preliminaries to any successful and general scheme for the enclosure of open-fields and commons. The other side to the picture is vigorously painted by John Cowper in his Essay proving that Inclosing Commons and Common-Field-Lands is Contrary to the Interest of the Nation (1732). He answers the arguments of the two Laurences, arguing that enclosures necessarily injure the small freeholder and the poor, and pleading that, so far from encouraging labour, they depopulate the villages in which they have been carried out. Speaking of the small freeholder, he says that "none are more industrious, none toil and labour so hard . . . . I myself have seen within these 30 years, above 20 Lordships or parishes enclosed, and everyone of them has thereby been in a manner depopulated. If any one can shew me where an Inclosure has been made, and not at least half the inhabitants gone, I will throw up the argument."
In the passages quoted from these five books are outlined some of the principal points in the dispute which was fought out in the next eighty years. On the one side are pleaded the pernicious effects of commons on the inhabitants of the neighbourhood and their live-stock; the absence of any legal title to many of. the rights claimed over pasture commons, and their frequent abuse by commoners; the obstacles to farming improvement which were presented by open arable fields; the unprofitable use of land occupied in common; the commercial and productive advantages of enlarged, separate holdings. On the other side is urged the injury which the break-up of open-field farms and the partition of commons inflicted on small owners and occupiers of land. Much was to be said from both points of view. Many sweeping assertions were made, both by advocates and opponents, which were true of one district but untrue of another. Both socially and economically, the reclamation of wastes, the extinction of open-field farms, the appropriation of commons, might be justified by the urgent necessity of developing the productiveness of the soil, and of increasing to the fullest extent the food resources of the country. In favour of the first two changes, most agricultural writers are agreed; in dealing with the commons, it is at least doubtful whether the best possible course was always adopted.
From the productive point of view, the amount of waste land was a standing reproach to agriculture. The disappearance of the wild boar and the wolf in the reign of Charles II. suggests some diminution of the area in which those animals had harboured. But in 1696 Gregory King had estimated the heaths, moors, mountains, and barren lands of England and Wales at ten million acres, or more than a quarter of the total area. In all probability, the estimate is wholly inadequate. But, assuming the calculation to be approximately correct, it affords some measure of comparison with conditions at the close of the eighteenth century. In 1795 the Board of Agriculture stated that over 22 million acres in Great Britain were uncultivated, of which 7,888,977 acres were in England and Wales. Here too there is probably a gross under-estimate. Arthur Young, twenty years before (Observations on the Present State of Waste Lands of Great Britain,1773), had called attention to the extent of land lying waste in Great Britain. "There are," he says, "at least 600,000 acres waste in the single county of Northumberland. In those of Cumberland and Westmoreland, there are as many more. In the north and part of the West Riding of Yorkshire, and the contiguous ones of Lancashire, and in the west part of Durham, are yet greater tracts ; you may draw a line from the north point of Derbyshire to the extremity of Northumberland, of 150 miles as the crow flies, which shall be entirely across waste lands: the exception of small cultivated spots very trifling." It was across this district that Jeanie Deans travelled in the days of George II., when great districts of Northumberland were covered with forests of broom, thick and tall enough to hide a Scottish army. Lancashire in 1794 still had 108,500 acres of waste, and Rossendale remained a chace. As late as 1794, three-quarters of Westmoreland, according to Bishop Watson, lay uncultivated. In 1734 the forest of Knaresborough had surrounded Harrogate so thickly that "he was thought a cunning fellow that could readily find out those Spaws." Even in the last decade of the eighteenth century, 265,000 acres of Yorkshire were lying waste, yet largely capable of cultivation. Up to the accession of George III., that part of the East Riding which was called the Carrs, from Bridlington Quay to Spurn Point, and inland as far as Driffield, was an extensive swamp producing little but the ague; willow trees marked out the road from Hull to Beverley, and the bells rang at dusk from the tower of Bartonupon-Humber to guide belated travellers. Great tracts of Derbyshire were "black regions of ling." From Sleaford to Brigg, "all that the devil o'erlooks from Lincoln Town," was a desolate waste, over which wayfarers were directed by the land lighthouse of Dunstan pillar. No fences were to be seen for miles--only the furze-capped sand-banks which enclosed the warrens. The high ground from Spilsby to Caistor was similarly a bleak unproductive heath. Robin Hood and Little John might still have sheltered in Sherwood Forest, which occupied a great part of Nottinghamshire. The fen districts of the counties of Cambridge, Huntingdon, Lincoln, and Northampton continued to defy the assaults of drainage. Even in the neighbourhood of London similar conditions prevailed. Nathaniel Kent, writing in 1775 (Hints to Gentlemen of Landed Property), says "that within thirty miles of the capital, there is not less than 200,000 acres of waste land." As late as 1793, Hounslow Heath and Finchley Common were described as wastes, fitted only for "Cherokees and savages." In 1791, the Weald of Surrey still bore evidence of its desolation in the posts which stood across it as guides to letter-carriers." In Essex, Epping and Hainault Forests were in 1794 "known to be a resort of the most idle and profligate of men; here the undergraduates in iniquity commence their career with deer stealing, and here the more finished and hardened robber retires from justice." Counties more remote from London had a still larger area of wastes. When Young made his Farmer's Tours in the first decade of the reign of George III., Sedgmoor was still one vast fen, the Mendip Hills were uncultivated, and eighteen thousand acres on the Quantock Hills lay desolate. Over Devonshire, Cornwall, and the whole of Wales, stretched, in 1773, "immense" tracts of wastes. To bring some of these wastes into cultivation was part of the work which agriculturists undertook in the eighteenth century, and if the estimates of Gregory King (1696) and of the Board of Agriculture (1793) are approximately correct, upwards of two million acres were added to the cultivated area before the close of the period.
It is possible that in 1700 at least half the arable land of the country was still cultivated on the open-field system--that is, in village farms by associations of agricultural partners who occupied intermixed strips, and cultivated the whole area under common rules of cropping. Out of 8,500 parishes, which in round numbers existed at the Reformation, 4,500 seem to have been still laid out, in whole or in part, on this ancient method. John Laurence in 1726 had calculated that a third of the cultivated area "is what we call Common Fields." The agricultural defects of the open-field system were obvious and numerous. So long as farming had been unprogressive, and population had remained stationary, the economic loss was comparatively unimportant. When improved methods and increased resources were commanded by farmers, and when the demand for food threatened to outstrip the supply, the need for change became imperative. Under the primitive system, the area under the plough was excessive, and much land, which might have been more profitably employed as pasture, was tilled for corn. A quantity of the arable land was wasted in innumerable balks and footpaths. All the occupiers were bound by rigid customary rules, compelled to treat all kinds of soil alike, obliged to keep exact time with one another in sowing and reaping their crops. Freeholders on open-field farms were only half-owners. No winter crops could be grown so long as the arable fields were subjected to common rights of pasture from August to February. It meant financial ruin, if any member of the community grew turnips, clover, or artificial grasses for the benefit of his neighbours. The strips of land occupied by each partner were too narrow to admit of cross-ploughing or cross-harrowing, and on heavy land this was a serious drawback. Drainage was practically impossible, for, if one man drained or water-furrowed his land, or scoured his courses, his neighbour might block his outfalls. It was to carry off the water that the arable land was heaped up into high ridges between two furrows. But the remedy was almost as bad as the disease. The richness of the soil was washed off the summit of the ridge into the trenches, which often, as Nathaniel Kent records (Hints to Gentlemen of Landed Property, 1776.), contained water three yards wide, dammed back at either end by the high-ridged head-lands. The cultivated fields were generally foul, if not from the fault of the occupier, from the slovenliness of his neighbours; the turf-balks harboured twitch; the triennial fallows left their heritage of crops of docks and thistles. The unsheltered, hedgeless open-fields were often hurtful to live-stock, though the absence of hedges was not without its advantages to the corn. The farm-buildings were gathered together in the village, often a mile or more from the land. As each man's strips lay scattered over each of the open-fields, he wasted his day in visiting the different parcels of his holding, and his expenses of manuring, reaping, carting, and horse-keeping were enormously increased by the remoteness of the different parts of his occupation. Vexatious rights interfered with proper cultivation. One man might have the right to turn his plough on another's strip, and the victim must either wait his neighbour's pleasure or risk the damage to his sown crops. "Travellers," as Joseph Lee remarked in 1656 (Vindication of a Regulated Enclosure, p. 24), "know no highwaies in the common fields"; each avoided his predecessor's ruts, and cattle trespassed as they passed. For twenty yards on either side of the track the growing corn was often spoiled. The sheep were driven to the commons by day, and in the summer folded at night on the fallows. Otherwise the manure of the live-stock was wasted over the wide area, which the animals traversed to find their scanty food. Unable to provide winter keep, and fettered by the common rights of pasture which each of the partners enjoyed over the whole of the arable land, farmers reared lambs and calves under every disadvantage. During the summer months, when the horses and cattle were tethered on the unsheltered balks, they lost flesh and pined in the heat. Ill-fed all the year round, and half-starved in the winter, the live-stock dwindled in size. The promiscuous herding of sheep and cattle generated every sort of disorder. The common pasture was pimpled with mole-heaps and ant-hills, and, from want of drainage, pitted with wet patches where nothing grew but rushes. The scab was rarely absent from the crowded common-fold, or the rot from the ill-drained plough-land and pasture. No individual owner could attempt to improve his flock or his herd, when all the cattle and sheep of the village grazed together on the same commons.
The open-field system was proverbially the source of quarrels. Litigation was incessant. It was easy for men to plough up a portion of the common balks or headlands, to shift their neighbour's landmarks, or poach their land, by a turn of the plough, or filch their crops when reaping. Robert Mannyng in his Handlyng Synne (1303) had condemned the "fals husbandys" that "ere aweye falsly mennys landys," and William Langland in Piers Plowman (1369) had denounced the ploughman who "pynched on" the adjoining half-acre, and the reapers who reaped their neighbour's ground. Tusser repeats the complaint of the mediaeval moralists against the 'champion' or open-field farmer:--
" The Champion robbeth by night,
And prowleth and filcheth by day
Himself and his beasts out of sight,
Both spoileth and maketh away
Not only thy grass but thy corn,
Both after and o'er it be shorn."
Gaseoigne in The Steel Glasse (1676) condemns the open-field farmer who
". . . set debate between their lords
By earing up the balks that part their bounds."
Joseph Lee repeats the charge. "It is," he says, "a practice too common in the common fields, where men make nothing to pull up their neighbour's landmark, to plow up their land and mow their grasse that lyeth next to them." For open-field farmers the curse in the Commination Service had a real meaning. Edward Laurence in Duty of a Steward to his Lord, 1727, dwells on the temptations to dishonesty which the unfenced lands and precarious boundaries of open-fields offered to the needy, and the same point is repeatedly insisted upon by the Reporters to the Board of Agriculture at the end of the eighteenth century. Hence it was that open-field farmers agreed among themselves as little as "wasp doth with bee." Hence also came the numerous law-suits. "How many brawling contentions," says Lee, "are brought before the Judges every Assizes by the inhabitants of the common fields."
Speaking generally, enclosure meant the simultaneous processes of consolidating the intermixed strips of open-field farms and of dividing the commons attached to them as adjuncts of the arable holdings. But this was not universally the case. Sometimes the arable farm had been enclosed, and only the pasture common remained to be divided. Sometimes the reverse was the case; the common had gone, and only the arable land remained to be enclosed. Sometimes land, previously enclosed by agreement or piecemeal by individuals, was re-enclosed under a general scheme, probably for purposes of redistribution. Sometimes the acreage mentioned in Inclosure Acts, as tested by the awards, is exaggerated, more rarely under-estimated. All these differences make accurate calculations of the actual area affected by the appropriation of pasture-commons and the extinction of open-field farms extremely difficult, if not impossible. Now that the commons as adjuncts of arable farming have greatly contracted in area, their comparative disappearance is deplored on both economic and social grounds, in accordance with ideas which are of recent growth. It might have been possible to regulate their use to greater profit, or to preserve them as open spaces for recreation and as the lungs of large towns, or to divide them on methods which recognised more fully the minor, rights claimed by small commoners, and would thus have benefited a larger section of the community. But so long as the herbage of the commons, both in legal theory and historical origin, formed an essential part of the arable farm, and was subject to rights claimed against all the world by the privileged occupiers of the tillage land, there were practical difficulties in the way of each of these possible courses. Agriculturists scarcely looked beyond the undrained and impoverished condition of the pastures; lawyers held that rights of common, claimed apart from the tenure of arable land or ancient cottages, were in the nature of encroachments or trespass; economists condemned their occupation in common as a wasteful and unprofitable use of the land; social reformers pointed to the attractions which commons possessed for idlers, and deplored their influence on morals and industry. All these classes may have been, consciously or unconsciously, self-interested. There were few, certainly, who realised the full consequences of enclosures, or appreciated the strength of the impulse which the enclosing movement would give to capitalist farming, and the immediate success of the agricultural change removed the hesitation even of the most farseeing.
Custom in the course of centuries had dealt hardly with the commons. Many of them were unstinted, and were consequently overcharged with stock, which often belonged to jobbers and not to the commoners. Even in good seasons, there was barely enough grass to keep the cattle and sheep alive. In bad seasons, when the weather was cold or wet, and the grass late and scanty, many died from want of food. In other cases, while the main body of commoners were restricted in the number of their stock, one or more commoners, not always lords of adjacent manors, were restrained by no limit, and not only turned out as many of their own sheep and cattle as they could, but also took in those of strangers. The poorer the commoner, the less was the benefit he derived. If the commons were stinted, every commoner, who occupied other pasture land in severalty, saved his own grass till the last moment by keeping his sheep and cattle on the common, and the small man, who had no other refuge for his live-stock, was the sufferer. Where the commons, again, were stinted, the richer men frequently turned out more than the custom allowed, and the smaller commoners had lost the protection of the old Courts Baron, where the offenders, before the decay of those tribunals, would have been "presented." Monied men turned stock-jobbers or dealers, hired land at double rents on the edge of the commons, and so obtained grazing rights which they exercised by overstocking the land with their own sheep and cattle or by agisting the live-stock of strangers. It was thus that, in 1793, "an immense number of greyhound-like sheep, pitiful half-starved-looking animals, subject to rot," crowded Hounslow Heath, and that in 1804 the common of Cheshunt was grazed not by the poor but by a parcel of jobbers. The poverty of the pasture was often proved by the condition of the stock. "It is painful to observe the very wretched appearance of the animals," writes an anonymous author in The Farmer's Magazine for May, 1802, "who have no other dependence but upon the pasture of these commons, and who, in most instances bear a greater resemblance to living skeletons than anything else." "The stock," he continues, "turned out yearly into these commons consists of a motley mixture of all the different breeds of sheep and cattle at present known in the island; many of which are diseased, deformed, small, and in every respect unworthy of being bred from." In theory, the commons enabled the cottagers, who occupied at higher rents the ancient cottages which legally conferred the rights, to supplement their wages by keeping a cow or two. But the theory did not always agree with the practice. Often, if the cottager had money enough to buy a cow, the cow could barely find a living on land already overrun with sheep. The cottager's profits from the commons mainly consisted in the use or sale of turf, gorse, and brushwood which he cut for fuel, the run for a few geese and a "ragged shabby horse" or pony. In theory, again, the value of the commons to a small farmer, whose holding, whether freehold, copyhold, or leasehold, was mainly arable, was inestimable --provided that he was near enough to make good use of the grassland. But, in fact, the value was often minimised by distance, by the wretched condition of the undrained and over-stocked pasture, and by the risk of infection to the live-stock. There can be no question that, from an agricultural point of view, five acres of pasture, added in individual occupation to the arable holding of a small occupier, and placed near the rest of his land, would have been a greater boon than pasture rights over 250 acres of common.
Some of the practical evils of open-fields and their attendant pasture-commons might have been, with time, skill, and patience, mitigated. In some districts the village farms were better managed than in others. But even if the pressure of increasing population and the difficulties of a great war had not necessitated immediate action, the inherent defects of the system could not be cured. The general description which has been given of open-field farming applies to every part of the country. Scotland formed no exception to the rule. Scottish farmers, who are now reckoned among the most skilful, were, in 1700, inferior in their management of land to those of England, and their methods of raising crops had remained unchanged since the Battle of Bannockburn. Advocates of enclosure in England might legitimately argue that the rapid progress of Scottish farming dates from the General Enclosure Act for Scotland which was passed in 1695. The south-eastern counties were the first to be improved. Forty years before (1661), John Ray had painted an unfavourable picture of the condition of the inhabitants. "The men seem to be very lazy, and may be frequently observed to plow in their cloaks. . . . They have neither good bread, cheese, or drink. They cannot make them, nor will they learn. Their butter is very indifferent, and one would wonder how they could contrive to make it so bad. They use much pottage made of coal-wort, which they call keal, sometimes broth of decorticated barley. The ordinary country houses are pitiful cots, built of stone, and covered with turves, having in them but one room, many of them no chimneys, the windows very small holes, and not glazed." Alexander Garden of Troup describes the farming system which was followed in 1686. The land was divided into in-field and out-field. The in-field was kept "constantly under corne and bear, the husbandmen dunging it every thrie years, and, for his pains, if he reap the fourth come, he is satisfied." The out-field was allowed to grow green with weeds and thistles, and, after four or five years of this repose, was twice ploughed and sown with corn. Three crops were taken in succession; then, when the soil was too exhausted to repay seed and labour, it reverted to its weeds and thistles. Sir Archibald Grant, of Monymusk in Aberdeenshire, says that in 1716 turnips grown in fields by the Earl of Rothes and a few others were objects of wonder to the neighbourhood, that, except in East Lothian, no wheat was grown, that on his own estate there were no enclosures, no metalled roads, and no wheel-carriages. On the family property, when his father allowed him to undertake the management--"there was not one acre inclosed, nor any timber upon it, but a few elm, cycamore, and ash about a small kitchen garden adjoining to the house, and some stragling trees at some of the farm-yards, with a small copswood, not inclosed, and dwarfish, and broused by sheep and cattle. All the farmes ill disposed, and mixed; different persons having alternate ridges; not one wheel-carriage on the esteat, nor indeed any one road that would alow it. . . . The whole land raised and uneven, and full of stones, many of them very large, of a hard iron quality, and all the ridges crooked in shape of an S, and very high and full of noxious weeds, and poor, being worn out by culture, without proper manure or tillage. . . . The people poor, ignorant, and slothfull, and ingrained enimies to planting, enclosing, or any improvements or cleanness."
Neither in Scotland nor in England were open-field farmers, or tenants-at-will, or even leaseholders for lives, likely to initiate changes in the cultivation of the soil. It was almost equally idle to expect that small freeholders would attempt experiments on the agricultural methods of their forefathers, which, in a single season, might bring them to the verge of ruin. In both countries, it was the large landlords who took the lead in the agricultural revolution of the eighteenth century, and the larger farmers who were the first to adopt improvements. Both classes found that land was the most profitable investment for their capital. Their personal motives were probably, in the main, self-interested, and a rise in rental value or in the profits of their business was their reward. But though philanthropy and farming make a fractious mixture, the movement was of national value. When the sudden development of manufacturing industries created new markets for food-supplies, necessity demanded the conversion of the primitive self-sufficing village-farms into factories of bread and meat. For more than half a century the natural conservatism or caution of agriculturists resisted any extensive change. Down to 1760 the pressure of a growing population was scarcely felt. Nor were the commercial advantages of scientific husbandry so clearly established; even in 1790, as to convince the bulk of English landlords of the wisdom of adopting improved methods.
The comparatively slow progress of the movement is illustrated by the variations in the number of Enclosure Acts passed before and after 1760. But it must always be remembered that an Act of Parliament was not the only method of enclosure, and that counties had been enclosed, either entirely gr mainly, without their intervention. In Tudor times open-field arable lands and common pastures had been sometimes enclosed not only by agreement or purchase, but by force or fraud. Sometimes they had been extinguished, in whole or in part, by one individual freeholder, who had bought up the strips of his partners. Sometimes, where there was no other freeholder, they had been consolidated by the landlord, who allowed the leases to expire, and re-let the land in several occupation. Sometimes they had been enclosed piecemeal by a number of separate owners; sometimes all the partners had united in appointing commissioners, or arbitrators, who distributed the open-field in individual ownership. By these private arrangements large tracts of land had been enclosed without the intervention of the law, and some of these processes continued in active operation throughout the eighteenth century. But it was difficult to make a voluntary agreement universally binding. Modifications of the open-field system, which were introduced without Parliamentary sanction, were liable to be set aside by subsequent action. Instances of breaches of voluntary agreements are quoted by the Reporters to the Board of Agriculture. Thus, in one Buckinghamshire parish, the inhabitants, who had obtained an Act of Parliament for the interchange and consolidation of intermixed holdings, but not for their enclosure, ploughed up the dividing balks, and grew clover. But, several years later, one of the farmers asserted his legal right to the herbage of the balks by turning his sheep into the clover crops which had taken their place. In another parish in the same county, the inhabitants agreed to exchange the dual system of one crop and a fallow for a three-year course of two crops and a fallow. But, after a few years, the agreement was broken by one of the farmers exercising his common rights over the fallows by feeding his sheep on the growing crops. Such breaches of voluntary arrangements could only be prevented by obtaining the sanction of Parliament, and so binding, not only dissentients, but those who were minors, possessed limited interests, or were under some other legal disability to give valid assent.
In the seventeenth century, it had to some extent become the practice to obtain confirmation of enclosing agreements from the Court of Chancery, or, where the Crown was concerned, the Royal sanction. There is some evidence that the threat of a Chancery suit was used as a means of obtaining consents, and that an attempt was made to represent the decision as a legal bar to claims of common by those who were not parties to the suit. After the Restoration a change of practice was made, which marks, perhaps, the growing desire to curb the power of the Crown. The jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery was at first supplemented, then ousted, by the private Act of Parliament. If four-fifths or sometimes a smaller proportion, in number and value, of the parties interested, together with the landowner and the tithe-owner, were agreed, the Enclosure Bill received Parliamentary sanction. Commissioners were appointed who proceeded to make an award, consolidating the intermixed lands of the open farm and dividing up the commons. Of these private Enclosing Acts the earliest instance occurs in the reign of James I. (4 Jac. I. c. 11). But it was not till the reign of Anne that they became the recognised method of proceeding. Even then the Acts were sometimes only confirmatory of arrangements already made between the parties. In the reigns of George I., George II., and George III., the number increased, at first slowly, then rapidly. Acts for enclosing only wastes, in which pasture commons were often included, must be distinguished from those Acts which dealt, not only with pasture-commons, but also with open arable fields and meadows, mown and grazed by the partners in common. Of the first class, there were, in the first sixty years of the eighteenth century, not more than 70 Acts, while from 1760 to 1815 there were upwards of 1000. Before 1760 the number of Acts dealing more specifically with the open-field system did not exceed 130. Between 1760 and 1815 the number rose to upwards of 1800. Of the area of waste, open-field and common, actually enclosed for the first time, it is impossible to speak with any certainty. The quantity of land is often not mentioned in the Enclosure Act, or can only be calculated from uncertain data. No record is available for the area enclosed by private arrangement or individual enterprise. It may, however, be safely estimated that not less than 4 million acres were enclosed in England and Wales within the period. Probably this figure was in reality considerably exceeded; possibly it might be, without exaggeration, increased by two-thirds.
Before 1790, in many parts of England, the process of enclosing open-field farms and commons had been practically completed by private arrangement without the expensive intervention of Parliament. At different dates, and with little or no legislative help, the ancient system of cultivation, if it ever existed, had been almost extinguished in the southeastern counties of Suffolk and Essex ; in the southern counties of Kent and Sussex ; in the south-western counties of Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall; in the western counties of Hereford, Monmouth, Shropshire, and Stafford ; in the northern counties of Cheshire, Lancashire, Westmoreland, Cumberland, Northumberland, and Durham. No generalisation will explain why these districts should have been enclosed sooner or more easily than elsewhere. The facts remain that no Parliamentary enclosures took place in Kent, Devonshire, Cornwall, or Lancashire; that as early as the middle of the sixteenth century Kent, Essex, and Devonshire were stated by a Tudor writer to be the most enclosed and wealthiest counties; a that in 1602 Carew, the historian of Cornwall, recorded that his countrymen "fal everywhere from Commons to Inclosure, and partake not of some Eastern Tenants' envious dispositions, who will sooner prejudice their owne present thrift, by continuing this mingle-mangle, than advance the Lords expectant benefit, after their terme expired"; that in 1656 Joseph Lee in Vindication of a Regulated Enclosure mentions Essex, Hereford, Devonshire, Shropshire, Worcester as "wholly enclosed"; that in A New System of Agriculture,1727, the Rev. John Laurence says that "as to the Bishoprick of Durham, which is by much the richest Part of the North, Nine Parts in Ten are already inclosed."
Since the last half of the fifteenth century the enclosing movement had been continuously in operation. Why, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was more land enclosed by Act of Parliament in some districts than in others? The answer depends on local circumstances or agricultural conditions. Disturbances on the northern and western borders were unfavourable to settled agriculture, and village farms and commons never throve extensively in the counties adjoining the borders of Scotland and Wales. In districts which abounded in fens, marshes, moorlands or hills, the space occupied by openfields was necessarily limited, although the inhabitants of the neighbourhood may have exercised over these waste tracts rights of goose-pasture, of cutting fuel, turf, or reeds, or, where possible, of grazing. But the land, when enclosed, was taken in from the wild, and was, from the first, cultivated in separate holdings. Other districts, which naturally were clothed with extensive woodlands or forest, were enclosed piecemeal by individual enterprise for individual occupation. After the end of the fourteenth century, it is unlikely that any cleared land would have been cultivated in common. Other districts, lastly, which were industrially developed by the neighbourhood of large towns, or by the existence of some manufacturing industry, were early enclosed, either because of the demand for animal food and dairy produce, or because of the scarcity of purely agricultural labour.
On these general principles, before the era of Parliamentary enclosure, may be partially explained the comparative absence or disappearance of open-fields and pasture commons in the border counties, in the Wealds of Surrey, Kent, Sussex, in the forest districts of Hampshire, Essex, Warwickshire, or Nottinghamshire, in the neighbourhood of London or Bristol, or in the clothing districts of Devon and Somerset, of Essex, and Suffolk, or of parts of Norfolk. No doubt enclosure of cultivated land by agreement was at this period chiefly made for grazing and dairying purposes. But at the same time a large addition was being continuously made to the arable area of the country, partly by the reconversion of grass-land to tillage after fertility had been restored by rest, partly by the reclamation and enclosure of new land well adapted for grain. "Consider," writes Blith in The English Improver, "the Wood-lands who before Enclosure were wont to be releeved by the Fieldon with Corn of all sorts, And now are grown as gallant Corn Countries as be in England." This addition to tillage necessarily affected the whole of the old corn-growing districts, where a large acreage, more fitted for pasture than for tillage, was kept under the plough by the open-field system. The effect was more and more felt when increasing facilities of communication enabled farmers to put their land to the best use by relieving them from the old uniform necessity of growing corn for the locality.
Elsewhere, the early or late enclosure of land was in the main determined by such agricultural reasons as climate or soil. Enclosure took place first, where it paid best agriculturally. In the moister climate of the South-west and West the rigid separation of arable from pasture was unnecessary. In some parts of the country the suitability of the land for hops or fruit necessitated early enclosure. Blith's reference to the plantation of the hedgerows with fruit-trees in "Worcestershire, Hereford, and Glostershire and great part of the county of Kent" points to separate occupation in the first half of the seventeenth century. In other parts, if corn-land was more adapted to pasture, it was, under the new conditions, enclosed and laid down to grass. It was thus that the grazing districts on the water-bearing pasture belt of the Midlands, or the dairying districts of Gloucestershire or Wiltshire came into separate occupation. So also, where the soil was of a quality to respond quickly to turnips, clover, and artificial grasses, it was enclosed in order that it might profit by the new discoveries. This was the case on the light soils of Norfolk, where, as Houghton noted, turnip husbandry had been introduced with success before the close of the seventeenth century. This early use of roots is confirmed by Defoe, (A Tour thro' the whole Island of Great Britain,2nd edition, 1738, vol. i.) who says of Norfolk; "This part of England is remarkable for being the first where the Feeding and Fattening of Cattle, both Sheep as well as black Cattle, with Turnips, was first practis'd in England."
Where land did not appear to be so immediately susceptible to the influence of these improvements, which were still imperfectly understood, the question of enclosure, and of the use to which the land was put, became mainly one of expense. Only the best and strongest land was able to endure the open-field system without exhaustion. To separate occupiers, eighteenth century improvements offered new means of restoring the fertility of exhausted soil. At the same time the revolution in stock-breeding held out new temptations to graziers. Much worn-out arable land of indifferent or medium quality was enclosed because its produce was declining. If the price of corn was low, it was cheaper, and more profitable for the time, to lay it down to grass. If prices were high, the increased margin of profits from arable farming under separate management might cover the heavy cost of legislation and adaptation. Throughout the eighteenth century the number of Enclosure Acts fluctuated considerably with the advance or decline in the price of wheat. Thus the serious scarcity of corn from 1765 to 1774 produced a great crop of legislation. During the next fifteen years, the number of Acts was kept in check by the comparative abundance of the harvests. Once more, during the famine years of the Napoleonic war, the Acts rapidly multiplied under the pressure of necessity and with the progress of agricultural skill. The need was too urgent to admit of those private arrangements for the break-up of open-field farms which could often only be carried out after years of preparation. Private Acts of Parliament were more speedy in their operation. Still the quality of the soil to a great extent controlled the course of legislation. Open-fields continued longest in the districts where the soil was chalk, or where the village farm occupied rich corn-growing land, or where the soil was so unsuited for grass that the prospects of increased profits from arable farming, even in separate occupation, were doubtful. A geological map of the country would, it is believed, supply the key to many difficulties in the history of enclosure.
The parts of England which were most affected by the Enclosure Acts of the Hanoverian era were the corn-growing districts of the East, North-east, and East Midlands. Within this area are fourteen out of the fifteen counties which, in proportion to their size, contained the largest acreage enclosed by Act of Parliament. The ease with which in other districts individual occupation was substituted for common cultivation renders it difficult to answer the question, why in these particular groups of counties the cheaper process of private arrangement was not adopted? No completely satisfactory answer can be given. It was from these districts that the greatest opposition to the enclosing movement of the Tudor and Stewart periods had come. It was also in these districts that, in the closing years of Elizabeth, enclosures were proceeding so rapidly as to be restricted by a special Act of Parliament. The effect of popular outcry and consequent legislation may have been to confine the enclosing movement to Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, and Warwickshire, where it continued to run its course in the seventeenth century. Elsewhere in the Midlands, the counties that formed the area from which London drew its chief supplies of corn, could not have been converted into pasture without raising a storm of opposition. Yet throughout the seventeenth century and during the first three quarters of the eighteenth, enclosures had been most profitable where arable land had been converted to grass, and large tracts of Midland pasture were the result of this movement before Parliamentary intervention had begun. Leicestershire is a conspicuous example of this conversion. It was, notes Marshall in 1786, "not long ago an open arable county; now it is a continuous sheet of greensward." The vale of Belvoir, which, in the days of Plattes, was considered to be the richest corn-district in the country, had been laid down to grass before the time of Defoe (1722-38). He describes the whole county as given over to grazing. "Even most of the Gentlemen are Grasiers, and in some Places the Grasiers are so rich that they grow Gentlemen." Yet in the first half of the seventeenth century it had been a county of open-fields, famous for the pigs that were fattened on its beans and pease. Apart from difficulties arising from local peculiarities of tenure, or of the shape of open-field farms, or from want of roads, from public opinion, or special legislation, the Midland corn counties perhaps owed some of their immunity to the interested opposition of tithe-owners, whose assent was necessary to Parliamentary enclosure. For the sake of the great tithes, they would always strenuously resist any attempt by private Act to turn open-fields into pasture farms. It was not till after 1765 that their views underwent a change. The improvements in arable farming, which were now possible on separate holdings, together with the high price of corn, made it probable that, even when open-fields and commons were enclosed, the area of tillage would not be diminished. These considerations were strengthened during the French wars of 1793-1815, which by the stoppage of foreign corn supplies added new reasons for seeking legislative aid in enclosure.
Up to the accession of George III. (1760) prices of corn ruled low. More than once in the preceding period (1700-60) loud complaints were heard of agricultural depression, of farmers unable to pay their rents, of the small gentry forced to sell their estates, of landlords compelled by loss of income to curtail their establishments. As yet there was no scarcity caused by population outstripping production, no increased demand for food supplies from great industrial centres. But without these spurs to farming progress; preparations for advance were being made, and far-reaching improvements in the cultivation of arable land had been already tested or initiated by men like Jethro Tull and Lord Townshend.
In the progress of scientific farming Tull is one of the most remarkable of pioneers. His method of drilling wheat and roots in rows was not generally adopted till many years after his death. But the main principles which he laid down in his Horse-Hoeing Husbandry (1733) proved to be the principles on which was based an agricultural revolution in tillage. The "greatest individual improver" that British agriculture had ever known, he sought to discover scientific reasons for observed results of particular practices. He was thus led to strike out for himself new and independent lines of investigation. The chemistry of plant-life was in its infancy, the science of vegetable physiology an almost untrodden field of knowledge. Into these comparatively unexplored regions Tull advanced alone, and, by minute observation of nature and stubborn tenacity of purpose, he advanced far. Considering his difficulties and disadvantages, it is a remarkable proof of his real genius that he should have discovered so much. He lived in a solitary farmhouse, remote from such scientific aid as the age afforded, or from friends in whom he could confide. His microscope was "very ordinary"; his appliances were self-made; his experiments thought out for himself. He made his observations and notes, tortured by the "stone, and other diseases as incurable and almost as cruel." His labourers, by whom he was, metaphorically, "insulted, assaulted, kicked, cuffed and bridewelled," tried his patience beyond endurance. His son turned out an extravagant spendthrift who ended his days in the Fleet Prison. Ill-health and misfortune made him irritable. His sensitive nature was galled alike by the venomous criticism of the book, in which he published the results of his thirty years' experience as a farmer, and by its shameless plagiarism. Yet he never lost his confidence that his "practice would one day become the general husbandry of England."
The son of a Berkshire landowner, Jethro Tull was born at Basildon in 1674. From Oxford, which he left without taking a degree, he entered Gray's Inn as a law student, made the grand tour of Europe, and was called to the Bar in 1699. Scholar, musician, traveller, lawyer, he became a farmer not by choice but from necessity. In 1699 he settled down with his newly married wife at "Howberry" Farm in the parish of Crowmarsh, near Wallingford. There he lived ten years. In 1709 he moved to Mount Prosperous, a hill-farm in the parish of Shalbourn, on the borders of Berkshire and Wiltshire. Two years later, the failure of his health drove him abroad to save his life. Returning in 1714 to Mount Prosperous, he remained there till his death in 1740, living in a house, covered with home-made glazed tiles, which Arthur Young, who visited the place fifty years later, described as a "wretched hovel."
At Crowmarsh Tull invented his drill. As a gentleman-farmer he found himself at the mercy of his farm-servants. From his own experience he verified the truth of the saying
"He who by the plough would thrive
Must either hold himself or drive."
He determined to plant his whole farm with sainfoin. But "seed was scarce, dear and bad, and enough could scarce be got to sow, as was usual, seven bushels to the acre." He set himself to conquer the difficulty. By constant observation and experiment he learned the difference between good and bad seed, as well as the advantages of care in selection, of cleaning, steeping, and change ; he also proved that a thin sowing produced the thickest crop, and discovered the exact depth at which the seed throve best. "So," he says, "I caused channels to be made, and sowed a very small proportion of seed, covered exactly. This was a great success." But it was also an innovation, and his labourers struck in a body. Tull refused to be beaten. He set his inventive faculty to work "to contrive an engine to plant sainfoin more faithfully than hands would do." His knowledge of the mechanism of an organ stood him in good stead. The groove, tongue, and spring of the sounding board suggested the idea of an implement which delivered the seed through notched barrels. Behind was attached a bush harrow which covered the seed. The machine answered its purpose, and he afterwards introduced several improvements of his original plan. The originality of his invention cannot justly be disputed, though his enemies, and he had many, asserted that he brought the machine from abroad or had been preceded by Plat, Plattes or Worlidge. All four inventors saw the advantage of sowing not broadcast but in rows. Both Plat and Plattes were setters, rather than drillers, of corn, and they took for their model the dibbing of beans or peas. Plat seems to have indented a board, to which were fixed iron dibbers. Something of this sort is depicted on the title-page of Edward Maxey's New Instruction (A New Instruction of Plowing and Setting of Corne, handled in manner of a Dialogue betweene a Ploughman and a Scholler, 1601). Gabriel Plattes designed a machine to punch holes in the land as it went along. But, as is pointed out in Hartlib's Legacie, the author of which suggested hoeing the furrows by hand, the machine would have been practically useless in wet and heavy land. Neither Plat nor Plattes contemplated a mechanical sowing; both intended the seed to be deposited by hand. In this respect Worlidge's drill was an advance on his predecessors. He placed coulters in front of the seedboxes, from which the seed was deposited through barrels into furrows. But he never made or tried his implement. When Professor Bradley in 1727 constructed a machine from Worlidge's drawing, he found that it would not work. To Tull, therefore, belongs the credit of the first drill which served any practical purpose.
Tull's many mechanical inventions were less valuable than the reasons which he gave for their employment. His implements were speedily superseded; his principles of agriculture remain. During his foreign travels he was impressed with the cultivation of vineyards in the south of France, where frequent ploughings between parallel rows of vines not only cleaned the land, but worked and stirred the food-beds of the plants until the vintage approached maturity. Tull determined to extend the principles of vine-culture to the crops of the English farm. He argued that tillage was equally necessary before and after sowing. When crops were sown, nature at once began to undo the effect of previous ploughings and sowings. The earth united, coalesced, consolidated, and so shut out the air and water from the roots, and decreased the food supply at the moment when the growing plants most needed increased nourishment. To some extent the use of farm-yard manure kept the land friable ; but it also stimulated the growth of weeds. The better course, therefore, was to keep the land pulverised by tillage and so to prevent the contraction of the food area of the growing crops. So long as wheat and turnips were sown broadcast, this method could not be satisfactorily employed. But if they were drilled in rows, divided by sufficiently wide intervals, the principles of vine culture could be profitably applied. In two ways the crops benefited by constant tillage. In the first place, the land was kept clean from weeds, and so saved from exhaustion. In the second place, the repeated pulverisation of the soil admitted air, rain-water, and dews to the roots of the plants, and extended the range from which their lateral growths drew their food supplies. In some respects Tull's system failed. His rows of thinly sown wheat, for instance, were drilled so far apart that the plants were slow to mature, and therefore, if sown late in the year, were more susceptible to blight. But for turnips his method was admirable. Incidentally also he found that his "drill husbandry" was a substitute not only for fallows, but for farmyard dung, which he dreaded as a weed-carrier. Without fallows or manure, he grew on the same land, by constant tillage, for thirteen years in succession heavier wheat crops, from one-third of the quantity of seed, than his neighbours could produce by following the accepted routine. By this discovery he anticipated one of the most startling results of the Rothamsted experiments.
The chief legacies which Jethro Tull left to his successors were clean farming, economy in seedings, drilling, and the maxim that the more the irons are among the roots the better for the crop. It was along these lines that agriculture advanced. On open-field farmers who sowed their seed broadcast, thickly, and at varying depths, Tull's experiments were lost. Equally fruitless, so far as his immediate neighbours were concerned, was his demonstration of the value of sainfoin and turnips, or the drilling of wheat and roots. Even his system of drilling roots was neglected in England, till it had been tested and adopted in Scotland.
It was not till Tull's principles were put in practice by large landlords in various parts of the country that their full advantages became apparent. In England this was the work of men like Lord Townshend at Raynham in Norfolk, Lord Ducie at Woodchester in Gloucestershire, or Lord Halifax at Abbs Court near Waltonon-Thames. In Scotland the "Tullian system" was enthusiastically preached by the Society of Improvers in the Knowledge of Agriculture in Scotland (founded 1723, dissolved 1745), by Lord Cathcart, and by Mr. Hope of Rankeillor. In the Heart of Midlothian, Scott is true to the spirit, if not to the details, of history when he credits the Duke of Argyll with a keen interest in all branches of farming and the introduction into Inverness-shire of a herd of Devonshire cattle. Agriculture had for the moment become a fashion in society, a part, perhaps, of the artificial movement which in gardening created the Landscape School. Tull's system was discussed at Court. It was explained to George II., and therefore interested Lady Suffolk. The practical Queen Caroline subscribed to the publication of the Horse-Hoeing Husbandry. Pope loved to "play the philosopher among cabbages and turnips." Sir Robert Walpole, it is said, opened the letters of his farm steward before he broke the seals of correspondence on State affairs; Bolingbroke caused Dawley Farm to be painted with trophies of ricks, spades, and prongs, and, propped between two haycocks, read Swift's letters, uplifting his eyes to heaven, not in admiration of the author but in fear of rain." Dawley," said his political opponents, "has long been famous for a Great Cry and little Wool. Tup Harry become Mutton master."
Other landowners threw themselves energetically into the practical work of agricultural improvement. Charles, second Viscount Townshend, may be taken as a type of the reforming landlords who took the lead in farming their estates. Born in 1674, he died in 1738, having succeeded to the title and estates of his father when a child of thirteen years old. In his early life, he had played a prominent part in the political history of the country at a critical period. Lord Privy Seal under William III., he served as a Commissioner to treat for the Union of England and Scotland, and, as a joint plenipotentiary with Marlborough, signed the Peace of Gertruydenberg in 1709. In the same year, as Ambassador at the Hague, he negotiated the famous Barrier Treaty. Under George I. and George II., he acted as Secretary of State, was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and, as joint Secretary of State with Walpole, directed the foreign policy of Great Britain.
In 1730 Lord Townshend retired from political life to Raynham in Norfolk. There he devoted himself to the care of his estates, experimenting in the farming practices which he had observed abroad, and devoting himself, above all, to improvements in the rotation of crops, and to the field cultivation of turnips and clover, which, in the preceding half century, had been successfully introduced in the county. His land mainly consisted of rush-grown marshes, or sandy wastes where a few sheep starved and "two rabbits struggled for every blade of grass." The brief but exhaustive list of its productions is "nettles and warrens." Townshend revived the ancient but almost obsolete practice of marling the light lands of Norfolk. Farmers believed that marl was "good for the father, bad for the son," till he proved its value on the sandy soil of the county. The tide of fashion set once more in its favour, and farmers found another proverbial saying for their purpose:
"He who marls sand
May buy the land;
He that marls moss
Suffers no loss;
He that marls clay
Throws all away."
By the use of marl alone Young calculates that "four hundred thousand acres have been turned into gardens." Following the lines of Jethro Tull, Townshend drilled and horse-hoed his turnips instead of sowing them broadcast. He was also the initiator of the so-called Norfolk, or four-course, system of cropping, in which cereals, roots, and artificial grasses were alternated.* The introduction of roots and grasses encouraged the farmer to observe the useful rule of never taking two corn crops in succession, saved him from the necessity of leaving a portion of land every year in unproductive fallow, enabled him to carry more stock and maintain it without falling off during the winter months. For the light sands of Norfolk turnips possessed a special value. Roots, fed on the ground by sheep, fertilised and consolidated the poorest soil. Another portion of the crop, drawn off and stored for winter keep, helped the farmer to keep more stock, to obtain more manure, to enrich the land, to increase its yield, to verify the truth of the proverb "A full bullock-yard and a full fold make a full granary." Farming in a circle, unlike arguing, proved a productive process.
*(Though Townshend made the four course rotation widely known, it had probably been worked out before his time by the farmers of the Eastern Counties. Ellis (Chiltern and Vale Farming, 1733) describes it as regular Hertfordshire practice.)
So zealous was Townshend's advocacy of turnips as the pivot of agricultural improvement, that he gained the nickname of "Turnip" Townshend, and supplied Pope with an example for his Horatian Illustrations, (Bk. ii. Epist. ii. 11. 270-9)
"Why, of two brothers, rich and restless one
Ploughs, burns, manures, and toils from sun to sun;
The other slights, for women, sports, and wines,
All Townshend's turnips and all Grosvenor's mines,
Is known alone to that Directing Power
Who forms the genius in the natal hour."
Townshend's efforts to improve his estates were richly rewarded. On the sandy soil of his own county, his methods were peculiarly successful. Furze-capped warrens were in a few years converted into tracts of well-cultivated productive land. Those who followed his example realised fortunes. In thirty years one farm rose in rental value from £180 to £800; another, rented by a warrener at f18 a year, was let to a farmer at an annual rent of £240 ; a farmer named Mallett is said to have made enough off a holding of 1500 acres to buy an estate of the annual value of £1800. Some farmers were reported to be worth ten thousand pounds. But the example only spread into other counties by slow degrees. Outside Norfolk, both landlords and farmers still classed turnips with rats as Hanoverian innovations, and refused their assistance with Jacobite indignation. Even in Townshend's own county, it was not till the close of the century that the practice was at all universally adopted; still later was it before the improved methods were accepted which converted Lincolnshire from a rabbit-warren or a swamp into cornfields and pasture.