Agriculture in Tatham Parish 1810-1850

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Much information on agriculture in the first half of the 19th century can be gained from documents associated with the collection and revision of tithes and from other official records, including the early censuses and land tax records. The revision of tithes, the Tithe Commutation Act, as applied to Tatham in 1848, defines its physical characteristics and land use: a total of 8501 acres (3440 ha), of which 60 % were meadow and pasture, 28 % unenclosed land (fells & moors), 11 % arable and 2 % woodland.1 Set in this landscape were 106 houses or cottages with their gardens and yards, of which three-quarters (81) had additional ‘cultivated ’ land, i.e. were farms. Fifteen of these comprised more than one holding (land from more than one owner) and in one case, two farms had the same occupier (Brackenbottom and Rantree Fold). They were again separately farmed by 1861 and have been counted separately in the statistics below. This is also the case for the 13 holdings of fields and woods not identifiable with a farm in the Parish. The area was traditionally divided for management purposes, including tithes and censuses, into a High End or Tatham Fells and a Low End, and these names are used in the following text.

The Tithe Map2 shows that the majority of the boundaries of the fields, woods, and fell areas were substantially those of today, following a long history of enclosure. Some small areas of common land remained, which were to be subsequently enclosed in 1858 (Tatham Moor, Thwaite Moss & Oakbank Common). Thus, the subdivided aspect of the landscape of today was largely in place, with probably the same stone walls and the ancestors of the hedges.

At the time of the 1841 census, the Parish population was 677, with 69% of it directly supported by agriculture and most of the remainder secondarily dependent on it.3 Unsurprisingly, in the censuses of 1841 & 1851, most heads of households described themselves as Farmers or Yeomen, whilst the so-named ‘Persons of Independent Means’ and ‘Landed Proprietors’ (landowners) would have included some who themselves farmed in a small way. The farms in 1848 varied widely in size, from 1.2 to 347.6 acres but the majority were of modest size.1 The median was 51 acres, with 86 % in number and 29 % in area between 5 & 100 acres; 12 % in number and 62 % in area between 100 & 300 acres; and 3 % in number and 9 % in area greater than 300 acres. National figures for these size classes in 1851 are: 63, 30, 8 for numbers and 22, 45, 34 for areas,4 i.e. there was a greater proportion of small farms in Tatham Parish. The three largest were Robert Hall (318 ac), Tatham Hall (327 ac) and Ivah (348 ac) (excluding Whitray - see below).

The parish land holdings in 1848 were predominantly occupied by tenants (80 %), both farmers (60 out of 81) and non-farmers (16 of 17).1 Notably, however, the ownership was not in the hands of a few traditional landowners but was distributed over a large number of people, 83 in all. Although the largest was the Lord of the Manor, Pudsey Dawson of Hornby Castle, he held only 8 holdings totalling 544 acres (excluding fells and commons) in Tatham, dominated by one farm (Hall Barns, later Tatham Hall).

As the land use figures indicate, the dominant farming practice was, as today, animal husbandry and some details about this can be gleaned from the tithe payment records.5,6 Unfortunately, these become increasingly less informative after 1810, as payments in kind became replaced by a single cash payment, i.e. stallinges.7,8 In 1810, 55 farms paid the main animal husbandry tithes (Midsummer and Martinmas). The majority were divided between those paying for sheep only (45 %) and those for sheep and calves (40 %) (but see below). The remaining few reared only calves (9 %) or only geese (5 %).

The economic purpose of sheep rearing was the production of wool and mutton. In 1795,9 the main sheep breed in upland Lancashire was the Scottish Blackface (still one of the local breeds), with sheep being sold at 4 years old to Lancashire graziers in the lowlands, for fattening and slaughter. That is, there was no fat lamb market, unlike today. Other breeds were later introduced in upland areas, e.g. Lonks and Woodlands at Roeburndale and South Downs and Leicesters in the lower parts.10 In 1810, the total flock for 47 farms in the parish was given as 2141, with 86 % from Tatham Fells. The largest flock was 433 at Whitray and several others had over a hundred: Bank End, Crossdale Grains and Ivah at Tatham Fells, and Hall Barns (now Tatham Hall farm) in the Low End. Excluding Whitray, the average flock for the other 45 sheep farms was 32. The total lamb crop from all farms for that year was 915.

sheep images

The sheep crop figures for Hall Barns give some insight into sheep management then: 85 lambs and 164 fleeces made up of 80 wether, 30 fine and 54 common. These suggest 84 ewes of two breeds for a lambing ratio of about 1, assuming no gelt (barren) ewes or lamb deaths. The approximately 40 wethers arising from this lambing would be kept for 2 years before sale for fattening, as 2-shear, at a rate of about 40 / year. In addition, the approximately 40 gimmer lambs would be partly kept as ewe replacements, e.g 20 for a 4 year turnover and the remainder sold as gimmer hoggs for breeding. The flock would also include several tups, bought in from elsewhere (here not allowed for in the fleece analysis). An account from 1815 records that the sheep on Hornby Castle Estate were Leicesters and South Downs.11 It is likely then that the fine fleeces from Hall Barns were South Downs. However, it is not clear whether the main flock were pure bred Blackface, maintained by a Blackface tup, or crossbred Mules from a Leicester tup, or even pure bred Leciester, or a mixture of these. Whatever the breeds, it seems probable that this pattern of sheep management was largely typical of the parish as a whole according to the ratio of lambs to fleeces.

However, a small number of farms apparently only over-wintered (fell) sheep, e.g, just 3 in 1810 but 16 in 1820 involving 271 sheep, with the sheep kept on pastures vacated by the cattle being wintered indoors. This utilised grazing, whilst avoiding poaching the wet soils of these fields. The practice was apparently paid for by giving the grazier the fleece of the sheep, on which they paid a tithe. The farms involved were typically small farms in both halves of the parish.

Cattle were another important part of the local farming economy, with a number of possible aims. Firstly, for milk, butter and cheese production which, so far as milk was concerned, could only be on a small local scale. Alternatively, there was a larger market for in-calf cows or heifers, to be used for milk supplies in large Lancashire towns.9 There was also the sale of cattle for slaughter as fat cattle or as store cattle for fattening and, finally, sale of calves and heifers for breeding. Although all of these strands can be identified in the evidence below, it is not sufficient to quantify their relative importance.

In 1810, 54 people paid dues for 287 calves whilst the tithes show only 145 calves from 27 farms, with no agreement between the same farms! Whether this was due to the difference in the charges, 2/6d for the tithe and 1d for the due, and a reluctance to pay tithes, or some other factor is not known. The number of calving cows kept was small, with calf numbers ranging from 2 to 12 and a mean of 1.7. Only 9 farms paid dues for milk from 15 cows, presumably for local sale. The diary of George Smith, clerk to the steward of Hornby Castle Estate and the Rectors of Tatham Parish, deals with the estate’s farms including some in Tatham Parish.12 Amongst the many references to cows (110), 9 are specifically to milk or milch cows, including his own. Butter and cheese are also mentioned but there is only one record of cheese production, at a rate of 2 cwt (102 kg) cheese from 20 weeks milk from a cow (4 quarts/day) (total of 636 l).11 Smith also refers to cows being sent to Liverpool but whether for milk or meat is not said. Finally, fat cows were sold, including to local butchers, obviously for slaughter, and other cows sold and bought as replacements. Another minor detail is provided by a record of bulling of cows apparently written by Christopher Langstroth of Knott Hill around 1820-1823.13 It shows a total of 61 cattle being served, comprising both heifers and cows, with 4-8 for 6 owners and only one each for 21 others. At this time Langstroth was paying tithes on 6 calves.

cattle images

The traditional cattle of the area had been the Lancashire Longhorn,9 but by the time of Smith’s diary the cattle of the local area were much more varied, with ‘Scotch’ cattle particularly favoured, with Galloways and Highland cattle, both then typically black breeds, specifically mentioned as being bought at Penrith and Askrigg / Austwick Fairs (Fig. 3). Some of the individual purchases were relatively large, e.g. 30 Galloways and 20 Highland from Penrith. Less favoured were ‘English’ and ‘Irish’ cattle. As to other breeds, Longhorn (Lancashire?) and Shorthorn have single mentions. Although Shorthorns (or Durhams) were eventually to become the dominant breed, this area was obviously slow to recognise their value, since they had been at Quernmore Park since 1805.10 One interesting point about the movement of large numbers of cattle along the local roads was the necessity of paying tolls on them and Simth’s diary records how herds of 50–70 were charged 4/- to 5/- at the Farleton Toll Gate, and impounded when not doing so!

Foals are only recorded by the Easter Dues, with only 7 farms producing 1 foal each in 1810, although most farms would keep a horse for field work, several in the case of significant arable crop production. Geese, however, were a surprisingly widespread part of the rural economy, being kept by two thirds of farms, especially in Tatham Fells. In 1810, flocks varied from 5 to 44 and totalled 499 (84 % High End). Hens were also kept on most farms and by many non-farmers, with 85 persons recorded by the Easter Dues. In additon, bees were kept by 13 persons, with 40 swarms. Pigs are frequently referred to in George Smith’s diary, although infrequent in the tithe records, and may have been widely kept in small numbers. The relative values of animals for tithe purposes in 1810 for goose to sheep (fleece+lamb) to calf was 1 : 3.5 : 10, but how that related to market values is not known.

The tithe apportionment distinguishes between meadow and pasture, i.e. between fields shut off from grazing for 3 months for the production of a hay crop for winter fodder, and pasture potentially available all year.1 Typically, meadow areas on a farm were half to a third of pasture. This ratio was distorted when large areas of rough pasture existed, an extreme case being Crossdale Grains where a single large field of enclosed fell (Master Close) resulted in a ratio of 1 : 24, reflecting the farm’s concentration on sheep farming. Another special case is the sheep farm of Whitray, where 490 acres of unenclosed fell (Whitray Fell) are included in the farm holding, and, unusually, assessed for tithe. The other fell areas were not tithed although they will have been allocated to Tatham farms as stints for grazing.

One difference from today is that most farms had at least one arable field, probably producing crops for their own use. More surprising is that several farms had an important arable component, e.g. Robert Hall: 58 % of land area plus a half-acre stackyard; Tatham Hall: c. 47 % (uncertainty due to several fields being described as arable and pasture or meadow). Information on crops is given by the pre-1848 tithe accounts going back to 1809, from George Smith’s diary and from field names. Wheat, barley and oats were all grown - the first probably concentrated on by the large Low End farms, whereas oats was probably the main grain crop for local consumption in both divisions. Barley was certainly grown at Hornby, and possibly also at Tatham, and local grain might have been used by the maltster employed at Guy Hill. Another widespread but minor crop was hemp, which the majority of farms grew, again presumably for local domestic use. It was also frequently mentioned as yarn over a long period in inventories from this general area.16 Turnips, swedes and potatoes were grown as fodder for stock and human consumption

The practices involved in improving land fertility that developed in the eighteenth century were continued in this period, at least by the larger landowners. Smith’s diary records large quantities of lime being applied to the fields of Hornby Castle Estate farms, although it was more generally restricted to use as an initial treatment when breaking up rough pastures or moorland. As well as the universal use of farmyard manure, imported guano was sometimes used as a fertiliser.10 New or improved subsoil drainage schemes were undertaken by Hornby Castle Estate in this period, initially using stone drains and latterly tile drains.10,11 For most farms, however, repair of old drains was probably the limit of activity.

1 Tatham Tithe Apportionment, Lancashire Record Office.
2 Tatham Tithe Map, Lancashire Record Office, DRB 1/183.
3 Census 1841
4 Grigg, D. 1987: Farm size in England and Wales, from Early Victorian times to the present. Ag. Hist. Rev., 179-190.
5 Tithe Collection Books: Midsummer & Michaelmas Tithes 1810-1834 & 1835-1849, Lancashire Record Office PR2920/3/3-6 & PR542.
6 Easter Dues 1809-1830, Lancashire Record Office PR2920/3/1-2.
7 Tithe & Easter Dues Agreements 1814-1846, Lancashire Record Office PR2920/3/8-9.
8 Wright J. 1904: The English Dialect Dictionary, London. 6 vols (EH pers. comm).
9 Holt, J 1795: General view of the agriculture of the County of Lancaster, London, 241 pp.
10 Binns, J. 1851: Notes on the agriculture of Lancashire with suggestions for its improvement.
11 Dickson R.W. & Stephenson, W. 1815: General view of the agriculture of Lancashire with observations on the means of its improvement, London, 636 pp.
12 Diary of George Smith, Tatham 1819-1856, transcribed by Jennifer Holt (Privately held).
13 M. Knowles, personal communication.
14 Pidcock, B 2000: Domestic textile production in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, pp 20-40. In Winstanley, M. (ed) Rural industries of the Lune Valley, Lancaster, pp 151.

MK, with MW & EH 2010
Page created 1-3-2010. Latest update 31-12-2010
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