Monday, 3 October 2016

So what did our farmers do in the spring of 1854 and who was Henry Stephens?

Row Acre, now the Rec in the late spring of 2013
Yesterday we had another of those bright sunny days which is all too deceptive because the air can still be bone cold and the mornings offer up one of those sharp frosts.

Yet there is no doubting that spring has arrived which for those who make their living from growing food means that things have become just that bit more busy.

In his book on farming which pretty much was the manual of what to do on the land Henry Stephens wrote that spring in contrast to winter “is the season of revivification, of passing into active exertion, of hope, nay of confidence in what we do will succeed – of hope ripening into fruition as the earnest of prospective plenty is presented in the reproduction of the herds and flocks, and in the world of life which springs into view immediately after the industrious hand has scattered the seed on the ground.”*

Sowing seeds in spring, 1854
Not that Mr Stephens was some naive townie, he was an immensely practical man rooted in the land whose book set out in great detail how to run a farm.

So once he had dispensed with this welcome to spring he reminded his readers that the weather could be “exceedingly variable, from sunshine to cloud ......... the sky is very clear when the air is free of clouds.  The winds are very sharp, when coming from the N. or N.E direction; they are frequent, blowing strongly sometimes from an eastern and sometimes a western direction.”

The Row, showing Row Acre, 1844
Now I have no idea how many of our farmers and market gardeners would have had a copy of his book which was regularly reprinted throughout the mid and late 19th century but it pretty much had everything you could want.

So the section on spring covered everything from sowing crops, looking after livestock to “turning dunghills and composts” and hiring farm servants.

And on this spring morning I have to say that reading his book and looking out across at the Rec is to be
reminded of our rural past when once most of our people derived their livelihoods form farming or from trades which supported the production of food.

Until the late 1890s the Rec was known as Row Acre and was farmed by Mr Higginbotham and the Bailey family.

Mr Higginbotham on Row Acre, circa 1890
The Higginbotham's had their farm house on the green and the Bailey's lived on what is now Beech Road on the site of Ivy Court.

Both had other parcels of land across the township but what makes Row Acre just that bit more interesting was that it was still farmed in long thin strips as our farmers had done in the Middle Ages.

And for those who want that added bit of detail, Mr Higginbotham's land was the stretch that ran up Beech Road beside Cross Road.

Now that is a bit practical information that I think Mr Stephens would have approved.

Pictures; the Rec in 2013, sowing seed from the Book of the Farm page 509, ploughing on the Rec circa 1890 courtesy of Mr Higginbotham from the Lloyd collection, and detail from the 1841 OS map for Lancashire by kind permission of Digital Archives, http://www.digitalarchives.co.uk/

* Henry Stephens, the Book of the Farm, 1854 Page 429

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