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Highways and Byways of Dorset, Sir Frederick Treves, illustrated Joseph Pennell 1906



The Importance of Land.

Of all human desires one of the most enduring is the desire to own land. Today its value lies in the house built upon it but in the past its value lay in the fact that it was your means of survival. For many centuries land was also the glue that bound the whole of society together. If we consider just the period of time after the Norman conquest we find a cascade of relationships all based around land ownership and tenure. The villein held his land from the lord of the manor, the lord of the manor from his overlord and the overlord from the king. It was inevitable then that in time the second most important mark of social status was the possession of land.1 It did not much matter what occupation you followed, or how gifted you were or how much money you had in the bank, it was land that counted.

One of the minor tragedies of English history occurred during one of the major tragedies of English history – the Civil War. During the Putney debates, held in the interval between the two parts of the war, the question of an extension to the franchise arose. Henry Ireton, brother in law to Oliver Cromwell was quick to shoot the idea down, “no person hath a right to an interest or share in the disposing of the affairs of the kingdom…that hath not a permanent and fixed interest in the kingdom”.

The ‘fixed interest’ was of course the possession of land but Ireton qualified matters further by adding the word ‘permanent’ that is to say the possession of land without any limitation on the length of time it could be held, in other words what we call today free hold land. Lease hold land was always considered an inferior holding as it was only ever for a defined duration

The response by Edward Saxby is full of pathos, “There are many thousands of us soldiers that have ventured our lives; we have had little property in this kingdom as to our estates, yet we had a birthright. But it seems now except a man hath a fixed estate in this kingdom, he hath no right in this kingdom. I wonder we were so much deceived. If we had not a right to the kingdom, we were mere mercenary soldiers.” As Richard Overton commented “What happens in the end is a change in bondage is the uttermost intended us.”

Being in possession of freehold land a man became a member of that class of people known as the gentry. At the lowest level of the gentry were the yeomen, men possessing freehold land worth a rental value of forty shillings a year. In possession of such land these men gained the right to sit on a jury or vote for the county MP’s. Women very frequently held land with a value in excess of this but were denied the rights allowed to men. Without land there was little opportunity to take part in society and the hierarchy of wealth is illustrated by the qualifications needed to be a waywarden, not in itself an enviable post. To be considered for the post you had to have either freehold land worth ten pounds a year, or rent from property worth thirty pounds or if you had neither of these a personal estate [cash or personal property] worth one hundred pounds a year.

If land was desirable then acquiring it was not an easy business- at least in the 19th century. As parishes inclosed the land was often consolidated into large individual plots and all too often once the expenses of inclosure were taken out the small landowner found his allocation of inclosed land to be unprofitable. Land fell into the hands of fewer, larger landowners and small plots of land were not commonly available for purchase freehold. Even leasehold was a potential problem as the overseers of the poor would often advise landowners not to lease estates worth ten pounds or more to the poorer sort as this would automatically grant the lessee residence status under the settlement acts. Martin at least was lucky in this respect as when he was young he would have been sponsored by the Jennings family who were already associated with the Earl of Ilchester. He was thus in a prime position to acquire land. The Martin family archives at the Dorset History Centre contains dozens of deeds, leases, conveyances and so on pertaining to the land and property purchases of the family. These add little to our story, which principally concerns the diaries and are not discussed here. Suffice it to say that over the years Martin acquired land in Somerset and Dorset and this account relates only to the land referenced in the diaries.


The first record that we have of Martin being in possession of land comes from the Land tax return for Evershot in 1817. In 1692 King William III needed money- quite a lot of it in fact and so he instituted a valuation of all the property in the land. Conveniently a tax of 1s in the pound of the valuation raised him some half a million pounds. Since that time the land tax, as it became known, had been set at a variable rate, usually 4s in the pound. The valuation of 1692 had been made county by county and each year the county had to apportion its share of the tax amongst its principle landowners. The actual apportionment was done by ‘Assessors’ under the act and between 1817 and 1820 Martin was one of them.

The total amount raised for Evershot in 1817 was £63 8s 5d2 and of this 5s 2d was paid by Martin on four acres of meadow land owned by one Adam Rowland and known as Rowlands Courtlands. Apart from his wedding to Betty Keech at Evershot in 1782 no trace can be found of Rowland himself3 who was probably a copy or lease holder for lives under the Earl of Ilchester. There are two mentions of him in the diaries from 1821, both in the accounts sections, which record the amount of rent Martin paid him. Curiously Martin had to pay a Heriot of 10s which would normally only be payable to the lord of the manor on the death of the tenant [Rowland] but we know from the Land Tax return for 1823 that Rowland was still alive.

10th October 1821

Pd Mrs Rowlands Rent 10s

22nd October 1821

Mr Rowlands Rent £12 Heriot 10s Land Tax 5s 2d Lords Rent 5s 10d

£1 1s 0d

£10 19s 0d

There were several other closes called ‘Courtlands’ at Evershot variously called ‘Bartlett’s’, ‘Critchell’s’, ‘Harding’s’, ‘Pittman’ and; Flower’s; all of which were contiguous. Mills 4 notes that the name dated back to the 16th century and they were originally [probably] part of the demesne land of the manor. By the time of the tithe apportionment Rowland himself was probably dead as ‘Rowlands Courtland’ had by then reverted to the Earl of Ilchester, as owner, and Martin as occupier. Over the years more land followed and a table of all the land owned by him that can be traced through the diaries is given in appendix 3. A simplified version is shown below,

Name [Parish]

First Mention in records

Area to nearest half acre.

Courtlands [Evershot]



Frome Hill


Not known

East Hill [Evershot]


Not known

Poor Close [Evershot]



Nine Acres [Evershot probably]


¼ acre

Somerton [Somerset]



Porters Land [Rampisham]



Marsh Orchard [Evershot]



Barrow [Evershot]



Chilthorne Domer [Somerset]



Westwoods5 [Cattistock]



Bluntsmoor [Mosterton]


Approx 62

Pipershay [Evershot]



Yarnbarton 6[Evershot]




218 acres

Frome Hill on the Ordnance survey map is near West Stafford which itself is on the outskirts of Dorchester. It is not impossible that he had land here as it is near Stinsford, one of the other seats of the Earl of Ilchester but given the diary entry it is more probable that Frome Hill is his name for land actually situated in Chilfrome. In any event it never appears again.

5th- 6thJanuary 1821

Plotting Chilfrome

Reced one Yrs Rent of my Land on Frome Hill due Michas last £3 10s

The first record of land being purchased by Martin, as freehold, comes from April 1832 when he bought a thin close known as Porters at Rampisham from Mr William Trenchard. [Plot 490 on the tithe map]. Trenchard owned land in both Rampisham and Evershot and we will meet him again as he was not only a farmer [employing two men] but a butcher in Evershot.

17th April 1832

Paid Mr Trenchard for Porters Land at Rampisham £80

23rd April 1832

Paid Crew Jennings’s for Deed of Porters Land £8 3s 0d

Porters land is shown in the tithe apportionment as being one and a quarter acres in size which equates to a rate of £64 per acre which in today’s money is somewhere around £4400 per acre. The next entry represents a conundrum as the number of Dorset parishes with the name “Nine Acres” must have been considerable.

16th November 1832

Paid my Rent of ¼ acre in Nine Acres 10s

There are two fields that might be candidates; the first was in Evershot and occupied by Thomas Jesty [born around 1780 and died in 1841]. This genuinely was 9 acres in size and does not appear to have been partitioned. On the other hand John Guppy in Rampisham occupied a field of seven acres of which a quarter acre had been given over to a plantation. Neither seem to fit the bill but they are as close as I can get.

Many entries in the accounts section look as if they should be recurrent and yet are not. Game certificates for example were required annually but he records paying for one only in 1827. One of the few consistent entries is his annual payment of rent to the Earl of Ilchester. This first appears in 1832. The only other entry relating to rent comes before that in 1821 and mentions a small sum for ‘Lords Rent’ possibly a heriot of some sort that was needed to allow him to have a sub-lease from Adam Rowland. After 1832 his rent was paid annually, usually entered in the December accounts.

22nd October 1821

Mr Rowlands Rent £12

Heriot 10s

Land Tax 5s 2d

Lords Rent 5s 10d £1 1s 0d

£10 19s 0d

December 1832

Paid Ld Ilchester s rent £20 14s 10d

December 1838

Pd Lord Ilchester a Yrs Rent of Land £28 4s 10d

31st December 1845

Pd a Years Rent to Lord Ilchester due Ly Dy 1845 £27 8s 3d

December 1852

Pd Lord Ilchester my rent due Ly Dy & Mic 1852 £28 18s 4d

5th December 1854

Pd Yrs Rent Ld Ilchester for land in 9a due Mic 1854 3.1.25 @ 40 }£6 16s 3d

13th August 1861

Pd Lord Ilchester a Yrs rent due Ly Dy 1861 £48 1s 0d

The Poll register from 1832 shows that by then he had acquired land at Somerton in Somerset which amounted to some one hundred and five acres. There is an entry from 1821 concerning Somerton but it says little about his ownership of land there. How he acquired the land there is not known but it is significant that at the time of tithe commutation the Earl of Ilchester is the largest land owner and seemingly all of the Jennings family owned land there. John Jennings held approximately one hundred and twelve acres, his older brother William about fifteen and John’s son, Joseph Crew Jennings about one hundred and fifteen acres although these were held jointly with William his cousin and Thomas Robert Jennings, his brother. The Poll register shows that the Jennings family owned the lands as a mixture of freehold and leasehold but that Martin, whose land amounted to some one hundred and five acres, was a leaseholder holding the land with Benjamin Jesty. On Jesty’s death in 1838 his wife Ann joined Martin and it is she whose name appears on the tithe apportionment. The register refers to lands known as Mowries, which also appears in the diaries, and was farmed by a tenant – James Walton who had other lands in the parish. Another farmer William Cox also rented a part of this land although given the amount he paid it was a small part. The 6 inch OS map c 1890 shows a ‘Mowries’ farm but this is not present on the tithe map and today the whole area is covered in houses. Mr Baskett was the solicitor to the Jennings family after Joseph Crew shot himself.

28th January 1845

Reced of Mr Wm Jennings 2nd Yrs Rent of Mowries at Somerton due Lady Day 1844 £98 1s 4d

13th July 1852

Reced of Mr Wm Jennings on a/ of Monies Somerton due Mic 1850 & Ly Dy 1851 £34 4s 9d sent to W&Dorset this day

4th July 1854

At Home on Various matters settled the rent &c with Mr Baskett

Reced of Mr Baskett Balance of Accts for monies at Somerton &c see Paper with my Bluntsmoor Accts &c

£24 9s 10d and Check to Yeovil D&W this day

20th November 1854

Reced Check of Arthur for Mowries Somerton due Mic 1853 & Ly Dy 1854 } £106 1s 3d

Pd Mrs Jesty her moiety of Walton rent £50 10s 7 ½ d

21st November 1854

Received of Cox of Somerton for Mowries Cary Mead £9 10s 0d

Pd Mrs Jesty her moiety £4 15s

18th February 1861

Reced of Walton on Acct of rent Somerton due Ly Dy 1861 £95 sent check to Yeovil

19th February 1861

Pd Mrs Jesty her Moiety by Check Yeovil £47 10s 0d sent check to Yeovil

10th November 1861

Reced of Arthur Wm Cox’s Years rent past of Mowries

due Candlemas 1861 £3 10s 5d

The next acquisition of land was also in Somerset, this time at Chilthorne Domer. In the tithe apportionment, for once not undertaken by Martin, he appears as the outright owner of twelve acres of mixed land together with at least one cottage. Unlike so many of Martin’s land dealings the Earl of Ilchester owned no land in the parish and it is not clear how Martin acquired the land or why. The majority of the land, nearly seven acres, were orchards which explains the second entry. Mr Sandiford7 cannot be traced nor the meaning of setting the apple trees.

1st March 1838

Went to Chilthorne

2nd March 1838

Paid Sandiford setting apple Trees at Chilthorne £3

The remainder of the land was arable and the distance from Evershot meant that he had no practical way of farming the land himself so it comes as no surprise that he had to let the land to a tenant. This was Mr William Bengefield who at 29 years old was already the owner of a cottage and acre of land in the parish. His wife Eliza was slightly older 35 and they were to have two children together. Firstly Martin had to undertake repairs to some of the premises and whilst doing so ran up a hefty bill at the ‘Ilchester Road Public House’ [now the Carpenters Arm’s] run by Matthew Parker.

25th March 1838

At Corfe

Let my Land at Chilthorne to Mr Bengefield from this day at £24 a year

4th April 1838

Pd Matthew Parker at Chilthorne £3

Pd for Thorn Plants 7s 6d

Pd Carpenter at Chilthorne for Gate Parts &c £3 2s 6d

The arrangement with Mr Bengefield did not always go well and he appears to have been in arrears on a number of occasions.

23rd October 1838

Reced ½ Years Rent &c of Mr Bengefield for my Chilthorne Land due Michas 1838 £14 6s 10d

Paid him what he paid for Clover Seeds &c as Bill £1 3s 10d

December Accounts 1838

Paid for Apple Trees for Chilthorne of Mr Pyne 28 at 4/3 each £5 19s

14th January 1845

Attending to Work People and paying Bill

Mr Bengefield from Chilthorne was here and pd Rent on a/ [see last years book]

31st May 1845

Reced of Mr Bengefield Arrears to Ldy Dy 1844 and on a/ to Ly Dy 1845 £20 6s 6d Arrear 13.10.1 ½

In September 1845 Arthur had an unpleasant task to perform for his father,

29th September 1845

Went to Chilthorne with Arthur who left a Notice at Wm Bengefields for his quitting my Land at Chilthorne

but Martin must have had a change of heart for Bengefield was still his tenant in December and Mr Sandiford was still planting his trees at least up until 1852.

15th December 1845

Received of Mr Bengefield Bal of Rent due Ly Dy 45 see Book £36.12.11d

31st December 1845

Pd H Sandiford for Apple Trees & Planting at Chilthorne £3 9s 6d

17th February 1852

Pd Sandiford for 8 Apple Trees & Planting &c Chilthorne £2 7s

15th June 1852

Paid Sandiford Grafting at Chilthorne £1 7s

Although it sounds like a modern and improving technique it appears that the grafting of trees onto a different root stock was by then almost two and a half thousand years old.

1st July 1852

Reced of Mr Bengefield Bal of Rent to Mic 1851 £5

20th December 1854

Received of Mr Bengefield on further acct to Mic 1854 [£2 9s 7d] still due } £15

6th May 1854

[Mr Fountain came as Servant]

Planting Mangle in Nine Acres and settled Rent with Mr Bengefield

Received of Mr Bengefield Bal of Rent to Mic 1853 £5 16s 7d

Do on Acct of ½ Yrs Rent to Lady Day 1854 £15

5th March 1861

Reced of Mr Bengefield Bal of ½ yrs rent to Mic 1860 £5 14s 7d

Reced of Do on Acct of ½ yrs rent to Ly Dy 1861 £10

The last entries about Chilthorne are when he paid the mowers of the arable lands and sketched his lands, perhaps he was planning to sell the land? In any event by the 1861 census Martin’s small estate was only a small part of Mr Bengefield farming activity as he is described as a farmer of over fifty acres.

1st July 1861

Pd the Chilthorne Mower 19 acres at 3s per acre £2 17s

9th September 1861

To Chilthorne to get a Sketch of my land from Tithe Map

Reced of Mr Bengefield Balance of ½ yrs rent due Lady Day 1861 £8 14s 9d

ought to have been 30/s more as I threw him back 3£ when it ought to have been only 30/s mind this next settlement

26th Sept reced £8 14s 9d paid him to much back [reced again]

£10 4s 9d

The diaries show that Martin also worked in the parish on the poor rate, as well as paying his own commutation expenses.

24th January 1845

Packing Bottles &c and working on the Chilthorne Poor Rate

9th June 1845

Paid Mr Pearce for Chilthorne Commtn Expenses £3 3s 1d

During the 1830’s Martin gradually acquired [usually as leasehold] more pieces of land in the neighbourhood. He bought a small plot, Porters Land at Rampisham as we have seen and Marsh Orchard and Barrow at Evershot. This last piece of land has an interesting piece of history attached to it, albeit well before Martin’s time. In 1610 legal action was taken in Chancery against the manor for the men of the parish “in all ages” and for “tyme out of mind” had been used to erecting archery “butts to shoot at [as by the lawes of this realme they ought to doe] and to exercise themselves in the lawfull game and exercise of shooting..” The lord of the manor at the time, Edmund Hardy Esq, responded by saying that the butts had not been used for some twenty years and that the real purpose of the case was “to make a ” bowling place ” in the close and that they had actually played bowls there on the ” Sabbath day,” as well as on other days of the week.” 8The outcome of the case is not recorded.

The 1840’s saw him occupying land in Cattistock, actually very close to Evershot, called Westwoods and the 1850’s addingPipershay and Yarnbarton to his inventory. His final big purchase was in 1852 Martin when he bought a farm at Mosterton. It can still be identified on the OS map as Bluntsmoor Farm today. It was in fact two farms, the higher farm was tenanted by George Cottell who is mentioned in the August 1852 entry but oddly does not appear in any census until the 1861 census. He was married to Ann and they had two children. Cottell held about fifteen acres whereas the farmer at the lower farm, Thomas Thompson had forty seven. He appears several times in the diaries.

17th April 1852

Went to Bluntsmoor & reced ½ yrs Rent

Reced ½ yrs Rent Bluntsmoor due Mich 1851 £39 2s 6d

3rd June 1852

Reced of Mr Dawbney for Book of Reference & Field Poor Rate & Tithes of Mosterton £6

Pd my Rate on the above 6s 1 ¾ d

24th August 1852

Pd Mr Cottell for Stone for Bluntsmoor Stall Ho £2 11s 8s

21st October 1852

Went to Bluntsmoore [sic] and reced ½ yrs rent of Farmer Thompson & for 4 acres of Oats sold him at Coker

17th January 1854

Pd Mr Baskett see Bluntsmoor Papers [no sum shown]

12th April 1854

Went to Bluntsmoor & settled ½ yrs Rent with Farmer Thompson

Received of Farmer Thompson Bal ½ yrs Rent due Michas 1853 £39 9s

13th April 1854

At Home on Various matters

Bought Rick of Hay late Mr Wm Jennings 22.10.0

Farmer Thompson takes ½

1st May 1861

At Home [Farmer Thompson here]

Reced of Mr Thompson ½ yrs rent due Mic 1860 £42 11s 9 ¼ d

7th November 1861

At Home received Thompson’s rent

New Servant Girl came £4 a year

Reced Mr Thompson Bal of ½ yrs rent due Lady Day 1861 £25 5s 1d reset ½ yr to be £46 11s half yr

There are a few other ‘odd’ entries relating to his land. There are numerous ‘Mr Hine’s’ in Dorset particularly around Beaminster and there is a Hester Hine a landed proprietress in nearby Maiden Newton but none seem to fit the bill. Mr Lovibond too is an enigma. It is not a common name and there was a Henry Lovibond in Somerton who was an inn keeper but more probable as a candidate is George Lovibond a 50 year old farmer in East Chinnock but it is not known what of John Martin’s lands if any either of them farmed.

12th April 1852

Reced of Mr Waman Balance of Rent to 29th September 1851 when he quitted my Land at Coker £33 10s 10d sent Check to W & Dorset

16th April 1852

At Home on Various matters Sent Mr Haine Check for £12 8s 0d Balance of ½ yrs Rent due 25th March last Rent £4 Ld Tax 19s Pay int 13s

7th May 1854

Reced Mr Hines Rent of his Land at F Vauchurch £27 4 11 ½ d

17th May 1854

Pd Mr Hine his Rent of Frome Vauchurch Land when I gave up the business to Mr Hine £27 4s 11 ½ d

4th March 1861

Reced of Mr Lovibond on Acct of ½ yrs rent due Michas 1860 £20 0 0

17th April 1861

Reced of Mr Lovibond Balance of ½ yrs rent due Mic last 1860 £17 15s 9d sent C to Yeovil

24th September 1861

Reced of Mr Lovibond on Acct of ½ yrs int due Lady Day last 1861 £20

18th November 1861

Reced of Mr Lovibond Bal of ½ years rent due to Lady Dy 1861 £16 12s 4d


Farming in England, at least until the beginning of the 18th century, is often described as being ‘subsistence’ in nature. What is usually meant by this is that farmers grew sufficient crops and raised sufficient livestock only for their own use and no more. Subsistence farmers are unable to produce a surplus for storage or sale on the open market. A moments thought reveals that this could not have been the case except possibly in the earliest century’s. From the earliest times rural areas always provided food to the towns, the tithe had to be given to the church and there was never a shortage of Court hangers on who were unproductive and had to be fed. In a truly subsistence economy none of these things could have been accommodated. There are in any case degrees of subsistence: between the 7th and 14th century surviving historical sources indicate that there were severe famines, affecting the whole country, every ten years or so9. Thereafter famines appear to die out, although there are still intermittent periods of hunger not amounting to famine. What caused this improvement is hard to define but it was not due to any particular advance in agricultural technique. Even as late as the 19th century there was always a risk that the harvest would be insufficient to support the population as a whole, there were food riots in the 1790’s and the decade was to become known as the ‘hungry forties’ even before the Irish potato famine started in 1845.

This relative lack of progress in agriculture was not through choice or laziness, as until the 18th century, the means to improve production were limited. Gradually, stimulated perhaps by the spirit of the enlightenment a new rigour was introduced into British agriculture, new techniques were developed [see below] and output began to improve. This was helped by the production of manuals on improving husbandry and authors such as Tull were not afraid to use continental ideas. Nathaniel Kents highly popular ‘Hints to Gentlemen of Landed Property’ published in 1775 reflected the opinions of the author after a three year sojourn in the Netherlands.

The effect was such that “England not only produced food for a population that had doubled itself,” but “during the first part of the period became, the granary of Europe.”10 The changes that led to this dramatic were often the result of careful observation and experiment but one immediate problem for the historian is, as C S Orwin wrote, that “it is impossible to date the great changes and improvements in agricultural practice with any precision” for “Even where dates can be assigned to certain events, such as the introduction of drill husbandry or of a new crop, or the invention of a reaping-machine which worked, the time lag between the perfecting of an agricultural invention, or of a farming system, and its adoption generally by husbandmen, may extend to decades or even generations.”11 A naturally conservative group of men and women such as farmers were not given to risking their livelihoods by adopting new techniques at a rush.

The first half of the 18th century was an optimistic time in the country side and according to Rowland Prothero, Baron Ernle, it was “one of the golden ages of the peasant”. In this happy time the majority of the population, still had to produce at least a part of the food itself. As the Hammond’s put it, “the normal labourer did not depend on his wages alone. His livelihood was made up from various sources. His firing he took from the waste, he had a cow or a pig wandering on the common pasture, perhaps he raised a little crop on a strip in the common fields. He was not merely a wage earner, receiving so much money a week or a day for his labour, and buying all the necessaries of life at a shop: he received wages as a labourer, but in part he maintained himself as a producer.”

The second half of the century was less happy. The surplus of food which had enabled the population to double was now dissipated by the need to supply the armies fighting the American colonists and later the French. More food was needed and one answer to this was to inclose the open fields and commons. Inclosing the commons brought new land into cultivation but had the unfortunate effect of depriving the labourer of some of his alternative sources of food. As the 19th century began the country was massively in debt, and in the ensuing three decades, banks were to fail, the weather turned bad and summer disappeared altogether in 1816 12. Paradoxically even when the harvest was good problems arose. In 1813 a bumper crop caused a rapid collapse in the price of wheat. The farmers receipts dropped by almost a half causing financial problems for farmers who had invested heavily in bringing the new land into cultivation. Subsequent years were similar and with wheat flooding in from Ireland and Scotland the result would be the infamous Corn Law of 1815.

With the end of the Napoleonic wars an agricultural depression followed which persisted for the next two decades. During this period many landed estates were sold and it is interesting that the Rampisham estate came up for sale during this period. From 1837 onwards conditions for the landowners at least began to improve, taxation was reduced, the problem of the tithe was addressed and the cost to them of the Poor Rate was reduced.

None of this however shook the basic faith that most people had in acquiring land and for every seller of an estate there was a purchaser. Many of these were people were new to landowning as for example Lord Eldon who Martin worked for in 1821.

The acquisition of land of itself was just the beginning for land is of little value unless it can be exploited and the options for exploitation, prior to industrialisation, were limited. Until transport infrastructure such as the canals and then railways were in place there could be no mass market for any manufactured product. If you owned land, to make a profit, you had little choice but to farm it. But how? From 1793 the Board of Agriculture commissioned a series of reports on the state of agriculture in the counties together with a series of recommendations on how to improve the course of agriculture. Three reports were produced for Dorset, one in 1793 by John Claridge, another, nineteen years later, in 1812 by William Stevenson and one in 1810 which was withdrawn following objections from the local landowners. Elements from Claridge’s and Stevenson’s reports are included in what follows.

There are no personal references to farming in the 1810 diary and we might suppose that Martin was not in possession of any land at this time. As a land-surveyor involved with inclosures however he needed to have a firm grasp of the economics and practice of farming. This is evidenced by a number of diary entries such as this one from February,

5th February 1810

Taken from the Farmers Journal in Berks

60lb of wheat will return 37 of the finest Flower [sic] & 14lb of two inferior kinds 8lb of Bran & ½ of waste

Spring Wheat produces two or 3lb more Bran & is sown in general instead of Barley

Wheat 10s

Barley 5 or 5s 6d

Oats 2/5d or 4s

The above would produce ample profit to the Farmer and enable him to pay Taxes 1810

From the dates of the diary entries we can see that Martin’s farming activities began in earnest in 1821,


Type of Farming


12th January 1821

Probably dairy farming

Rent day at Evershot

Went to Yeovil with my Cows but did not sell

20th June 1821


Mowed my Grass

24th September 1821

Sheep for Wool

Pd Mr Wm Trenchard for 8 wether13 sheep last Toller Down Fair £9 11s 0d

6th October 1821

Potatoe Growing

Reced of John Vine remainder of Potatoe [sic] rent to Lady Dy 1821 3s 7d

7th October 1821

Keeping Pigs

Pd Thos Beater for Pig £1

The only exception is arable farming which appears for the first time in 1845 although it is not clear from the diaries which of his lands he was ploughing.

23rd September 1845


Attending Harvesting Wheat &c

The Farming Year

Until Martin’s day [and beyond] the really hard work of the farm was performed by the livestock. Claridge in 1793 applauded the fact that oxen were still being used in Dorset but by Stevenson’s time they appear to have disappeared to be replaced by horses. Oxen had great strength but little stamina although their reward at the end of a life time of service was a little ungrateful – they were eaten. Horses were more expensive to look after and Ernle reports their only use at the end of their lives was to be made into leather. The English at least forbore eating them.

Without these animals a farm could not have been worked, farming would have been impossible and as a consequence their maintenance through the winter was of the utmost importance. The only crop allocated entirely to the livestock was the hay crop, and so important was it that the grasslands from which it was produced were immensely valuable. I have described how they were managed at Child Okeford where in 1838 the grasslands were worth 45/s per acre; the arable only 25/s.

Haymaking was fraught with potential problems, the correct stage of maturity of the grass had to be assessed and the weather just right, for after mowing it had to be dried, reducing its moisture content from 70 -90 % to 20% or less. Any more an it would eventually rot- the process of silage making not having yet been invented. Making Hay while the sun shines was quite literally what you had to do and for this you needed a workforce to be on hand,

The earliest record of Martin mowing his grass comes from 1821,

20th June 1821

Mowed my Grass

Paid Mr Beater for Hay £1 10s

The grass had then to be dried and this involved ‘tedding’ the turning of the hay to ensure even drying. This was the ‘haymaking’ and was an expensive business, apparently still done by hand,

25th June 1821

Ricked my Hay Courtlands

Pd Mowing 8s

Do Haymaking 2s 6d

Do Do 5s 8d

Whereas today the hay would be baled, in the past it was ‘ricked’. The rick itself was thatched, or ‘tipped’ with straw in order to protect it from the elements. The importance of this cannot be overemphasised; when Thomas Hardy has Gabriel Oak protecting the hay ricks in a storm14 the importance of the service he had done would have been recognised by all his rural readers. The loss of a hay crop was a disaster as until the introduction of fodder crops and manufactured feeds, this was the only food available to the animals until the next year. In the days of the Manor courts there were frequently rules forbidding the carriage of fire [open torches] in the fields for fear of fire and it is not uncommon in newspaper reports from the time to find ricks deliberately set alight. It was akin to having your money stolen for they were very valuable. How valuable is shown when, after the death of his cousin William Jennings, he bought one of the ricks for a price almost equivalent to a years wages for an agricultural labourer.

13th April 1854

Bought Rick of Hay late Mr Wm Jennings 22.10.0

Farmer Thompson takes ½

It was important for the farmer to ensure that he had adequate supplies of hay sometimes having to buy in extra supplies. In 1827 he was clearly running short, but he got his money’s worth from Thomas How,

14th February 1827

Thos How fetched a Cart Load of Hay

Pd Thomas How in full for Carriage of Hay & Dutch oven Paint &c from Yeovil 6s

This load was clearly not enough and in March he had to buy in more from his friend that he had to sell a calf to reduce his hay needs.

19th March 1827

Went to Ransom Farmer Swaffield looking over Fences and John Beater weighing 18 Hundred of Hay from Mr Jestys Rick

10th April 1827

Received for a Calf 7s

Paid for 18 Hundred of Hay £4 10s 0d

Paid Man Looking after Horse & Cows 8s

He must have felt great relief in May,

6th May 1827

Turned my Cows to Grass

In the autumn of 1827 we find him buying in hay again and it may have been that the harvest had been particularly bad that year,

7th November 1827

Working out Rampisham Rentals

Paid Mr Chubbs Bill for Hay &c £3 4 4d

8th November 1827

Thos How fetched in Hay I O him 3s & 2s

Hay was cut from the rick with a knife and he purchased a new one in 1832

13th February 1832

Pd Davis for Hay Knife 5s 6d

Female agricultural workers were often used as they generally were paid less,

28th July 1832

Pd Martha Haymaking 7s 6d

Pd Sally White Hay making 4s 6d

Pd Mowing 15s

Very occasionally we find him selling some of his own hay although the meaning of the entry for the 5th of March is not clear,

5th March 1852

At Home on Various matters Sold Henry Miller some Hay at Westwoods to be fed on the same for a fortnight from this time at 5£

15th March 1852

Reced Henry Miller for Hay at Westwoods £5

Paid him for a Pig £2 10s

There are numerous entries about haymaking but the most complete set comes from 1854 which, like 1827, appears to have been another difficult year. It begins with him having to bring hay back from his lands in West Coker an expensive business but one suspects Mr Samways made more than one trip. He was the local agent for the Wellington Manure Works . Note Martin’s use of women workers again,

25th January 1854

Sent for a Load of Hay Coker

29th March 1854

Pd Mr Samways Carting a Load of Hay from Coker £1

Pd Woman Ground dressing &c 10s 8d

Normally in May he would have turned his cattle out to grass but instead we find him purchasing more hay from Robert Dunford of Rampisham,

8th May 1854

Attendg Nine Acres Planting Mangle ½ day rain came on

Pd Farmer Dunford for Hay £6

He did not have it collected immediately though and it was not until the 19th that it was fetched to Evershot,

18th May 1854

Went to Toller down Fair Rain Came

19th May 1854

[Fetched Hay from Ransom] Bought of Farmer Dunford

By this time he must surely have turned his cows out but the in May and June there are several entries about rain coming and it was probably a rather cold wet spring. Rather despondently in July he noted,

3rd July 1854

At Home on Various matters { Wet Weather no Hay about Yet

They had just got started when it rained again,

18th July 1854

Attending Haymaking

19th July 1854

At Home on Various matters Rain in the Morning no Haymaking

It is difficult to see how he could have got the hay to dry in time but he ricked it nevertheless,

20th July 1854

Haymaking Rick’d Poor Close & Yarn barton

Paid Mr Vine mowing &c £1 919s 8d

21st July 1854

Haymaking Rick’d Courtlands

22nd July 1854

Haymaking in Pipershay

Pd Men helping Ricking Tipping Ricks &c 10s

24th July 1854

Haymaking Ricked Pipershay and made it very well

25th July 1854

Attending Tipping Rick’s &c a very Hot Day

Pd Mrs Reynolds on Acct of Haymaking [Coker] £5

26th July 1854

Attending Tipping Pipers Rick &c and Mangling

Again it’s interesting to see a woman making the hay at West Coker although it is not clear who she is. There was an Elizabeth Coker [34] living in the village in 1851 but she is shown as a laundress.

In 1861 we find him selling Hay in March and then having to buy some in June. Perhaps he got his calculations wrong,

28th March 1861

Sold Henry Miller Hay 2 ton 4 cwt at 43 £6 13s 0d

Reced of Henry Miller for Hay £6 13s 0d

9th June 1861

Pd Mr Smith for Hay £1 17s 6d

Apparently even mouldy or rotten hay was worth something

1st December 1861

Reced for bad Hay £3

4th December 1861

At Home sold Hay to Farmer Lovelace attendg Weighing 43H x ¾

Reced for load Hay £3

Turnips aside, the story so far has given a fairly benign view of conditions in the countryside but for some it was a harsh life. Thomas Cox was a 46 year old “carrier” living in Evershot with his wife and seven children. On the 9th of January 1862 P. C. Florance the local constable happened to be passing a hay house belonging to John Martin when he heard a rustling sound coming from the barn. He discovered Cox stuffing hay into a bag. Cox begged him not to say anything but Florance arrested him and he was brought to the County Petty Sessions at Dorchester. The hay was worth 3d [1.5p] and Cox was sentenced to 21 days hard labour.

Hay supported his livestock and Martin’s earliest recorded ventures into farming involved cattle and comes from 1821. Oddly these [plus one other] are the only entries concerning cattle for the year and we must assume that he was paying for his cows to be tended to even though he does not say so.

12th January 1821

Rent day at Evershot

Went to Yeovil with my Cows but did not sell

26th February 1821

Reced of Miller & Way for a Cow £11 4s 0d

10th March 1821

Paid for a Cow and Calf £11 11s 0d

It is not known what he was raising the cattle for, but the Blackmore Vale was a major dairying region and there is one reference to this,

10th June 1845

Attending Hauling Dung and Work People about the Milk House

Until the 18th century large scale dairy farming was unknown. Even small scale dairying was limited for the best pastures were usually in the lord of the manor’s own hands. At the end of the summer painful decisions had to be made for reluctant to feed their hay too early to the livestock the farmers had to rely on the aftermath [the grass left on the hay meadows after mowing], the stubble on the arable fields or such things as tree-lopping’s to keep the animals going. It was, therefore, the practice at the end of June to weed out “the aged cows, worn-out oxen, and tooth-less sheep, prepare them as far as possible for the butcher, slaughter them in the autumn, and either eat them fresh or throw them into the powdering tub to be salted for winter consumption.”15 It was only with the introduction of three and then four course rotations [see below] was sufficient fodder for overwintering possible. Even then the prime use of dairy products was to make cheese and butter, it was not until the coming of the railways that the market for fresh milk was developed. Claridge noted the dairies “are managed by making all the cream into butter and from the skimmed milk an inferior sort of cheese…”. The butter was salted down in tubs and sent to Portsmouth and London. The industry was hugely important and in 1812 Stevenson reported that The food of the poor is wheaten bread, skimmed milk, cheese, puddings, potatoes, and other vegetables, with a small quantity of pickled pork and bacon. In some parts of the Vale of Blackmoor, the peasantry eat very little besides bread and skimmed milk cheese.”

There are numerous examples throughout the diaries of Martin himself buying in dairy products for example,

3rd May 1827

Paid Farmer Ellis’s Bill for Cheese &c £2 5s 7d

16th February 1852

Reced of Mrs Jesty for Milk Cream &c £2 17s 2 ¼ d

which might suggest that he was not a dairy farmer. However the method of dairy farming in Dorset was unique in the country and was described by Claridge in 1793. The farmer who owned the cows did not actually manage the herd himself. Instead he hired the animals out to a specialist dairyman at a fixed price. This price depended on three factors, the quality of the pasture, the amount of milk each cow was likely to produce and the price that the butter and cheese would reach. This is the explanation of the fact that in Dorset censuses from 1851 onwards the occupation is given as dairyman but the person concerned does not seem to own any land. The system survived into the late 20th century in parts of Dorset and it is probable that Martin’s cows were managed by a dairyman. If so we never learn who it is.

There are some charming little entries such as the one from August 1821,

1st August 1821

Pd Edward Chubb for a rope to tie the Cow 3s

Occasionally disasters or mishaps happened. One wonders what the qualifications of the Cow Doctor were or why Martin’s old cow needed spaying?

14th June 1832

Pd Spaying my old Cow 3s

28th May 1854

At Home [an Accident with my best Cow obliged to have it killed]

31st May 1854

Do Do had my Cow killed Pd Cow Doctor 2s 6d

Like many farmers in the past Martin gave names to his animals some of whom must have been remarkably long lived or else he reused his names. Note the dates on the entries.

28th February 1845

Doing Various Jobs -Farming works &c Red Cow calved

23rd January 1854

Making out Valuations of Great Coombes Estate & sent same to Mr Alger

[Red Cow Calved]

27th January 1854

At Home on Various matters

[Duchess Calved]

22nd April 1861

IN PENCIL Duchess to B Calve 27th Janry

At Home on Various matters

His other cattle included,

2nd April 1861

IN PENCIL Dolly to B Calve 7th Janry

16th April 1861

IN PENCIL Spotty to B Calve 20th Jan

3rd June 1861

IN PENCIL Cowslip to B Calve March 10th

The gestation period for cows varies slightly but an average of 283 days being common the dates in pencil appear to indicate the day he would expect them to calve. I assume that he kept his cows at Evershot but one entry shows he had some cattle in West Coker,

22nd April 1854

Went to Yeovil & thence to Coker when found my Wheat finished thrashing -The Heifer there had Calved

If cattle were Martin’s first venture into farming then according to the chronology of the diaries potatoes were the second. In this case he was receiving rent almost certainly from a tenant on either the Rampisham or Ilchester estates but he was probably growing them himself by then.

6th October 1821

Reced of John Vine remainder of Potatoe [sic] rent to Lady Dy 1821 3s 7d

Perhaps surprisingly potatoes as a crop had a very slow start as food and even Tull appears to have thought them useful only for animal feed and improving the ground. They appear to have been cultivated first by the wealthy in their vegetable gardens but at some time they were adopted as a staple food for the poor. The advantages were obvious for not only were they nutritious they required no special preparation and could be cooked in a simple pot. The question next arose as to where they were to grow them for with the inclosure of the parish any small strips of land the poor might have owned all too often disappeared. Although Arthur Young had been keen to abolish the commons, it became obvious to him by the late 18th century that parishes where labourers had been able to retain some portion of land the poor rates were generally much lower. He began to campaign for allotments to the poor and in this he was supported by a clergyman David Davies, who suggested that such allotments should be used to grow potatoes. Even so the adoption of potatoes for the poor was a slow business. Claridge makes no mention of potatoes but Stevenson noted that the “State of the poor is much altered for the better within the last twenty years, and principally by the introduction of potatoes, which were scarcely known’ thirty years since.” In the late 1780’s “the labourers had very little beside bread and cheese and water, but at present [1812] they have the important additions of potatoes, pork and bacon”. Growing potatoes had a further advantage for “Almost every one keeps a pig, which is fed on potatoes”. The reader might note the slight contradiction of these dietary observations with those that he made when discussing dairy farming.

Nevertheless many landowners encouraged their tenants to take on allotments. In evidence given to the Poor Law commission in 1834 a Mr Okeden stated that there was “scarcely a parish in Wiltshire or Dorsetshire, in which the labourer has not the use of land..”16 It should not be thought that the provision of land was in anyway altruistic. Note the phrase “use of land”, potatoe lands, as they would become known, were usually in that years fallow field. Nobody had a permanent piece of land they could call their own and landlord typically charged four times the going rate for the land.17 It is not known what method of cultivation the English labourers used but the method in Ireland was the lazy bed. I have seen two descriptions of this. In the first described by Hobhouse in “The Seeds of Change” a strip of ground of varying width and length [see below] was chosen and down the middle was laid a line of manure. The edges of the strip were then dug out and the soil piled up over the manure. The second was slightly harder work and could be made in grassland; the technique is shown below

The advantage of letting out a part of the fallows to the farmer was obvious for, “besides the remuneration in money, produce, or manure, has his ground carefully cleaned and better fitted to receive a crop, after the potatoes are reaped, than if it had continued fallow.” The disadvantages are obvious but one which must of concerned them was the fact that if potatoe lands were on the fallows then other ‘improving’ crops, such as turnips or clover could not be grown. It was important not to give the labourer too much land. Hobhouse suggests that a lazy bed between five and eight hundred yards would provide enough potatoes for a family for a year but this would have been too much for the poor law commissioners to countenance. In Dorset Stevenson noted that potatoe lands on the fallows were decided by the size of the family and were at most a third of an acre. Typically a half of the area was devoted to potatoes and yielded about fifty bushels. The labourer had to manure the potatoe land and he did this by keeping a pig on the other half of the land.

The wider issue of permanent allotments was another issue that the poor law commissioners were interested in. A labourer was expected to work for “a farmer for twelve hours, from six to six,” if given too much land the labourer would overtire himself and so be of less use to the farmer the next day. It was decided therefore that the most he could cope with given “the help of his wife and family,” was about a half acre. The desire not to tire the labourer out was once again not altruistic, for if he had more land he would make more money and so be less willing to work as hard for his master. Perhaps of even greater importance by restricting the amount of land the labourer could count on lower rewards and “had less inducement to keep loose company.” Farmers appear to have been more accepting of potatoe lands than permanent allotments. After all they gained rent for land which would otherwise have laid fallow. They were less accepting of permanent allotments principally because they object to the increased independence of the labourers.” 18

It may be wondered why bread was not more widely available and the answer was that for many it was simply too expensive for many. The rich advocated dietary reform for the poor. Sir Frederick Eden, who investigated the state of the poor in 1797 found that a labourer in the north feeding his wife and five children on oats spent £7 9s 2d a year whereas in Berkshire, where ‘wheaten’ bread was consumed, a similar labourer spent £36 8s a year. An obvious lesson to be learned there. Eden despaired of the soft southerner, ‘they but eat the finest wheaten bread, and declare [what I much doubt], that brown bread disorders their bowels.” Whilst Eden did not know of the effects of fibre on the bowel we may also assume he had never tried the stuff.

Although farmers generally did not like allotments, one man at least did and that was the Earl of Ilchester. A newspaper report in the Dorset County Chronicle from December 1844 reported that at a meeting at the Fox Inn Evershot, the rents having all been punctually paid “these honest and industrious labourers were regaled with a supply of prime strong been and enjoyed themselves right merrily, the health of the noble landlord not being forgotten.” The Earl had upwards of 48 acres of “good land” in three parishes devoted to these allotments, the Earl having “adopted the field garden plan more than twenty years since.” The beneficial effects were noted in the “improved character and conduct of the allotment men”, who had been able to “add much to their own comfort and those of their wives and families.” These allotments appear to be permanent in nature but there are no entries relating to them in the diaries. Potatoe lands on the other hand appear frequently.

Martin was intimately involved in the management of the lands for the Earl as the following entries show. The first entry comes from 1821.

5th November 1821

Reced of Mr Wm Jennings

at Somerton on Tithe 2s 4d

Potatoe [sic] Lots on East Hill 3s 6d

10th November 1827

Making out Potatoe Acct for last year – Lord Ilchesters small tenants

Two weeks later he was receiving the rents on behalf of Lord Ilchester.

24th November 1827

Went to Ransom and receiving Potatoe Rents at the Fox

Martin provided this service to Lord Ilchester for at least twenty four years the last record of him collecting the rents being in 1845.

21st August 1832

Making up Ransom Accounts my own Accts Potatoe Rents &c &c

17th November 1832

Piddle Hinton

Staking Allotments returned Home Received Potatoe Rents

29th October 1838

Potatoe Rent day at the Fox

Working on Cattistock Map Mr Easton

24th November 1845

Working on Abbotsbury Town Map and making up Potatoe Rents

3rd December 1845

Do and making out Potatoe Rental

Although Martin had his own land by the time the entries below were written he appears to have rented potatoe land himself although he got others to plant and dig them for him. If we use Stevenson’s figures from 1812 and suppose he got fifty bushels of the land then he made a very handsome profit. For an expenditure of ten shilling rent and nine shillings on seed potatoes he would have been rewarded with a crop of potatoes worth over thirteen pounds.

17th December 1838

Pd J Lake Digging Potatoes 3s

2nd October 1845

Attending to Labourers getting up Potatoes etc

4th December 1845

Reced of Mr A Dibble for potatoes £1

24th December 1845

Paid My Potatoe Rent 10s

22nd January 1852

Pd for a Sack of Potatoes 9s

17th March 1854

Attendg Gardening Planting Potatoes

3rd April 1854

Pd for a Bushel of Potatoes 5s 3d

3rd August 1861

Do Taking up my Potatoes

Despite the famine that was to follow in Ireland, there are no references to it in the diaries. Finally despite the government in 1801 not acting to force inclosure commissioners to provide allotments there is plenty of evidence from the tithe commutations that allotments for the support of the poor were to be found in most parishes.

If potatoes were a recent innovation in Dorset the next ‘crop’ was anything but new. When John Claridge wrote his report for the Board of Agriculture sheep farming was in fact the most lucrative form of farming in Dorset. With the coming of the railways and the demand of the cities for fresh milk this would change but for the majority of his life wool was still the most important product derived from sheep although Dorset lambs also had the dubious honour of being lambed in the autumn and were famous for finding their way on to the table at Christmas. As well as wool the sheep were valuable for the manure they produced. Given the random distribution of the animals droppings, to be most effective in manuring the sheep were almost invariably folded at night, on the fallow arable fields, being penned in by hazel hurdles. They were always attended by a shepherd who earned six shillings a week, plus a ‘great coat’ each year and was provided with breakfast on Sundays. Sheep skins too were valuable for parchment but it was their wool that was of prime value and apart from the Christmas lambs surprisingly little of their meat was eaten.

In Claridge’s time most of the sheep were a native Dorset breed and mostly inbred as there were no ram fairs in the county. This is in contrast to what was happening elsewhere in the country and which had seen the average weight of a lamb at Smithfield market increase from 18lb in 1710 to 50lb by 1790.19 Unforeseen consequences followed for as the weight of the sheep increased so did the length of the staple, the cluster of wool that determined the use to which the wool was put. Longer staples produced poorer quality wool.

When Stevenson wrote his report in 1812 the situation had changed considerably with many different breeds being found throughout the county although the commonest, in the western part of the county, was a Dorset/Somerset cross. In the South and East the South Down was the predominant breed. Sadly for the burghers of London lambing was no longer in the autumn and Dorset lamb less likely to be served at Christmas. Given the importance of sheep and the proximity of Evershot to some of the most important cloth manufacturers in the area, at Ilminster and Martock, it comes no surprise that Martin’s first venture into farming involved sheep. The first entry comes from 1821,

24th September 1821

Pd Mr Wm Trenchard for 8 wether20 sheep last Toller Down Fair £9 11s 0d

William Trenchard was born in 1791 and in Pigots directory for 1830 is listed as the village butcher. He would die in September 1864 a month before his 7month old grandson. Trenchard appears in numerous transactions although the sums do not always add up as in the entry below.

23rd October 1838

Sold Mr Trenchard 30 Sheep at 37s each

Reced of Mr Trenchard for Twenty Lambs £24

Dec 1838

Reced of Mr Trenchard for 37 Sheep and two Calves £58 15 6d

In the 1851 census Trenchard is also listed as a farmer employing two men and it is a fair assumption that he is supplying livestock as well as slaughtering them. As late as 1862 Martin was still breeding and selling sheep to Trenchard. Each Christmas a “Christmas Meat Show” was held at Dorchester and a report in the Dorset County Chronicle noted that Trenchard had “some very good down wethers, bred and fed by Mr Martin of Evershot”. Trenchard was not the only butcher he used.

8th March 1852

Reced of Butcher Way of Sherborne for Ten Sheep see 2nd Feb this is 10 out of 20 sheep £16

Of all his farming activities his sheep are the best documented. First he had to buy them and there are several entries relating to this.

13th September 1838

Went to Dorchester Races with Edwin in the Carriage Dined at Mr Caines and paid him for 30 sheep

Paid for a Watch for Edwin £12

Pd Mr Caines for 30 sheep£46

Paid expenses at the Races 5s 6d

16th September 1852

Went to Chelborough & Purchased 100 Pen Lambs of Mr Paul

Pd Mr Paul for 100 Lambs 24s each £120 chk W&D

2nd October 1852

Returned Home by way of Milborne Port and purchased of Mr Sealy 100 lambs

Purchased 100 Lambs of Mr Sealy of Milborne Port at 23/6d per head less 10s £117.00

6th September 1854

At Home & Went to Woolcombe & Purchased of Mr Arthur Dibble 100 Lambs at 22s each

30th October 1861

At Home purchased 66 Wethers of Widow Tompkins at 35s per head £115 10s 0d

After purchase he next had to ensure that they were marked.

8th October 1852

Marking the Milborne Port Lambs &c

7th August 1854

Attendg work People Marking Sheep &c

4th September 1854

Marked my Sheep &c

Stevenson notes that “lambs are marked only with the initial of the owners surname with a pitched brand”. “Two teethed sheep” that is to say one year old’s had two letters branded on their near shoulder, four teethed sheep [two years old] had the same marks on the middle of their near side and six teeth sheep [three years old] were branded on the off side. What he fails to mention is which side is which!

In late May and early June of each year he ‘washed’ his sheep. Stevenson reports “This necessary operation is performed in some parts of the county by women, who stand in the water and hold the sheep under spouts that convey the stream upon them, in the same manner as is generally done by men in other parts of the kingdom.” Stevenson was so shocked at the thought of women undertaking this work that in the original he actually italicised the word women. He also noted that the modern trend was for a part of a stream to be dug out to a size sufficient to contain twenty sheep. This was walled and had “proper conveniences for letting in fresh water” and the sheep were then put into the pit and “pushed about from side to side, with crooks, poles &c for two or three minutes.”

2nd June 1852

At Home on Various matters Washed my Sheep &c

5th June 1854

At Home on Various matters – Went to Ransom -My Sheep were washed

16th May 1861

At Home [Washed my Sheep]

Sometimes he had them coloured as well as washed. Colouring sheep has a very long history and was, and still is, done to make them look smarter often prior to sale. Even today sheep that have been coloured command a higher price at market.

25th August 1852

At Home on Various matters [had the Sheep Coloured]

10th August 1854

Preparing Fold for Coloring sheep

11th August 1854

At Home on Various matters & Went to Ransom

12th August


At Home on Various matters sent for Sheep from Coker to be Coloured

14th August 1854

Attending Colouring & dipping of my Sheep [223]

Pd Hitchcock dipping and Coloring my Sheep 11s

Pd after coloring my Sheep 8s

After colouring and in preparation for selling the sheep they sometimes needed tidying up a little.

1st September 1854

Attending Trimming my Sheep for the Fair

Paid Trimming Sheep 10s

Unfortunately all this work did not always pay off,

7th September 1854

Toller Down Fair Board Day

Went to Toller Down Fair but did not sell my Sheep – Dined at Arthurs with Mr James

Dipping of course served a different purpose as it was to protect the sheep against blow fly, lice, mites and ticks. The first ever sheep dip was made in 1830 by a chemist from Coldstream in Scotland named George Wilson [the shop he opened is still thriving although not named for him]. How widely it was used is not known and it was not until 1854 that William Cooper of Berkhamstead a vet produced and marketed a standardised dip in powder form. This was added to water in which the sheep were then dipped. Even with William Coopers standardised dip there were risks,

15th August 1854

At Home on Various matters & went to Ransom Two of my Sheep died tonight I blame the dipping

15th September 1854

At Home had my 100 Lambs dipt [sic] at Woolcombe bot. of Mr Dibble in fact only [99] one of them died

Given that the dip was made from arsenic and sulphur it is probable that it was not only the sheep who were at risk. The sheep were not only at risk from the dip; on occasions they had to be treated for foot rot and this recipe is written in the frontispiece of the 1852 diary,

Mr James of Mappowder for Foot Rot

2oz Sugar of Lead

2 Do Blue Stone

2 Do Gunpowder

I litre Oil Petre

Tablespoon of Oil of Vitriol

Linseed Oil Sufficient to make Salve

On the other hand the hassle of making it all up seems to have been too much for him as in July he noted,

17th July 1852

Pd Foot Rot ointment &c 2s

4th October 1852

Pd for Foot Rot stuff 2s 6d

Shearing was next on the agenda. To the modern reader this may not seem a strange activity but it too was, at least in farming terms, a modern innovation. The standard method of obtaining wool for centuries had been to pluck it and it was only in the 17th century that the custom of “pulling off the wool yearly from living sheep” was declared illegal.21 It is surprising again that for all the years he kept sheep the first mention of shearing is found in the 1852 diary,

9th June 1852

At Home on Various matters Sheep Shearing 85 Pen Hogs & 8 Chilvers22 Do a very Wet day

Pd Sheep Shearers 10s

10th June 1854

At Home had my sheep sheared [103]

23rd May 1861

At Home Sheep shearing 108 Sheep [91 Wethers and Seventeen Ewes]

As professional work waned sheep took up a large part of Martin’s time and there are numerous entries in the later diaries. A lot of it seems to have been spent driving them to and fro between Evershot and West Coker, presumably in an effort to regulate the grazing on his land. The following is only a flavour of the journeys he made with them although the first is enigmatic.

10th January 1852

Attended Westwoods walking [sic] Sheep &c Arthur and Wife returned

3rd March 1852

Went to Coker with my 80 Sheep – Dined at Mr Genges East Chinnock

1st April 1852

At Home on Various matters Sent for 50 of my Sheep from Coker

31st May 1852

Went to Coker and had home the 30 Sheep there

2nd August 1852

Attending Turnip Hoeing at Westwoods &c Drew out 40 of my Sheep to sent to Coker

3rd August 1852

Writing Letters &c And sent the 40 sheep to Coker [A Wet day] Fine in the afternoon

24th August 1852

Do Had the 40 Sheep back from Coker

There is no note of him sending them back to Coker but in December he went to see them there. There were a number of incidental costs to keeping sheep,

3rd May 1852

Gave Dolphin Groves Looking to Sheep 5s

17th December 1852

Pd for a sheeps crib 3s

3rd April 1854

Paid Mr Fox of Frampton for Four Sheep Troughs £1 12s

24th December 1854

Paid for a Sheep Dog 5s

All too often they died or fell ill in mysterious circumstances,

14th January 1852

At Home on Various matters killed a Sheep which was Fell broken

It is not clear what he means by “Fell broken” but it is probable that it is his name for the liver fluke. Stevenson gives a good description of “the flat animals that are found in the livers of rotten sheep” which were called locally “plaice from their resemblance to the fish of that name.” The entry for 14th September sounds a bit like country folk lore for superstition was still very widespread in rural areas,

13th March 1854

At Home Had Moved my Cider Back from Summer Lodge -[a Sheep died]

14th September 1854

[One of my Lambs died stung by some reptile]

15th May 1861

[A Hot Day]

At Home – Do One of my Lambs died

Although it occurred in a non-diary year there was “Considerable consternation..produced at Evershot…in consequence of the havoc being made by some ferocious but undiscovered animal among the different sheep flocks.” This beast had apparently killed numerous sheep and had caused “the different farmers and flockmasters to co-operate and as many as twenty-five have gone out on the search.” The animal was never caught but “Some of the more superstitious ascribe the deaths to the supposed evil spirit whose foot marks were recently left so extensively and widely spread in the snow at Dawlish and other towns in Devonshire”.23

One condition which was much feared was the giddy sheep. In 1861 he owned one.

23rd December 1861

Reced for a Giddy Sheep 15s

John Claridge in 1793 described the ‘Goggles’ [sic] affecting sheep “the first symptom is a violent itching, which is very soon succeeded by a dizziness in the head, staggering of gait and weakness of the back” it was an invariably fatal disease and appeared to be transmissible to others in the flock. The disease was still present, although not so prevalent nineteen year later when Stevenson also described the intense itching and the way the sheep “reel around as if intoxicated.” Today the disease is known as Scrapie but there is still no cure.

Sometimes the sheep escaped from their pens and appear to have damaged other people’s land, although who David Lovelace was is not known.

4th November 1854

Pd David Lovelace damages by my Sheep May 18th 1853 £1

The time came when the sheep had to be sold some as we have seen some went to the local butcher and it will be seen that as between 1838 and 1854 the price per sheep had not varied by more than two shillings.

23rd October 1838

Sold Mr Trenchard 30 Sheep at 37s each

30th August 1854

At Home on Various matters went to Ransom sold 7 Sheep to Mr Trenchard at 35s each and Tegg Flat Heifers at £17 each = £46 5s[all paid see 11th Oct]

10th October 1854

Reced of Mr Trenchard for Two heifers and Seven Sheep £46 5s

Pd Bill for Meat £3 10 7 ½ d

Usually however they were sent to the local fair although not always with success,

28th September 1854

Attending Stafford Fair sold 80 Wethers to a Mr John Brake at £132 33s/ each a very bad Fair – Edwin went Shooting at ### Mr Patten slept here

3rd September 1861

At Home selecting Sheep for Toller Down Fair

4th September 1861

At Home marking Sheep

7th September 1861

Attending Toller Down Fair

[Did not sell my Sheep]

In the early years the sheep were driven along the numerous drove roads or drift-ways to these fairs but there is no record of any shepherd per se,

3rd May 1852

Gave Dolphin Groves Looking to Sheep 5s

7th August 1854

Attendg work People Marking Sheep &c

14th August 1854

Pd Hitchcock dipping and Coloring my Sheep 11s

with the arrival of the railway habits changed,

5th October 1861

At Home on Various matters sent 40 Sheep to Dorchester for Sale

Pd sending 40 Sheep to Dorchester by Train 8s Pd Labourers £1 14s 6d

11th November 1861

Sheep to Dorchester by train 9s

Finally after disposing of the sheep the fleeces had to be sold as well. The first entry comes from 1821 and is written on the inside of the frontispiece but it is not certain if it relates to his own wool or not since other entries in the same part of the diary refer to Wraxall.

82 Fleeces & Lambs wool at 1s per lb [imperial pound weight]

1 Pack 1 weight @ 29 lb

Mr Hine appears to have been a regular purchaser but who he was is not known

13th September 1852

Reced of Mr Hine for my wool £18 19s chk on Stuckeys Cashed at Yeovil

1st August 1854

Went to Ransom and sold my Wool to Mr Hine at 1s per lb

31st August 1854

At Home on Various matters – sent to Coker after Sheep & Wool

18th September 1854

At Home made out Valuation of Farmer Guppy Farm Hardington and [Mr Hine Packed my Wool]

IN PENCIL My Two Wool Cloths No 10 & 11 to be returned by Mr Hine

Martin bought 99 sheep from Arthur Dibble a farmer at Woolcombe in 1854 and he appears to have left them with him to graze at Woolcombe, there being no evidence that Martin owned land there.

In 1861 he records sending his wool to Martock, then an important cloth manufacturing town in Somerset.

20th September 1861

Weigh’d my Woolcombe 108 Fleeces 500lb at 16 ½ d = £34 7s 6d

21st September 1861

Sent my Wool in 2 cloths nos 2 & 5 to Martock

2nd October 1861

Reced of Mr Adams for my Wool 108 Sheeps fleeces at 16 ½ per lb £34 7s 6d

Aside from chickens which are not mentioned anywhere in the diaries the remaining farm animals that Martin kept were pigs. Throughout the diaries there are references to him buying or selling pigs. A few are given below,

7th October 1821

Pd Thos Beater for Pig £1

31st December 1821

Paid Robert Way for ½ a pig at 3 ½ d per lb 8s 9d

17th April 1827

Paid for a Pig £1 9s

4th June 1827

Pd for Two Pigs £2 18s 0d

5th June 1832

Paid for Two Pigs £1 16s

31st December 1832

Pd Mr Trenchards Meat Bill £20 17s 10d

Reced of him for Pig Meat 19s 6d

25th July 1838

Paid for two Pigs £3 10s

6th August 1838

Received for a Pig £3 12s

There is one reference to the care of pigs, and several to their slaughter which he does not seem to have done himself, leaving it to John Christopher another local butcher. In view of the upset over Joseph Crew Jennings one wonder if the March entry had any particular significance?

7th August 1852

At Home on Various matters Attending Building Wall by Pig Sty

10th February 1845

Paid John Criss Killing pigs 7s

28th March 1854

At Home – Mr Crew Jennings was Buried at Evershot -Killed a Pig 10s 16lb

If we are to judge from the diaries his diet in 1861 must have been almost entirely pork, although to judge from the first and third entries he was raising them to sell on as well as eat himself.

13th January 1861

Reced J Cris for Two Pigs 15st 7lb at 10/3d Score £7 17s 3d

10th April 1861

[Kill’d Two Pigs] 22 score 14lb

2nd October 1861

[Kill’d a Pig]

Reced for a Pig £7 10s 6d

Pd for Two Pigs £3 4s

Horses were a vital part of Martin’s working life. He could hardly have covered the distances that he did without them. None of his horses are ever mentioned by name although there is this enigmatic entry, one can imagine that he might keep a favourite horse or dog in retirement,

23rd September 1861

Pd Misses James for Keep of Old George £2 5s

Most of the entries relating to horses are concerned with the costs of running and maintaining a horse. Remember this was an era where the average annual salary for an agricultural labourer was about twenty six pound a year it can be seen that buying a horse was beyond the means of most people.

6th November 1821

Reced of Mr J Jennings for a Pony £12 0s 0d

31st December 1832

Paid Mr Templeman for a Pony £10 10s 0d

Paid for Keep of Colt £5 10s 6d

4th December 1845

Reced of Mr Geo Bucknell by Arthur Dibble for Horse £24

20th January 1861

Pd Mr Trenchards Bill including £30 for a Horse £44 15s 10 ½d

In addition to the £1 8s 9d duty on a single horse [1845] there were additional ongoing costs of which only a few are shown here,

12th March 1821

Pd for errands and Shoeing Horse 3s

15th May 1821

Pd Curtis of Ransom Shoeing Horse 10s 4d

19th May 1821

Put Pony on Ransom Hill


22nd May 1821

Pd Andrew Groves for having my Horse Shoed at Bridport and Turnpike 3s

26th February 1827

Paid Man looking after Cows and Horse 4s 6d

Pd Shoeing Horse at Ransom 2s

5th September 1827

Paid Mr Pouncey for a New Horse Brush 4s 6d

14th June 1832

Paid Hay & Straw Mr Caines when on Permanent duty 5s

Paid Mr Caines for keep of my Horse when measuring at Charminster 10s

17th March 1845

Paid for New Pony Harness Horse Cloth &c £6 4s 6d

In 1832 Martin decided to buy a pony chaise, the duty on which was another six pounds a year.

9th July 1832

Pd Mr Edwards for Green Cloth for Pony Chaise £2 15s 0d

26th July 1832

Went to Sherborne Fair and had a Pony of Mr Helby on Trial

19th September 1832

Doing a Little to Maiden Newton Allotting and went to Totnel Corner and bought a Pony cart

21st September 1832

Met Mr Lever of Wimborne with Pony Chaise and returned by way of Dorchester and bought Edwin Home for Two or three days’s

By 1845 Edwin was in a position now to buy his own horse but dad of course had to go and collect it.

31st July 1845

Went to Chinnock Arthur with me after a Horse Edwin Bought of Wm Templeman

Its not clear whether the pony chaise of 1832 is the same as the carriage of 1838 or the carriage of 1854. These sound more substantial than the chaise even though it/they incurred heavy maintenance costs.

12th February 1838

Paid Stroud of Fordington mending my Carriage £1 16s 8d

13th September 1838

Went to Dorchester Races with Edwin in the Carriage Dined at Mr Caines and paid him for 30 sheep

9th November 1838

Mending Carriage 19s 6d

22nd August 1854

Pd Mr Richd Hill for repairing Carriage £15

Pd Mr Chas Dowding for New Carriage Harness £8

By 1854 Arthur has acquired his own carriage,

2nd May 1854

Visitation at Sherborne 10 O Clock

Went to Visitation with Arthur in his Carriage

The family had come along way since 1827 when he had hired a coach to take his beloved daughter Eleanor to school.

6th August 1827

Eleanor went to Yeovil School Mrs Frys

Paid Eleanor’s Coach Hire to Yeovil 7s

If horses were an essential part of life they were no safer then than now and Martin records three incidents of falls from horses.

18th April 1845

Sent Mr Ashleys Valuation of Fordington Went to Holywell to see Chas Jesty who met with an Accident from his Horse and doing Various Jobs in the Office

30th March 1854

At Home on Various matters

[Edwin left] Captain Digby had a severe accident [out Hunting]

In 1861 when he was eighty one years old Martin records falling of a horse himself. At the time it was not enough to stop him from going coursing but delayed shock must have set in [hardly surprising given his age] and it took him two days to recover.

26th February 1861

[Had a Fall from the Horse]

Went Coursing at Chantmarle with Arthur & Mr Wm Pope Dined at Arthurs

27th February 1861

At Home rather Unwell

28th February 1861

At Home Do

Accidents of another sort happened from time to time as in this entry from 1854, given the gestation period of a horse its a shame we don’t have the 1855 diary to know the final outcome.

2nd August 1854

Attending workpeople in Nine Acres

Tom Hows Stallion broke into my Field with my Mare

It does not seem that Martin was happy about this but on the other hand Claridge reported that stud fees were half a guinea [10/6d or 55p] a time so he might secretly have been pleased.

Agricultural Improver

Much of John Martins work was concerned with inclosures. In the 18th century a rising population and wars in America and against France increased the demand for food necessitating a more productive form of agriculture. As we have seen the open field system of farming required a particular type of organisation and management and it was generally believed that it could not be adapted to the new agricultural techniques being introduced. In the open field system for example cattle and sheep were often grazed together and the farmers used a bull or ram common to all. Only by inclosure and the isolation of a farmers own stock was it possible to breed animals selectively.

Without altering the course, or way, that agriculture was practised , there could be no real improvements in productivity. During the course of the 18th century the population doubled and the farming community responded was able to increase output to feed the people. By the end of the 18th century the strain was being felt but this was as much due to the pressures on farming from the continental wars as from the increase in population. Tull’s “Horse Hoe Husbandry” is an excellent example of this spirit, combining as it does reasoned argument with evidence from experiments. It was also a highly practical manual.

It is likely that Martin was probably always an improver, some of the earliest entries in the 1810 diaries suggest this. Martin probably had a copy of Tull’s work and he would almost certainly have seen the two Board of Agriculture reports. The family names of Mr Bridge, Mr Cox, Mr Pitfield, Mr Hennings and Mr Clapcott occur both in Stevenson’s report and the diaries. The latter are spread over some fifty years so it is doubtful that the men mentioned by Stevenson were necessarily the same individuals in the diaries but their families almost certainly were. How successful the Board of Agriculture report were is not known and in any case it was forced to close in 1822 because of the prevailing economic conditions. How then were the latest advances in agriculture to be disseminated? Writing in 1912 Ernle described that what was needed was “some agency which would raise the general level of farming by making the best practices of the best agriculturists common knowledge. The problem was not readily solved…To diffuse scientific and practical information among agriculturists was difficult seventy years ago. Books were expensive, and those for whom they were written were often unable to read.”24

Martin was not himself against book learning,

13th October 1827

Paid Mr Penny for Loudens Agriculture £2 10s 0d

John Loudon’s life was contemporaneous with John Martin’s, having been born in 1783. He was a professional botanist and garden designer having trained at the University of Edinburgh. In 1825 he published his ‘Encyclopaedia of Agriculture’ a massive tome which ran to almost twelve hundred pages and in today’s terms cost Martin nearly £170.

The answer to Ernle’s problem was the establishment in 1838 of the Royal Agricultural Society. He waxed lyrical about its achievements, “Without exaggeration it may be said that the general standard of excellence to which fanning has attained throughout the kingdom has been to a considerable extent the work of the Royal Agricultural Society. For more than seventy years it has been the heart and brain of agriculture.”

In June 1844 John Martin was elected a member of the society which I think establishes his credentials as an agricultural improver.

The crucial first step towards improvement process, upon which all else depended, was to provide more fodder for the animals over winter. Hitherto in the average year there was only just enough hay or straw to maintain the draught animals and a small breeding stock over the winter. The rest had to be slaughtered, the meat then being salted for consumption over the winter and into the spring. By increasing winter fodder more, and better nourished animals were available to cultivate the extra land brought into cultivation by inclosure. These additional animals provided more dung and this coupled with other soil improving measures improved the output from the arable fields. Martin’s agricultural activities reflected all these various improvements and more as we will see.

The Boards of Agriculture were still driving improvement forward and Martin was looking to learn. Another example comes from the following entry,

1st – 3rd March 1810

At Home

“An Artificial called Lucerne The seed is about [3 a lb??] and 15 will sow an acre durable for 15 years good mown once the first year twice the second & 3 times a year after—”

It had long been recognised that to grow arable crops on the same patch of land led to a diminution in the productive capacity of the land. The traditional way to overcome this was known as three course crop rotation.25 In the fallow year no crops were grown on the land but inevitably vegetation of some sort grew up and as it was not ploughed until the next autumn it was sometimes possible to graze animals on the land after it had been harvested. Nevertheless it was seen as an unproductive year, which in many respects it was. In the 17th century a farmer, Sir Richard Weston, effectively abolished the fallow year by sowing that field with clover, this not only restored nitrogen to the ground but in time would produce a crop that could be harvested and grazed before ploughing. The three course rotation and its modification is shown below.

Field 1

Field 2

Field 3

Year 1

Winter Corn [Wheat]

Spring Corn [Barley]

Fallow [Clover]

Year 2

Spring Corn

Fallow [Clover]

Winter Corn

Year 3

Fallow [Clover]

Winter Corn

Spring Corn

Lucerne was hardly a new crop, Jethro Tull had written about it26 in his Horse Hoeing Husbandry of 1731 but as Orwin pointed out the dissemination of new information was a slow business. In April there is a further reference to Lucerne but in this case it appears he was acting as an agent in buying the seed for someone else.

25th- 27thApril 1810

Paid for Lucerne seed £1

Received of Mr Field for the Lucerne seed £1

However in 1838 we see him buying Clover seeds for his own land,

23rd October 1838

Reced ½ Years Rent &c of Mr Bengefield for my Chilthorne Land due Michas 1838 £14 6s 10d Paid him what he paid for Clover Seeds &c as Bill £1 3s

There are no further entries for clover or lucerne in the diaries but there are several others to another legume family – the vetches. These seem to have been his preferred crop for use on the fallows in the long term,

11th May 1852

Pd Mr Wm Henning for Vetches 6s

6th October 1854

Went to Yeovil and purchased Six Bushels of Vetches at 12s per B of Mr Chard of Haselbury

11th October 1854

IN PENCIL sold Mr Trenchard 3 sheep for £2 10s this day

At Home on Various had Vetches sowed

18th October 1861

Do Sow’d ½ an Acre of Vetches

Improving the provision of fodder began during the 17th century with the introduction of clover by Sir Richard Weston but perhaps the more famous man associated with agricultural improvement was Charles, 2nd Viscount Townshend. He was a politician who retired from public life in 1730 and devoted himself to farming his estate in Norfolk. He is most famous for his introduction of turnips into the course of agriculture earning him the nick name of ‘Turnip’ Townshend. By so doing he avoided a crop rotation which involved two corn crops in succession.

Field 1

Field 2

Field 3

Field 4

Year 1

Winter Corn


Spring Corn


Year 2


Spring Corn


Winter Corn

Year 3

Spring Corn


Winter Corn


Year 4


Winter Corn


Spring Corn

So successful was this new rotation that by the late 1700’s turnips had become a staple crop throughout the country- except it seems in Dorset. Claridge in his 1793 report notes that the three course rotation, albeit with clover sown on the fallow, was still in use and recommended a swap to the four course system which included turnips. It is perhaps surprising not surprising then that the first diary entry that mentions turnips comes from 1852, quite late in Martin’s farming career,

29th May 1852

Pd 12lb of Turnip Seeds 6s

16th June 1852

“Pomerania Turnips” is entered on its own without any explanation in the accounts section.

16th July 1852

Sowed Turnips in 9 acres

The next entries in this series raises some intriguing questions,

2nd August 1852

Attending Turnip Hoeing at Westwoods

18th August 1852

At Home on Various matters attendg Turnip Hoers at Westwoods

Pd Jack Squibb Hoeing Turnips 14s 6d

26th August 1852

Pd Women about Turnips 4s 6d

6th October 1852

Pd Jack Squibb remainder for Turnip Hoeing Paid to Arthur 5s 6d

Tull had been very strong on the subject of hoeing, “the breaking or dividing the Soil by Tillage, whilst the Corn or other Plants are growing thereon.” Today we think of hoeing in connection with gardening but in his day it was done not so much to remove weeds but to improve the soil by reducing the tendency of the soil to compaction. As early as 1730 Tull had advocated the use of a horse drawn hoe but Claridge reported that “The bean crop here is always sown; never set drilled hoed or cleaned, nor is the hoe used on any crop whatever.” [My emphasis]. Stevenson noted only two farmers using the horse hoe and if the evidence from the diaries is taken into account hoeing of any sort was not in widespread use [at least in west Dorset] until the 1850’s and horse hoeing not until the 1860’s.

31st July 1861

At Home & at Westwoods Began Horse Hoeing Swedes

Jethro Tull’s Horse Hoe

It would appear from Claridge that turnips were not grown in Dorset in his time. He recommends that they should be as part of the four course rotation. Nineteen years later Stevenson notes that “This kind of crop…is comparatively of late introduction in the county of Dorset.” It appears that the turnip had been introduced almost by chance when a local gentleman [unnamed] cultivated some turnips and then distributed them free to his neighbours. In 1812 “Swedish turnips have been introduced into perhaps all parts of the county, but the quantity of them which is cultivated is very trivial.” Some slight advance from the previous century was seen “it may be said that turnips are generally hoed, there are nevertheless many exceptions.”The first entry about turnips comes from 1854 when we find Martin sowing turnips for and buying a mechanical turnip cutter. The turnips were fed into a hopper and rotary blades chopped them up into pieces for feeding directly to the animals,

21st June 1854

Finished the Turnip sowing

5th July 1854

Pd Mr John Dunham of Bridport for a Turnip cutter £5 10s Chk W&D Dorchester

The following entry from October 1854 is of interest,

12th October 1854

Pd Goldring Watching Turnips 2s

It seems that turnips were quite commonly stolen and this is the reason for him setting a watch over his turnips. Not that setting a watch necessarily worked for in 1855 a notice in the local paper read,

“EVERSHOT – TURNIP STEALING.- A barn belonging to John Martin Esq., was broken into a few nights since and a quantity of swedish turnips stolen therefrom. Mr Martin has offered a reward of £1 for the discovery of the thieves.”

He was not the only one to suffer as the same report noted the theft of turnips from his friend and neighbour; this time navvies working on the Wiltshire, Somerset and Weymouth railway were blamed,

“On Tuesday morning last two navvies were taken into custody, having been caught stealing turnips from a field of Charles Jesty, Esq., of Holywell. They were discharged with caution.”

A report in October of the same year names those responsible for the theft from Martin’s land,

“COUNTY PETTY SESSIONS – Sarah Sartin and Jane Groves were summoned for stealing turnips, the property of Mr John Martin of Evershot. The women said that they did not go out with the intention to steal, – they only picked up the turnips up [sic] as they passed through the field.- Ordered to pay the value of the turnips and the expenses amounting to 7s each – Allowed a week.”

Rural crime was not uncommon and Martin was a victim on another occasion,

11th October 1845

Working a Little on Abbotsbury and on Farming works &c -some one stole two small Tubs from Marsh Orchard House [in which I fed my Cows with oil cake in] last night.

In the early 1830’s and 1840’s the turnip crop had suffered extensively from the turnip fly and although various chemical means such as ‘Downs Turnip Grower’s Friend’ were introduced, there was no effective treatment. This may be why that at the same time as he was planting swedes he had also diversified into planting swedes and manglewurzels or mangles as he calls them.

As with turnips, swedes appear in the 1852 diary,

24th June 1852

Sowed 4 acres of Swedes at Westwoods

The next entry in June 1854 is interesting as it seems to refer to a mechanical drill being used to plant the swede seed. Tull had advocated drilling versus broadcast seeding as the latter was wasteful.

19th June 1854

At Home & went to Ransom & Holywell Had 2 acres of Swedes drilled in 9 acres

The crop could be grazed in the field or taken up – a not inconsiderable expense in this case,

13th November 1854

At Home on Various matters Rain Came attendg taking up Sweed’s [sic]

20th November 1854

Attending taking up Swedes &c

Paid women Swedes & Mangles 17s 8d

Do Do 4s

Swedes also make an appearance in the 1861 diary and as we have seen show that they were hoed by horse.

14th June 1861

[Sowed Swedes at Westwoods]

Pd Labourers £ 1 7s 2d

18th July 1861

Do at Westwoods about Swedes

22nd July 1861

At Home & attending at Westwoods about Swedes

Pd Labourers Swedes &c £2 12s

31st July 1861

At Home & at Westwoods Began Horse Hoeing Swedes

Mangolds appear for the first time in 1854 and give the most complete set of entries, the entry from the 19th May refers to the work force clearing the land of couch grass. Note how Martin uses the word mangle as a verb. He appears not to have repeated the experiment for there are no entries for 1861 concerning mangles.

8th April 1854

Pd Men Hauling dung &c for Mangle £1 10s

4th May 1854

Went to Ransom in the forenoon & preparing Lines for setting Mangle in Afternoon

5th May 1854

At Home Went to Ransom and attendg Planting Mangle in Garden

6th May 1854

[Mr Fountain came as Servant]

Planting Mangle in Nine Acres and settled Rent with Mr Bengefield

Pd All labourers this week £1 5s

8th May 1854

Attendg Nine Acres Planting Mangle ½ day rain came on

9th May 1854

Do Finished Planting Mangle

19th May 1854

Attendg in Nine Acres with People Couching &c

6th July 1854

Attending People about the Mangle in Nine Acres & went to Ransom

11th July 1854

Attendg Manglers in Nine Acres &c and Went to Ransom

12th July 1854

At Home & went to Ransom Manglers worked till ¼ to Eleven when rain came on

10th November 1854

At Home attending taking up Mangle

20th November 1854

Attending taking up Swedes &c

Paid women Swedes & Mangles 17s 8d

The Mangold Harvest 1887 held by the British Library. Public Domain licence.

If the first stage of agricultural improvement was to increase the winter feed of the animals the second was to improve the quality of the soil. Traditionally there were two ways of doing this. The first was dung.

Tull has mixed feelings about dung although he devotes a whole chapter to the stuff. On the one hand it must not be used in kitchen gardens “on account of the ill taste it gives to esculent27 roots and plants” on the other hand he recognises it as being necessary for the production of corn and makes a very interesting observation that in the country “very few Fields can have the Conveniency of a sufficient Supply of Dung, to enable them to produce half the wheat those will do near Cities, where they have Plenty of it.” This was presumably horse manure rather than from cattle or sheep but he does not distinguish the types of dung. Dung he believed “contain some Matter, which, when mixt with the Soil, ferments therein and by such Ferment dissolves crumbles, and divides the Earth very much: This is the chief, and almost only Use of Dung”. He had found from experiment that when he applied it directly to the roots of a mint plants it killed them and concluded; “this proves that it’s use is not to nourish but to dissolve the terrestrial matter”. The dissolving action led to a finer soil and thus brought the roots into closer contact with the soil thus increasing output.

The diaries contain numerous entries concerning dung none of them particularly illuminating other than to indicate the enormous effort that went into carting the stuff about,

3rd April 1821

Pd Wm Miller for Dung 10s

19th February 1827

David Childs and Son Wheeling Dung into my Garden and myself Pruning Bushes

Paid David Childs in full of all demand 5s 6d

David Child was an agricultural labourer and in the 1841 census he and his wife have six children including a pair of fifteen year old twins. Like Martin himself.

25th January 1827

John Beaten Hauling Dung

27th February 1832

Hauling Dung to Ransom Land and Dined at Mr John Jennings’s with Messrs Jesty &c

10th June 1845

Attending Hauling Dung and Work People about the Milk House

2nd July 1845

Pd John Christopher for Dung 14s

1st April 1854

At Home attendg Hauling Dung into 9 acres

3rd April 1854

Attendg Hauling Dung into Nine Acres &c

8th April 1854

Pd Men Hauling dung &c for Mangle £1 10s

11th April 1854

Do Do at Melbury with Arthur examining Papers with Lord Ilchester Purchased Manure of John Christopher £3

31st May 1861

At Home casting Dung to Westwoods bought of J Christopher

1st June 1861

Went to Dorchester^ by Train still carting Dung to Westwoods

3rd June 1861

IN PENCIL Cowslip to B Calve March 10th

At Home – finished hauling Dung from Chris’s 20 loads £4 1 0d

17th June 1861

Reced of J Chris for 13 Lambs £14 6s

Pd him for Dung &c £4 16s 7d

The second method of improving the soil also had an ancient history and is mentioned by Walter of Henley in his “Dite de Hosebondrie” or book of husbandry from about 1280 AD and that is marl. The problem for the agriculturalist was that the definition and composition of marl varied, for it could be a calcium rich clay, soft rock made of marl stone or a clay rich in crushed shells. Peoples opinions also varied on the value of marling. Walter believed in it as did Fitzherbert in the 16th century but it appears to have fallen out of favour and Tull does not mention it at all. By the early 18th century the practice of marling had almost died out as farmers believed that marl was “good for the father, bad for the son.” It was down to Townshend in Norfolk to introduce the practice on his lands and in the process prove them all wrong.

Marl had three main effects, it contained calcium carbonate28, in varying quantities, which being alkaline, helped correct the tendency of soil to become acidic over time and in addition it replaced the calcium and other trace elements removed from the soil by grazing animals.29 Finally it also improved the physical structure of the soil. At some time, probably in the 17th century, farmers began to use limestone from chalk pits instead of marl from pits. At first this was principally in areas where the soil was already clay [it made little sense to add more clay to a clay soil when all you needed was the calcium] but it use then became more widespread. During the 18th century two forms of lime were used, the first was burnt lime, quite literally the chalk was burned by heating up in a kiln and the second was simply crushing and grinding the limestone into as small particles as possible. 30 As fuel was short in some parts of Scotland they landowners found by experiment that there was no advantage to burning the limestone, this was significant as burnt or quick lime was intensely caustic and crushed limestone was a lot safer to use. Despite this being known in 18th century Scotland the information had not reached Dorset where it was still being burnt.

Stevenson noted that “At Rampisham lime is made of chalk, and is possessed of the excellent quality of becoming hard under water. This lime has the quality of growing [as it is termed] under the water, by which is meant that it seems to increase at the joints and spread further than it was laid on. It is very probable that the chalk of which this is made, contains a mixture of the earth called magnesia.”

Given his close association with Rampisham it is likely that when he first uses it he bought it from the lime burners there,

27th December 1845

Pd Mr Cooper for Lime 5s 5d

9th January 1852

Pd Himbury for Lime 3s 9d

but later in 1852 he appears to be be engaged in making the lime himself,

17th – 20th March 1852

Paid Men Ploughing Lime Burning &c £1 7s

25th March 1852

At Westwoods attending Lime Pit

Paid Men Ploughing Lime Burning &c £1 7s

The second of April 1852 was not a good day for a variety of reasons,

2nd April 1852

At home on Various matters [Took medicine]

Bob Sartains Lime Burning turned out good for nothing

Nothing ventured nothing gained however for he persisted with the burning,

14th April 1852

Pd Sartain Lime Kiln work 4s

1st May 1852

Pd Men Lime Kiln 12s

5th May 1852

Pd Men Lime Kiln work 15s

In May he seems to have given up on Bob Sartain and began to employ others,

12th May 1852

Pd Wellman Lime Work 5s 4d

17th May 1852

At Westwoods on Lime Kiln and Writing Letters &c

1st July 1852

Pd Mr Reynolds for work turning Lime Banks £1 13s 10d

At the end of the day he had to have a new lime kiln built,

12th July 1852

Pd Chedd Building Lime Kiln £7 15s 6d

and the work put into the hands of someone who seemed more professional,

11th May 1852

Pd Lewis of Ransom 24 sack Lime £1 4s

26th July 1852

Pd Lewis of Ransom for 14 Sacks of Lime & 6s towards burning Lime at Westwoods £1

28th September 1852

Paid for two Lime Baskets 3s

7th October 1852

Pd Geo Lewis on acct Lime Burning £1

Bob Sartain appears periodically throughout the diary and is worthy of mention at this stage. He first appears in 1832, and undertook many jobs for Martin. he was particularly good at hedge laying and hay ricking, but had a number of other roles often working in collaboration with others,

19th March 1832

Paid Sartain for Pitching 6s

5th April 1838

Paid Sartain for Hedging 15s 6d

14th April 1845

Paid John Tompkins & Bob Sartain in full £2 6s 8d

2nd May 1845

Pd Sartain Drawing Rick 5s

Whether or not the transfer of work away from Bob Sartain in May 1852 was relevant or not the next entry in November was when Sartain and his family entered the Beaminster Workhouse [the Union]. At the time Sartain was fifty one years old with four children between six and fifteen years of age.

10th November 1852

Bob Sartain & Family went to the Union

The winter months were always the worst for a labourer as there was little work to be had. We don’t know how long the family spent in the workhouse but he reappears in Evershot in the 1854 diary and Martin employed him periodically thereafter,

14th January 1854

Bob Sartain making Courtland Hedge 8s 2d

19th January 1854

Pd Bob Sartain for work 10s

occasionally Sartain’s son John worked for him as well,

27th January 1854

Pd Bob Sartain 14s

Sartains Boy 1s

5th February 1854

Pd Bob Sartain making Hedges in Three Cornered Ground & Pipers Hay sideling } over leaf

7th February 1854

Bob Sartain Hedging 17s 2d

15th February 1854

Pd Bob Sartain making Hedge in Piperhay 15s 7d

28th March 1854

Gave Bob Sartain makg Cow Crib 1s

Oddly he does not appear in the 1861 diary although he was still in the village ; he died in 1875.

Back in 1852 meanwhile the lime burning enterprise became a success and people were soon buying lime from him,

12th November 1852

Paid Mr Collins a Yrs Coal & Clothing Club due Xmas 1851 £1

Reced of Mr Collins for Lime 10s

6th February 1854

Mr A Young Mr Coker for Lime & Reed £3 1s 8d chk Yeovil

£1 12s 6d Reced of Farmer Brett for 30 Sacks of Lime

2nd October 1854

Reced of Maria Ellis a yrs int on £70 due 23rd Sept last £3 10s

Do for 30 sacks of Lime & a Calf £2 5s 6d

Pd her for Ploughing Land £4 19s

Nor was this a flash in the pan for he was still burning lime some seven years later,

25th April 1861

Do Hauling Lime Westwoods

30th October 1861

Began Lime burning again

In 1814 a man called John Bennet Lawes was born to a farming family at Rothampstead in Hertfordshire. His father died when Lawes was eight years old and the young Lawes inherited the estate. He appears always to have been interested in agronomy and after studying chemistry at Oxford returned to his estate where he began a series of experiments on various forms of artificial manure. In 1842 he patented the worlds first artificial fertiliser – calcium superphosphate- made by treating ground animal bones with sulphuric acid. Martin always seems to be just a little late to the party for the first and only record of him using using it comes from 1861. Still it is to his credit that at 81 yrs he was still prepared to try new things.

16th October 1861

Pd Mr Darmen for 6 cwt of Superphosphate £2 0s 6d

“Nothing, perhaps, has done so much indirectly for the improvement of farming and the increase of food production as has efficient land drainage.” This bold statement by Orwin may come as a surprise, after all drains generally don’t excite much interest. Of all the techniques of agricultural improvement however drainage had the longest history. Water logged land creates numerous problems. Wet ground is heavy, difficult and sometimes dangerous for animals to walk through, and almost impossible to plough with oxen or horses. Even if ploughing and sowing were possible , evaporation of water from the surface cools the underlying soil and so delays the germination, growth and eventual harvesting of corn crops. Excess water also dissolved the nutrients in the soil which were soon washed away, in the days before artificial fertilisers more dung was needed incurring more cost. In the days of open field strip farming some form of drainage was achieved by ploughing so as to form a convex shape with a central ridge and furrow either side of the strip which acted as a drainage channel.

The strips were grouped and ploughed in what were known as furlongs which were arranged so as to further aid drainage. The strips generally pointed down hill, either directly or at an angle, but as can be seen in the picture below at the ends of the strips were baulks of land used for access and all to often these trapped the run off within the furrow. Even if proper drainage ditches were provided, the fast run off took away the nutrients, organic matter and fine soil particles that supported the soil’s structure. These would accumulate in the ditch and then have to be dug out and redistributed over the strips. This type of drainage dealt with surface water but did not deal with water welling up from below.

These old strips are now pasture land. The strips comprise a central ridge from which water would be thrown off. The strips are separated from each other by furrows which acted as drainage ditches. The disadvantages of this approach are described in the text.

The first modern approach to the problem of drainage was described by Walter Blith in 1649, he advocated deep trenches three to four feet filled with elder boughs or stones and then turfed over. These trenches were ploughed across the field in a straight course to meet a properly formed outfall ditch. Since ground naturally undulated the depth of the ditch varied in relation to the surface and to ensure it drained away the declination to a properly formed outfall ditch was to be measured against a “true exact water levell”. This more or less was the system of drainage that obtained for the next two hundred years although as ever its adoption was patchy. It avoided the problem of run off as the field did not have to be shaped to effect drainage. There were some disadvantages to this system as organic matter such as elder, thorn and so on would rot away in time and if stones or slate were used soil particles would obstruct the passage of water. The next big advance was in 1843 when a gardener, John Reade, developed the porous clay pipe. So successful was this that and so important was drainage that the government established companies such as the “General Land Drainage and Improvement Company” which lent large sums of money to the landowners for drainage purposes. Whether this was why Martin embarked on his own program of drainage but it was a fairly comprehensive program of drainage. Aside from the land at Somerton that was tenanted, the only land of his that was not drained was at Chilthorne Domer.

17th January 1852

Went to Coker resp draining

Pd further drainage at Coker £1 11s 4d

26th January 1852

Went to Coker and paid off Men draining and cutting Emmet Butts &c

11th February 1852

Tom Childs draining in Yarn barton on a/ 10s

18th February 1852

Went to Coker respg draining &c

23rd February 1852

Tom Childs draining in Yarn Barton on a/ 10s

25th February 1852

Pd Tom Child remainder for draining in Yarn Barton 15s 6d

Do diging [sic] ditch Do 2s 6d

3rd March 1852

Pd Trask on a/ of draining at Coker £1

9th- 10th March 1852

Pd Trask remainder for draining at Coker £2 10s 0d

11th March 1852

Went to Coker respg draining

15th March 1852

Went to Bluntsmoor respg draining

7th February 1854

Pd Trask on A/ for draining £2

23rd March 1854

Pd Trask further draining £2

12th April 1854

Pd Goldring draining 3s 5d

19th April 1854

Pd Trask Bal of Bill for draining [Coker] £1 7s 5 ¾ d

22nd October 1861

Pd Draining Westwoods £2

24th November 1861

Paid Draining in Marsh Orchard 14s

All the men involved with drainage were local labourers; at Evershot Thomas Childs aged 50, at West Coker Thomas Trask aged 62 and either John or Jonathan Goldring of Rampisham aged 38 and 29 respectively.

Part of a porous clay land drain pipe found in a garden in Child Okeford. At the ‘male’ end of the pipe is the inscription ‘Child Okeford Brickworks’. Water saturated through the clay and dripped into the interior where it drained away.







Perhaps the most well known and controversial form of improvement was that arising from the introduction of machinery such as Jethro Tull’s famous seed drill. There is remarkably little in the diaries about any form of agricultural machinery. The only references come from 1861. The first relates to Peas being planted with the Gooch drill but I have been unable to find any details of this particular implement,

10th April 1861

At Home attending Westwoods Drilling Peas [Gooch Drill]

This was not the first time that he had grown peas,

13th February 1832

Gardening Setting Pease [sic] and Beans

in all probability he continued to grow both peas and beans but there are no further entries until 1861, when they suddenly appear again,

7th April 1861

Pd drilling Peas 5s

7th March 1861

Sow’d two rows of Peas Sangsters No 1

8th June 1861

Do Sowed a Row of Peas [the last] [Champion of England]

24th June 1861

Pd Mr Guppy for Beans £2 16s

Pd Mr Caines for Peas &c £3 17s

19th August 1861

Cutting Peas

29th August 1861

At Home Began carrying Peas when rain came

Pd men about peas 14s

30th August 1861

At Home carried Peas &c

When Claridge prepared his report in 1793 he reported that,”The general practice and management of the arable lands in this county, is less attended to, than any other part of agriculture…..the idea universally prevails of planting all crops into the ground, with as few ploughings as possible.” It is not clear from Stevenson’s report that matters had changed much but Claridge had reported that the standard means of ploughing was to use four horses, two a breast, or eight oxen also yoked two a breast whereas Stevenson noted that it was done by three horses. There are several entries relating to ploughing but none are particularly interesting,

21st May 1832

Paid J Frampton for Ploughing Ground 8s

28th April 1852

Went to Coker and Paid for Ploughing &c [Little Man better]

Pd Mr Ginge for Ploughing &c £5 18s 6d

Do Mr Young £9


Paid Mr Young £22

and Mr Ginge £2 7s for ploughing } £24 7s

Mr Ginge and Mr Young are both mystery men. A baptismal record for Sarah Ann Ginge in West Coker 1854 gives her father as Edward, a labourer and her mother Ann. She subsequently acquires two more siblings but of her parents nothing can be found apart from this. As for Mr Young there are none listed in the 1851 census that fit the bill and by extending the search yields too many to be reliable. Tull and Claridge had both recommended repeated ploughings to get rid of weeds but as can be seen from the above it was an expensive business and probably a lot cheaper to pay workmen to dig or pick up the weeds, in this case couch grass, by hand.

18th May 1854

Pd Labourers- Women and Hoskins and Boy Ploughing in 9 acres & Picking Couch £1 10s

19th May 1854

At Home on Various matters Attendg in Nine Acres with People Couching &c

21st September 1854

Attendg in Nine Acres people picking Couch &c

25th September 1854

Attending in Nine Acres -Labourers Burning Couch &c

One person who can be reliably traced is Maria Ellis. John Beater appears in the diaries occasionally and he appears to have been a small holder in Rampisham married to Maria. Martin must have known him well and trusted him as he lent him money on one occasion,

19th December 1827

Lent John Beater £6

John Beater died in 1835 at the age of 36 leaving her with three sons and a daughter. She is recorded on the Tithe Apportionment of 1839 as holding nearly four acres and is first mentioned in the diaries in her own right in 1838 where she appears to be paying down a loan that she had from Martin. At some stage between 1845 and 1852 [no marriage record can be found] she married John Ellis of West Chelborough and she moved her family to live with him. By 1854 she has reduced her loan by a small amount and seems to be providing a number of general agricultural services to him. This is the most complete record we have of his money lending role and since there is nothing for 1861 it may be assumed that she had paid off the loan.

25th September 1838

Received a Yrs interest of Maria Beater due 23rd of this Month £75 4s 1 ½ d } £3 10s

23rd September 1845

Reced of Maria Beater a Yrs interest of £75 4s 1 ½ d due 23rd instant £3 10s 0d

Pd her for Eggs 5s 6d

14th December 1845

Pd Maria Beater for Coals £1

5th October 1852

Reced of Maria Ellis a Yrs interest due Sept Last £3 10s 0d

Paid her for hauling ### £2 5s 0d

2nd October 1854

Reced of Maria Ellis a yrs int on £70 due 23rd Sept last £3 10s

Do for 30 sacks of Lime & a Calf £2 5s 6d

Pd her for Ploughing Land £4 19s

Imagine for a moment that you are only allowed to go to the supermarket once a year to buy food and then imagine further that the amount of food that you can buy is determined by the weather in the weeks and days preceding you visit and that once you have bought the food, no more will be forthcoming until the next year. Each year, for the majority of the population, this was in effect the situation they faced. Every August they would have a fair idea as to whether they would survive the year. It is true that by the end of the 18th century there was generally a sufficiency of food and that some food was being imported at this time but after the collapse of the market in 1813 the introduction of the Corn Law Act in 1815 blocked off even this avenue should food be short. Martin’s comments then in August 1852 were more than a comment on the weather.

16th August 1852

[A Bad Wet day for the Harvest]

A more happy entry is that from October 1854,

1st October 1854

At Home Thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest

Claridge was critical of the way that corn [wheat] was grown in the county and recommended that “the growth of corn should be more attended to in Dorsetshire”. He found that “the proportion of land sown annually is not so much as it ought to be and obliges it to import from other countries”. He probably meant counties. The preoccupation with sheep farming was the probable cause of this relative neglect but nothing stands still and by the time we get to Stevenson’s report huge strides in handling the corn crop had been made particularly in the field of machinery. Quoting the report of Mr Batchelor from 1810 [which had been withdrawn] some twenty two farmers in the county were using threshing machines, many of these farmers [or their descendants] were known to Martin and some are named in the diaries. There were two types of threshing machine widely available, the first was driven by oxen or horses and the second by water.

threshing machine 1

threshing machine 2

The horses were yoked on the left and the wheat threshed on the right.


As can be imagined from the plans of these machines, these were substantial machines requiring a considerable amount of space.

threshing machine 3

Water driven threshing machine.

They were also not cheap, Mr Goodenough of Frampton [known to Martin as he is mentioned in the diary] spent over £400 on one and it required five men and two women to use it. At first sight that seems an incredible amount but surprisingly it turns out to be about £18,000 in today’s terms. Compared with much modern farm machinery not an unreasonable price. This machine was at the upper end of the market and several that he mentions cost no more than £50 [about £2500] today. It managed about twenty sacks a day. Another machine belonging to Mr Spears cost £120 and he had worked out the economics of machine threshing viz,

“Two Men £0 3 0

Four Women £0 2 8

A boy £0 0 6

Four Horses £0 12 0

The machine is supposed to work 100 days in a year, and is oiled every hour while at work. The expense of oil, repairs, interest, rest of capital &c per day’s work about,

£0 2 10

£1 1 0”

however he noted that that this was a third the price of men thrashing the same amount of wheat.

Given the capital expenditure it is perhaps not surprising that at first only a few farmers adopted these new machines and a further disincentive was that the labourers new that they were designed to do them out of a job. Threshing machines were to become one of the principal targets of the “Swing” riots in 1830. The first entry about harvesting comes from 1845, a particularly bad year for the harvest which led many to seek relief from the parish,

23rd September 1845

Attending Harvesting Wheat &c

Next comes, threshing of the wheat in order to separate the grains of corn from the straw

19th April 1854

Attendg Lord Auckland at Melbury & went to Coker in the Afternoon to see the Thrashing of my Wheat [slept at Broadstow] [Unknown]

22nd April 1854

Went to Yeovil & thence to Coker when found my Wheat finished thrashing -The Heifer there had Calved

Pd Vine a Week at Coker Thrashing 10s

It may seem rather late in the year to be ‘thrashing’ as he calls it but threshing appears to have been carried out throughout the winter. Even at this late date hand flailing was still common, one of the arguments being that without this work the labourers would have virtually no work to do in the winter. On the other hand there was a risk that the workmen would do the threshing “in a slovenly manner so that a quantity, perhaps double of what was required for seed, was lost upon many farms; an evil that did not escape the notice of intelligent men, by several of whom attempts were made to construct machines that would do the work more perfectly”31. Having got his wheat he then had to sell it, in this case to Mr William Patch of Bow Mills in Merriott [Somerset],

28th April 1854

Went to Yeovil Market & sold Heifer & Calf at £14 and 37 Sacks of Wheat to Mr Patch of Bow mills at 10s a Bushel

3rd May 1854

Reced of Mr Patch for Sacks 37 of Wheat Coker £73 15s

As he mentions no threshing in Evershot in 1854 the assumption is that his arable lands at this time were solely in West Coker. At the end of 1854 he appears to have been buying wheat from Farmer Peach to tide him over the winter. Wheat was normally sown in the autumn.

17th December 1854

Pd Farmer Peach for Wheat £5 14s 3d

Farmer Peach is one John Peach who was born in 1786 and farmed at Rampisham, certainly from 1841 to 1861 and almost equally as certain for a long time before. His wife had six children, including a set of twins which seem to be a feature of our story. In 1851 he was living at Manor Farm but the census of 1861 says he was living at the Manor House so perhaps he had stepped up in the world. He had substantial holdings [one hundred and ninety five acres] but we may assume that by 1861, when he was 77 yrs the majority of the work was being done by his son Peter. He was to outlive Martin by four years dying in 1865. John Martin was of course the Steward to the Manor of Rampisham and his relations with Peach went back a long way, at least until 1832 when we find them in negotiation over the rent of Burl farm near Holywell.

17th September 1832

Went to Rampisham with Mr Trenchard respg letting him the Glebe Allotment on the Hill waiting on Farmer Peach at Burl respg his Rent and went to Ransom again in the Evening

Relationships at Rampisham were not always good as is seen in this entry from 1832,

31st October 1832

Reced Letter from Mr Johnson Respecting Floods distress and Farmer Peachs arrears written in an arbitrary manner which I did not like & I answered it by saying I should decline the affairs of Ransom

The Reverend Arthur Johnson had married Elizabeth Clark, the only daughter of John Daniell of Hendford House Somerset in 1829. Johnson had been Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Wadham College and Daniell had been the Lord of the Manor at Rampisham but had died and on his marriage Johnson became the new Lord of the Manor. It is not clear what his nature was like but in 1843 newspaper reports appeared to accuse him of being indifferent to the state of the poor in his parish and he entered a public debate in the Dorset County Chronicle over the matter. John Flood was an agricultural labourer in the parish living with his mother and sister [both named Mary]. It appears they had fallen on hard times and that John Peach was himself in rent arrears. The problem does not appear to have between Martin and Peach and the problem seems to have sorted itself out fairly rapidly,

1st November 1832

Pd Farmer Peach what I owed him 3s 9d

2nd November 1832

Working upon Ransom accounts -settled with Farmer Peach &c

Peach then is mentioned periodically,

23rd May 1854

Pd John Peach for Cheese 7s

16th September 1854

Pd Farmer Peach for a Pig £1 10s 0d

17th December 1854

Pd Farmer Peach for Wheat £5 14s 3d

but the bulk of the entries come from 1861 when the new year opens with an innovation,

8th January 1861

Thrashing my Wheat by Machine [Peach]

By this time the heat seems to have gone out of the arguments over using machines to replace humans, although by this time they were powered by steam.

19th century threshing machine with power source seen at Great Dorset Steam Fair.

Later machines not only separated the wheat from the straw but also the grains of straw from the surrounding chaff. In ancient times the wheat/ chaff mix was thrown into the air and the wind blew the chaff away but by Martin’s time ‘stand alone’ machines existed which used a fan to create the air flow. It is not known if Martin used one of these or not.

19th January 1861

At Home & went to Westwoods about finishing winnowing the Wheat Had Ten Sacks of Good & 3 & half of Tailing

When he tried to sell this wheat at Metford Mill in Cattistock he met with little success as the Miller Edward Williams was not inclined to buy,

24th January 1861

At Home and went to Metford Mills to try and sell Ten sacks of Wheat [nil]

Instead he took it down the road to Rampisham where Miller [Emmanuel] Hodges milled it for him,

28th January


Pd Miller Hodges Bill £12 1s

Received of him for Wheat £11

As he did again in April 1861,

1st April 1861

At Home sold Miller Hodges Five Sacks of Wheat & sent it Home at one pound a Sack £5

More late thrashing took place in April before the whole cycle began again in August,

5th April 1861

Pd Farmer Peach Machine Thrashing £1 2s 0d

Pd Labourers £1 6s 8d

15th August


At Home on Various matters

IN PENCIL Took £5 Check of Mr Hodges & sent it to Bank

Reced of Mr Hodges for Wheat £10 [sic]

Pd his Bill £6 11s 10d

Pd Labourers 19s

21st August 1861

At Home Began cutting Wheat in Nine Acres

Pd Men cutting Wheat £1 17s 6d

Pd Labourers £1 2s 6d

23rd August 1861

Do finished cutting the wheat

24th August 1861

At Home Tying Wheat

26th August 1861

At Home & went to Ransom

[Tying Wheat]

27th August 1861

Do Do

[Tying Wheat]

28th August 1861

Attendg Lord Aukland at Ransom

[Finished Tying Wheat]

31st August 1861

At Home carrying Wheat raking &c

After cutting the wheat it will be seen that he tied it into stacks but he did not yet remove it from the field immediately turning it instead into windmows,

19th September 1861

At Home

took into Barn 4 Windmows of Wheat

4th October 1861

At Home & went to Ransom

[Finished taking in Windmows]

The only description I have found of a windmow comes from the Farmers Journal from 1848. It appears that it was not then widely used and the following description is taken from the journal. The wheat was first tied into stacks or mows and then three or four of these were laid together with the butts of the stacks on the ground. Gradually more stacks were laid on top with the ears of wheat always upwards and meeting in the middle. The eventual height reached being some 10-15 feet high although from the description of its construction it was only two or three sheaves deep. From a drawing of one that I have seen it looks something like this.

The purpose of the windmow was to dry the wheat, and if it rains a month it will not hurt it. They sometimes remain thus for several months here, but then they substitute a bundle of reeds for the large sheaf on the top, and should fine weather set in before all is done, that which is not done is hauled first, and the windmows being safe, are left till a more leisure time. They have not only the advantage of being safe from wet, but being only two sheaves in diameter, the air draws through and effectually dries it when settled weather comes, as every butt is outside in the air.”32

After drying threshing began again, presumably by Farmer Peach.

8th October 1861

At Home Thrashing Wheat with machines

11th October 1861

At Home Winnowing Wheat at Westwoods

14th November 1861

At Homestead Threshing remainder of Wheat by Machine

Pd Labourers Threshing &c £1 8s 6d

This time he had more success selling his wheat to Mr Williams,

26th November 1861

At Home went to Rampisham sold 14 sacks of Wheat to Mr Williams 27s a sack

Finally in this section we must mention his garden. The tithe apportionment for Evershot shows that he owned three quarters of an acre of “Dwelling House, Stable Offices, Garden &c”. He paid four shillings tithe on this which suggest that his garden was not simply for pleasure, but for raising titheable produce -vegetables. More evidence for this comes from this entry from 1854,

5th May 1854

At Home Went to Ransom and attendg Planting Mangle in Garden

There are numerous entries about the garden, most of them it must be said are concerned with paying others to do the work for him, most of these entries have been omitted.

26th February 1821

Pd for Garden Seeds 3s

23rd March 1821

Paid Plashing Garden Hedge 3s

26th March 1821

Pd for Garden Seeds 3s

15th May 1821

Pd for 1000 Laths from Weymouth £1

Pd Man Gard[enin]g 1s 2d

A plashed hedge.





19th February 1827

David Childs and Son Wheeling Dung into my Garden and myself Pruning Bushes

Paid David Childs in full of all demand 5s 6d

22nd March 1827


26th March 1827

Sowing Seeds 7c in the Garden

Pd Gardening 15s 6d

19th May 1827

Pd Man Gardening & cleaning out Pond 8s

21st May 1827

Paid John Sibley Shearing my Hedges 1s

14th June 1827

Savoy Plants 9d

This entry is unusual but probably relates to his garden,

9th July 1827

Paid Man Cracking Stones 13s

Weeds seem to have been a recurring problem over the years,

21st July 1827

Pd weeding garden &c 4s

1st June 1832

Paid weeding Gardens 2s 6d

Entries are sparse during the busiest years of the tithe commutations their being only one entry in 1838 but become more frequent again in the 1845 diary, when he had the added excitement of building a new garden walk,

29th March 1838

Attending my garden the whole of the day and calculated the Value of Little Maine Tithes for Mr Talbot of B Maine

4th April 1845

Gardening &c Sold Two Calves to Mr Trenchard at £3 10s 6d

16th April 1845

Looking after work People Gardening &c

Paid Ground dressing 5s 4d

19th April 1845

Pruning Apple Trees &c in Garden and looking after Work People

1st May 1845

Looking after work People &c & gardening

17th June 1845

Attending to Workpeople in Garden &c

Susan the Girl Servant came

28th June 1845

Attending Men Making New Garden Walk

In making his new walk he bought some 1500 bricks and eight loads of gravel. Unfortunately I have not been able to identify a brickyard at Rampisham nor a “Newberry” who fits the bill. The only one there is a carpenter. Likewise ‘J Bishop’ has not been traced.

30th June 1845

Pd Newberry of Ransom for Bricks 1500 18s 9d

1st July 1845

Pd J Bishop for 8 Loads of Screened Gravel for Garden Walk £1

Thereafter the entries are fairly mundane,

23rd August 1845

Working the Theodolite and attending to Gardening

25th August 1845

Cleaning up the Office and doing Various Jobs in the Garden & Farming works

15th October 1852

Attending work people in Garden & Westwoods

23rd March 1854

Pd John Squibb Plashing Garden Hedge 8s 4d

The last entry about gardening comes in April 1861,

18th April 1861

At Home in Garden &c

Country Sports

Martin was a man of his time and as such his leisure time was taken up by hunting, shooting but no fishing. His main leisure activity appears to have been Hare coursing. This first appears in the 1827 diary, the season for him beginning on October 6th when he “Went to M Newton and Sydling Coursing caught 8 hares and 2 rabbits”. He was off again on 3rd November when he “Went Coursing with Mr J J & Mr Coxwell and looked over the School Estate at Kingscombe”. It is also the first diary where he lists buying a game certificate for £3 14s 6d, a years salary or thereabouts for a servant in 1861 but very necessary since under the 1816 Game Act snaring a rabbit was punishable by transportation. His favourite place to go coursing was Sydling St Nicholas [judged by the number of times he went there] and perhaps not surprisingly there are more entries in the later diaries when he was not so busy working. In 1861 for example he started on 11th February “At Home went coursing [nil]” then on 26th -following the fall from his horse “Went Coursing at Chantmarle with Arthur & Mr Pope – Dined at Arthurs” and on 15th March loaned his dogs to Mr Pope whilst he “Went to Yeovil – my Dogs went to Sydling Mr Pope and others caught 3 Hares”. Things went quiet over the summer but in October33 he was back at Sydling again on two occasions and then finally in December he was at home when he went coursing one more time with Arthur and caught one hare.

Hares came under attack again when he embarked on a new sport which figures in only one diary, that for 1845, and that was beagling. In January, March April and December it was confined to “Went out with the Beagles” but in February he expands with a little more detail:

Feb 3rd 1845 “Making a Sketch of Net Mead and went out with the Beagles” and two weeks later

Feb 17th “Went to Batcombe resptng Poor Rate Expenses and with the Beagles in the afternoon.”

Beagling was not a cheap pastime as in January he had “Pd for Beagles ½ [presumably year] £5 7s 6d Mr C Jennings paid the other ½ “.Fox hunting [with hounds] did not seem to be a pastime he took up however although he occasionally went to meets, in February 1845 he “Went to Holywell & Saw the Fox Hounds throw off”.

Coursing seems to have been one activity that he pursued [no pun intended] throughout his life and shooting was another; the first entry was from 26 November 1827 “Went shooting at Holway with Major Wilson and dined At Mr Jennings”. Probably one of his cavalry friends but most of his shooting seems to have been directed towards pest control, principally rooks. Thus from 1832 “went to Woolcombe Rook shooting” and again in May 1845 “Rook shooting at Woolcombe”. After his shooting in May 1832 he may broken his gun as on

11 June 1832 he “Pd Mr Stocker for Mr Brown mending the lock of gun 5s. By September 1854 he had changed his venue to Chelborough.

He was also keen on horse racing although whether for itself or for the business opportunities it provided cannot be determined. The first record from 15th August 1827 records him sewing lettuce and then “Blandford Races making advertisement of private roads” [he was working on the Sturminster Newton inclosure at the time]. This would have been quite a journey to undertake from Evershot and is the only time he appears to have gone to Blandford for the racing ; the course was on the site which the army camp currently occupies. However he did stay over in the town spending a modest 4/6d on expenses. In 1838 we find him at Dorchester in September, “Went to Dorchester Races with Edwin in the Carriage Dined at Mr Caines and Paid him for 30 sheep £46 0s 0d”. In 1845 he had a high old time; on the 2nd and 3rd September he went shooting followed on the 4th and 5th by two days at Weymouth races.

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1This is an example of the chicken and the egg question. Blackstone notes that “All degrees of nobility and honor are derived from the king as their fountain” but then goes on “The right of peerage seems to have been originally territorial; that is, annexed to lands honors, castles, manors, and the like the proprietors and possessors of which were (in right of those estates) allowed to be peers of the realm” [My emphasis]. When he was writing only one Peer, the Duke of Bedford, had ever been deprived of his peerage by parliament and that was in the 1400’s when he was so far in debt he was “unable to support his dignity.” Blackstone wryly noted that although this proved that parliament had the right to act in such a way it was not an experiment they had ever been repeated.

2 In 1833 the county had to raise £32,751 15s 10 ½ d of which Evershot had to pay £77 9s 1d

3Although there was an excise officer of this name at Weymouth about this time.

4The Place Names of Dorset A D Mills part IV

5There are several plots in Cattistock known as Westwoods. All were originally owned by Henry Petty except plot 328 which was owned by William Trenchard. It is not known if John Martin owned all of these plots. Geographically Westwoods was actually very close to Evershot.

6Mills does not give any attribution to the name Yarnbarton. In other works of his however the prefix Yarn he attributes to eagles. Optimistic for Evershot I would have thought.

7There are two Henry Sandifords living in Somerset at Hardington Mandeville and East Chinnock both weavers.

8 Somerset and Dorset Notes and Queries Volume 08

9Epidemics in Britain Charles Creighton 1891.

10English Farming Past and Present Rowland Prothero, Baron Ernle 1912

11A History of English Farming C S Orwin 1949

12Caused by the explosion of Mt Tambora in Indonesia in 1815.

13A castrated adult male used for wool production.

14Hardy Thomas, Far From the Madding Crowd 1874

15Ernle ibid

16Poor Law Commissioners Report of 1834 [the first Annual report of the Poor Law Commission].

17Village labourer ibid.

18All quotes in this section taken from the first annual report of the poor law commissioners.

19Ernle ibid

20A castrated adult male used for wool production.

21Ernle ibid

22 Chilvers are young female lambs but pen hogs simply means that the sheep were kept in pens, the term hog being applied as often to ewes as wethers or rams.

23Dorset County Chronicle 24 May 1855

24 Prothero R E [First Baron Ernle] English Farming Past and Present 1912

25It is sometimes called the three field system but this is strictly not accurate as one field could be divided into any number of parts.

26 Horse Hoeing Husbandry Jethro Tull 1731

27Anything [particularly vegetables] that may be eaten.

28Not of course that they knew it was calcium.

29Somebody once said that when a 600 kg cow is taken out of a field it takes 100kg of calcium with it [in its bones]. Unfortunately I cannot remember who said it.

30 Land Improvement in Scottish Farming: Marl and Lime in Roxburghshire and Berwickshire in the Eighteenth Century Robert A Dogdshon AHR vol 26 1978

31Loudon Encyclopaedia of Agriculture 1825

32Farmers Magazine volume 18 1848

33Typically the coursing season ran from the beginning of October to the end of February.