What was a life in farming like on the Hardwick estate in the 1860s? In this blog we’ll take a brief look at this now forgotten aspect of country life, courtesy of our Hardwick a great house and its estate paperback (2009).
J.J. Rowley, who lived at Hall Farm, Rowthorne, wrote extensively about the area in the 1860s. He was one of the inspectors for the Second Report of Commissioners on Employment of Children, Young Persons and Women in Agriculture, etc. , published in 1868-9.
Rowley reported that in the 1860s adult male farm labourers worked from 6.30 am to 5 pm in the summer. They took their ‘bait’ (break) from mid-day for about 1½ hours. Winter work was, as might be imagined, different, with an 8 am start, no break, and finish at 4 pm. For a few weeks during spring, boys aged nine to 12 were employed to tend birds or lead horses. They earnt 6d. or 8d. a day for this. The boys were only deemed ready for heavier work from the age of 13. Women and girls were only employed during harvest.
Labourers living in their own cottages could earn 14s. to 16s. a week. Single men lodging could make £8 to £16 a year, plus board and lodging. The men would also be busy working at the statute fairs, held in neighbouring towns.
As we say in our book ‘It was a world which in the 1860s was about to be transformed, although not entirely swept away, by the growth of large-scale coal mining.’
Looking at the small village of Stainsby, of the two-dozen households there, the census of 1871 shows seven headed by farmers, five by labourers, with three men employed on the Hardwick estate. In 1901, with 21 households in the village, Stainsby had nine households headed by farmers. There were three miners, a colliery labourer, a colliery blacksmith and a railway labourer.
Stainsby’s character was hardly transformed. Nor was the village of Heath, also part of the Hardwick estate. But the coal industry spurred development in other areas such as the estate at Holmewood, built from the 1890s, on the edge of Heath parish. This was built to house miners at Holmewood colliery and the Hardwick Coal Company’s other pit at nearby Williamthorpe (the latter on the Hunloke family’s estate).
Looking from the top of Hardwick Old Hall, at one time it might have been possible to see the nearby coal mines and view industry across the valley. These concerns and many other mines nearby are now but a memory. The wheel has perhaps turned full circle. Industry on the remaining Hardwick estate is now, once again, agricultural. Whilst conditions are much better there is much less employment provided by agriculture than in Rowley’s time.
This post was revised on 10 January 2021. We replaced illustrations of the presently named Hall Farm (the premises in the bottom picture) , with those of Hall Farm house.