England – A Village Inn

The village or country inn is a characteristic thing of southern England. Inns are not usually hotels and do not always, in fact, serve food; but they are drinking places where ales and beers are sold, and more ardent spirits when desired. It is astonishing what a number of inns one finds through-out the thickly-peopled country-side, and they all seem to do a good business. Once I stepped off a train in Kent, just at nightfall, having had a hard and trying day, with little chance for food. A beautiful and picturesque old inn stood near, ivy-covered and neatly kept. With joy I made to it and asked for supper. The landlord seemed puzzled. “See here, now, it is late like; the missus has gone out; we have had our supper and there is nothing in the house to eat.” I pleaded that if there was a loaf of bread and a scrap of bacon they would make a feast. He assented;. he had them in store. Then he called to a passing lassie, daughter of a neighbor, who cheerfully consented to come in and cook the bacon. The man could not leave his bar. The bar-room was well filled, mostly with farm laborers, who were a quiet, orderly lot, none of them drinking too much. One might think it all well if one did not reflect that there would go sixpence of each man’s $4 weekly wage. The drink habit in England consumes an incredible sum of the earnings of labor.

The way the country people manage to get on is for all of the family to work, so far as possible. The wife will go out and cut thistles or beans. For this labor she receives about 40 cents a day. It helps out the earnings of her husband and seems to do the woman no harm. They dress respectably and wear strong shoes that last a long time.

What impresses an American is the great number and variety of buildings on an English farm. There is, first of all, the dwelling of the farmer; the house at Court Lodge is rather large, well built and would cost in America about $7,000 to construct. Surrounding the master’s residence is a company of lesser buildings, for his private driving and saddle horses, for the fowls, the dogs, pigeons and the gardener’s tools, and then about ten or twelve small structures the original use of which has perhaps been forgotten. There are the large barns in which are stored grains and some hay, although hay is usually built in stacks, and the barns are never so great in capacity as one sees in eastern America. Then there are .hop-kilns, now unused, and byres where cows are kept, sheds for show rams and sheep, and granaries. All of these structures are solidly built of brick or stone and roofed usually with red tiles and kept in repair at the expense of the landlord.

There are twelve cottages at Court Lodge in which the laborers of the farm live. It once had a larger population than it has today, and fewer sheep. That was when hops were grown and grain was cradled by hand, or, more likely, cut with picturesque reaping hooks. Now the farm carries many Romney sheep, sometimes as many as 800, with Short-horn cows of the milking type, and of course big Shire horses. Mr. Hickman was troubled because of the failure of his turnip crop. Here the Swede turnip is a great reliance for win-ter feeding of sheep. Mangels are grown also for cattle. The year was one of terrific heat and drouth, rather worse than one sees even in the cornbelt of America, and it seemed impossible that the roots could come to anything.