England – In The County Of York

Yorkshire has more acres of land than there are letters in the Bible. I tell this to take away some-thing of the arrogance of my countrymen who imagine America to be all the world and other countries mere outlying fringes. Yorkshire has in its day been a kingdom. It is a great expanse of land that is mostly fertile and well farmed. Still in quest of sheep, I visited a sheep fair at Mallon. There I met J. Lett, who showed me the market. He told me that land on the Yorkshire wolds was renting for about $5 per acre, with “rates” (taxes to tenant) at about 60 cents per acre. The farms are large, averaging perhaps 800 acres (not counting small holdings). Many farmers were buying land at from $55 to $200 per acre. A farm of 800 acres would carry about 350 Leicester ewes.

These might be crossed with Hampshire or Lincoln rams. The Lincoln, pure-bred, does not, however, find favor in Yorkshire except in certain spots.

A Yorkshire shepherd has $5 per week, with a cottage and garden. In the summer he cares for 500 or more sheep, going to them on horseback. In winter they are folded on the turnips ; then a man is given 200 to care for, but he must clean and cut the “neeps” for the “hoggets” or coming-yearling lambs. The old ewes eat their neeps uncut. In summer they run on clover on the wolds or on crops sown for their use. They go fat to market in the spring when they are about a year old; some are kept at home to replace the ewes of the flock that are sent away. The ewes are not kept past four years. Leicester ewes give an increase of 125 lambs to 100 ewes. The fat yearlings usually bring $6.30 each and upward, and their 11 pounds of wool is worth about $2.40.

Farmers in Yorkshire are making money, thinks Mr. Lett, but not so rapidly as in the ’60′s. London imports about 82 per cent of its meats. Mr. Lett said that the usual wage scale of Yorkshire would be for a head wagoner $140 per year, with board; for the second man, $120 and so on down to about $100. The foreman or “hind” boards the men and receives for this about $1.90 to $2.15 per week for such service. A boy begins at 14 years of age with $45 per year, advancing to $75 per year with board, by the time he is nearly grown. We discussed the breaking up of the large farms and the creation of small holdings. Mr. Lett did not think there was much chance of profit in operating a fifty-acre farm, unless one were a market gardener.

At Fimber I saw Mr. M. His farm is high up on the chalk and of its 800 acres he plows 660. I had never before seen so thin a soil under the plow; go down six inches and one would be in clear white chalk over a large area. Shallow plowing is there-fore the rule. Mr. M. keeps 330 Leicester ewes and sells from them yearly 400 lambs. He said that this soil would not be at all productive if it were not trodden down often by sheep. He gave me an inventory of the men and animals needed to operate his farm. There were 20 Shire work horses, sixteen men for the 800 acres. He paid his foreman $210 per year with vegetables for him and his men, and beer for the men, and $40 extra per man for boarding them. His married laborers each received about $4.30 per week with a cottage and garden. Some-times they were given piece-work so that they could make larger earnings. Each of twelve single men had from $90 to $150 per year, with board. Two shepherds received $120 each, and one $160 per year, and two cattlemen received each $2.40 per week, with board. I was especially interested to know the number of men employed and the rates of their wages, because it gives one a basis for comparing conditions. One man is kept to each fifty acres. This surely is not an extravagant or excessive number. The wages are of course much lower than in the United States, as will be readily seen.