Monday, 9 January 2012

Hard work

I wrote myself an enormous to-do list today, and having worked down a reasonable amount of it, stumped off downstairs to let the dogs out and have some lunch. No such luxury for the farm horseman in the 1700s, as these instructions to a farm foreman make clear: (the word cattle was used at the time to describe farm animals generally, or horses in particular, rather than just cows)

He is to rise at four in the morning, feed his cattle and clean his stable.
While the cattle are feeding he will get his harness ready, for which he will take two hours.
For his breakfast you shall allow him half an hour. 
Then thou shall watch him put the harness on his cattle and start by seven at his work and keep at it till three in the afternoon.
He shall then bring his team home, clean them and give them their food, dine himself and at four go back to his cattle and give them more fodder, and getting into his barn, make ready their food for the morrow, and see the cattle again before going to his own supper at six.
After his supper he will mend his shoes by his fireside for himself and his family, or beat and knock hemp or flax, or pitch and stamp apples or crabs for cider or verjuice, or else grind malt, pick candle rushes or do some husbandry office within doors till it befall eight o'clock. Then shall he take his lantern, visit his cattle once more, and go with his household to rest."

This carter earned 10d a day (4p); had with the job a cottage with some outbuildings, and two acres of land, which his wife tilled. The timetable doesn't make clear whether the beating and knocking etc was for the carter's benefit, or for his employer's, though I suspect the specificity of it meant it was for the employer's.

I was intrigued by the fact the foreman was specifically required to oversee the harnessing, and the amount of time that was to be devoted to its care. No harness, no work.




2 comments:

madwippitt said...

Blimey, I should he'd need the cider after all that.

Jane Badger said...

No wonder they died young.