NORFOLK in the 19TH CENTURY
In the Eastern Daily Press a Series of Weekly Articles has been commenced under the above title. It (was) the intention of the writer to deal with the life of the County in its various aspects. To this end he has grouped his subjects under the following heads………..
1,2. Municipal Life of Norwich Yarmouth Lynn Thetford. 3 Commerce Prisons and Criminals 4 Art and Science 5 Prisons and Criminals 6 Literature 7 Sport 8 Agriculture 9 The State Church 10 The Free Churches 11Holiday Resorts 12 Medicine and Law 13 Fisheries and Coast Service 14 Music 15 Volunteers 16 Education 17 Poor Law Evolution 18 The Rural Exodus……..from which the following excerpts have been taken.
(The complete set of articles are to be found on the British Newspaper Archive.)
NORFOLK 100 YEARS AGO
(From Eastern Evening News Monday Dec 31st 1900.)
The author has endeavoured to summarise some of the principal phases of Norfolk life one hundred years (earlier) to be followed by a series of articles which deals with various aspects of the county’s history in a more thorough and systemised form:
There are not many parts of England which end the nineteenth century with so few differences between the social condition and relationships of the inhabitants at the beginning of the century as Norfolk. Altered means of communication with other parts of the country, the substitution of machinery for manual labour in agriculture, and in the last quarter of the century, an influx of visitors to the coast line and waterways of the county, sum up the changes which have generally affected the condition and habits of its inhabitants. In some respects and more particularly in the higher phases of its social life, the county has gone back in the last hundred years. The increased mining and manufacturing industry of the Northern and Midland Counties has deprived it of its relative importance as one of the premier English counties. In the earlier part of the century Norwich musicians and painters gave the city an artistic position which was unequalled, except perhaps, by Bristol, in the provinces. Its literary activity also in proportion to its size and wealth was quite as distinguished as its artistic. The great houses were inhabited by their fairly affluent proprietors. Norwich and Swaffham had their well marked fashionable seasons, and the Norfolk squire, the Norfolk farmer and the Norfolk labourer were all of them in the year 1800 such splendid typical examples of what was best in their respective classes that they were the glory of their own county and the envy of the others.
THE CALL TO ARMS
The century opened as it ends, with a great stirring of the martial spirit. The dreaded French Invasion was nowhere more dreaded than it was in Norfolk. On the coast they repeated the Weybourne Hook couplet with the same proud fear that they did in the Armada times, while inland the people muttered, all in fear and with no pride at all, the stil older couplet,
‘Twist Lopham Ford and Shrimpling thorn
England shall be won and lorn’
Fencibles, sea fencibles, pikemen, yeomanry, volunteer infantry, and so on, to the number of 7739, enrolled themselves in various corps. The Norwich volunteer Riflemen numbered 1150, under Lieutenant-Colonel Harvey; and the Norwich Light Horse under Major Harvey; (we need not say how history has repeated itself in 1900), numbered 93 men, Yaarmouth enrolled 435 and Lynn 583 men. The enthusiasm was so great that small places like Aylsham formed corps of 150, and villages like Mundford and Great Witchingham from 80 to 90 men eager to do battle for their country. In some places in the first glare of excitement the people, in the saying of the time, ‘Did not know which way to turn like a fuleish mawther at Tombland Fair.’ This feather-headedness, however, soon passed away, and a serious determination to fulfil a patriotic duty took its place. The Swaffham volunteers officered by Captain Johnson and others, were placed first amongst the volunteer corps for efficiency. ‘so as to be fit to be employed in any situation to which volunteer corps can be called.’ In one of its results, at any rate, the dread of war was not an unmixed evil, for, from a ‘return of the material available for the defence and provisioning of the County in case of invasion,’ we obtain a clear idea of its wealth in some respects we otherwise should be without. We learn, at that time, (1803) there were 83,508 oxen and cows, 30,020 young cattle and colts, 432,000 sheep, 1,256,218 pigs, 6200 riding horses, 38,348 draught horses, 8320 wagons and 18,153 carts in the county. There were five windmills, four watermills, and 136 public ovens in Norwich, according to the same return. The number of sheep in Norfolk has much varied at different times; at the end of the century the number would be much less than it was in 1803. The number of pigs is now, probably, not more than one tenth what it was at the beginning of the century. In spite of all this blaze of loyalty there were fellows to the ‘Pro Boers’ of our day.At South Lopham ‘incendiary papers’ were put up. In Norwich there were thirteen ‘seditious’ clubs with a membership of 2200 persons.
THE WOLF AT THE DOOR
More or less scarcity prevailed during the period 1900-1820. From the particulars collected at the request of the Government by by the bishops in their different dioceses, we have numerous opportunities of discovering what the state of the people was. Bishop Manners Sutton did his best for the diocese of Norwich, although he said he was hampered by the fact that ‘Secrecy is with the Norfolk Farmer the beginning, middle, and end of Wisdom.’ (So little has the Norfolk Farmer changed!) From Bishop Manners Sutton’s return we learn that in two years beef and mutton had risen from 51/2d to 8d and 7d per lb respectively in Norfolk. The 4lb loaf had risen from 1s 5d to 1s 9d. ( In France it was then selling at 4d,) Hay was £6 a ton. Rice was being largely used in the county. Shoes had risen from 5s to 8s 6d a pair. In 1801 wheat stood for four weeks at £9 per quarter, and the 4lb loaf was sold at 1s 101/2d to 2s. Agricultural workers wages were 2s per day. Never since the middle of the 17th century had the distress of the working classes been so great as it was in this period. As a consequence discontent was violent, and at the close of the war, when, owing to the operation of the Corn Law of 1813 (against which of twelve Norfolk members, only one Mr. W. Smith of Noewich, voted), and other unnatural causes, corn continued high and wages low, the country was on the verge of rebellion. There were riots at Rockwell, Brandon, Feltwell, Mundford, Castleacre, Sporle, and other places. At Downham the people were so exasperated against the three magistrates who in their meeting at the Crown Inn had resolved ‘in consideration for the distress of the poor,’ that wages should be fixed at 2s per day, and that flour should be supplied to poor families of not less than four at 2s 6d per stone (the merchants selling price being 3s 9d.) that they attacked them with sticks and bludgeons, obliging one of the magistrates Mr. Darling to hide himself in a garden, and the other tow, Mr. Hare and Mr. Pratt to seek refuge in private houses. For this affair nine men and seven women were sentenced to death at the next Assises. Of these, fourteen were reprieved and two David Harwood (23) and Thomas Thody (25) were executed. Bad as this was, it was not so bad as it was at Ely, where, in the previous June, twenty-four men had been sentenced to death.
WORK AND WAGES
The average wages of the Norfolk labourer from 1801 to 1810 were 9s 9d. per week and from 1811 to 1820 about 13s 3d per week. The marvel is how the farm labourer subsisted at all at this time if only on account of the unvarying monotony of his diet. At the present day, this is one of the trials of village life, especially where it is contrasted with the variety of cheap and good articles of food that flood the towns of any size; but in the period we are writing about, bread was the only diet for the labourer, and often it was bread of the coarsest kind. We have before us copies of early nineteenth century yearly bills of a family of four. They amount to £13 13s for bread, £1 10s. for bacon and other meat, £1 10s. for butter and lard, £3 5s. for groceries. The total annual income of the family was £26 4s. From a grocer’s bill of 1800 we learn that salt was then 4d. per ib., rice was 6d., and sugar (sort not stated) was 91/4d per lb. An altogether wrong impression prevails about the cheapness of ready-made clothes in our days. A good foul weather coat cost 13s., a pair of stout breeches cost 3s 9d., a pair of strong shoes 7s., a hat (‘will last three years’) 2s 6d. Women’s shoes were 3s 9d, per pair, a common stuff gown 6s 6d. These are the prices in a London suburban shop. There was not much difference in country prices. There the tailor charged 5s.for making a whole suit; leather breeches cost 3s 6d. per pair. The material for a strong linen shirt cost 1s 9d.; the wool for a pair of stockings 6d. Those articles were almost invariably made at home. As to the labourer himself, Mr. Marshall speaking of him, in the latter part of the previous century, said:- A Norfolk man will do as much for one shilling as some two men in many other places will do for eighteenpence each. There is an honesty, I almost said an honour, about them, when working by the day which I have not been able to discover in the day labourers of any other county.-“Rural Economy of Norfolk” p.40.
CORN LAW PRICES
More than once during the years between 1800 and 1830 ‘agricultural depression’ was most through the efforts of the Corn Laws, sold at £5 3s. per quarter). Thousands of acres of good land could not find rent-free tenants. Labourers were eagerly seeking work at 1s. per day. In 1816-17, £291,213 was collected for the poor rate in Norfolk, and in 1817-18, £327,665 was collected for the poor rate, representing an expenditure of £1 0s 6d. on every inhabitant in the county. It is well to recollect that the ‘poor rate’ at this time was entirely devoted to the relief of the poor, and not to a multiplicity of purpose as it is now. The reason of this distress, was of course, the dearness of foodstuffs through the operation of the Corn Law Acts. Those who talk so easily of their re-enactment, at any rate when they do so, forget what the Corn Law Acts really did. In 1804 the Corn Law Act provided that till wheat was 63s per quarter the duty should be 24s 3d., between 63s. and 66s. the duty was 2s 6d. When corn went above 66s. per quarter the duty was 6d per quarter. In 1815 the importation of foreign wheat was absolutely forbidden without the price of English wheat had been for six months at or over 80s per quarter, ‘so as to keep wheat steady at that price.’ From the English colonies wheat might be imported when English wheat sold at 67s. per quarter. The importation of live or dead stock was prohibited under any circumstances whatsoever.
In the early years of the century Norfolk, like the rest of the country, had its gaols filled with prisoners. There were 223 offenses punished with death. Men were ha nged for shooting rabbits, for theft of goods to the value of 40s, or in certain circumstances if the stolen property was worth only 3s.; for stealing a pocket handkerchief put out to bleach, for cutting down young trees, and similar circumstances. In 1816, on one day there were fifty-eight persons, one of whom was a boy of 10, waiting to be hanged. In 1811 a soldier was sentenced to receive 1000 lashes, and did receive 750 of them. In 1801 a sergeant in a foot regiment was hanged at Lynn for passing forged notes. A bankrupt was hanged for concealing his effects. Scores were sentenced to death for ‘intending’ to steal a sheep…….Till 1790, we may add, women were condemned to be burnt to death for coining shillings……
In 1801 the population of Norfolk was 273371, in 1811 it had risen to 291,999, and in 1821 to 344,368. The population of Norwich in 1801 was 36,906 (an increase of only 465 since 1752), in 1811 it was 37,313, and in 1821 it was 50,288. The great increase was in the second decade, the ratios for the county being 5-81 and 17-93 respectively………
XI. – HOLIDAY AND HEALTH RESORTS
Probably no development in the social habits of the people during the 19th century so distinctively stands out as the yearly holiday making of the masses, the annual exodus to the seaside in search of rest and invigoration, for in the 18th century our forefathers knew nothing of ozone. People of fashion, beaux fops, and languorous, but mischievous, beauties, before the era of railways and steamboats, generally betook themselves to “spaws” or inland towns with a reputation for “delicate air,” such especially as Bath Epsom, Bury St Edmund’s, all centres of fashion in their time, as Bath is in a measure even to this day. Bury St. Edmunds was a place of great resort for pleasure seekers in the 17th and 18th centuries: thus Roger North , so far back as 1682, wrote of it :- “so great judges are the belles of that place what education and behaviour ought to be, it might save the nation much money by sending all the youth thither, and not to Italy and France, if the exquisite sense and breeding of the place were but understood.”
Our Norfolk Laureate Shadwell, in his play “Bury Fair,” makes one of the characters say of it, “I have been sucking in the sweetest air in England,” Defoe in 1722 said of Bury, “it is a town famed for its pleasant situation and its wholesome air. The Montpelier of Suffolk, and perhaps of England,” and, elsewhere, “ a spot completely qualified for a life of delight,” But Norfolk, too, had its centres of polite concourse where good air and good society were combined, for, to quote Shadwell again : Conversation is too the mind as the air we live in is to the body; in the good we by degrees suck in the health, and in the ill diseases.” (Epsom Wells. Act I.) In the middle of the 18th century , as Blomefield tells us, Aylsham was “much frequented in the summer season by reason of the Spaw, the water of which, tasting very strong of the mineral, is esteemed of great service in asthmas: it is purgative, and is said to be of the vitriolick kind.” It may still be found, and its vitriolick water tasted today. Probably, however, Thetford was the most frequented of the old inland Norfolk health resorts, for as late as 1833 its Chalybeate Spa was famous: in its Pump-room public feastings and other junkettings took place, and music was provided in aid of the prevailing gaieties.
Here is a contemporary account of a public breakfast there in July 1833:- “The scene on the lawn and in the pump-room presented a highly animated appearance. The taste of Mr. Edwards of the Bell Inn as the purveyor exhibited itself on this occasion in a rich display of various delicacies, to which ample justice was done by the gay party present. The attendance of the Diss Brass Band in scarlet uniform added greatly to the bustle and life of the scene. To the lovers of the gai science the selections from Weber’s and Rossini’s music must have afforded a great treat. “ Thetford in olden times would not have deigned to have obtained music from Diss, for the “ Thetford Musick” in the time of Charles II, was reackoned by some the best in England, though worthy Evelyn, who was at Newmarket in 1671, remarked that the royal party there resembled a luxurious abandoned rout than a Christian court, and the Thetford fiddlers gratified the jolly blades with unedifying songs. Quite a literature grew up about the Thetford Chalybeate Spa . Scientific analyses, poems, and essays, combined to popularise and advertise the healing waters, sealed bottles of which were sent to many parts of the country, and from 120 to 160 gallons were daily fetched away. At last, however, the Spa became discredited, but only, said the local people, because water from other streams than the Albana and Tharpar of Thetford was sometimes bottled and palmed off on the unwary.
Another favourite resort was the Reffley Chalybeate Spring, near Lynn, around the fountain of which seats were placed, while a select “temple” or pavilion was reserved for the use of subscribers. This spring was ferruginous, and was specially frequented by a mirthful society known as “The Sons of Reffley,” who held high festival in 1818, when sir M.B. ffolkes, “owner of the soil and patron of the spring” was returned to Parliament. “A bugler was stationed on the confines of the wood heralded the approach of the patron, who was received by a numerous company, and, proceeded by musicians, was conducted to the scene of the feast. The rustic board was presided over by a Mr. Marshall, who displayed those convivial talents which he so eminently possessed: there were toast-drinking and singing, and the wood resounded with the sounds of mirth and revellry.
Such were the rural health resorts in favour before the age of the steam horses of the land, the sea and the rivers, for our ancestors chiefly to have regarded the seashore as a place of peril from marauding foreigners, a s when Dame Margaret Paston wrote to her worshipful husband in 1450: “Ther ben many enemys arens Yermowth and Crowmer, and have don moche harm, and taken many Englysch men, and put hem in grett distresse ……………and the sed enmys been so bold that they kom up to the lond, and pleyn hem on Caster Sonds, and in other plases, as homely as they were Englysch men.” Yet there seems to have been some sort of mineral spring at Cromer, famed for healing qualities, for in 1633 we find Anthony Mingay, writing from Norwich to a friend: “I do determine, God favouring, this summer, to make use of the waters, and to that purpose have got Doctor Martine to ride to Cromer to make perfect trial of a water thereabout , and if that prove not, then God willing, I am for Tonbridge.” No hint of the benefits of sea air yet awhile, but a devotion to healing springs. Of beautiful Cromer Defoe could only say, “I know nothing it is famous for except good lobsters,” and as late as 1866 it was described as “a paradise for the clergy and old ladies.” Its turn has come since then, and many will agree with the opinion expressed by Earl Carrington at the East Anglian banquet of 1899, “Of all the parts of Norfolk that appeal to me most that portion of which the centre is Cromer has the pleasantest fascination for me.” Quite at the beginning of the 19th century comfortable groups of the elite of Quakerdom patronised Cromer, and we can well imagine the select company which was wont to gather on the sands there. Bright Richenda Gurney, afterwards Mrs.Cunningham, describes life in Cromer in 1803:- “When all are met it is an uncommonly pretty sight, such a number of young women, and so many, if not pretty, very nice looking. After breakfasr, we receive callers from other the houses, and fix with them the o time look beautiful: most of our party and the rest of Cromer company come down and bring a number of different carriages, which have a very pretty effect, I never remember enjoying the sea so much, and never liked Cromer a quarter so well.”
Yarmouth , even in the time of Queen Elizabeth, was regarded as a notably healthy place, and its (own) historian, Manship, after urging many quaint arguments in favour of its eastern site, concludes, “ Now this town of Yarmouth, being built north and south in the whole longitude thereof, doth spread itself directly alongst the east, taking thereby, a tall possession of a benefit before remembered. It must needs, therefore, be concluded, 1n Yarmouth is a town as wholesome for situation as any in the kingdom. For further confirmation thereof, myself have known many, by which the advice of very expert and learned physicians, have been sent from Cambridge to Yarmouth, there to remain to take the air of the sea, whereby they have recovered health very speedily.” This is quite the earliest mention we know of the health giving properties of sea air on our coast and it would appear that even by the middle of the 18th century Yarmouth was becoming a popular resort: for in 1759 the sea baths were built at a cost of £2000, in 1785 a handsome assembly-room was added, at which in 1795 there was public breakfasting every Tuesday and Friday, with occasional concerts during the bathing season. So that over a century ago, from July to September, “ a great deal of genteel company from London, most parts of the county, and Suffolk” assembled at Yarmouth either for the purpose of health or pleasure, or both. Suffolk’s chief poet, Crabbe, has in his “Borough,” 1800, some very telling pictures of a bathing –place, evidently intended for his favourite Yarmouth:-
Then may the poorest with the wealthy look,
On ocean glorious page of nature’s book:
May see its varying views in every hour.
All softness now, then rising with all power,
As sleeping to invite, or threat’ning to devour;
‘Tis this which gives its all our choicest views,
Its warm waters heal on, and its shores amuse.
In the first quarter of the 19th century Yarmouth was rapidly developing into the “Playground by the Sea,” which it has since become, and in 1836 we find it recorded:- “Yarmouth is very full of strangers who flock here from all parts of the country to enjoy the cool sea breezes. We believe there is not any other place that affords so excellent a view of shipping in motion as Yarmouth Roads, it being the great thoroughfare for all vessels trading to the North. The Bath Room is one of the principal attractions to visitors, as it is a most agreeable lounge during the heat of the day, and frequent undress balls enliven the youthful part of the company.
“The advent of steam power as applied to locomotion brought in a new era. But the first steam barge which travelled from Yarmouth to Norwich, on the 10th August, 1813, alarmed nervous people, though its rate was just five miles an hour! The Yarmouth to Norwich railway was not inaugurated until till 1844, and in the next year railway communication was established between Norwich and London, when the first travellers by it went in deadly fear and anxiety. Since then the growth of the Norfolk watering places has been marvellously rapid, and railway companies have unremittingly pushed and advertised their passenger traffic, now giving “Fifty Good Reasons why you should go to Hunstanton,” then issuing pictorial guides to every imaginable place of interest or salubrity, and decking their carriages with picturesque views of the broads and villages of East Anglia. We have mentioned Hunstanton, and may say that since the introduction, in 1862, of the railway there (properly speaking at St. Edmunds), the place has developed with extraordinary rapidity, and is becoming one of the most favourite spots on the Norfolk coast, especially for excursionists from Cambridge and Lincolnshire. But of all the Norfolk watering-places Cromer and Sheringham have shown the most phenomenal advances, now supplied with palatial hotels, and spreading outwards in all directions from the old village centres. It is, says Mr. Dutt in his recently published “Highways and Byways of East Anglia,” the peaceful little hamlets nestling in sheltered vales between the cornfields and heather-clad hills and the sea which are the chief charm of the coast near Cromer: these and the homesteads roofed with mossy thatch , the woodlands carpeted with bluebells and anemones, and the country folk, half fishermen, half farmhands, who garner the harvests of land and sea. These are what bring to Cromer those who wish to enjoy the loveliness of Devon scenery without the relaxing air of the south, and they must be made the most of while we have them. For in a little time red brick terraces will have taken the place of thatched homesteads, and every heathery hillside will have its huge hotel. Alas: we fear that Mr. Dutt is a true prophet. From Norfolk News March 16th 1901.
NORFOLK IN THE 19TH CENTURY-
XVIII THE RURAL EXODUS
There can be no denying the fact that one of the most discouraging phenomena affecting the welfare of England in the 19th Century has been the steady depletion of of the rural districts- a depletion which threatens us with not one, but an increasing number of “deserted villages” so far as an active and sturdy working population was concerned. So long ago as the middle of the last century the census returns showed a growing diminution of the rural population, which, as was said then, modern farming with its labour-saving machinery bid fair to accelerate. It is a matter of some literary interest to note that the original of Goldsmith’s “Deserted Village” (1770) is by many supposed to be the Norfolk parish of Houghton. To quote Mr. Dutt’s “Highways and Byways of East Anglia,” “Until the year 1729 the village of Houghton clustered closely about the church and was wholly contained within the park. In that year, however, Sir Robert began to build new cottages outside the gates, and as each was completed a family of his humble tenants was compelled to leave its old home and migrate beyond the borders of the park. This breaking of ties caused much grief to some of the old folk, who loved their little homesteads, and is said to have supplied Goldsmith with the theme of his “Deserted Village.” Such at any rate….has been the belief of several holders of Houghton, and Horace Walpole’s dislike of the poet has been attributed to the latter’s condemnation of a pride which “at pleasure’s lordly call,” saw without regret a “smiling, long-frequented village fall.” But no one will say that the gradual depopulation of the countryside is in any appreciable degree due to tyrannical landlordism, for the causes are fairly obvious, better wages and prospects in the towns, and more life and variety. The shrinkage of agricultural labourers in Norfolk is a very real and serious fact. Between 1871 and 1891 one-tenth of that class had left the land in this country, and from the newly issued figures from the recent census we learn that the following decreases have occurred during the last decade in Norfolk. Unions:- Swaffham 1378, Wayland 470, Downham 1232, Forshoe 650, Blofield 184, but this last, abutting on Norwich, naturally showed a considerable increase in Thorpe. The Fleggs seem to have stood still in the matter of population during the last ten years. The question is forced upon us, whether agriculture in England is a dying industry: whether, indeed, with Dr. Jessop, we shall begin to doubt seriously if before this century has ended there will be any such thing as an agricultural labourer to know. When we consider that a century ago the rural population of England formed 58 percent of our inhabitants, and that the percentage has now fallen to 19, or probably less, as we shall know when the full census returns for the past decade are published, when we consider these figures the prospect seems gloomy indeed. Perhaps no more striking incident has yet occurred in consequence of this lamentable depletion than the sale at Wacton of standing crops of wheat and barley in August, 1899, by public auction, the crops being offered in consequence of the scarcity of labour. Furthermore we have a Government Commissioner Mr. Henry Raw, reporting on Norfolk in 1895, in these sorry words-“ the majority of farmers consider that the quality of the labour has deteriorated. They especially alluded to the lack of interest in their work exhibited by the men, and particularly by the younger men. The young men, said one witness, will not learn farm work, and will be of no use on the land when they grow up. Another said he did not know of a man under 50 years of age who knew how to lay a fence or underdrain. Another said that in north-east Norfolk the first prize in a thatching competition was awarded to a man 70 years of age. Mr. Rider Haggard gives his personal experience, in 1899, that for more than a year he had been looking for a young skilled labourer to whom he could offer the advantage of a good cottage, but was unable to find one. It is unquestionable that Norfolk farmers as a rule distrust and dislike the methods of Board School education and so liberal minded a woman as Miss M Bentham-Edwards, herself long a practicsl farmer in Suffolk, has remarked on this point: “I am bound to acknowledge that the voluntary schools taught the children manners far better than the board Schools do, but I am opposed to the voluntary system on account of the supremacy of the clergy. One great evil of the Board Schools is that they are driving women out of service, and the men off the land, and all are seeking indiscriminate employment in the towns. It is the Board Schools which are denuding the country districts of their population. In the old days such a thing as an old maid was unknown in country districts. Now they swarm for there are no men to marry them.” Another lady, well-known in Norfolk, having an intimate and life-long knowledge of rural folk in the county, writes:- “I have no opinion whatsoever of our system of education. I do not find our scholar once come to man’s estate a whit more intelligent than the scholar of the old system. He reads no better, reasons no better, sticks no less pig-headedly to his single idea-if he has one at all. In my thinking instead of increasing the number of subjects at Board Schools it would be far better to take again the three R’s and have them taught intelligently. The whole thing now is altogether mechanical, both on the part of teacher and pupil. I told our School Inspector this, and he was half of my opinion.”
The magnates of the Education Department sometimes say that the farmer and the squire are no friends of elementary education, to which Mr. Rider Haggard replies, “ In the opinion of us benighted farmers and squires the plan under which the young are taught in rural districts is wrong fundamentally, being indeed a plan devised by dwellers in cities for the advantage and use of cities. What we seek is a system whereby boys and girls will be instructed in those arts and things which are likely to be serviceable to tillers of the soil and their helpmeets. We desire and ask for a course of education intended to make the pursuit of education payable and attractive to those who are born to follow it, in the place of teaching which, either with or without design, does, in effect, turn their thoughts and feewt from the country to the town. “
In the same strain Mr. Claro Sewell Read, writing on the Rural Exodus in the current number of the Eastern Counties Magasine, says:- “There has been a fair advancement in general education, without any attempt to train or direct the intellect. The brain, rather than the hand, and the eye, has received most of the education. We are told that this will be remedied, and that rural children, will in future receive different instruction from those in towns. It is quite right that the intelligence of the village child should be directed to the works of nature with which it is surrounded, and gradually the mysteries of plant and animal life should be unfolded. Where there is a master, the ‘the why and the wherefore’ of common farm practices and the proper manner of handling tools, while the rudiments of mechanical science might be illustrated on the blackboard.” The old adage “as the twigs beat the tree’s inclined,” is certainly true here, an if education merely induced a lad to have clerkly ambitions or a pining for the pleasures of the town, it certainly leaves something to be desired. For a healthy man with wholesome instincts there are attractions and advantages in country life that, properly used, will more than often more than compensate for a less weekly wage in the country than in the town.
The farmers say that nothing but better prices for land produce will stay the rural decline, Yet other remedies have been suggested, while some have actually, within certain limits, proved successful. The encouragement of small holdings, as represented by the Norfolk small holdings Association, bids fair to prove by example one way by which migration from the fields may be arrested. As Mr. F.W.Wilson,M.P., has said in this connection, there is doubt that where a number of families live on the soil the villages and neighbouring towns are more prosperous than when a vast area is held by a very few people living in solitary magnificence as is the case in West Norfolk. It is contended that villagers would be tempted to stay on the land if they could obtain better cottages, and an acre or half-an-acre of land. This is very much the remedy advocated by the Rev. C.R.Panter in some able letters to this journal a few months since, viz., to colonize the land at home by dividing up some lands into smallholdings of, say, 5, 10, up to 50 acres, and inducing the intelligent able-bodied young labourers to settle upon them, and work them as a career in life……..
Norfolk we are glad to state, heads the counties in this matter, just over 100 parishes now having their own allotments under their Parish Councils. Some Parish councils have bought land outright instead of hiring it. Altogether over 25,000 working men are now tenants of Parish Councils as allotment holders.
As has been well said, the real secret of the failure of the labourer is lack of personal interest in the land, though, once brought into fair cultivation it requires no very great amount of labour to ensure fertile crops. And there is abundant evidence that, at any rate in some districts, the growth of vegetsbles aand other garden produce on such plots, if conducted with moderate intelligence and industry, with realise very comfortable profits……