Land Tenure and Unemployment




1. Improved arable culture in seventeenth century and enclosure of wastes

Enclosures continued throughout the seventeenth century, but their purpose was to some extent different from what it had formerly been. The movement which we saw beginning during the latter part of the sixteenth century, enclosing to arable for improved cultivation, continued to progress, and with it there was much ingrossing and consolidation of farms. "Arable agriculture enters on a period of progress, and new methods of cultivation are within the power of the careful and enlightened tenant."* Houghton,† writing at the end of the century, speaks of enclosure on light lands, as, for example, the sands of Norfolk, where new grasses and root crops flourished, and also states that the growth of agriculture was then leading to even more extensive enclosures than formerly.
* Gonner, p.326.
† Houghton edited a weekly paper with articles on agriculture, etc., 1691-1702.

There was also much enclosure of waste land during this century, especially in Cornwall and the west, and in Cornwall* and Devonshire† enclosures had probably proceeded farther than in any other county.
* Carew in a book on Cornwall dated 1600, quoted by Slater.
† Leland in 1537 found no "champaigne," or open land, in Devonshire or Cornwall.

2. Much conversion to pasture, especially in Midlands

In addition to this enclosure to arable there was much enclosure and conversion to pasture for sheep and dairy-farming, especially in the Midlands. "Thus in the third place, where conversion is a feature, it probably takes place far more thoroughly* and uniformly than was previously the case.... In particular, a part of the Midlands is turned more and more to pasture, and in the east, land begins to bear its present aspect in respect of grain. Taking the compositions for depopulation for the years 1635-8, the only counties where these bear a high proportion to area are, in their order, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Rutlandshire, Hampshire and Lincolnshire. Very much below them stand Hertfordshire and Nottinghamshire, while in the other counties mentioned these payments are insignificant!"† The increase in the price of cattle during this century would probably contribute to the extension of pasture and grazing.
* Gonner, p.139: "Thus we hear that inclosure is worse than in the time of Henry VII, and the sheep figures as a destroyer of farms and devourer of men in the pages of various writers. Further, the proceedings of the Privy Council with letters to the Sheriffs, and the levy of compositions, emphasize the anxiety."
† Id., p.328.

3. Enclosure by agreement confirmed by Chancery Decree widespread

The method of effecting enclosures during the seventeenth century was usually by agreement confirmed by Chancery Decree and sometimes by Act of Parliament. But probably the largest areas dealt with were enclosed by so-called agreement confirmed by a Chancery Decree. The demesne land continued to form the subject of enclosure as well as the common fields and pasture, and we are told that many tenants enclosed their land piece by piece.*
* Leonard, "The Inclosure of Common Fields in the Seventeenth Century," Trans. R. Hist. Soc., 1905, N.S., vol.xix.

As to agreement, there can be little doubt that a large landowner or farmer would have many ways of enforcing agreement amongst the small holders, and we have evidence of several collusive actions* in Chancery to compel dissentients to agree. Poor tenants would have little chance to appear in London and maintain their claims, and if they took such action, it would be likely to result in their eviction.
* P-C Register VII, ch. i, pp.506-7; P.C. Register X, 197 (October 31, 1634)

With reference to these Chancery Decrees, Miss Leonard says: "The Inclosure decrees and Awards of the Courts of Westminster are not indexed, but after months of searching I feel justified in asserting that these decrees were more numerous than has been usually supposed, and that they refer to many different parts of the country — to Yorkshire and Warwickshire as well as to Leicestershire and Northamptonshire, to Hampshire and Oxfordshire as well as to Lincolnshire and Huntingdonshire."* Dealing in detail with the county of Durham, she shows that between 1634 and 1700 about 4% of the area of the county (25,000 acres common fields and 3,518 acres common pasture) was affected by agreements and decrees, and from 1585 about 6¼% of the area.
* Trans. R. Hist. Soc., N.S. vol.xix.

4. Instructions to Council of the North concerning depopulation

Depopulation of the country-side and the increase of vagrancy continued to trouble the Government, for the Poor Law Act of 1601 was only a palliative, and made no pretence at striking at the cause of the trouble.

The Instructions to the President and Council of the North in 1603 again dealt with enclosures, in the following terms: "Further our pleasure is that the said Lord President and Council shall from time to time make diligent and effectual inquisition of the wrongful taking in of commons and other grounds and the decay of tillage and of towns or houses of husbandry contrary to the laws... and leaving all respects and affections apart they shall take such order for redress of enormities used in the same as the poor people be not oppressed and forced to go begging."*

5. The Midland Rising (1607)

In 1604 the people of Northamptonshire, through Sir Edward Montague, a county member, complained of the "depopulation and daily excessive conversion of tillage into pasture." According to Professor Gay,* "Sir Edward, though himself impressed with the inconvenience of the open-field husbandry, in reporting these complaints to Parliament, said that the 'cry of the county' had 'so strongly enjoined' him that he could do no less than present this request to the 'consideration of your wisdomes.'"†
* "The Midland Revolt and the Inquisition of Depopulation in 1607," Trans. R. Hist. Soc., N.S., vol.xviii.
† See Hist. MSS. Comm., MSS. of Lord Montague of Beaulieu, 42

Enclosure and conversion in this county and in the Midlands generally continued, and feeling at last became so strong that in June 1607 there was a fairly widespread rising in those counties against enclosures. This rising began in Northamptonshire. The Earl of Shrewsbury, writing* to the Earl of Kent, June 2, 1607, said: "They answered, that if the sayd sheriff and Justices wolde acquaynt his Matie that the cause of theyr rysing was oute of no vndutifull mynde to his Matie but only for reformation of thos late inclosures wch made them of ye porest sorte reddy to pyne for wante, and yt they myght heare answere from his Matle within vi dayes and that his Hs wolde promis to reforme thos abvses, they wolde then all departe home, and rely upon his Mate promis and performance thereof &c." He goes on to say that if he had been dealing with the matter, he would not have parleyed with "such insolent base and rebellious people,"and that force should have been used against them if they had not returned home instantly.
* Lansdowne MSS., 90, f.23.

This rising was speedily repressed, and we learn from a parish register entry* by Thomas Cox, Rector of Addington Magna, dated June 8, that "many were taken prisoners, who afterwards were hanged and quartered, and their quarters set up at Northampton, Oundle, Thrapston, and other places."
* Bridges, Northamptonshire, ii, 206.

6. The Enclosure Proclamation — action to be taken against offenders

On June 28, 1607, there was issued an Enclosure Proclamation* in which the blame for the continuance of depopulating enclosures is put on the people who "have been wanting to themselves in the due and ordinary meanes which they ought to take, by presentment of, such as are or have bene guilty of these oppressions." He must indeed have been a bold man who would present his landlord as an encloser at this time, and, as has been shown, there is considerable evidence that those who did present were harshly treated, and that fear of eviction kept large numbers from presenting. It was, moreover, the continued failure of presentment and of the Government to bring any redress to the peasants that brought about the rising.
* Rot. Pat., 5 James I.

The Proclamation states, however, that the judges had been assembled to discover enclosure offenders and "to consider how farre they may be touched in law, and in what course, and accordingly to proceed against them with all severitie."

7. Government appoints a Commission. Returns show wide-spread movement

Following this Proclamation the Government set up another Commission to inquire into the enclosure and conversion of arable land. The instructions issued did not mention the enclosure of waste and pasture, but there are some presentments for such enclosures and also for the conversion of arable land apart from enclosure. The Returns* supply the acreage converted and the acreage severed, this latter term apparently referring to cases where land was severed from farm-houses, resulting in the decay of the houses. Lands severed would thus form part of an ingrossing and consolidating scheme.†
* See Trans. R. Hist. Soc., N.S., vol.xviii, 1904.
† In Northamptonshire open-field farms varied from £50 to £150 a year, in newly enclosed parishes from £100 to £300 a year, and in old enclosed parishes up to £500; in South Wilts common field farms £18 to £25 a year, and enclosed farms £100 to £300 (Leonard, Trans. R. Hist. Soc., N.S., vol. xix).

The Returns comprise the counties of Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Huntingdonshire, and date back to 1578. In comparing the five counties returned in 1517 and 1607, the percentage of the acreage returned to the total acreage of the counties was respectively 1.72% and 2.46%. The acreage represented in 1607 was 69,758 acres scattered among 393 places, thus showing that the movement was a general one throughout the Midlands. But again we hear of the intimidation of jurors and witnesses, which would account for the incomplete character of the Returns.

The figures for the six counties* are as follows:

WarwickshireArea affected, 5,373 acres, of which
Converted4,973 acres
Severed400 acres
  Houses decayed88
  Persons displaced33
LeicestershireArea affected, 12,290 acres, of which
Converted9,005 acres
Severed3,285 acres
  Houses decayed172
  Persons displaced120
Northamptonshire    Area affected, 27,335 acres, of which
Converted10,746 acres
Severed13,056 acres
  Houses decayed358
  Persons displaced1,444
BuckinghamshireArea affected, 7,077 acres, of which
Converted3,532 acres
Severed3,355 acres
  Houses decayed80
  Persons displaced86
BedfordshireArea affected, 10,004 acres, of which
Converted2,852 acres
Severed6,687 acres
  Houses decayed122
  Persons displaced259
HuntingdonshireArea affected, 7,677 acres, of which
Converted3,798 acres
Severed3,870 acres
  Houses decayed146
  Persons displaced290
* The movement was not confined to these counties. Dr. Gay quotes Bateson, Northumberland: At Kewham there were "expelled seventeene scoro men, women and children all upon one day."

8. House of Lords finds poverty due to ingrossing and overpopulation

On July 5, 1607, the House of Lords published a "Consideration"* of the cause of depopulation, and it is interesting to note their conclusions and suggested remedies: "In-grossinge beinge truly the disease and not conuertinge wiche may be iustified for.... By redressinge the fault of Depopulation and Leaueing encloseinge, and conuertinge arbitrable as in other shires the poore man shall be satisfied in His ende; Habitation; and the gentleman not Hindred in his desier: Improvement. But as thear is now a Labour to sute out Dwellinges for as muche stocke of people as the Comon Wealth will beare it must likewise be fitt, as good husbandes doe withe their groundes to provide that you doe not over burthen it. But as they doe wth their increase remove them to other places: soe must the State either by transferring to the Warres or deduceinge of Colonies vent the daylie encrease that ells will surcharge the State; ffor if in London a place more contagious then the Countrye the nomber of Cristenings doth weekly by 40 exceede the burialls, and that the Countries proportionally doth equall if not outgoe that rate, It cannot be but that in this State, as in a full bodie theare must breake out yearely tumors and Impostures as did of late."†
* A consideration of the cause in question before the Lords touchinge depopulation."- Cottonian MSS., Brit. Museum (quoted by W. Cunningham, D.D. The Growth of English Industry and Commerce, vol.i).
† Cf. the view taken by the Council; see par.9.

Thus it will be readily seen that the Commons had little chance of any real redress of grievances from such a body as this. The Lords calmly say that the gentleman should have his desire — improvement, which meant an increase of rent, but that the so-called surplus population should be shipped off to the Colonies or the wars. They seem to have overlooked the fact that the dispossessed who revolted had been robbed of their holdings, and but for this would still have been in employment.

9. Complaints continue. Council instruct justices to take action. Council and justices agree that depopulation results from enclosure and conversion

As in previous times, the Government's measures against enclosers seem to have had little effect, for in 1630, in consequence of continued complaints from the Midlands, the Council have to instruct the justices of several counties to remove the enclosures of the previous two years. Writing to the justices in Leicestershire and Northamptonshire the Council say:* "There appeares many great inclosures... all wch are or are lyke to turne to the conversion of much ground from errable to pasture and be very hurtfull to the commonwealth although they beare a fayre shewe of satisfaccon to all parties who are concerned in those grounds inclosed. But wee well know wth all what ye consequence will be, and in conclusion all turne to depopulacion."†
* "These letters issued by the Privy Council show that the official opinion of the time coincided with that of the pamphleteers in the belief that as late as 1631 inclosure in the Midland Counties tended to depopulation even when all the commoners were well treated" (Leonard, Trans. R. Hist. Soc., N.S., vol.xix).
Trans. R. Hist. Soc., N.S., vol.xix; P.C. Register VI, f.385, 1630.

In replying to similar letters from the Council, the justices of Norfolk write: "Most Honorable; We; Wee have caused a view* to bee made according to yor lops late lres of all inclosures & convrsions of arrable land to meadow and pasture wch are now in hand or have beene made wth in two yeares last past. And wee have signifyed yor lops direccons unto such persons as are causers of any such inclosures & convrsions & have given them notice that they ought not to proceede wth hedgeing or dytchinge in of any such grounds but to let them so rest untill wee shall have furder orders from yor honors. And wee further conceave that if depopulacons may bee reformed it will bring a great good to the whole Kingdom, for where houses are pulled downe the people are forced to seeke new habitations in other townes and countryes by meanes whereof those townes where they get a setling are pestred so as they are hardly able to live one by an other and it is likewise the cause of erecting new cottages uppon the waste & other places who are not able to relieve themselves nor any such townes able to sustaine or set them on worke wch causes rogues and vagabondes to encrease. Moreover it doth appeare that in those townes wch are depopulated the people beinge expelled there are few or none left to serve the King when souldjours are to be levyed to appeare at musters for his Mat's service wch is also a cause that poore Townes where many people are, are put to greater charg in setting forth of souldjours & depopulated Townes are much eased and the subsidie decayed. All wch wee humbly submit to yor lops great wisdome."†
* See S.P. Dom., Charles I, 1631 (vol.206), 69-71.
† S.P. Dom., Charles I, Vol.CLXXXV, No.86 This is signed by ten justices.

Other Commissions were appointed in 1632, 1635 and 1636; and in 1633 special instructions were given to Judges of Assize on the matter of enclosures, and they had to attend the Council and report their proceedings.*
* P.C. Register IX, f.267, October 18, 1633.

10. Winstanley and the Diggers. Poverty due to withholding of land from use

The Digger movement, under the leadership of one Gerrard Winstanley, began about 1648, and is of interest in throwing light on the views held by a body of people of that time concerning the cause of poverty and unemployment. Winstanley, who had been a small trader in London, had lost his money by reason of the Civil War. We find something of his views in a pamphlet issued in 1649 entitled The New Law of Righteousness.* He held that the land belonged of right to all the people of England, and that no man should be denied access to land if he wished to work it. The buying and selling of the earth from one particular hand to another was the beginning of "particular interest," and the result of this was that he who had bought land was able to compel the landless man to work for him for low wages. The Norman Conquest had resulted in a robbery of the people of England of their rights in the soil, and that, and the gradual establishment of private property in land, had brought poverty to the country.
* Jesus Coll. Lib., Oxford. This and other documents referring to the Digger movement are quoted in The Digger Movement in the Days of the Commonweath, L.H. Berens.

Among his practical proposals we find the following: "Divide England into three parts, scarce one part is manured. So that here is land enough to maintain all her children, yet many die of want, or live under a heavy burden of poverty all their days. And this misery the poor people have brought upon themselves by lifting up particular interest by their labours.... Let those that have hitherto had no land, and have been forced to rob and steal through poverty; henceforth let them quietly enjoy land to work upon, that everyone may enjoy the benefit of his Creation, and eat his own bread with the sweat of his own brows. For surely this particular propriety of mine and thine hath brought in all misery upon people. First, it hath occasioned people to steal one from another. Secondly it hath made laws to hang those who did steal. It tempts people to do an evil action, and then kills them for doing it.* Let all judge whether this be not a great evil."
* Cf. Sir T. More in Utopia.

11. The Diggers start to cultivate waste land

Winstanley and his followers endeavoured to put their beliefs into practice by starting work on the wastes at St. George's Hill, Surrey, and elsewhere. At the former place they were harried, we are told, by the surrounding tenants at the instigation of the "gentlemen of the County," and some were fined and imprisoned. Arising out of this incident, Winstanley and others in 1649 sent an Appeal* to the House of Commons in the following terms: "The main thing that you should look upon is the land, which calls upon her children to be free from the entanglements of the Norman Taskmasters. For one third part lies waste and barren, and her children starve for want, in regard the Lords of Manors will not suffer the poor to manure it... let the Common People have the Commons and Waste Lands set free to them from all Norman enslaving Lords of Manors."†
* King's Pamphlets, Brit. Museum Press Mark E., 564.
† General Fairfax, who visited St. George's Hill in May 1649, said: "They carry themselves civilly and fairly in the country, and have the report of sober, honest men." (Brit. Museum Press Mark E., 530).

12. Declaration of the poor of Wellingborrow

Some of the poor in Wellingborrow, Northamptonshire, had followed the example of the Surrey Diggers, and in a printed broadsheet,* dated March 12, 1649, there is a Declaration setting forth their policy. They say: "We find that no creature that ever God made was ever deprived of the benefit of the Earth, but Mankind.... We are in Wellinborrow in one parish 1169 persons that receive alms, as the Officers have made it appear at the Quarter Sessions last. We have made our case known to the Justices: the Justices have given order that the Town should raise a stock to set us on work, and that the Hundred should be enjoyned to assist them. But as yet we see nothing is done, nor any man that goeth about it. We have spent all we have; our trading is decayed; our wives and children cry for bread.... If we steal, the Law will end our lives. Divers of the poor are starved to death already; and it were better for us that are living to die by the Sword than by the Famine. And now we consider that the Earth is our Mother; and that God hath given it to the children of men; and that the Common and Waste Grounds belong to the poor; and that we have a right to the common ground both from the law of the Land, Reason, and Scriptures. Therefore we have begun to bestow our righteous labor upon it, and we shall trust the Spirit for a blessing upon our labor, resolving not to dig up any man's propriety until they freely give us it... some of those rich men amongst us that have had the greatest profit upon the Commons have freely given us their share in it... and the country farmers have profered, divers of them, to give us seed to sow it.... And truly those that we find against us have been constant enemies to the Parliament Cause from first to last." News of the activities of these Diggers reached the Council of State, and word was sent to a Justice of the Peace for the County: "Let those men be effectually proceeded against at the next Sessions, and if any that ought to be instrumental to bring them to punishment fail in their duty, signify the same to us, that we may require of them an account of their neglect."†
* Brit. Museum, under Wellingborrow. Press Mark, S. Sh., fol.669, f.15(21).
† Cal. S.P. Dom., Green, p.106, April 15, 1650.

13. Edward Sexby speaks for the private soldier, who owns no estate in the land

In the Army Council debate on the question of the right to vote, Edward Sexby,* a representative of the private soldiers, in reply to Ireton, said: "We have engaged in this Kingdom and ventured our lives, and it was all for this: to recover our birthrights and privileges as Englishmen; and by the arguments urged, there are none. There are many thousands of us soldiers that have ventured our lives, we have had little propriety in the Kingdom as to our estates, yet we have had a birthright. But it seems now that except a man hath a fixed estate in this Kingdom, he hath no right in this Kingdom. I wonder we were so deceived. If we had not a right to the Kingdom, we were mere mercenary soldiers."
* Clarke Papers, vol.i, pp.322-3, 325.

14. Law of Settlement, 1662, makes agricultural labourer a landless serf

The administration of the Poor Law Act of 1601 had been lax for several years,* and in 1630 a Commission was appointed to inquire into the administration of the Act, the justices being ordered to see to its due execution. Lords of manors and town authorities were also ordered to see that work was provided to relieve the poor.
* See Cunningham, Growth, etc., vol.ii, p.208.

In 1662* the Law of Settlement came into force — a law which aimed at keeping the labourer to the parish of his birth or residence, and preventing him from wandering in search of work.† If he did wander and came to another parish, he could be removed within forty days to the place from whence he had come, if there were any danger of his becoming chargeable. Thus the agricultural labourer became "a serf without land — the most portentous phenomenon in agriculture."‡ Commenting on the results of this Act, Thorold Rogers says: "Those persons who possessed the whole of a parish took care, whenever they could, to pull down cottages on their estate and rely on labour from a distance. By this system they hired labour at quarter sessions rate — i.e. at factitiously low wages — while the parish of the man's residence had to supplement his wages and to bear all those contingencies which were enhanced by the labourer being constrained to travel a considerable distance to his work in all weathers.... The wealthy landowners clung to it with desperate tenacity, for it increased their rents at the expense of the occupier and the poor."¤
* 13, 14 Charles II, cap.12.
† "It interfered with the employment of the industrious and it chained the unemployed to districts where no work could be obtained "(Cunningham, p.208).
‡ Thorold Rogers.
¤ Id., Six Centuries of Work and Wages, p.434.

15. Depopulation increases poor rates

Enclosures and the consequent depopulation of the countryside frequently resulted in an increase of poor rates, not necessarily in the depopulated districts, but often in the neighbouring towns whither the dispossessed found their way. "The seventeenth-century complainants who lived in the agricultural and more thinly populated districts traced the effect of inclosures too clearly to imagine that the increase of rates would of necessity be in the inclosed parishes. Holhead and Moore (Inclosure Thrown Open, p.5.; The Crying Sin of England, p.11) alike show that the increase was more often in the neighbouring towns, where the people swarmed when deprived of their holdings and employments.* The same estimate of cause and effect is confirmed by the official report of the justices of Nottingham (S.P. Dom., ch.i, CLXXXV, 86) and also by the rule of the Book of Orders (January 1630, Eden, i, p.158), providing that extra rates should be imposed where depopulations had taken place."†
* See par.9.
† Leonard, Trans. R. Hist. Soc., N.S., vol.xix.

16. Contemporary evidence of depopulation. Results of enclosing the waste

Thus not only are enclosures deplored on account of their depopulating tendencies, but for the increased burdens placed on the occupier by aiding the pauper out of the rates. Many contemporary writers supply evidence of depopulation, and the continued decay and frequent wilful destruction of farmhouses. Moore says he does not complain of enclosures in counties where there are alternative occupations, as in Kent, but as regards other parts of the country, "surely they may make men as soon believe there is no sun in the firmament as that usually depopulation and decay of tillage will not follow inclosure in our inland countryes."*
* John Moore, A Scripture Word, etc, 1656.

Gonner, referring to the enclosures of this century, says: "It is obvious that two of the most serious charges urged against inclosure on public grounds would not be tenable as against that of common or waste. Inclosing these could not lead to a depopulation by reducing employment, nor could it occasion a decrease in the grain supply."* It is difficult to understand how, in the face of the evidence of contemporaries, it can be said that enclosure of waste and common could not cause depopulation. When these lands were taken in for sheep-farming or grazing, the evidence is clear to the effect that many more peasants were displaced by reason of deprivation of common rights than were given employment arising out of the new use to which the lands were put. It must also be remembered that land once enclosed became for all practical purposes absolute private property, so that the encloser might withhold it from use or keep it for sport as he chose. It will be seen, too, in subsequent chapters,† that even when enclosed waste was used to produce corn, it was frequently put back to grass when prices fell. Had, however, this land been colonized by the peasants, as it would have been but for enclosure, a large part of it of necessity would have remained arable. So that even if immediate unemployment were not caused, the power of withholding that land from use in the future lay in the hands of the encloser.
* Gonner, p.295.
† See Chapter XI. par.9; also Chapters XII and XIII.

17. Lupton's satire. Land hunger prevalent. The repeal of the tillage laws

Lupton,* a satirist, writing in 1634 on enclosures and the condition of the country-side, said: "The poor of the parish and other places are his chief pioneers, who like mould-warps cast up earth. The parish he either wins by composition, or banters down by force of his lawless engines. Most of the inhabitants are miserably pillaged and undone. He loves to see the bounds of his boundless desires; he is like the devil; for they both compass the earth about. Enclosures make fat beasts, and lean poor people.... Husbandmen he loves not; for he maintains a few shepherds, with their curs. He holds those that plough the land, cruel oppressors; for they wound it, he thinks, too much, and therefore he intends to lay it down to rest."
* London and the, Country Carbonadoed! (Harleian Misc., ix, 326).

Moore also gives us an idea of the prevalent land-hunger. He writes: "Truly it would make a charitable heart bleed to come now into our markets where we are now so busie upon such inclosures in Leicestershire where the markett is full of inquirie and complaint of such tennants to all they meet: 'Can you help me to a farm or a little land to imploy my team?'"*
* The Crying Sin of England, p.9.

The tillage laws of Elizabeth were repealed in 1624,* and an increase of enclosures followed, but it was then decided by the Court of Star Chamber that "depopulation" was a common law offence, and for such offence there were several prosecutions,† Coke himself being active against enclosers.
* See P.C. Register IV., January 26, 1619. Low price of corn affects landlords.
† S.P. Dom., Charles I, No.95, v, 187.

18. Law of Settlement results in decay of cottages. A tendency to large-scale farming

We have seen how the Law of Settlement encouraged the destruction of cottages and the employment of labour from a distance. Evidence of this movement, and of the tendency to ingross and farm on a large scale, is given by Lord North,* who wrote towards the end of the century. He said: "It is another very great destruction of people as well as an impediment to the recruit of them that gentlemen of late years have taken up an humour of destroying their tenements and cottages whereby they make it impossible that mankind should inhabit upon their estates. This is done sometimes barefaced because they harbour poor that are a charge to the parish, and sometimes because the charge of repairing is great, and if an house be ruinous they will not be at the cost of rebuilding and repairing it, and cast their lands into very great farms which are managed with less housing: and oftimes for improvement as it is called which is done by buying in all freeholds, copyholds, and tenements that have common, and which harboured very many husbandry and labouring families, and then enclosing the commons and fields turning the managery from tillage to grazing." And once consolidation has been accomplished, "the English land laws with the custom of primogeniture and the difficulty of transferring land tend to make consolidation perpetual."†
* Roger North, A Discourse of the Poor published 1753.
† Leonard, Trans. R. Hist. Soc., N.S., vol.xix.

19. Dispossessed drift to the towns. Measures taken by the towns

The goal of many of the dispossessed in the seventeenth as in the sixteenth and fifteenth centuries was, of course, the towns. "Inclosure proceedings as conducted in England conduced to the destruction of this rural society. The labourers gradually ceased to own or occupy land; the farms increased in size; the possession of land became more exclusively the privilege of the rich; and an ever-increasing proportion of the people left the country for the towns."*
* Leonard, Trans. R. Hist. Soc., N.S., vol.xix.

In Nottingham and other towns the inrush from the country-side was becoming a menace. Among the many references in the Nottingham Borough Records to this matter there is the following order: "Itt ys lykewise ordered and agreed, thatt from henceforthe noe Burgesse or freeman of this towne shall receave, admitt, or take in any tenant, or person, or persons to be his tenant to anye cottage or poore habytacion here nowe in beinge cominge oute of the countrie and nott beinge a towne dweller here, without the lycence and consent of the said Maior, Recorder, and Aldermen."* This order was made because the burgesses had complained of the great house shortage caused through the drift of peasants from the country-side. Countrymen taken in as tenants within the last three years were to be removed, or else the burgesses were to stand surety for them, that they should not become chargeable to the parish. Also, to try and prevent the inrush, both London† and Nottingham prohibited the erection of cottages or the conversion of barns into dwelling-houses or houses into separate tenements.‡
* Nottingham Borough Records, 1612.
† See Cunningham, The Growth of English Industry, etc., p.171, vol.ii.
‡ Act of 1593: No new buildings within three miles of the city unless for inhabitants of better sort."

20. Insecurity of tenure prevents improvements

That tenure was at all times insecure throughout this century will be gathered from the continuance of enclosures. Gabriel Plattes,* a writer on husbandry, voices this grievance and draws attention to its evil results: "I see no reason why tenants at will, for life or a term of years, should be industrious whereas the benefit of their labours is to fall into other men's purses, unless there be a contract between landlord and tenant, whereby a just share may redound to both parties answerable to their merit, which, if this were done, then would the husbandmen be much stirred up to try experiments."† And given security of tenure, "men would labour cheerfully, as for their posterity, if they were sure that another should not reap where they have sown."‡
* Treatise on English Husbandry, 1638.
† Chapter IV.
‡ Chapter VII.

Walter Blith,* dealing with the same matter in 1649, wrote: "If a tenant be at ever so great pains or cost for the improvement of his land, he doth thereby but occasion a great rack upon himself, or else invests his landlord with his cost and labour gratis, or at best lies at his landlord's mercy for requital, which occasions a neglect of good husbandry, to his own, the land, the landlord, and the Kingdom's suffering."
* On Husbandry, preface.

21. Industry and commerce prosperous — rents and prices rise, wages fall

Referring to rents* during this period, Thorold Rogers says that it "is exceedingly probable, if not certain," that "in the course of the seventeenth century they were increased six or eight fold."† But while rents and prices were rising, wages were falling, so that although the country was developing and industry and commerce were expanding, the dispossessed had no share in this. "The English people who lived by wages were sinking lower and lower, and fast taking their place in the contrast with the opulence which trade and commerce began, and manufacturing activity multiplied, as the beggarly hewers and drawers of prosperous and progressive England. In 1651 the magistrates of Essex in quarter sessions at Chelmsford fixed the wages of artisans and labourers at 1s.6d. and 1s. a day respectively; and this was the price which they generally secured. The price of wheat in this year was nearly 50s. a quarter."‡ Wheaten bread was still probably the most customary food of the peasant, although in 1626 it is stated in the grant of a monopoly¤ from King Charles that barley bread was the usual food of the people. Houghton,†† however, writing during the last decade of the century, said that wheaten bread had always been the customary food, and that barley bread was only used when wheat was scarce.
* John Taylor — the Water Poet — in 1630 wrote:
    The painful Plowmans paines doe never cease,
    For he must pay his rent, or lose his lease,
    And though his Father and himselfe before,
    Have oft reliev'd poore beggars at theire doore;
    Yet now his Fine and Rent so high is rear'd,
    That his own meat, and cloathes are scarcely clear'd.
    (Superbiœ Flagellum.)
Six Centuries, etc., p.449.
‡ Ibid., p.432.
¤ Eden, i, p.561.
†† See Thorold Rogers, p.462.

22. Gregory King's statistics

In 1696 were published some very interesting and important statistics, the result of calculations and estimates by Gregory King. These calculations seem to have been made with great care and in a scientific manner, and are generally considered to be reliable. These estimates, which will be found very useful later for purposes of comparison, are as follows:

Population of England5,318,000
    Income of freeholders
    averages £55 to £90
    Income of farmers
    averages £42 10s
Shopkeepers and tradesmen50,000
Artisans and craftsmen60,000

The above, with nobles and professional men, number nearly one-half of the population.

Agricultural labourers and country people engaged in small industries inhabit 849,000 houses, which at four persons to a house gives us 3,396,000 for this group.

Arable land11,000,000 acres
Pasture and meadow    10,000,000 acres
Sheep and lambs11,000,000
Swine and pigs2,000,000



1. Extent of enclosures in eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Reasons for fresh outburst

Although, as we have seen, enclosures did not cease after the great movement of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, yet after the first outburst it was more in the nature of a steady progress. Now in the eighteenth century the movement again intensifies, and continues with varying force up to the middle of the nineteenth century, accounting for the enclosure of over one-third of the area of the cultivated land of this country,* or, roughly speaking, for all land not previously enclosed and appropriated. It is computed that some 3,000,000 acres were enclosed in the eighteenth century and 6,000,000 acres in the first half of the nineteenth century, but even this enormous total is probably exceeded when account is taken of all non-parliamentary enclosure.†
* See First Report of Royal Comm. on Agric. (1867), issued 1896.
† See Slater and Gonner.

The enclosures of these centuries had several contributory causes. Improvements in agriculture, introduced by such men as Tull and "Turnip" Townsend, which took the line of growing new root crops and artificial grasses; the introduction of the system of rotation of crops; improvements in the breeding of stock, such as the improvements in sheep-breeding by Bakewell, led to much enclosure of both arable and pasture, to conversion of arable,* and to the establishment of large-scale farms. The increase in prices due to the Napoleonic wars gave a great impetus to enclosures, especially of waste lands for corn-growing. There was also a great demand for land, especially in the latter half of the eighteenth century, by rich merchants and traders who had made fortunes during the commercial prosperity of the earlier part of the century. This class of people, and also many smaller folk, evinced quite a "craze"† for farming, and all this contributed to increase the demand for land. Lastly, there is the rapacity of the landowners to take into account, for enclosure and the demand for land increased their rents, as did also the conversion of arable to pasture — a movement to which the term "improvement"‡ was applied.
* Gonner: "After 1750 the Midland inclosures increased rapidly. Without doubt the increased demand for animal products and the improvements in breeding and feeding combine to associate inclosure from 1750 to 1780 with frequent conversions to pasture. This tendency decreases after 1780.
† Thorold Rogers.
‡ Cf. the term "approvement."

2. Great events of the period. Industrial Revolution. Large-scale farming. Widespread poverty and unemployment

In considering the enclosure movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and its results, it is important to bear in mind other great changes which were taking place in the country at this time. Commerce and industry flourished in the eighteenth century, especially in the first half, and foreign trade continued to grow rapidly.* Then came the series of great discoveries and inventions which were to give this country the lead in the world's manufactures. These inventions, and the use of steam power, brought about what has been called the Industrial Revolution, which extended from about 1770 well on into the nineteenth century. This great change in industry, coupled, as we shall see, with the enclosure movement, led to the supersession of the "domestic system" of manufacture by the "factory system,"and a consequent shifting of the centre of gravity of the population from the south and east of England to the north and west.
* Cunningham, The Growth of English Industry and Commerce.

In agriculture the movement was towards large-scale farms and the elimination of the yeoman farmer and cotter. The latter mostly became landless paupers, while the average produce per acre was six or seven times what it was in the fourteenth century.

This period also saw the greatest war there had hitherto been, lasting from 1792 to 1815, and the greatest degradation, misery, and unemployment.

3. Enclosure affects all lands. Largely carried through by private Act of Parliament

Enclosures during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries affected all lands — the open arable field, the common pasture, and the waste. According to Dr. Slater,* from 1727 onward about one-third of the Enclosure Acts are for commonable waste and two-thirds for enclosing all the open and common arable and other lands of a parish.
* The English Peasantry and the Enclosure of Common Fields.

The enclosures of this period were carried out to a large extent by private Acts of Parliament, and later by public General Enclosure Acts; but at the same time probably an almost equal area was enclosed without any parliamentary intervention. An Act of Parliament for this purpose was not a new idea, for in the reign of Charles II there had been an Act for the enclosing of Bedford Level.* When these Acts became regular in the eighteenth century, they at first took the place of the Chancery Decree, which had been used to confirm an agreement, but later they were used to effect enclosure, with little suggestion of previous agreement. Whatever the method of enclosure, however, we shall find that it was attended with great hardship and distress.
* 15 Charles II, cap.17, revoked by 1 James II, cap.21.

4. The early Acts usually confirmed an agreement

Some idea of enclosure by agreement, and the object of the movement can be obtained from The Duty of a Steward to his Lord,* written in 1727: "If the Free holders cannot all be persuaded to sell, yet at least an Agreement for Inclosing should be pushed forward, by the Steward, and a scheme laid, wherein it may appear that an exact and proportional share will be allotted to every proprietor, persuading them first, if possible, to sign a Form of Agreement, and then to chuse Commissioners on both sides.... If the Steward be a man of good sense, he will find a necessity of making use of it all, in rooting out superstition from amongst them, as what is so great a hindrance to all noble Improvements."† And in the same work we find the following advice: "The Steward should endeavour to lay all the small Farms, let to poor indigent People, to the great ones.... It is unwise to unite farms all at once, because of the odium and increase of Poor-rates."‡
* E. Laurence, Art. XIV, p.35 (quoted by Dr. Slater).
† I.e. increases of rent.
‡ The italics are ours.

5. Method under the Private Act — Petition, Commissioners, and Award

After the middle of the century the private Act became the rule. The movement to enclose was usually started by petition, which necessitated some expenditure; and it was just this procedure which gave the large landowner the dominant voice in the whole arrangement.* A Commissioner or Commissioners were appointed, and the onus was put on the commoners to prove their rights of common. Of course, in a large number of cases they were unable to prove a legal right, and so were not entitled to compensation.† Part of the land was let or sold to defray the expenses of the enclosure, which were usually large, and after new roads were laid out, the Commissioners proceeded to redistribute and allot the holdings. The lord would receive the lion's share of the waste and common pasture, and those who had succeeded in proving rights of common would be given a small allotment, in many cases so small as to be useless.‡ Also if the occupier of the cottage were only a tenant, the allotment in lieu of common rights went to the owner of the cottage, the tenant getting nothing. All allotments had to be fenced by the allottees, and the expense of doing this, and the smallness of the allotment, frequently led the holder to sell to the large farmer, who was only too willing to buy. In this way rights which the commoner should have handed down to posterity were lost for ever.¤
* Gonner: "Still it is no doubt true that in the first two-thirds, and to a considerable extent throughout the whole eighteenth century, the real a tf ln determining on inclosure and in devising the particular form and detail of the petition lay with the few and not with the many" (p.74).
† See par.7
‡ See Gonner and Slater.
¤ Sir R. Peel, P.M., speaking in the House in 1844: "As to the actual rights, the House must be cautious how they deal lightly with those rights.... The rights of common connected them (the peasantry) with the soil. The right of turning a goose on a common made a man feel interested in the tenure of land. It might be more beneficial to him to accept two or three pounds, but recollect that you are not dealing with the rights of the individuals, but with those of his successors." (Hansard, vol. lxxiii, p.976).

By the General Act of 1801 the Commissioners were empowered to purchase the rights of small proprietors, and could give payment in cash up to £20. Between £20 and £200 the money was to be invested for them. This provision was, of course, useful in helping to obtain the necessary two-thirds majority for the enclosure, and there is little doubt that these small sums were soon frittered away.*
* See Slater, p.264.

6. The three periods of parliamentary enclosure

Gonner divides parliamentary enclosure into three periods: "The first, which extends through the eighteenth century to the general Act of 1801,* by reason of the very uniformity and complexity of the provisions included on each occasion, a general Act was rendered not only feasible and useful, but essential. The second period ia from 1801 to 1842-5, and includes the private Acts which were passed in accordance with the provisions of the general Act. After 1845 the powers hitherto exercised directly by Parliament, and through Commissioners specially appointed by Act, were delegated to different permanent bodies established by Act, and subject to parliamentary control, inasmuch as their decisions or orders had to remain on the table of the Houses before becoming operative."†
* There had been an abortive Bill in the Lords in 1666 "for confirming of inclosures made by decrees in Courts of Equity," and a similarly abortive Bill in the Commons in 1664 "to inclose and improve commons and waste lands."
† Pp.59-60.

7. Advocates of enclosure testify to the oppression of the peasant. Commoners usually unable to prove a legal right

The advocates of enclosure themselves, at this time, were almost unanimous in saying that most of the enclosures were badly managed and very oppressive to the peasant. Stone, referred to by Gonner as "one of the most trustworthy writers on the subject in the latter part of the eighteenth century," said: "That inclosures have most generally been mismanaged may evidently be seen by their present condition."*
* Suggestions, etc., p.81.

John Cowper,* writing in 1732, said: "When these commons come to be inclosed and converted into pasture, the Ruin of the Poor is a natural consequence, they being bought out by the lord of the Manor, or some other person of substance."
* "Inclosing Commons and Common Field lands is contrary to the interest of the Nation."

The Board of Agriculture General Report on Enclosures, published 1808, also shows that the peasants suffered great losses as a result of enclosure. Loss of fuel is stated to have been a great injury, and the benefit of enclosure to the poor "by no means unmixed." The Report adds: "In some cases many cows had been kept without a legal right, and nothing had been given for the practice. In other cases where allotments were assigned, the cottagers could not pay the expense of the measure, and were forced to sell their allotments.* In others they kept cows by right of hiring their cottages or common rights, and the land going, of course, to their proprietor, was added to the farms, and the poor sold their cows. This is a very common case."†
* According to Board of Agriculture calculation, average number of acres in each Act was 1,162, and average expense of each Act was £1,650.
† Pp. 12-13

8. Investigation into working of Enclosure Acts — in most cases the poor lose heavily

An investigation* was held into the working of sixty-eight Enclosure Acts, for the most part in the eastern counties, and it was stated that in fifty-three cases out of the sixty-eight the poor were injured. Commenting on this inquiry, Dr. Slater says: "The general tenor of the statement in these cases is to the effect that the condition of the poor has become very much worse, that they have lost all their cows, and they no longer are able to buy milk for their children."
* Board of Agriculture General Report on Enclosures, published 1808.

In the same Report a Mr. Forster, an Enclosure Commissioner for Norfolk, "lamented that he had been accessory to injuring 2,000 poor people at the rate of twenty families per parish. Numbers in the practice of feeding the commons cannot prove their right; and many, indeed most who have allotments, have not more than 1 acre, which being insufficient for the man's cow, both the cow and land are usually sold to opulent farmers. The right sold before the allotment produced much less than the allotment after it, but the money is dissipated, doing them no good when they cannot vest it in stock."*
* P.157.

Another Commissioner, Mr. Ewen, "observed that in most of the enclosures he has known the poor man's allotment and cow are sold five times in six before the award is signed." Arthur Young himself, the great advocate of enclosures, wrote: "By nineteen Enclosure Acts out of twenty, the poor are injured, in some grossly injured.... The poor in these parishes may say, and with truth, Parliament may be tender of property, all I know is, I had a cow, and an Act of Parliament has taken it from me."*
* Enquiry into the Propriety of Applying Wastes to the Better Support and Maintenance of the Poor, p.42.

Lord Lincoln (afterwards Duke of Newcastle), in introducing the Bill of 1845, compared it favourably with the private Act system. He said: "This I know, that in nineteen cases out of twenty Committees of this House on private Bills neglected the rights of the poor... Committees being permitted to remain in ignorance of the claims of the poor man because, by reason of his poverty, he is unable to come up to London, to fee counsel, to produce witnesses, and to urge his claims before the Committee." From such opinions expressed by advocates of enclosures it would be safe to conclude that the Enclosure Acts worked a great wrong on the small tenant and commoner and were responsible for untold misery. This becomes even more apparent when the dispossessed are followed from the country-side.

9. Much waste land enclosed. An enclosure in Oxfordshire

Many of those who opposed enclosure of common fields did not object to enclosure of wastes, on the grounds, presumably, that it would give more employment than it displaced. This point has already been dealt with in a previous chapter,* and, referring to such enclosures, Dr. Slater says: "Perhaps the greatest evil of Acts for the enclosure of waste in the past was that they prevented such gradual reclamation and enclosure by peasant cultivators."†
* See Chapter X, par.16.
The English Peasantry, etc, p.262.

Dr. Slater gives an example of the enclosure of the parish of Ewelme (Oxfordshire): "This gives a typical instance of the effect of enclosure of commonable waste* on the poor. One of the commons enclosed was known as the 'Furze Common,' and it supplied the poor of the neighbourhood with their fuel, for every inhabitant had the right of cutting furze on it. After enclosure the Furze Common was allotted to one man, who allowed no trespass on it, and the owners of cottages were awarded allotments of land in consideration of rights which the cottagers had exercised. The lands so allotted became part of ordinary farms, and the poor simply lost their supply of fuel without any compensation whatever. This was done under the sanction, not of an Enclosure Act rushed through Parliament before 1845, but of the Enclosure Commissioners appointed expressly to prevent any injury to the class least able to guard its own interests, as well as to facilitate enclosure."†
* The italics in this paragraph are ours.
The Engliah Peasantry, etc., p.51.

Between 1702 and 1845 there were 1,385 Acts for enclosing common pasture and waste only, and Dr. Slater puts the total acreage at 1,765,711 acres (stated and estimated).

10. Cobbett on the enclosure of wastes. The fallacy of calling them unproductive

There is an illuminating passage in the Political Register* showing what Cobbett, an experienced farmer and a man who knew the country-side, thought of the enclosure of the wastes. He had refused to support a general Enclosure Bill introduced in 1813, and wrote: "Those who are so eager for new inclosure seem to argue as if the waste land in its present state produced nothing at all. But is this the fact? Can anyone point out a single inch of it which does not produce something and the produce of which is made use of? It goes to the feeding of sheep, of cows, of cattle of all descriptions, and, what is of great consequence in my view of the matter, it helps to rear, in health and vigour, numerous families of the children of labourers, which children, were it not for these wastes, must be crammed into the stinking suburbs of towns amidst filth of all sorts, and congregating together in the practice of every species of idleness and vice. A family reared by the side of a common or forest is clearly*, distinguishable from a family bred on the pestiferous stench of the dark alley of a town."
* Selections from Cobbett's Political Register, 1813, vol.iv.

11. Great cost of enclosures. An example from Brecknockshire. The "tai nos."

Mr. John Lloyd, a J.P. for the county of Brecon and a landowner, in giving evidence before the Royal Commission on Land in Wales and Monmouthsire,* cites an example of enclosure of waste on a Crown manor between 1815 and 1819, and also draws attention to the fact that, although there were in this county many enclosures by private Acts, yet the Parliamentary Return of Enclosure Acts between 1760 and 1820 gave "nil" for Brecknockshire.
* 1896, Cd.8221.

The 40,000 acres of waste referred to were grazed over by some 500 or more farms, and were used for sheep all the year and also for young cattle in the summer. "Down came the valuers, surveyors, and commissioners... and inspected and surveyed, and so on, and apart from the immense expense they put the people to, to prove all their titles and claims to common rights, and the lawsuits which they had to maintain in order to keep certain rights that they had... the cost of the Commission alone for dealing with this 40,000 acres of land was £16,000 of money in those days. To provide that money they sold 8,000 acres of the land, the best parts and the slopes of this great tract of land. That produced about £15,000 or £16,000 to pay for the work.... The Crown took 13,860 acres of the middle portion, and the best portion, and the commoners had some little more than that, viz. 17,000 acres of land, but a good deal of the worst of it, some of it being hardly worth anything at all.... The effect is now visible upon the agriculture of that district."

There is also a reference in this Report to the interesting survival of "tai nos" or "hafod un nos" — "houses of a night" — a custom by which a holding of 5 or 6 acres was claimed from the waste if a hut with smoking chimney could be erected in one night. Only a small garden surrounding the hut was enclosed, and the custom seems to have been that this became freehold after sixty years. Dr. Slater* refers to these holdings, and quotes Mr. John Swain, a Commissioner, who said that the cottager not only grew sufficient produce for himself and his family, but obtained a money return of £35 15s. in addition. Enclosure Acts prevented the creation of any more of these holdings, and, although those over twenty-one years old were not interfered with, more than half the holdings fell into the hands of the lord of the manor.
* The English Peasantry, etc., p.119.

12. Enclosure of common fields, etc., leads to large-scale farming and depopulation. Consolidation and conversion give higher rents, but smaller gross produce

Enclosure of the common fields was usually followed by consolidation of the small holdings into large farms, and in many cases the arable was converted into pasture for grazing. Dr. Cunningham* says: "Despite the reiterated allegation, it is impossible to believe that enclosing in the eighteenth century implied either more pasture farming or less employment for labour." There is, however, direct evidence that considerable areas were put down to pasture; and when we see the increased rent which pasture-land commanded, there was obviously every incentive for the laying of arable to grass.
* The Growth of English Industry, etc., vol.ii, p.384.

Apart from the conversion of arable land, there was a considerable amount of new land ploughed up, especially during the period of the Napoleonic wars; but, as has been seen, such enclosure resulted in large-scale farms, with probably a net loss of employment. And taking the two movements together, there is no doubt that there was a net loss of employment in agriculture, to say nothing of other rural industries which were affected.

Dr. Slater, quoting from a tract* published in 1786, gives an account of an enclosure, probably in the Midlands: "Before enclosure it contained 82 houses, of which 20 were small farms and 42 were cottages with common rights. It had 1,800 acres of common field arable, 200 acres of rich common cow pasture, and 200 acres of meadow, commonable after hay harvest. The common pasture fed 200 milch cows and 60 dry ones till hay harvest, at which time they were turned into the meadows, and their place taken by about 100 horses; 1,200 sheep were fed on the stubbles." Before enclosure the gross produce amounted to £4,101 5s. "As a result of enclosure the 20 farms were consolidated into 4, the whole area devoted to grazing, 60 cottages were pulled down or otherwise disappeared, and the necessary work was done by 4 herds (one for each farm), at £25 a year each, board included, and 8 maidservants at £18 a year each, board included." After enclosure the gross produce was £2,660. "But while gross produce was thus reduced by about one-third, the gross rent was raised from £1,137 17s. to £1,801 12s. 2d.
* Thoughts on Incloaures, by a County Farmer.

13. Increased rents the incentive to enclose and convert. Enclosure results in decrease in wheat acreage

On this question of consolidation and conversion, John Wedge, the Board of Agriculture reporter for Warwickshire, in 1793 wrote:* "About forty years ago the southern and eastern parts of this county consisted mostly of open fields. There are still about 50,000 acres of open-field land, which in a few years will probably all be enclosed... "These lands being now grazed want much fewer hands to manage them than they did in the former open state. Upon all enclosures of open fields the farms have generally been made much larger. For these causes the hardy yeomanry of county villages have been driven for employment into Birmingham, Coventry, and other manufacturing towns."
* Warwickshire, p.40.

Arthur Young speaks of a great enclosure of waste from 1744 to 1774 in the east and north, resulting in an increase of tillage, and of enclosure of arable fields and conversion to pasture in Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Warwickshire, Huntingdonshire and Buckinghamshire.* This resulted in consolidation into large farms and the turning of the peasants into town labourers. Referring to Bedfordshire in 1768,† he says: "The open fields let at 7/- and 7/6 per acre, and the inclosed pastures about 17/-. Hence we find a profit of 10/- an acre by inclosing and laying to grass"; and he expressed surprise that many landlords did not in this county lay down their land to pasture.‡
* Political Arithmetic, published 1774.
Tour through the North of England, 1768.
‡ John Mortimer, The Whole Art of Husbandry: "I shall only propose two things that are matters of fact, that I think, are sufficient to prove the advantages of inclosures; which is first, the great quantities of ground daily inclosed, and, secondly, the increase of rent that is everywhere made by those that do inclose their lands." (p.1).

In the Board of Agriculture General Report,* previously mentioned, there are the results of an investigation into the increase and decrease of wheat acreage after the enclosure of all commonable lands under Acts between 1761 and 1799, excluding those Acts under which waste only was enclosed. Taking all counties, in 239 cases the wheat acreage was increased by 14,507 acres, and in 407 cases it was decreased by 30,894 acres. By far the greatest decrease was in the Midland counties, where in 262 cases the decrease was 22,036 acres, against an increase in 59 cases of 3,033 acres.†
* Pp.39 and 232 (quoted by Slater).
† Slater points out that "in estimating the significance of these figures it must be borne in mind that the figures for acreage in wheat after enclosure were collected at a time of famine prices for wheat."

14. Fallacy that enclosure and dispossession were necessary preliminaries to improvement

It was, of course, widely held that no agricultural improvements were possible while the open-field system of husbandry prevailed, and many opponents of enclosures seem to have agreed with this. Dr. Slater, however, refers to one or two survivals of the old system which have adopted improvements and are flourishing, and it certainly is not clear why an interchange and consolidation of strips, without enclosure and dispossession, would not have made it just as easy to effect improvements. One of these survivals is a parish in the Isle of Axholme: "To catch the spirit of the common-field system, to see that system no mere historical survival, but developing in harmony with modern needs, one must go to the Isle of Axholme.*
* P.52

"Axholme may be described as a district of allotments, cultivated, and in great part owned, by a working peasantry.

"The Isle of Axholme has been singularly successful in preserving the spirit of the common-field system, social equality, mutual helpfulness, and an industrial aim directed rather towards the maximum gross produce of food than towards the maximum net profit; while at the same time it has discarded those features of the system which would have been obstacles to agricultural progress. The 'barbarous omission'* to enclose the open arable fields has been abundantly justified."
* Arthur Young.

Another such example is the parish of Weston Zoyland, Somersetshire, which in 1830 was divided and allotted, but not enclosed. In this parish are 500 acres of fertile open fields, and all under tillage.

15. Urban population and total population increase rapidly. Allowance system causes recklessness and large families

When we speak of depopulation caused by enclosures, it must, of course, be understood that this refers to rural depopulation and not to a general depopulation of the whole country. On the contrary, during the period under review, the population of the country as a whole increased rapidly.* About 7,000,000 in the middle of the eighteenth century, it had risen to 8,892,536 in 1801, to 12,000,236 in 1821, and by 1861 had reached 20,066,224. This was an increase almost solely in urban districts, and we have already seen how, in addition to the natural increase in the population, the towns were fed from the country-side. This was the period of the growth of the "wens," as Cobbett called London and the great manufacturing towns — not a healthy growth, but a growth in slums and in crowded tenements, a growth of paupers and so-called wage-slaves who were little better than paupers. Wages fell until they were far below the subsistence level, and the occupiers were rated in order that wages might be supplemented. "Early marriage was particularly encouraged by the change from the open-field condition to enclosure. After enclosure, the enriched farming class preferred to pay board wages, and the young labourer, with nothing to gain by waiting, with the assurance of Poor Law assistance if needed, naturally preferred to marry early."†
* William Cobbett, Rural Rides, vol.ii.: "Is it not something rather damnable... to talk of transporting Englishmen, on account of the excess of their numbers, when the fact is notorious that their labour produces five or ten times as much food and raiment as they and their families consume." - p.55 (1826).
† Slater, p.264.

16. Enormous increase in poor rates. Allowance system and wholesale pauperism

Poor rates began to increase enormously towards the end of the eighteenth century. From £2,004,238 in 1785 they increased to £4,267,965 in 1802, and to £8,640,842 in 1813.* But the full increase in poor rates was not always apparent in the enclosed villages, for, "in judging the rise of poor rates, it must not be forgotten that where the rent rises at the same time as the nominal rate, the sum of money actually raised for Poor Law purposes is increased in a greater ratio than the nominal poor rate. If, for example, by enclosure, the rental of a parish is increased 50%, but the poor rate doubled, the yield of the poor rate is increased threefold. And if a considerable number of labourers are driven elsewhere, the amount of destitution produced by the change is far greater even than that indicated by a threefold increase in the amount of relief given."†
* Thorold Rogers, p.410.
† Slater, p.102.

It was the "allowance system" of supplementing wages out of the rates that was responsible to a large extent for the huge increase in poor rates; and the result of this system was that none but those in receipt of poor relief could hope to obtain employment. Commenting on the position at this time, Thorold Rogers says: "For centuries the law and the Government interposed on the side of the employer in order to lessen the labourer's share. For a very long period — two centuries — the efforts of law and Government were unsuccessful. At last they gained their object and gradually reduced the labourer's share to a bare subsistence — so bare, that in order to get their necessary work from him, they supplemented his wages by a tax on the general public."* The allowance system was stopped and the poor law reformed in 1834, but we shall see that starvation and distress continued.
* P.491.

17. Landlords and farmers prosperous — labourers starving. Bents, wages and prices

The poverty and unemployment of the last years of the eighteenth century continued into the nineteenth, and even increased at the close of the Great War (1815), when disbanded soldiers were returning home. Rents were high, however, and the landlords and large farmers were flourishing. Young put the average rent of land at 10s. per acre, and referring to this Thorold Rogers says: "The payment therefore made for the occupation of land has risen twenty times. The average rise in the price of wheat is about six and a half times, and the average rise in the price of labour is almost exactly three and a half times... and it should be remembered that while the labourer in Young's time had his earnings of hay and harvest time included in the aggregate average, the labourer of the earlier period (Middle Ages) had his harvest earnings over and above."*
* P.479.

In 1795 the labourer procured about one-eighth of what he earned by the same labour in the fifteenth century,* and according to Eden's collection† from various counties of the actual wages received by agricultural labourers in 1795, they everywhere fell short by 1s. or more a week of their necessary expenditure on food, without taking any account of rent, fuel, clothes, or extras. It was in this year, too, that, owing to a poor harvest, wheat rose to 104s., and although many died of starvation, landlords and farmers were prosperous.‡ But when peace came and prices fell to some extent many farmers who had purchased their farms during the period of enhanced prices lost heavily.¤
* Thorold Rogers.
† Id., p.487.
‡ Id.
¤ Writing of the period 1776-1815, Dr. Cunningham says: "The pressure of poverty was felt not merely among those who were unemployed, but aiso among those who were over-worked" (p.443).

18. Cobbett's account of a rural pariah in 1826

We get a very interesting and informing description from Cobbett of the Valley of the Avon and the Parish of Milton, which he visited in August 1826. After commenting on the fact that in a length of thirty miles there were thirty large parish churches, and that there was a very fine supply of wheat, oats, barley, sheep and lambs, he says: "A very fine sight this was, and it could not meet the eye without making one look round (and in vain) to see the people who were to eat all this food, and without making one reflect on the horrible, the unnatural, the base and infamous state in which we must be, when projects are on foot, and are openly avowed, for transporting those who raise this food, because they want to eat enough of it to keep them alive; and when no project is on foot for transporting the idlers who live in luxury upon this same food."*
* William Cobbett, Rural Rides, vol.ii, p.41.

And then, referring to Milton, he writes: "The parish of Milton does, as we have seen, produce food, drink, clothing, and all other things, enough for 502 families, or 2,510 persons upon my allowance, which is a great deal more than three times the present allowance, because the present allowance includes clothing, fuel, tools and everything. Now, then, according to the 'Population Return'laid before Parliament, this parish contains 500 persons, or according to my division, 100 families. So that here are about one hundred families to raise food and drink enough, and to raise wool and other things to pay for all other necessaries, for five hundred and two families! Aye, and five hundred and two families fed and lodged, too, on my liberal scale. Fed and lodged according to the present scale, this one hundred families raise enough to supply more, and many more, than fifteen hundred families, or seven thousand five hundred persons! And yet those who do the work are half starved! "And taking the twenty-nine rural parishes, he says: "Here are 9,116 persons raising food and raiment sufficient for 45,580 persons, fed and lodged according to my scale; and sufficient for 136,740 persons according to the scale on which the unhappy labourers of this fine valley are now fed and lodged! And yet there is an 'emigration committee' sitting to devise the means of getting rid... of these working people, who are grudged even the miserable morsel that they get!"*
* Rural Rides, vol.ii, p.46.

19. "Domestic System" killed by enclosures. The "Factory System" flourishes on its ruins, and much labour is unemployed. Workers blame machinery

As we have already seen, the eighteenth century witnessed the inauguration of the Factory System, which took the place of the old Domestic System of manufacture. This latter was a system under which manufacturing and agriculture went hand in hand, the former frequently being a part-time occupation and subsidiary to the farm-work. In this way, production was carried on in the farm-houses, cottages, and in small workshops scattered among the various country towns; capital was diffused and held in small quantities, and markets were on the whole steady.

Into this system came the revolutionary enclosure movement, driving the yeomen and cottagers in large numbers to the towns, and at the same time, of course, putting an end to many industries which had been carried on by them in the country districts. While this process of dispossessing the peasant, putting an end to cottage manufacture, and increasing the competition for work in the towns, was in progress, there came the great inventions destined to revolutionize industry. Machines began to do the work of many men, and these machines were collected into large factories, where cheap labour was required to tend them. And the cheap labour was there ready, provided by a system which had for generations and centuries been gradually restricting the area of land available for the labourer. No Acts of Parliament or assessments of justices were necessary to limit the wages of the factory workers, for they were driven by hunger and the lack of alternative employment to offer themselves, and even their small children, for a pittance which scarcely enabled them to live.*
* Most eighteenth-century writers agreed that poverty was due to idleness and improvidence. (See Cunningham, p.381.)

Nor was there work for all, for the machines were "labour-saving," and in too many cases the labour saved became or remained unemployed, and labour which was still exerted on the hand machine began to find it difficult to compete with the power factory and had to close down, thereby anticipating, probably only by a brief period, a result which the enclosure of the village would bring more thoroughly. With such a state of affairs it is little to be wondered at that many hand-workers regarded the power machine as the cause of all their misery and unemployment.

20. The domestic system dependent on access to land. Machinery increases productive power of all labour, but the advantage is lost when the competition is all on the side of labour for work

But the real cause of the misery and unemployment among the hand-workers would seem to have been the fact that they had lost their footing on the land,* that enclosure had deprived them of alternative and supplementary occupation. The domestic system, the cottage and farm industries, depended on the workers having access to land, and when this was denied, their power of resistance had gone, their fate was sealed. If there had been no enclosures, and if the opportunities for workers on the land had exceeded the supply of labour, power machinery would have caused no unemployment. There is nothing inherent in labour-saving machinery to cause unemployment. Its nature is to save labour, in the sense that a man can, with its assistance, produce the same wealth with less labour than before, or more wealth with the same labour, and the man who acquires these goods by exchange will get them with a smaller expenditure of labour than he previously did. In this way the worker will have saved labour in acquiring the machine-made goods, which labour he will be free to exercise in other ways, and the advantages of the machine will be diffused among all the workers by exchange. Thus labour becomes more productive, and wages should rise.
* See Massie, A Plan for the Establishment of Charity Houses: "To small portions of land, right of commoning, and cottages, England is much indebted for the mighty achievements in war which are recorded in the annals of the English nation."

We have said that the worker would be able to exercise the "saved labour" in other ways; but suppose there are no other openings for this labour — suppose, in fact, that men are fiercely competing for jobs that are too few to go round, and that those who succeed in getting work must take the bare subsistence offered — what, we may ask, will be the effect on these men of the advent of a new labour-saving machine? Will it not be that some will be put out of employment altogether, and that the wages of the others will tend to be reduced by competition to the extent of the advantage which would, under other conditions, accrue to each individual?

21. Access to land essential. Landlords and capitalists share benefits of labour's increased productive powers. Depression in industry followed by unemployment

Thus it seems plain that labour-saving machinery does not do away with the need for access to land, but does, in fact, enable labour to produce more from the land. And it seems safe to say that if labour had had a firm hold on the land at the time of the Industrial Revolution, the new system would have grown up very differently. There would have been no starving crowds ready to work in factories for a low wage, and the probability is that work on the new machines would have been frequently combined with agriculture.

The capitalist was blamed for the low wages and the bad conditions in the factories, but it was the power of the new land monopoly that was providing him with his cheap labour, and was sharing with him the benefits of the new machinery. And the new industry proved unstable, for it depended to a large extent on foreign orders. When these fell off, workers were turned adrift, and wholesale unemployment resulted, for now there was no plot of ground to work, no alternative occupation.

In 1840 and several succeeding years there was terrible distress in the manufacturing towns. In Nottingham,* in 1841, nearly one-fifth of the people were on poor relief; in Coventry one-third of the population was unemployed; and in Spitalfields 24,000 persons were in receipt of poor relief. Lancashire was in a terrible condition, and it was calculated that the receipts of 2,000 families in Wigan were only sufficient, if all spent on bread, to buy each person 22oz. of bread a day. At Hinckley† one-third of the inhabitants were paupers and more than one-fifth of the houses were empty, and in Leeds the Guardians offered the paupers 6s. per week for doing nothing rather than 7s.6d. per week for breaking stones.
* For particulars of Nottingham, Coventry, Spitalfields, Lancashire and Wigan, see Dunckley, The Charter of the Nations, 1854.
† For Hinkley and Leeds, see Martineau, iv, p.157.

Under such conditions it is little wonder that the labourers became reckless, that drunkenness was prevalent and population increased rapidly.

22. The rising of 1830 — harsh repression

During the latter part of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth centuries there was much rioting and rick-burning, for enclosures and the resulting misery were not taken lying down. But against combination there was the most severe repression, and ringleaders and others were often hanged or transported as felons to Australia.* The same fate usually befell those who, to satisfy their hunger or to supplement a low wage, helped themselves to preserved game.
* Rural Rides, vol.ii.: "This is, I verily believe it, the worst used labouring people upon the face of the earth. Dogs and hogs and horses are treated with more civility; and as to food and lodging, how gladly would the labourers change with them!" (p.55).

In the winter of 1830 broke out what may be said to be the last active revolt of the agricultural workers. Conditions Were bad and the labourers starving, men and women in many parts living on roots and sorrel. The rising was almost spontaneous in the eastern and south-eastern counties. Better wages were demanded, and only when these were refused did the men proceed to rick- and farm-burning. Revolt was, however, useless. A special commission of judges was sent to the affected parts, and there were hangings and transportations for life for many trifling offences.

23. Result of the last enclosure movement — land monopoly

As a result, then, of the great enclosure movement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries — a revolution in tenure — we find depopulation* of the country-side and a vast increase in town populations, widespread poverty and unemployment. The "commons" of England had disappeared, their place being taken by the so-called "lower classes." By far the greater part of the land of this country was monopolized and enclosed; farms were concentrated into fewer hands, and vast tracts of what had hitherto been waste and often inaccessible land had been reduced into the ownership of comparatively few people. Capital also was becoming more and more concentrated, and the town labourers had no alternative but to sell their labour to the capitalist for what he would give.
* Professor Nicholson, History of the English Corn Laws: "Between 1821 and 1831 there was an absolute decrease in the number of families in agriculture, in spite of an increase of about 19 per cent, in the aggregate number of families in Breat Britain.... Again... if we compare 1831 with 1811, with an absolute increase in population of over two millions, there was an absolute decrease in the number of adult males employed in agriculture" (p.119).

Comparing the open and enclosed village, Slater says: "In the open field village the entirely landless labourer was scarcely to be found.... If he had no holding, he still might have a common right; if no acknowledged common right, he might enjoy the advantage of one in a greater or less degree.... From the poorest labourer to the richest farmer, there was, in the typical open field village, a gradation of rank.... It was easy for the efficient or fortunate man to rise on such a social ladder.... After enclosure the comparatively few surviving farmers — enriched, elevated intellectually as well as socially by the successful struggle with a new environment — faced, across a deep social gulf, the labourers who had now only their labour to depend on."*
* Slater, p.130.



1. The last revolt. Joseph Arch and the Labourers' Union

It has been seen that the last active revolt of the agricultural worker took place in 1830, and now, in the year 1872,* a revolt of another kind is attempted. It is true, of course, that by this time the mischief was done — the land was monopolized, the country-side denuded of the commons, and the peasant turned into a landless serf — but a final effort was to be made to increase starvation wages and to better conditions.
* Trade Unions were legalized in 1871.

In March of 1872 Joseph Arch, a Warwickshire peasant, came forward as the leader of the landless, and formed the Warwickshire Agricultural Labourers' Union. The idea spread rapidly, for conditions were desperate, and by May was formed a National Union of Agricultural Labourers, whose membership in May 1873 had risen to some 70,000, and to over 86,000 in the following year.

Enormous difficulties attended the formation of such a Union, for rural districts were so sparsely peopled that there was little feeling of cohesion between the labourers of different districts, and the expense of propaganda among a people so widely scattered was very great; also wages were so low as to make it difficult for any to pay even the smallest subscription to a Union, and the prevalence of the "tied cottage" system made many a labourer hesitate to join.

The skilled agricultural worker was starving on a wage which averaged 10s. per week, but rents were high, for they had doubled since the beginning of the century, and the price of wheat was 57s. a quarter. With such a starvation wage there was little possibility of purchasing meat, and this article of food was often not seen in the labourers' cottages for months on end. What a difference from the way in which the peasant lived in the time of Domesday, and even for some centuries after!

2. The Union's demands. Labourers beaten by landlords and farmers

The demands of Arch and the Union were not exorbitant; they wanted a 9½-hour day and a wage of 16s. per week. But in spite of the yeoman work done by Arch and others, the movement to a large extent failed, and the Union broke up. In 1879 the membership was down to 20,000, and by 1889 it had sunk to 4,000. From the start of the Union there had been much victimization of the labourers, farmers often discharging their workers from their work and their cottages at a week's notice if they refused to leave the Union.*
* A lock-out was started in the eastern counties in 1874, and some 10,000 labourers were affected.

In revolts prior to 1830 the small tenants and labourers had usually received help from copyholders and freeholders against the landlords and great farmers, but from now onwards it was the landless labourer against the farmer and the landlord. For the farmer was now in the clutches of the landowner; he was usually a yearly tenant, and he had no security for any improvements he might put into the soil. The labourer was an outcast and helpless; he had become a landless serf, and except for some small increases in wages in a few localities, this, his last effort to throw off his bonds, only resulted in a lucky few being helped to migrate to other parts of the country or to emigrate to the Colonies.

3. The work of the Union — supply of agricultural labour reduced. Farmers labour-starve their land

Joseph Arch and the National Union received, in addition to members' subscriptions, a certain amount of money from well-wishers outside the movement; and this was used to a large extent in finding the labourers work in industrial towns and in assisting them to emigrate. Arch himself believed that, as the farmers would not raise wages, the best way to compel them to do so was to make agricultural labour scarce. Giving evidence before the Royal Commission on Agriculture, 1882, he was asked: "How do you set about ensuring the labourers getting higher wages?* He replied: "We have reduced the number of labourers in the market very considerably. We have emigrated about 700,000 souls — men, women, and children — within the last eight or nine years. I went over to Canada, and I made arrangements with the Canadian Government to give them so much, and we found them so much from the funds of our trade."†
* Question 58421.
† There can be no doubt that this was harmful to agriculture, although it merely did in a short time what would have happened in the course of a few years.

Arch goes on to say that this did not result in higher wages, for farmers continued to labour-starve their land, and he states that many cottages had been pulled down and decayed during the previous twenty years. He further adds:* "I do not say that a farmer is compelled to keep them, but I do say this, and I say it from forty years' experience, that it has been the policy of the farmers to labour-starve the land, and their policy has been that, although they have suffered great losses (and some of them have suffered losses this fall) through not having sufficient labour to get their wheat in at the proper time, they would not employ the labour. I am going to give facts, whether they are agreeable or not, and I say that it has been the policy of the farmer, notwithstanding that the land has wanted labour, to turn the labourer off as soon as the harvest has been got in on purpose to get a miserably low winter wage as the stipulated wage of the district." Arch was then asked: "He may do it out of ignorance; but do you think it is from any other reason than from ignorance?"† And his reply was: "I cannot conceive how a man can be ignorant when he sees a field of corn just coming up full of rubbish and wanting labour, and he says, 'I will not employ the labour.'"
* No.60264.
† No.60268.

4. Enclosures in latter half of nineteenth century

Enclosures still continued after the general Act of 1845, and even after 1873, but they were small in extent. Parliamentary enclosure of common fields since this latter date has accounted for some 14,842 acres.* It has been estimated† that since 1845 some 100,000 acres of common-field arable and commonable meadow have been enclosed, of which some 30,000 acres alone were enclosed by Act of Parliament. Common fields and commonable meadows were estimated to comprise not more than 30,000 acres in 1903 — a fact which testifies to the thoroughness of the enclosures of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
* Slater, p.191.
† For these and following statistics, aee Slater.

In enclosures after 1845 some allotment had to be made for parks or for allotments for the poor, but from that date until 1875, out of a total of 590,000 acres enclosed only 1,758 acres were for recreation grounds and 2,195 acres for allotments for the poor. In 1876 the administration of the Enclosure Acts was taken over by the Board of Agriculture, and referring to this Slater says: "The administration of the Act since 1877 is... a very severe condemnation of its administration in the earlier period."

After the middle of the century enclosures were of little consequence, and by means of the public-spirited action of a few people, some open spaces and commons which were threatened with enclosure were saved for the public. One such instance was when the lord of the manor of Berkhampstead enclosed the common of about 500 acres in 1866, and Mr. Augustus Smith, one of the commoners, with the assistance of a train-load of navvies from London, broke down the enclosure during the night, and won the ensuing lawsuit.*
* Reports of the Commons Preservation Society.

5. The New Domesday Book — the land monopoly in practice

In 1876* was issued a Government paper, purporting to be a return of all owners of land in England and Wales. This was the first survey since the time of the Conqueror, and has been called the New Domesday Book. The return is inaccurate, but it enables us to obtain a very good idea of the change in tenure wrought by the enclosure movement and of what is meant when we have spoken of land monopoly.
* Inquiry of 1874-5. Abstract presented as House of Commons paper May 1876, intitled "Summary of Returns of Owners of Land in England Wales."

The story told by this Return is even worse than it appears at first sight, for the number of owners is considerably overstated. Persons owning land in different districts were counted as separate owners; copyholders and leaseholders for ninety-nine years or longer were counted as owners. Woods, wastes, and commons, and lands not rated were not included in the enumeration. But more important than all this is the fact that the number of those owning less than 1 acre is two-thirds of the total, and as these holdings are usually only very small allotments or gardens attached to houses, they might quite well be omitted, as the total area is negligible.

The Return itself, without any correction, gives 972,836 persons as owners of 33,000,000 acres, of whom 703,289 own less than 1 acre. The Hon. George C. Brodrick, in English Land and English Landlords, calculates that 4,000 persons owning estates of 1,000 acres and upwards have 19,000,000 acres, or four-sevenths of the area dealt with, and, making allowances for double entries and other errors, 150,000 persons own all holdings above 1 acre. Arnold, in Free Land, working on this Return, was of opinion that 525 members of the peerage were counted as 1,500, and he gives 7,000 persons as the owners of four-fifths of the land of the United Kingdom. Taking the enclosed land of England and Wales as dealt with in the New Domesday Book, we may say, roughly speaking, that a little more than 2,000 persons own half the land.

In order to appreciate the significance of these figures, and to realize the extent to which the land of England had become concentrated in the hands of a few, we might recall Gregory King's estimate, that in 1696, before the last great enclosure movement had begun, there were 160,000 freeholders with incomes from £55 to £90 per annum.

6. Landowning in the counties — great majority of people landless

The position appears even more startling when we look a little closer into the figures of a few agricultural counties:

All counties tell the same tale of consolidation and monopoly, but we have cited sufficient to show that in 1876 the great majority of the people of this country were without a foothold in the land, without a claim to a square inch of it. We shall learn later that matters are little better at the present day.

7. Agricultural Returns of 1876. England becoming more dependent on foreign supplies. Some Domesday comparisons

The Agricultural Returns of 1876 afford some interesting comparisons with earlier and later statistics of production in this country, and are an indication of the fruits of denuding the country-side of workers, and so making this country dependent on foreign food supplies.

The population of Great Britain had probably more than quadrupled since the time of Gregory King's estimate, but whereas his estimate of the area of arable land in England and Wales was 11,000,000 acres, it was only 14,519,613 acres in 1876, or including Scotland, 18,028,137, and of this 4,540,000 acres consisted of artificial grasses.

Referring to wheat, the Report says: "The acreage under wheat in the United Kingdom in 1876 was 3,124,000 acres, being 11% less than in 1875 and 22% less than in 1869, when the area under that crop was greater than in any other year from 1868 to 1876. In Great Britain alone the decrease from 1875 was 10%, and from 1869, 19%.... The still larger decrease appears in the stock of sheep, which is less by 1,000,000 since 1875, and by more than 2,000,000 since 1874." King estimated sheep at 11,000,000, and in 1876 in England and Wales there were 21,183,232. Cattle and pigs seem hardly to have increased at all since 1696. In this year King puts the cattle at 4,500,000, and in 1876 there were 4S715,215, and pigs had only increased from 2,000,000 to 2,139,521.

Corn crops, including beans and peas, grown in England in 1876 covered 7,278,286 acres, of which less than one-half would be wheat. The Domesday estimate of 5,000,000 acres for corn alone, of which nearly 3½ million acres were probably wheat, makes this amount look very small, especially when it is remembered that the average produce per acre at this time was about seven times the Domesday yield.

To take two counties as an example. Buckinghamshire at the time of Domesday had 269,000 acres of arable land. In 1876 corn crops, beans, and peas accounted for 132,707 acres, and 191,250 acres were permanent pasture. The Domesday Sussex had 371,000 acres of arable, and in 1876 corn crops, beans, and peas covered 209,026 acres, and permanent pasture 267,000 acres.

Is it any wonder that, with such scanty use made of the land, England had long since ceased to feed her population?

8. Commission on Agricultural Depression, 1882. Landlords and large farmers suffer from bad seasons and foreign competition

Having denuded the country-side, turned the remaining labourers into landless serfs, brought unemployment and destitution to the towns, and allowed the ownership of the land to become concentrated into the hands of a few thousand territorial lords, the Government has periodically appointed Commissions to inquire into agricultural distress. Agricultural distress since the eighteenth century usually meant a period of low prices, when large farmers were in a bad way and landlords had difficulty in getting their rents; it had no reference to the condition of the agricultural labourers, for they were permanently depressed. One such Commission was appointed in 1882, and reported that the depression was due to a succession of four bad seasons and foreign competition. The Report states: "While the difficulties of the farmers have been thus increased, higher wages and more general employment have proportionately improved the condition of the labourer.* It is most satisfactory to be assured that the labouring class has been scarcely, if at all, affected by the distress which has fallen so heavily upon owners as well as occupiers. Provisions have been cheap and employment abundant, while wages in a few districts only have been slightly reduced." This is followed by a complaint about the deterioration in the standard of work of the labourer. Joseph Arch,† in giving evidence on this point, said it was wrong to say that the standard had fallen, but that owing to the great migration from the villages only the inferior labour was left; and judging from the evidence of Arch and others, there is little indication that wages or conditions had improved. From the tables of wages in Prothero's English Farming, Past and Present, we find that in every district in England money wages had fallen since 1872.
* The improvement was microscopic.
† No.60234.

The Report also states that many farmers had complained of the Education Act as seriously affecting labour. They admit that it may have benefited the labourers, but say that it had compelled them to employ men where they formerly had boys. Not content with the reduction of the peasant to a landless serf, objection was now raised to his education.

9. The effect of high rents

In a Supplementary Memorandum to this Report Mr. John Clay throws light on another side of the question. He writes: "With reference to the subject of rent, ample evidence has been given before the Commission on this most important subject, its increase during the last twenty-five years, and the great losses that tenant farmers have sustained thereby. The Report does not sufficiently deal with this increase as an important factor in the agricultural depression and one which has helped to bring about the present crisis in the agriculture of the country.... Sir James Caird puts the rise of rent in England for the last eighteen years at 21%, and in Scotland at 26%, but I have no doubt that if we went back twenty-five years the rise would be 25% for England and 30% for Scotland."

10. Arable land reverting to permanent pasture

Sir Robert Giffen, in giving evidence before the Commission, speaks of the continued conversion of arable to pasture. Between the years 1867-9 and 1878-80 1,800,000 acres, formerly waste or unreclaimed, were added to the cultivated area of the United Kingdom. "But, on the other hand, we find that in the same period there is the well-known fact of a diminution of the arable land and an increase of the permanent pasture to the extent of about 1,000,000 acres; and I think that that would justify us in saying that, against the increase of production at home, which might be due to the increased area, we may set the transfer of land from arable to permanent pasture, so that thre is no reason why we should say that there ought to be more production in the last three years than there was in the three years from 1867-9, and so far as I have conversed with agricultural authorities they seem rather to agree with that."

11. Government small-holding schemes a failure

In 1889 there was appointed a Select Committee of the House of Commons on small holdings, and in 1892 a Small Agricultural Holdings Act came into force. This Act empowered County Councils to purchase or lease land for small holdings where there was a demand, and was apparently intended as an attempt to replace some of the dispossessed on the land. It will be seen, however, in the next chapter* that there were forces at work making it difficult for a labourer even to make application for a holding, and unfortunately the administration of the Act was in the hands of the landlords and farmers, who were opposed to the increase of small holdings.
* See Chapter XIII, par.3.

In the Final Report of the Royal Commission on Agriculture, issued in 1897, it was stated that from 1892 to 1895 only eight counties in the whole of Great Britain had taken any proceedings under the Act; that only 483 acres had been bought and let as small holdings; and that these were generally overburdened with debt. The rent charged for holdings purchased in this way is always considerably higher than that of surrounding land, and sinking fund charges and a sum to be paid as an instalment of the purchase price have usually made it difficult for the small holder to keep free of debt or to compete with the farmer.

12. Tenants in better position than owners. Prosperity of allotment holders in Axholme

As with County Council small holdings, so with other peasant-proprietorships, it is found that tenants at a fair rental are always better off than those who have bought their holdings, generally in a boom year, and are heavily involved in the hands of mortgagees; but it is also found that small holders and small farmers not so heavily involved are able to weather periods of bad times better than the large farmer,

In the Final Report of 1897 the Assistant Commissioner for Lincolnshire, reporting on the Isle of Axholme, said that the position was gloomy, but that tenants were better off than owners. Of those who had bought their holdings fifteen or twenty years before, 90% had either been sold up or were struggling on in a hopeless condition at the mercy of the mortgagees. Referring to these cases, Dr. Slater says: "Their prosperity with steadier prices revived exceptionally quickly."

The same writer also quotes a table submitted to the Select Committee of 1889, showing holdings of land in the parish of Epworth as follows:

Of holdings over  200 acres there are  .  .  .  .  .     2 occupiers
"     "    "100     "    and under   200 acres  12      "
"     "    "  50     "      "      " 100    "  14      "
"     "    "  20     "      "      "   50    "  31      "
"     "    "  10      "      "      "   20    "  40     "
"     "    "    2      "      "      "   10    " 115     "
"     "    "    ½ acre   "      "     2    "  80     "

He says: "The 80 holders occupying from ½ to 2 acres would all be men in regular employment,* as a rule agricultural labourers. A body of these sent their deposition to the Select Committee in the following form: 'We, the undersigned, being agricultural labourers at Epworth, are in occupation of allotments or small holdings, varying from 2 roods to 3 acres, willingly testify to the great benefit we find from our holdings. Where we have sufficient quantity of land to grow 2 roods each of wheat, barley and potatoes, we have bread, bacon and potatoes for a great part of the year, enabling us to face a long winter without the dread of hunger or pauperism staring us in the face.'"
* Slater states that the general wage level was high, although the district was a long way from any large town.

13. Joseph Arch supports small holdings

All reports on Agricultural Depression testify to the fact that the small tenant is in a better position than the man who has purchased, and also that where the labourer has access to a little land he is in a sounder position than when he is entirely landless. When he was examined before the Agricultural Commission of 1882, Joseph Arch was asked about the Chartist allotments established by Feargus O'Connor in the neighbourhood of Witney and Dodwell, near Birmingham, and at Snugg's End in Gloucestershire.* Many of these holdings varied in extent from 3 to 6 acres, and Arch said that the occupiers had done well. Of those with smaller holdings of 2 or 3 acres, many worked as labourers for about half their time. "The advantage to the farmer will be that he will get a good, well-fed, hearty, strong man; but where you keep him down on a miserable wage, and he has no other means of getting a shilling, he is a poor, half-starved being not fit for work." He added that some of these 3- or 4-acre men were entirely independent of the farmers, as they bred poultry, did carrying or hawking, and carried on little businesses.†
* See No.60192 et seq.
† No.60205.

When asked whether the sites of the estates were not bad, he replied: "The Minster Lovel Estate was almost a barren and useless waste when they took it; so was the Dodwell Farm, near Birmingham, where they grow more strawberries on an acre of land than they do on two acres in some parts of England."*
* No.60212.

"Then they have improved the land, and they have fairly managed to sustain themselves?" — "Yes, they have turned the waste and wild, and made it a fruitful field."*
* No.60213.

He was further asked: "We have evidence from all parts of the country showing us that farmers instead of making any money have lost far more than the rent they paid; what would have been the position of your 5-acre man during any period of these last five or six years? — I will tell you what the position of them is in Minster Lovel: the men that had their 4 and 5 acres there in 1872 and 1873 hold them to-day; that is their position, they have got their land."* "The opinion that I have is this: I saw one of them the other day, and he has been upon the farm since 1873, and he said: 'With all the losses that the farmers complain about, I can keep my chin above water.'"†
* No.60441.
† No.60446.

14. Prosperity of the New Forest commoners and small farmers

In the Final Report of the Royal Commission of 1897 there is an interesting account of how, amidst the depression in agriculture, which was said to be due to bad seasons and foreign competition, the small holders and commoners of the New Forest were faring.

The Commissioner for this district reported that their prosperity was remarkable, their land highly cultivated, and rents averaging £2 per acre tithe free. The commoners enjoyed practically three livings:

  1. The land.
  2. Common rights — pasture, fuel, turbary and pannage.
  3. Small industries, such as hawking and dealing.

He states: "It is extraordinary to me; the more I look into it and the more I learn about the state of things in the New Forest, the more astonished I am. The way in which these people work, and the way in which they save, and the way in which they seem to have money whenever they want it for their own purposes is sometimes quite a mystery to me how they do it; I know they do do it." The comparative prosperity of these commoners will not be so mysterious to those who have studied the history of land tenure in this country.

15. Prosperity due to small farms, intensive culture, and valuable common rights

Mr. Channing refers to this district in his Report, and testifies to the prosperity of the small holder and commoner. He states that the policy of consolidating farms in the New Forest had failed, and that the largest type of holding was only 100 acres. The holdings of the commoners varied from 6 to 20 acres, those of about 12 acres being the best, and the common rights had been secured by Act of Parliament. Land that would sell for £20 to £25 per acre in large farms fetched about £40 per acre in small holdings; and in sales held at that time some land in small parcels had fetched £100 per acre. Owing to the depression, farm land in the neighbourhood had fallen one-half, but the small holdings had not decreased in value. With reference to the produce of these farms, the Commissioner reports that a quarter of the area of the holding is usually arable, cultivated intensively and with the spade. This produces turnips, potatoes, and other vegetables, and winter food for the cows. The remainder is pasture and orchard. Cows and pigs are very profitable, and pork, butter, poultry, and eggs are produced and sold to itinerant dealers.

Mr. B. Eyre gives further testimony as to conditions in this district: "Everybody turns out something. Many labourers double their wages by stock-keeping, and some have been known to save all their wages for a series of years, making their living by forest rights. A labouring man will get hold of one animal somehow — a cow or a mare — and then that makes the foundation of his fortune.... When once they have something like £5 either in stock or money, they then go steadily up in the social scale.... They reckon that if a man turns out a lot of pigs of all sizes in a good mast season he will clear 10s. per pig."*
* This throws light on the value of common rights.

16. Report of 1897 — depression due to fall in prices. Consolidation of farms, decay of buildings and conversion of arable. Small farms and mixed holdings suffer least

The depression reported on in 1897 was again a period of abundance and low prices, and rents were in danger. The Report stated that: "With a few exceptions the seasons since 1882 have been on the whole satisfactory from an agriculture point of view; and the evidence before us has shown that the existing depression is to be attributed mainly to the fall in prices of farm produce." This fall was most marked in the case of wheat and wool, and the Report continues: "We find that the effects of agricultural depression have made themselves most apparent in the arable counties; and that in counties where the surroundings are such as to favour dairying, market-gardening, poultry-farming, and other special industries the conditions are somewhat more favourable."*
* Large-scale farming did not pay.

The evidence obtained by this Commission throws considerable light on the evil results of land monopoly, the consolidation of farms starved of labour, the rack-renting and insecurity of tenure.* Some of the effects of enclosure can now be seen, for whenever there is depression, back goes arable land to pasture, and the labourer drifts to the town. Mr. Hunter Pringle, Commissioner for Essex, reported: "Between 1880 and 1884 the number of farms given up, either in despair or for reasons over which the occupiers had no control, was stated to have been enormous.... On poor estates no attempt was made to bring the land round; it was left alone, and gradually 'tumbled down' to such coarse and inferior herbage as Nature produced.... Many farms, after lying derelict for a few years, were let as grass runs for young stock at nominal rents." He adds that rents had had to be reduced from 25% to 80%.
* See Report of Welsh Land Commission, 1896, p.300: "With reference to almost every district that we visited... we were repeatedly assured by an overwhelming preponderance of the witnesses that many tenants were afraid to come forward to give evidence, and the main consideration in producing that fear was stated to be the precarious and insecure nature of the tenancy from year to year under which nearly all the farms are held in Wales."

Reporting on Suffolk and Cambridge, Mr. Fox stated that the condition of the land had gone back, and was frequently foul and choked with weeds, buildings were falling into disrepair, and owners were worse off than occupiers. Mr. Rew, referring to Norfolk, said that farmers of considerable capital formerly living in good style* were now on the verge of ruin.
* See Question 60256 in the Report of 1882. Arch considered that many farmers wasted their money in high living.

From Berkshire, Hertfordshire, and Oxfordshire came the same story of land tumbling down to grass; and in Somersetshire, Devonshire, and Cornwall there was also much conversion to pasture. Mr. Pringle, referring to other counties in the arable section — Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, and Northamptonshire — said: "Those who have not put their eggs too much in the wrong basket — corn-growing — grass farmers, fen farmers, market-gardeners, and dairy-farmers, have done best of all."*
* The "gentleman farmer" scorned to grow anything but wheat or to keep pigs.

With regard to Leicestershire, the evidence was said to be "conflicting" and the "depression less manifest." But there, we are told, the farms were mostly mixed and under 200 acres. In the north and north-east there was competition for farms.

17. Further great increase of pasture at expense of arable. Depopulation continues at a rapid rate

This Report discloses the enormous extent of arable land converted to pasture. It states: "One prominent feature of the depression has been the great contraction of the area of land under the plough in all parts of the country. The actual loss of arable area in the interval covered by the last two decades, which may be said to enclose the period of depression, is 2,137,000 acres, and that the diminution of the wheat acreage alone accounts for more than 1,900,000 acres of this loss." The figures given are for Great Britain:

1875    18,104,000   13,312,000

So that with an increasing population the country was producing less and less food.

Referring to the further depopulation of the country-side, the report states: "We find that in the purely arable counties of the east of England, and in some of the counties in the south and west, there has been since 1892 a further and considerable reduction of the number of men employed, while those still engaged have in many instances suffered from irregularity of employment and from a fall in wages."

The Commissioner for Essex reports that "on holdings where grass has been substituted for cultivated crops, and on three-horse farms where land has gone out of cultivation, few labourers are employed on the land.... Where formerly three labourers earned a livelihood, not one will be found now." In the twenty years 1871-91, the population of England and Wales had increased by 6,955,888, but the number of agricultural labourers had decreased by 242,053. As the Report says: "It is unnecessary for us to enlarge on the significance of these figures." Unfortunately, however, the story does not end in 1891, for the 1901* Census disclosed the fact that over 150,000 more agricultural labourers had gone, making some 400,000 since 1871, who with wives and children would be little less than 2,000,000 souls. Between 1881 and 1901, while the population of England and Wales increased by 25%, the number of agricultural workers decreased by 27%.†
* The 1901 Census shows that out of 674 rural districts in England and Wales, 408 had declined in population. To give a few examples, population declined in Lincolnshire by 8.1%; in Surrey by 15%; in Sussex by 16%; in Oxfordshire by 18.7%; in Buckinghamshire by 20.2%; and in Bedfordshire by 23.8%.
† Booth, Occupation of the People (1886): "Between 1851 and 1881 the numbers of those engaged in agriculture declined from 1,759,600 to 1,341,000."

18. Majority Report again overlooks importance of high rents and delay in reducing rents

The Supplementary Reports of Mr. Channing and Mr. Lambert draw attention to the question of rents and the depression. The Majority Report dismisses the tenant farmers' evidence on this point as being "interested," but it is difficult to understand in what way the landlords' evidence was any less "interested." Mr. Channing says: "These instances from the accounts supplied are more than confirmed by the mass of evidence — substantially unchallenged — to the effect that excessive rents* have brought, and are bringing, vast numbers of farmers to ruin; that rents have been insufficiently and too tardily reduced; and that the soil has been steadily deteriorated by the ruin and impoverishment of tenants, owing to the disproportionate share of the diminishing receipts which has had to be taken for rents."*
* Mr. Fyshe, in giving evidence, put "high rents" before low prices as a cause of depression. (Question 53946).

Mr. Lambert reports to the same effect, and quotes the Lincolnshire Commissioner who said: "It certainly does seem strange to go into a great agricultural county like Lincolnshire, which possesses splendid stock and much fine land, and to find New Zealand and Danish butter* largely sold in the towns." It is, indeed, strange, and one wonders if there had been no enclosing movement, and if the community had retained its interest in the soil, whether such a phenomenon could be possible.
* The import of dairy produce in 1896 amounted to £24,000,000, an increase of £10,000,000 over 1876.

Mr. Lambert further adds that in a large proportion of cases the reductions in rent did not come until many of the old tenants were ruined, or came too late to save them. He also refers to a very general complaint that the farmer who farmed well did not get the reduction obtained by the farmer who farmed badly, for in the case of old tenants on land highly improved there is "not a shadow of freedom of contract."

19. Owners of small farms again worse off than tenants. Farms purchased in times of high prices

There is valuable evidence in this Report as to the relative conditions of small owners and small tenants. Those who own their farms are usually worse off than tenants on account of mortgage indebtedness; and the purchase seems to have been made in times of high prices,* often "at double value." The Commissioner for Norfolk says: "A good many of our farmers some twenty-five years ago were told that the best thing that they could do was to buy their farms, and they did so. But they had not enough cash, and they had to mortgage their farms."
* As was done during the Napoleonic wars and the Great War (1914-18), the results being similar in each case (see Chapter XIII).

The Commissioner for Lincolnshire, referring to the same matter, says: "But the position of these men is not only worse than tenants, because they have a higher rent in the shape of interest, but because to the land they have bought they are irrevocably bound, for they cannot sell it without going out as ruined men, and they cannot let it for a sufficient rent to pay the interest on their mortgages."

20. Small Danish farms scarcely affected by depression

A Report* on Agricultural Depression in Denmark was obtained for this Commission from Mr. R. Schou, Secretary to the Royal Danish Agricultural Society. His Report showed that in the majority of cases the depression was little felt, and not at all amongst the small farms. His figures are significant:
* 1895.

Mr. Schou also drew attention to the fact that, as far as agriculture was concerned, protective duties did not exist.

21. Land workers flock to towns, causing sweating and unemployment. Periodical industrial depressions increase pauperism and unemployed surplus. Overcrowding and value of town sites enhanced

All through the period under review there was a large amount of unemployment in the towns, with recurring periods of exceptional depression. Trade and industry fluctuated, and in periods of bad trade the unemployed surplus expanded. The continual drain from the country-side made wages low and caused unemployment in the towns, for the country labourer, being usually strong and healthy, was frequently able to displace the town worker.

The Transactions and Reports of the House of Lords Committee on the Sweating System (1888-90) provide an enormous mass of evidence to the effect that sweating and unemployment in the towns were largely caused by the inrush of agricultural workers. Lord Dunraven's Report (Fifth Report) disclosed a terrible state of affairs among the London dock labourers, who were suffering from the evils of casual work and the competition of workers from the villages.

The great trek to the towns during the previous twenty years seems to have been largely responsible for the increase in the numbers of casual workers at the docks and the reduction of wages to a microscopic point. Mr. Tillett, a dockers' leader, in evidence said:

With reference to the origin of these competitors for work at the docks, Mr. Tillett said:

The Rev. J. Munro (First Report, 1417-18, 1436, etc.) also gave much evidence to the same effect, and, referring to sweating among women, said: "If we could stop the people coming up from the provinces we would materially aid the seamstresses (and, we may add, the working women generally) of East London."

This evidence is similar to that given by a large number of other witnesses, who saw clearly enough the connection between the depopulated villages and the crowded dens of East London. There is also considerable evidence which goes to show that not only agricultural labourers, but small tradesmen and artisans, whose living disappeared as the villages declined, also came to the towns and competed with, and displaced, town workers.

In the Final Report of the Royal Commission on the Depression of Trade and Industry, Appendix K (1886), Mr. Arthur O'Connor referred to many witnesses who had shown how the general depression had begun in agriculture, and that the diminished purchasing power of the villages had affected the whole community.

22. Unemployment statistics. Wages low and a large section of the population below the poverty line

There are no complete statistics of unemployment during this period, but Trade Union figures give some indication of the state of things. In 1873 the percentage of unemployed among members was 1.2, and this rose gradually to 11.4% in 1879. In 1880 it was 5.5% and in 1882 2.3%, and this rose to 10.2% in 1886. In 1887 it was 7.6% in 1890 2.1%, and in 1893 it had risen to 7.5%. In 1894 it was 6.9%, and this fell to 2% in 1899. By 1904 it had risen to 6%, and after falling to 3.6% in 1906 and 3.7% in 1907, it rose to 7.8% in 1908, and 7.7% in 1909, and then fell again to 2.1% in 1913.

In 1867 a Mansion House Relief Fund was opened for the unemployed, and in subsequent years appeals were frequently made. In 1886 there were riots in Trafalgar Square, and 1893, 1904 and 1908 were years of exceptional depression. In the year 1905-6 there were 110,000 applications to Distress Committees for relief. In 1881 the mean number of paupers relieved was 790,937, and in 1904 the number was 837,680.*
* Local Government Board Reports.

Taking the matter generally, we may say that throughout the period under consideration there has always been a surplus of unemployed, increasing to large proportions during periods of bad trade, and that a very large proportion of the population has struggled along on a wage which placed them below the poverty line.



1. Results of land monopoly accentuated by the Great War

The condition of the country-side in 1914, on the eve of the Great War, differed but little from the description already given of the latter part of the nineteenth century. In the five years preceding 1914 the Government had conducted a campaign throughout the country with the ostensible object of reforming the land system and striking a blow at land monopoly. Such a campaign naturally roused the antagonism of the landed interests. It had, however, a large following in the country, for public opinion was roused against the continuance of widespread pauperism, unemployment, bad housing, and the exodus from the country-side. Then came the Great War, and all thoughts of reform were forgotten. At the present day, therefore, all the bad conditions of 1914 exist in a more accentuated form — pauperism and unemployment are rampant, the country-side further denuded of labour, arable land again being converted to pasture, the slums and towns overcrowded, and a shortage of houses such as never before experienced.

2. Pre-war conditions. The Land Inquiry Committee

In order to appreciate fully the conditions of the towns and country at the present day, and the trend of events during the last decade, we must consider for a moment our land system as it had come to be in 1914.

In 1913 an unofficial Inquiry Committee was appointed at the instigation of the Prime Minister for the purpose of inquiring into the position of the agricultural industry and land holding in general. The inquiry was conducted through independent investigators — a method which has advantages over that of hearing witnesses — and the Report was issued in 1913. Separate reports were issued for England, Scotland and Wales, and all contain much valuable information of undoubtedly dependable quality.

In 1913 the holdings of over 300 acres made up 25% of the total cultivated acreage, or in other words, the large farmers with more than 300 acres held nearly 7,000,000 acres; the holdings of from 1 to 5 acres comprised only 1% of the total cultivated acreage; and those of 5 to 50 acres 15%.

3. Small holdings and allotments in great demand, but difficult to obtain. The dependence of the labourer

The Report* of the Land Inquiry Committee confirms what has already been learnt from various Government Reports, that access to the land is barred for the small man, the small holder or allotment holder, and owing to the tied cottage system and insecurity of tenure generally the labourer is often afraid to ask for a holding.† The Report states: "Over and over again our informants say that the demand for allotments and small holdings is not voiced, as the men are afraid of losing their work, their cottage, or both. To apply for a holding often means becoming a marked man. As one of our informants in Somersetshire says: 'To get a small holding means as a rule years of publicity of the fact that one is trying for it. And as this sort of thing is very unpopular among farmers, it can be imagined that a labourer thinks twice before risking the goodwill of his employers. I think that it is sufficiently understood by the labourers generally that they must not apply for land.... There is a sifting and selecting continually going on.'"‡
* The Land, vol.i., Rural.
† Ibid., p.164: "The labourers' fears, no doubt, are often groundless, but the occasions upon which they are justified are sufficiently numerous to cause widespread fear."
The Land, p.163.

It was found that only about two-thirds of the villages in England and Wales had allotments, and that where these were not utilized it was for one or more of the following reasons:

  1. The land is of poor quality or too highly rented.
  2. Land is situated too far from the village.
  3. There are large gardens in the village.
  4. The hours of labour are too long to enable labourers to cultivate allotments.

The Report adds that "where they do apply, they are frequently unsuccessful, either because of (1) the apathy of the Council; (2) the hostility of the farmer; (3) the high price demanded for the land; or (4) the difficulty of putting the compulsory powers into force through the County Council."*
* P.189.

On this subject of allotments a farmer writes; "A man with 1 or 2 acres under absolute fixity of tenure can supplement his wages by growing abundant vegetables and fruit for his family, and can keep poultry and pigs. Even when temporarily out of work he has thus good food and healthy means of employment. I have known many men driven to emigrate because they could get neither land nor cottages here."*
* P.159.

4. Security of tenure wanted, not ownership

The conclusions of the Committee on the question of small holdings are that "there is a large unsatisfied demand... which frequently is not voiced owing to the fear of applying."*
* P.229.

As regards small holders under private landowners, these have "suffered considerably both from insecurity of tenure and high rents."* County Council small holders† have also suffered from high rents, largely due to —
* P.229.
The Land, p.163: "The Small Holdings and Allotments Act has to a large extent been deprived of its full value by the labourer's lack of independence."

  1. Excessive price paid for land.
  2. Cost of adaptation and equipment being unnecessarily large.
  3. Sinking fund on equipment and adaptation too high.
  4. The fact that sinking fund on the land is charged upon the rent.*
    * P.229,

We have already had occasion to see that during the periods of so-called agricultural depression owners of small holdings were usually in a worse plight than tenants. Arthur Young spoke of the magic of ownership, but security of tenure is the real essence of the magic. As the Haversham Committee reported in 1911: "It is clear from the evidence that the main thing which the tenant farmers desire is to be able to remain on their farms, and it is usually when a farmer is unable to remain as a tenant, owing to the breaking up of estates, that he desires to become an occupying owner. There is little desire for ownership in itself, and it is only advocated as an alternative to being turned out of his home."*
* P.12 of the Report.

5. Failure of County Council schemes. Small holders who do not slavishly copy large farmers successful

The provision of small holdings by County Councils is shown to have been more or less of a failure. From 1892 to 1907 nine County Councils acquired 880 acres, but after the Small Holdings and Allotments Act of 1907 more was done. Up to 1912 County Councils acquired 155,000 acres, of which 105,000 were purchased and 50,000 leased,* and only 2% of the holders provided for wished to purchase.† Of these holders, agricultural labourers comprised about 33%, but this proportion varied from 73% in the Isle of Ely to 54% in Cambridgeshire and 7% in Somersetshire. These figures seem to suggest that in some districts at any rate the wrong class of men had been obtaining holdings.
* Annual Report on Small Holdings, 1912.
† Less land has been cultivated by owners each year since 1887. In that year 15.22% of the total cultivated area was cultivated by owners; in 1912 the percentage was 10.87 (Agricultural Statistics).

The reports from investigators, farmers, etc., are almost unanimous to the effect that small holdings can produce more than large farms,* especially with stock and poultry. Many small holders, however, endeavour to copy the large farmer, and so lose money. "On the other hand, dairy-farming, market-gardening, and pig and poultry rearing, which require much personal attention, lose rather than gain by large-scale production, and can therefore be carried on with success by small holders."† With reference to this point, an Essex informant states: "In this district small holders very seldom grow any produce beyond corn, wheat, barley, oats, and beans, and as they have to compete with larger farmers of, say, 300 to 500 acres, who work with modern machinery and wholesale methods, the small holder has to work early and late, and often very severely, to make a living."‡ Since 1908 the number of small holdings has actually declined.
* The Land, p.207. A Berkshire land steward, formerly farmer's bailiff, writes: "One farm, 447 acres. The farmer employed in his busy time, 6 men, 1 boy. He possessed 6 horses and 20 milch cows. There are now upon the farm 14 small holders themselves and their families, 2 labourers, 3 boys, 19 horses, 9 colts raised this year, 37 milch cows, 1 bull, several calves, 300 head of poultry, 128 sheep, and 48 acres are used as common for grazing about 40 head of cattle extra."
† P.199.
‡ P.198.

A calculation from figures furnished in the Report on Agricultural Output of Great Britain for 1908* shows that the average number of males regularly employed per 100 acres on different classes of holdings was as follows:
* Cd.6277, Table 18.

Holdings Males per 100 acres
1 — 5 acres    8.0
5 — 50    "4.3
50 — 300    "2.5
Over 300    "2.3

6. Wastage and under-cultivation — the fallacy of "too many acres"

The material collected by the Inquiry Committee contains abundant evidence of the under-cultivation of the land, especially in the case of the large farms. Mr. Prothero (Lord Ernle), writing in 1912, said: "Thousands of acres of tillage and grass-land are comparatively wasted, underfarmed and undermanned. Countries whose climate is severer than our own, and in which poorer soils are cultivated, produce far more from the land than ourselves."*
* English Farming, Past and Present, R.E. Prothero, p.401.

In the Annual Report on Small Holdings for 1910 the Commissioners state: "It is no exaggeration to say that a considerable quantity of the soil of this country might be made to return at least twice as much as it does at present,* and if the results of scientific research can be brought home to the agricultural community, there is no reason why this result should not be achieved." As Professor Long says, "there is no greater fallacy than 'too many acres.'"†
* "That our cultivated land is not made the most of is too true." — James Long, in Making the Most of the Land (1913), p.31.
† P.155.

Much evidence is also given to show that more could be produced if the system of mixed farming were extended, and the high rents per acre of small holdings compared with the lower rentals of large neighbouring farms are everywhere testified to. The large farms are usually too large for the farmer's capital, with the result that the land is labour-starved and rapidly deteriorates.

The conclusions arrived at by the Committee as to the causes of under-cultivation and low production are as follows:*
* The Land, pp.251-4

  1. Insecurity of tenure.
  2. Land labour-starved — best labour leaves country-side.
  3. Sport and game preservation.
  4. Lack of co-operation and credit facilities.
  5. Insufficient knowledge of scientific methods.
  6. Wrong idea that dairy-farming must be carried on on grass farms.
  7. Farms too large.

All of these apply equally well to present-day conditions, but more will have to be said later about the possibilities of the soil in this country.*
* Pars.25-30.

7. The drain from the country-side continues — reasons

In spite of the vast unpeopling of the country-side during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the movement was still continuing in the twentieth century. From Census figures we find that in 1891 the rural population formed 28% of the total population, in 1901 23%, and in 1911 only 21.9%. Many of those who left the country-side went overseas, and the emigration figures for this period are alarming. In 1900 some 9,000 male agriculturists (mostly labourers) left for non-European countries. This number rose each year, until in 1907 26,000 left these shores. In 1908 the number fell to 15,000, but rose again to 23,000 in 1912.*
* The Land, p.31.

The number of agricultural labourers fell from 756,557 in 1891 to 609,105 in 1901. The figure 643,117 for 1911 shows an increase, but when we take into consideration the facts that many labourers were absent owing to the South African War in 1901, and that a different and more accurate method of classification was adopted in 1911, this increase dwindles considerably.

The Land Report attributes the continued drain from the country-side to low wages, long hours, shortage of cottages, and lack of outlook and prospects for the future, and to these we must add the laying down of arable to pasture and the consolidation of farms.

8. Great shortage of cottages and bad condition of existing cottages — results

There is abundant evidence in the Report testifying to the great shortage of cottages, and this, coupled with the inability to obtain land, made it impossible for young labourers who wished to marry to remain in the villages. In large numbers of villages it would be difficult to find anyone who could remember the building of a labourer's cottage, and the Report states that in approximately 50% of the villages of this country no new cottages had been built within the previous ten years. "In the course of our inquiry 2,759 parishes in England and Wales have been investigated. In 1,396 of these a shortage of cottages is reported, quite apart from the replacement of existing insanitary cottages."* The estimated number required is put at 120,000.
* P.58.

The Select Committee on the Housing of the Working Classes Acts Amendment Bill, 1906, reported: "The Committee have had abundant evidence before them as to the insufficiency of cottages in rural districts. Cases have been brought to their notice in which people have had to leave a village because of the lack of housing accommodation."

The evidence as to insanitary and broken-down leaky cottages comes from all over the country, and is indeed testified to by all writers on agricultural questions. Medical Officers of Health everywhere deplore the damp, dark cottages in which so many labourers are compelled to live, and the overcrowding is often said to be worse than in town slums.

A Sussex farmer's evidence resembles that obtained from every county: "More men are driven off the land into towns through lack of cottage accommodation than for any other reason. Hundreds of the cottages are not fit for habitation. I have farmed for twenty to thirty years, and I am convinced that this is a crying need. Over and over again my young men when getting married have had to leave and go to the towns for want of accommodation."*
* P.85. Shortage of cottages causes loss of efficiency when labourers have to walk long distances to their work.

9. Labourer's wage insufficient to pay economic rent. The insecurity of the "tied cottage"

The real cause, however, of the migration to the towns is not so much the shortage of cottages as the fact that the labourer is a landless serf, without the wage, or the possibility of obtaining the wage, necessary to pay an economic rent for a cottage. If the labourer had access to land and the possibility of earning or making an economic wage, the cottages would be built. An extract from the Report of the Select Committee on Housing, 1906, seems to show that this was appreciated: "One main reason is the difficulty of building cottages to yield an adequate interest on the outlay to the owner. Cottages, without adjacent land,* cannot be built in agricultural districts to secure a return to cover interest and sinking fund, in addition to the other usual outgoings, if let at the prevailing rents paid by farm labourers."†
* The obtaining of this "adjacent land" would be a great difficulty.
† P.xii

The "tied cottage" system also contributes to the rural exodus, for many will not put up with the insecurity of tenure,* where the farmer, in dismissing the labourer from employment, can at the same time turn him into the street homeless. This system renders the labourer and his wife and children complete serfs, for the wife is often compelled to do work on the farm for fear of offending the farmer. Sir Rider Haggard in Rural England† quotes a correspondent as saying: "You may depend upon it, men are not going to be tied in cottages and be ruled by the iron hand of employers. Create hope in the people and provide for its realization. Oh! the hopelessness of village life! No wonder people flee from it, as from the haunted castle of Giant Despair."
* Mr. George Edwards, Sec. Agric. Labs. Union: "There are villages where the Union has never been able to gain a footing simply because 95 per cent of the cottages were tied, and if the men joined the Union they would go." (quoted in The Land, p.146).
† Vol.i, p.49. At p.283 of the same volume, in referring to the "tied cottage," Mr. Thomas Hardy is quoted as saying: "The prime cause of the removal is unquestionably insecurity of tenure."

10. Low and falling wages cause rural depopulation

Low wages have already been referred to as conducing to rural depopulation. In 1913 more than half the agricultural workers in England received total earnings of less than 18s. per week, and of these 20,000 to 30,000 received less than 16s. In Oxfordshire the average total was about 15s. per week, and in South Warwickshire total earnings in many cases did not amount to more than from 13s. to 14s. per week; and from these sums there would be deductions for loss of time through wet and frost, while very few of the workers received a weekly half-holiday. A labourer's wife is reported as saying: "During the past fifteen weeks I have only been able to buy 2s. worth of meat, and I have now very nearly forgotten what it is like."* Another wife, quoted by Rowntree and Kendall in How the Labourer Lives, said: "I haven't bought meat or bacon for weeks and weeks."
* The Land, p.28.

On the question of wages the Inquiry Committee arrived at the conclusion that, "when the increased cost of living has been taken into account, the real earnings of nearly 60% of the ordinary agricultural labourers have actually decreased since 1907."*
* P.12

11. Consolidation and conversion continue, and result in depopulation

The consolidation and conversion of farms continued to account for the depopulation of the country-side, and the Land Report furnishes widespread evidence of these movements. The large farms deteriorate and are labour-starved, and when farms are thrown together a large portion is usually put down to grass. Two extracts from the evidence on this question may be given. An Essex overseer reports:* "Where farms have been consolidated, fewer labourers and tradesmen are required; less intensive cultivation is adopted; less interest is taken in the farm; and less poultry, live-stock and bees are kept; lack of attention to details, and the profitable working up and marketing of odds and ends of produce, the keeping down of vermin, and the growing of fruit."
* P.197

A Buckinghamshire farmer states:* "The tendency of one occupier to get possession of several farms is the great evil of this district. It reduces the number of labourers about 50%, places an abnormal local power in the hands of one man, and embitters the feeling of small men who are unable to get land. A great portion of the land is allowed to fall down to grass, and the remainder does not receive the cultivation it should, and thereby the production is decreased."
* P.197

12. Arable and pasture compared

Foreign competition seems always to have been met in this country by putting down arable land to pasture, what a Lincolnshire landowner aptly described as "reducing the cost of cultivation" as distinct from reducing the cost of production; and he drew attention to the fact that on the Continent competition was usually met by increasing the yield per acre and seeing that the "in-put" was economic. In this connection we might refer to Denmark, where 90% of the land is under arable cultivation, and yet she was in 1914, and is still, our chief rival in dairying.

The Report quotes an example of a comparison between arable and pasture land from the presidential address to the Surveyors' Institute, 1912, of the Hon. E.G. Strutt. The accounts are of two farms in the east of England of about 2,000 acres in which he had been interested for the past eighteen years. During the first twelve years the net profit from the arable land was £1 14s.3d. per acre and from the grass-land 8s.7d.; and "during the last six years, with the prices of all agricultural produce increased, results from the arable land were £2 14s.9d. per acre, and from the grass-land 6s.6d."*
* P.53.

13. Vast areas of waste and rough pasture which could be improved — afforestation

Referring to waste land, the Report states: "There is much land lying waste at the present time which might profitably be cultivated. Sometimes it is not reclaimed, owing to the fact that the owner does not see sufficient prospect of getting a return on the capital he expends in reclamation. In such cases the land can often only be reclaimed by the State. There is also, however, much waste land which could well be brought into cultivation by private individuals, and the evidence shows that this has often been done. Some moorland has already been reclaimed by tenants who practically have security of tenure, and there is little doubt that this would happen more frequently if greater security of tenure were given."* Professor Long quotes the case of a Mr. Passmore, a farmer on the South Downs, who enormously improved the herbage on his farm with dressings of basic slag, and he states: "There is practically no class of land in this country which we may regard as unimprovable. To the occupier of hill and down land, of heath and peat, improvement seems impossible; but it is not so."† He also refers to "the many millions of acres of rough grazing land which potentially represent the wealth of a new nation."‡
* P.252.
† Long, p.157
‡ Long, p.ix (Introduction).

The Royal Commission on Coast Erosion and Afforestation,* 1909, arrived at the conclusion that in England and Wales there would be quite 1,500,000 acres of land fit for afforestation, and that another million acres might be added to this, consisting of poor tillage land that would pay better under forests. The possibilities of afforestation, however, will be further discussed in the next chapter.
* Cd.4460, vol.ii, pt.i, p.32.

14. Increase of game and gamekeepers diminishes employment and production

The vast preserves of game in England call forth the condemnation of the Land Report, both on account of the amount of land so withheld from use and the great damage to crops. There was considerable evidence before the Royal Commission of 1897 as to the destruction caused by ground game, and much evidence was before the Inquiry Committee to the effect that small tenants, and especially labourers cultivating allotments, were often afraid of taking advantage of the provisions of the Ground Game Act, 1906, and that the restrictions on the methods of killing rendered the Act less useful. The increase in the number of gamekeepers in this country since 1851 is significant. The figures are as follows:

1851. . .  9,000
1881. . .12,633
1901. . .16,677
1911. . .17,148

A report furnished to the Inquiry Committee by an assistant overseer from Norfolk contains statements which, from other returns made, appear to apply widely: "The damage is so great in many places that corn cannot be grown, as the seed is taken from the land by the large number of winged game, while the ground game, which the tenant under his lease agrees not to kill, destroy the corn when more matured. The tenant knows that he cannot legally contract out of his right to kill ground game, but he also knows that his tenancy would be terminated if he shot a hare. On the other hand, he knows, as he is informed by the owner, that he hires the land cheaper for this cause. The owners in this district also claim and exercise the right to stop the occupier from keeping fowls in the fields, as the fowls eat material required by pheasants and partridges."* Commenting on the evidence, the Land Report states: "Further, as already shown, there is evidence that not merely is land under-cultivated, but large areas are altogether out of cultivation owing to the preservation of game. This land, instead of providing food for the people, provides sport and delicacies for the few, and is the source of much damage and annoyance to neighbouring farmers."†
* P.261.
† P.278.

It is thus quite clear that game preservation, by restricting the opportunities for employment and otherwise diminishing production, is a cause of unemployment.

15. Conversion and depopulation still continue. Arable area steadily decreasing

We have already seen that depopulation and unemployment result from the conversion of arable land to pasture, but this devastating movement has continued through the twentieth century and is still continuing. From 1901 to 1912 a further 942,000 acres of arable were laid down to grass, making a decrease in arable in thirty years of nearly 3,000,000 acres. This area under the plough, under prevailing conditions, would employ 100,000 labourers. It is important to note the movements in the areas of arable and permanent pasture since 1912:

Year          Arable Permanent Grass
(Statistics taken from the Annual Returns of the Ministry of Agriculture.)

It will be seen from these figures that arable land decreased in area from 1912 to 1915, when the movement was arrested by war conditions. By 1918 1,400,746 acres more were under arable cultivation than in 1914; but the war over, the old movement of conversion to pasture was resumed to such an extent that in 1924 the area of land returned to arable is actually 406,000 acres less than it was in 1912, and is the lowest yet recorded.

Although it appears from these figures that the area under permanent grass has diminished considerably, this is by no means certain; but if it were so, it would mean that the total area under cultivation was diminishing. There are, however, other figures which must be considered in conjunction with those for permanent grass — namely, the area of mountain and heath land actually used for rough grazing. The areas for land in this category are as follows:

Year      Rough Grazing
(Mountain & Heath)

If we take the totals for permanent grass and rough grazings for 1914 and 1923 the decrease will be found to be 278,839 acres.

Year      Permanent Grass
& Rough Grazings.
(The 1924 figures show an increase in permanent grass.)

The Ministry of Agriculture comment on this fact in Agricultural Statistics for 1921: "The disquieting feature of the returns, however, is that the loss of this land which is being withdrawn from arable cultivation is not being made good by a corresponding increase in the area under permanent pasture. For many years, from 1871 to 1916, there was a more or less continuous decrease of ploughed land, but this was to a very large extent compensated for by an increase in permanent pasture — there was, in fact, evidence of a turnover from one category to another. Since 1918, on the other hand, notwithstanding the great decrease in arable cultivation, the movement in permanent pasture has been insignificant."*
* Agricultural Statistics, p.4.

No doubt a part of the actual decrease in permanent grass is due to the withdrawal of land for building purposes, and the explanation given in the Ministry's Report, 1922, probably accounts for the greater part of the remainder. They say: "It is clear that a somewhat fuller definition of the class of land which should be classified as rough grazings and the use of rather more prominent type in the schedule since 1919 has led occupiers to return under the head of rough grazings some land which they had previously returned as permanent grass. In many of the returns examined the increase in the area of rough grazings was exactly the same as the reduction in the area of permanent grass."* But even when we take all these facts into consideration, there is a suspicion that some land at any rate has gone out of use altogether.*
* P.7 of the Report.

16. Wheat area now below pre-war level. Earlier figures compared

The acreage under wheat in 1914 had fallen to 1,807,498 acres, and in spite of increases during the war, it was only 1,741,000 acres in 1923 and 1,545,000 acres in 1924. In 1914 the acreage under turnips and swedes had declined by one-third in the previous thirty years, and the acreage under root crops in 1923 is below that of 1914. The bare fallow recorded in 1914 was 340,737 acres, and in 1923 it was 435,300 acres.*
* In 1924 it had fallen to 355,599 acres.

The statistics for cattle, sheep and pigs are as follows:

  Year      Cattle  Sheep  Pigs
  19145,877,944     17,259,694      2,481,481
(1696) 11,000,0002,000,000

17. County Statistics

The following statistics of some English agricultural counties and the Channel Islands throw considerable light on present-day conditions of the country-side, and furnish instructive comparisons with earlier times:

(301,829 acres)
Arable144,600    147,908    144,870
Permanent Grass   110,148109,272 109,992
(460,730 acres)
Permanent Grass174,277185,456 189,243
(624,031 acres)
Permanent Grass315,847336,025 340,060
(976,125 acres)
Permanent Grass284,610279,169 286,079
(1,308,156 acres)
Permanent Grass289,310309,328 315,468
(928,735 acres)
Permanent Grass424,014439,552 447,176
Cattle 127,327134,845133,111
(28,717 acres)
Permanent Grass3,5694,623
Guernsey, etc.
(15,750 acres)
Permanent Grass6,2427,305

18. Census of 1921. Decline in rural population

The 1921 Census results show a further proportional decline in the rural population, and in many instances an absolute decline over the 1911 figures. The total population of England and Wales was returned as 37,885,242. There were 1,126 Urban Districts* with 30,034,385 persons, and 672 Rural Districts with 7,850,857 persons. The percentage decline in rural population may be shown as follows:

Urban     Rural
* The Administrative County of London is counted as one district.

In several counties there is an absolute decline in the rural population, shown as follows:

Rural Pop.
    Rural Pop.
Norfolk322,914      260,836257,931
Northamptonshire   211,507118,237 115,510
Suffolk East211,623122,270120,508
Suffolk West103,98273,05067,677
Isle of Wight94,69731,05930,925
Oxfordshire189,558100,119 97,168

19. Productivity of the war-time allotments. The minimum wage

As has been shown, there was an increase of arable land during the war, and during the latter part of the war period large numbers of allotments were made available, and the food supply was enormously increased. Unfortunately many of these allotments have had to be given up since the war, and arable land is again lapsing to pasture, a further extensive conversion being threatened as a result of a recent fall in prices. It has been estimated that there were some one and a half million of these allotments, covering 180,000 acres,* or approximately 1/8 acre to each allotment, and that the annual value of the food produced amounted to £40,000,000.† The productive power and value of these small allotments will be realized when it is seen that the food production equals £222 per acre,‡ but it should also be borne in mind that the Government had to exert its powers to make the necessary land available.
* Agricultural Statistics for 1924 estimate that at the end of 1923 there were in England and Wales 1,190,000 allotments, covering an area of 170,000 acres, a decrease of just over 10% as compared with the 1920 total.
† Lord Leverhulme, speaking at the Guildhall in September, 1922.
‡ One and a half million acres worked in this way would produce food to the value of £333,000,000.

The farmers endeavoured to meet the war shortage of labour by the cheap labour of boys still at school, and in spite of a great rise in prices, wages, as usual, were very slow in following. The author of The English Agricultural Labourer* met able-bodied men in the Isle of Purbeck in September 1916 receiving 13s. and 14s. a week, and the wage in Norfolk at this time, including harvest earnings, was £1 3s.1½d., although the cost of living was up 65%, and at the end of 1916 wheat was 75s.10d. and barley 67s.5d. In January 1917 wages had risen by 42% and the cost of living by 87%, and the labourers were thus worse off than they were in 1914. In August 1917 however, the Corn Production Act fixed a minimum wage of 25s. for agricultural workers,† and Trade Boards were empowered to fix a local minimum in different districts. Now for a time the labourer began to enjoy better times, but his prosperity was short-lived. In 1921, owing to a fall in prices and the outcry of the farmers, the minimum was abolished and the Trade Board ceased to function.‡ The labourer is now probably worse off than in 1914.
* F.E. Green, a member of the Royal Commission on Agriculture.
† Wheat then stood at 78s.7d.
‡ The part of the Agriculture Act of 1920 dealing with the Board was repealed in July 1921. "As soon as the Government saw that the bargain was about to become operative, they tore up the scrap of paper on which it was written." (Lord Ernle).

20. Great land sales during period of high prices. No farms to let

As in former periods of high prices, landlords and farmers have done well, and many fortunes have been made. Farmers were encouraged to buy their land at boom prices, and, in fact, often had to buy in order to retain possession, and nowhere was there any land available for renting. Messrs. Knight, Frank & Rutley, estate agents, in their brochure, The Land Question, published in 1922, state that between 1913 and 1922 in Great Britain they have disposed of 2,365,000 acres of land, amounting in value to £31,231,052. This affords some indication of the vast area which must have changed hands in the last ten years. Now, with the fall in prices in 1922 and 1923, many of those who bought at the top of the market have been ruined, and again there is a so-called "depression" in agriculture. Referring to recent conditions, it is stated in The Land Question that, "in spite of critical conditions, there are practically no farms to let at present. Farmers who from various causes have had to relinquish their farms and have no training or inclination for any other calling are thus still constrained to buy, and this fact has its bearing on prices."*

21. The Government Land Settlement Scheme. Councils compete for land

After the war many thousands of ex-soldiers, who had grown accustomed to an open-air life, wished to take up small holdings and settle on the land, and the hope that this would be possible had been encouraged by many Government promises. In 1919 a Land Settlement (Facilities) Act was passed, making many alterations in existing small-holding legislation, and empowering County and County Borough Councils to acquire land for holdings. The Councils were not to be restricted to the acquisition of land which could be let as small holdings at a rent sufficient to cover loan charges and other outgoings, and the Ministry of Agriculture was to guarantee the Councils against loss up to 1926.

The Councils were thus entering the market to purchase when the prices of land, building material, and equipment were abnormally high, and the competition was so great that land could only be acquired by purchase. The position at this time is well stated by Messrs. Knight, Frank & Rutley: "During the period of the greatest activity in land sales competition was often keen, and high prices were realized, based as a rule on the fair market rental value* at the time of the sale and not on the actual rent payable. A sitting tenant, in order to secure his holding, had sometimes undoubtedly to give a high price.† County Councils have been powerful competitors. Successful business men and ex-officers, attracted by country pursuits, have also been purchasers, especially of the smaller farms."‡
* I.e. monopoly value.
† On p.11 the authors state that the increase which a tenant who buys has to pay annually is from 23 to 136%.
‡ P.8.

22. Extent and cost of the scheme

Some idea of the difficulty of obtaining the necessary land, and the costliness and small results of the scheme, may be gauged from the statistics provided at various intervals during the last three years. From a Ministry of Agriculture statement, issued in January 1922, it appears that up to December 1921 there were 47,943 applications in England and Wales, the amount of land asked for being 826,540 acres. Of these applications, 11,104 had been rejected, and 11,503 provided with 163,778 acres. A further 15,847 applications from ex-service men had been approved, but land had not yet been provided.

On March 9th 1922 the Marquis of Lincolnshire, speaking in the House of Lords, said that 14,297 men had been settled, and that 21,000 applicants were not yet provided for. Speaking in the House on the same day, Lord Ernle said that the Government had settled 15,000 men, and it had cost £15,000,000. The Geddes Report stated that the average annual loss on 260,000 acres was estimated at £2 per acre — i.e. £500,000 — and that the cost of the headquarters establishment was £75,000. There had also been heavy losses on various Government Settlements.

A Ministry of Agriculture Report* on this scheme was issued in April 1923, and this shows that up to January 1923 only 18,960 men had been settled on 268,407 acres. Something of the delay in providing the holdings can be gathered from the fact that "of the 18,960 men settled, about 11,000 have taken occupation of their holdings since harvest of 1920."
* Report on the Present Position and Future Prospects of Ex-Service Men settled on the Land in England and Wales."

23. Comparative failure due to delay, high prices, lack of co-operation

Besides those who applied and failed to obtain holdings, large numbers, of whom the writer met many,* did not apply because they saw the delay in the case of others, and realized the remote chance of ever obtaining a holding. Also many of those who had had sufficient capital to start a holding had long since exhausted this on living by the time the holding was allotted. Rents were high owing to the high price of land and the cost of building, and these entailed a heavy burden of rates. Co-operation would have helped to make the scheme a success, but unfortunately the first thought of so many prospective small holders was, and is still, that the first thing they must buy, however small the holding, is a horse and cart.
* During service as a Government official.

As it is, however, the complete failures to January 1923 only appear to be 6.5%, or 1,226, but the Report adds that "if the 1923 season proves as bad as either 1921 or 1922, and agricultural prices continue as unremunerative, the number of failures is certain to show a serious increase." With reference to the "depression" the Report states: "The agricultural depression has unquestionably affected ex-Service smallholders no less than other farmers. Few, if any, have succeeded in getting through their first two or three years on the land without losing money.... Taking the country as a whole, nearly 20% of the aggregate half-years' rent-roll on the postwar estate was remitted at Michaelmas 1922."

But in spite of all this, it is stated that the demand for holdings is almost as keen as ever.

24. Mixed holdings the most successful

The Report gives details of the progress made by these ex-Service small holders in various parts of the country. In the east the fall in the price of corn and potatoes had hit the tenants hard, but those who kept some stock were pulling through.* Mixed holdings were more general in the Midlands, and there was little wastage, and this also applies to the south of England generally and to Wales. In the southeast the small holders are largely settled in big estates, a circumstance which should facilitate co-operative methods; but, according to the Report, "at present there is little, if any, evidence of a tendency in this direction." Between 1918 and 1923 the failures in this part of the country amounted to 15%.
* Cf. par.5.

Everywhere high rents and rates are complained of, and in some of the industrial districts of Wales rates are said to equal the rents.

25. Can this country feed itself? The case of wheat — some comparisons. Scientific discoveries and production per acre

It is frequently stated by agriculturists and others that it is quite impossible to grow sufficient foodstuffs in this country for the present population, or, what amounts to the same thing, that the country is over-populated, and must depend to an increasing extent on foreign food supplies. Let us see by taking a few examples whether the opportunities for producing food in this country have been exhausted, or whether it is that those who have taken the place of the dispossessed peasant on the land have failed to make use of the opportunities at their disposal.

We will start with the case of wheat. In 1924 the acreage under wheat was 1,545,000 acres, which at an average of 31 bushels to the acre gives 47,895,000 bushels. The total annual consumption is approximately 240,000,000 bushels,* so that at 31 bushels to the acre, this would require a little over 7,700,000 acres. But 31 bushels to the acre is not a great deal above the average of fifty years ago.† Since that time there have been many discoveries in agricultural science which would enable a much greater amount to be produced, but unfortunately these discoveries have not been adopted. Denmark, with a soil very much poorer than that of England, produces on an average some 44 bushels of wheat to the acre, and in 1921, when England produced 35.4 bushels, Denmark produced 51 bushels. So that if the English average per acre were raised to the Danish level, we could grow all the wheat we required on less than 5,500,000 acres.
* Long gives the amount of wheat required as 6 bushels per person.
† Mr. Caird in the Statistical Journal, 1868, p.130, estimates average production per acre at 28 bushels. (Quoted by Porter, The Progress of the Nation, p.198.)

But, having regard to the results obtained by scientific agriculturists,* and on the best farms in this country, there seems to be little doubt that the average could be easily doubled and the necessary wheat grown on less than 4,000,000 acres by only adopting a few of the discoveries of recent years. All Government Reports on Agriculture, referring to production generally, state that in many cases the produce per acre might be doubled. Sir Rider Haggard, when touring England, speaks of several farms where the wheat crops reached 50 and 57 bushels to the acre, and Professor Long refers to skilled farmers who habitually grow 50 to 80 bushels. He instances Lord Rosebery's farm, where "in 1911, a year of almost unparalleled drought, Lord Rosebery produced 80 bushels of wheat to the acre," and he adds, "there is no reason why this figure should not be frequently reached."†
* A land agent writing in the Daily Telegraph, January 20, 1922, says: "Within the last few years certain pioneers have evolved theories which, if brought into general practice, would more than double our food production." He then gives an example of wheat-growing in Essex, where by shallow sowing 114 stems and nearly 3,000 kernels were produced from one grain.
† Long, Making the Most of the Land, p.7.

Even thirty to forty years ago as much as 70 to 90 bushels to the acre were obtained by planting out seed and growing wheat more as a vegetable,* and with such wheat, yielding 600 grains on the average, about 1/12 acre would be required to grow the annual wheat for one person. Recent experiments with electricity show that the wheat yield might be enormously increased with its help at a very small expense.†
* See Kropotkin, Fields, Factories and Workshops.
† It must be remembered that the cultivable area of England and Wales is over 27,000,000 acres.

26. Persons per square mile fed on home-grown produce in Great Britain and other countries

In Great Britain nearly 3 acres of the cultivable area are required to grow the food for one person, or, in other words, home-grown food supplies 125 or 135 persons out of 466 per square mile. France produces food for 170 out of 188 per square mile, and Belgium supplies nearly all the food for a population which is only a little under 600 to the square mile. Between 1880 and 1885 Belgium produced home-grown food for 490 persons per square mile, and in addition exported £1,000,000 worth of agricultural produce to Great Britain every year. Immediately before the war Belgium grew some two-thirds of the necessary cereals for its population and a far greater quantity of other foodstuffs. In 1910 this densely populated little country was exporting agricultural produce to the value then of 48s. per head of population, and at the same time was exporting home-manufactured goods to the value of 198s. per head and half-manufactured goods to the value of 150s. per head, while the total exports from the United Kingdom in the boom year of 1911 only amounted to 201s. per head of population.*
* Figures from Kropotkin, pp.115-16; see also Chapters III-V, 1912 edition.

27. What Denmark can produce — cattle, poultry, dairy produce, pigs. Britain neglects her own market

In Denmark, with a poor soil, far below that of this country in fertility, some 90% of the cultivated land is under the plough, and yet the Danes are our great rivals in dairying. In 1881 they kept 899,000 cows, and in 1914 1,310,000, meeting a fall in prices, not by allowing arable to tumble down to grass, but by increasing the arable area and by co-operative methods. Denmark owns one cow or heifer per 2.1 persons, while in this country the proportion is one per 16 persons.* The butter export from Denmark in the years 1881-5 averaged 15,630 tons, and in 1911-15 it was 99,420 tons. The number of fowls kept in 1893 amounted to 5,900,000, and in 1914 these had increased to 15,100,000.
* Long, p.15.

The way in which this country has failed to supply its own huge market with pig-meat, and the manner in which Denmark has stepped into the breach,* afford some striking comparisons, and point to the possibilities of future development in this country.† The number of pigs in England and Wales in 1923‡ only exceeded by a few thousands the total of 2,586,000 in 1872, but during this period the imports of bacon rose from 2,000,000 cwt. to nearly 6,000,000 cwt., and the imports of hams, lard, and pork increased in a similar way. The present annual imports of pig products amount to nearly 10,500,000 cwt., of a value of almost £55,500,000. It will thus be seen that England has done practically nothing to serve the great market in her midst.
* Imports of butter, eggs, and bacon from Denmark in 1921 amounted to £37,000,000.
† "That the larger number of pigs kept in continental countries is chiefly owing to the system of small farming we cannot doubt. A Danish farmer owning 50 acres breeds a larger number of pigs than an average British farmer in occupation of 200 acres." (Long, p.18).
‡ Figures from Journal of the Ministry of Agriculture, September, 1923.

The pigs in Denmark have increased from some 500,000 in 1881 to about 2,500,000 at the present time, and over 2,100,000 are killed annually. Mr. W.A. Stewart, M.A., B.Sc.Agr., writing in the Journal of the Ministry of Agriculture for September 1923, says: "There is no reason why the whole of British requirements in pig products should not be produced within the British Isles." And to show how unenterprising the English farmer is, he adds: "Although it is true that there are many more good pigs in the country now than there were in 1914, the common pig is still more or less a mongrel, with little merit to recommend it, and there is great scope for general improvement. Mongrel-bred boars are still used for breeding, and this is altogether wrong."

28. What the Channel Islands produce. Dense population and intensive culture beats Great Britain in crop averages

The Channel Islands afford some striking illustrations of what can be got out of the land by intensive culture and a land system which induces the holder to get the utmost out of his land. Jersey feeds a population of about two to each acre, or 1,300 to the square mile, and at the same time exports a large amount of agricultural produce, and this in spite of the fact that there are climatic drawbacks and the soil is of no special fertility.* All crops have much higher averages in these islands than in England. Potatoes average 10-12 tons per acre against 6 in this country; barley 50 bushels against 33 here; turnips and swedes 60 tons against 14; parsnips and carrots 25 tons against 14; and hay 50 cwt. against 23¾ cwt.†
* Rider Haggard, Rural England, vol.i, p.103.
† Long, p.118.

Kropotkin,* referring to potato-growing in Germany, says: "Extensive experiments have lately been made... and the crops were, 9 tons per acre for the poor sorts, 14 tons for the better ones, and 32.4 tons for the best varieties of potatoes; 3 tons to the acre and more than 30 tons to the acre are thus the ascertained limits, and one necessarily asks oneself: Which of the two requires less labour in tilling, planting, cultivating and digging, and less expenditure in manure, 30 tons on 10 acres, or the same 30 tons grown on 1 acre or 2? If labour is of no consideration, while every penny spent in seeds and manure is of great importance, as is unhappily very often the case with the peasant, he will perforce choose the first method. But is it the most economic?" Professor Long refers to many farmers in this country who obtain yields of potatoes varying from 12 to 18 tons per acre.†
* Kropotkin, p.173.
† Long, p.viii (Introduction).

Kropotkin* also refers to Jersey and the Saffelare district of Flanders, where they keep one head of cattle to each acre of green crops, meadows and pasture, while elsewhere 2 or 3 acres are needed for each head of cattle.
* Kropotkin, p.174.

29. Kropotkin on the possibilities of agricultural production in the United Kingdom

From a survey of a few countries Kropotkin draws the following conclusions, which seem, if anything, to be an underestimate of the possibilities:

There seems little doubt that with small farms, intensive culture and a development of co-operation,* and the adoption of only a few of the many scientific discoveries,† this country could support now a population enormously greater than it has, or is likely to have, for some time to come.
* Long, pp.33-4: "One of the chief causes of the limited means of farmers is found in the almost entire absence of co-operation."
† Note the possibilities of the use of electricity and the value of French culture, enabling four or five successive crops to be grown in one season.

30. Rider Haggard and productiveness of small holdings. The apathy of the farming class in adopting improvements

On the subject of small farms Sir Rider Haggard says: "Broadly, however, I may say that where the farms are large and corn is chiefly grown, there is little or no prosperity, while where they are small and assisted by pastures or fruit culture both owners and tenants are doing fairly well."* Professor Long frequently refers to farmers who have too much land and to the increased produce which small holders are able to get from their land; and with regard to these small farms he says: "Success, indeed, can be commanded in no other way."†
* Rural England, vol.ii, p.57.
† Long, p.24.

As an example of how good land is often allowed to fall to waste in this country, we may take the case of Potton, in Huntingdonshire. Rider Haggard* refers to this district as a stronghold of small cultivators who send a large amount of produce to London. But within a short distance "thousands of acres are quite or very nearly derelict, and the farm-houses, buildings, and cottages are slowly rotting down.... All this land was cultivated and grew crops up to the eighties."
* Vol.ii, p.59.

Professor Long deplores the fact that the farmers of Great Britain should be fed by the farmers of other countries, but has not much hope of the present farming class. He writes: "With the best will in the world to make full allowance for the difficulties under which so many tenants farm, it is impossible to ignore the fact that if an angel were to assure the unbelievers among them that, by adopting similar methods, they could obtain similar results, they would not make the attempts. We are speaking of those who regard experiments as the fads of the rich or as part of the routine of the agricultural college, of those who read and decline to take the pains to understand, or, lastly, of those who never read at all; and we think we may regard these three sections of the tenant-farming class as forming a large proportion of the total number."
* Long, p.105.

31. Agricultural depression — country-side labour-starved, and Government without a remedy

Our country-side at the present day presents in most districts a dreary spectacle — a dwindling population,* half-starved and discontented labourers, poorly farmed lands and derelict houses. One may survey hundreds, and even thousands, of acres in many parts of England and scarcely be able to find a single worker in the fields. Farm buildings often more nearly resemble heaps of ruins than anything else, and the many miserable crops and wasted fields are heart-breaking. In 1918 and 1919 the agricultural labourer experienced better times, but now he is back again in his old position. But since 1914 the labourer has had his eyes opened to many things. He knows of the large profits made by farmers during the war, and he sees farms selling for high prices in spite of "depression," but he himself has been unable to rent a piece of land for any money. And with the country-side in this derelict state the Government is spending £3,000,000 per annum for fifteen years to assist emigration,† apparently because it considers that there are no further opportunities for employment in this country.
* Agricultural Statistics, 1923: Since 1921 number of regular agricultural workers has declined by 8.7%, and taking male workers alone by 7.5%. Agricultural Statistics 1924 show 34,000 more workers employed than in 1923, but 63,000 less than in 1921.
† Compare the state of England after Waterloo.

Once more, in 1922 and 1923, prices have fallen, with the result that there is again the cry of agricultural distress. The labourers' wages are to be further reduced, and the farmers threaten to lay down more arable land to pasture* unless the Government grants them protection or subsidies. We have seen from the Agricultural Statistics that this threat is being carried into effect, for the arable area in 1924 was 381,000 acres less than in 1922.
* Messrs. Knight, Frank & Rutley are under no delusions as to what will be the result of this. If present conditions continue, they say, "land will continue to go down to grass at an increasingly rapid rate, unemployment and depopulation in rural areas will follow, and the total of food production will decline" (The Land Question, p.21).

32. The beggars again come to town — extent of post-war unemployment

So far we have only been dealing with one side of the picture, but there is another. Since the year 1920 the beggars have come to town in numbers greater than ever before. Tramps wander about the country-side, and our towns and cities are filled with beggars. Many of the great industrial cities of this country during the last three years have presented a devastated appearance owing to lack of trade and consequent unemployment, and to find parallel descriptions we must go back to 1844.

More reliable figures are obtainable at the present day as to the number of unemployed. Some 12,000,000 workers are registered under the Unemployed Insurance Acts,* but no figures show the actual total, although the Government figures are sufficiently alarming. From 600,000 in 1920 the total reached 2,000,000 in 1921. Throughout 1922 it never fell below 1,414,000, the average being about 1,580,000, and the average for 1923 was only a little below this. It has been computed that, from 1919 to the middle of 1923, the central and local governments have expended some £400,000,000 on unemployment relief.
* Agricultural workers, domestic servants, and employees of local authorities are not included. The total number of employed adults amounts to about 16,000,000.

33. Official figures do not disclose full extent of the evil. Value of allotments to unemployed

With reference to these figures, the Report entitled. "The Third Winter of Unemployment" states: "The general average conceals the intensity of the depression in the worst trades. One man in 8 is the unemployed proportion in industry generally; in shipbuilding it is more than one in 3; in engineering almost one in 4; in iron and steel, cutlery and tool over one in 4; in constructional industry, brass and copper, linen and hemp, and the docks one in 5."* In estimating the extent of unemployment it is necessary to take into account short-time work, and the Report considers that this is half as considerable as total unemployment.† The Report states: "In other words, in industry proper the insufficiency of employment is not the 11.9 of the insurance returns, but something between 20 and 20.5%; nearly 14% of the workers are totally unemployed, while the time lost by those who are in employment, if concentrated instead of being spread out, would add another 7 to 9% to the totally unemployed. A fifth or more of the industrial power of the country is running to waste."
* P.4 of the Report.
† It is estimated in this Report that 1,500,000 unemployed would have 2,580,000 dependents, making in all 4,080,000 persons.

Testimony is given in the Report to the value of allotments to the unemployed in Sheffield.* "One of the most valuable assets to the unemployed has been allotments, and there is no doubt that these are having a decidedly beneficial effect in keeping large numbers of men off the streets. In Sheffield there are no less than 11,000 allotments, and those who are in a position to judge estimate that about 4,000 of the holders are at present out of employment. The ordinary sized allotment, if properly cultivated, will provide vegetables for a family of five for the whole year, and one can easily judge the valuable contribution this made to the standard of living. There is a long waiting list for allotments in Sheffield, and the authorities have been held up for some time for the want of land."
* P.276.

A House of Commons White Paper of 1913* furnishes interesting comment on this so-called "want of land" for allotments in Sheffield. From this White Paper it appears that in the year 1911-12 the total area of Sheffield was 23,662 acres, of which 9,944 acres, or between one-half and one-third of the total, were rated as agricultural land. The total rates paid amounted to £830,135 to which the so-called agricultural land contributed only £2,357.
* White Paper No.119 of 1913.

34. How Rating System encourages the withholding of land from use — housing

For some years prior to 1914 house-building was failing to keep up with the demand; houses which were old and out-of-date were not rebuilt or reconstructed, and many thousands of houses which were totally unfit for human habitation remained standing.* The system of tenure which enabled land-holders to become, in fact, absolute owners, and which concentrated the ownership of land in this country into a few hands, besides depopulating the country-side and preventing access to land there, had put a stranglehold on the development of our towns by enabling owners to hold up the surrounding land. This land is either held out of use altogether, or used for some agricultural purpose when it is urgently required for building, the owners knowing that, when demand has become sufficiently urgent, their price will be given. Also the system of rating in Great Britain, under which land which is unused escapes rates altogether, and land under-developed only pays a few shillings per acre as agricultural land, whatever its value for building purposes may be, actually encourages the withholding of land from use, or keeping it in an under-used state.
* See Report of the Land Inquiry Committee, vol.ii, Urban.

In 1885 the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes in the Majority Report stated: "At present land available for building in the neighbourhood of our populous centres, though its capital value is very great, is probably producing a small yearly return until it is let for building. The owners of this land are rated, not in relation to the real value, but to the actual annual income. They can thus afford to keep their land out of the market, and to part with only small quantities, so as to raise the price beyond the natural monopoly price which the land would command by its advantages of position. Meantime, the general expenditure of the town on improvements is increasing the value of their property."

The Report of the Land Inquiry Committee,* 1913, referring to the rating system, states: "Under our present rating system there is no strong inducement for him to sell his land at the price buyers are willing to offer to-day. He can afford to wait until the demand becomes more active."
* The Land: Urban, p.95.

35. Evidence before Land Inquiry Committee as to difficulty in obtaining land for building before the war

The latter Report also provides ample evidence of the difficulty of obtaining land before the war in most of our towns, either at a reasonable price or at all, and how, in consequence, building and improvement schemes were held up or abandoned. The Town Clerk of Hampstead is quoted as stating:* "My experience in Hampstead has been certainly that schemes of public improvement, especially road improvements, have in the past been postponed or abandoned owing to the prices asked for land being prohibitive."
* P.244.

The Town Clerk of Middlesbrough said:* "Our Corporation have postponed, and even abandoned, schemes for public improvement owing to such difficulties." The Clerk to the Tonbridge U.D.C. also stated† that "schemes of public improvement have been postponed here owing to the difficulty of acquisition."
* P.244.
† P.244.

An informant from a Nottinghamshire Rural District wrote:* "When I wanted, some twenty years back, to build half a dozen workmen's houses, as my workpeople were shamefully overcrowded and other labourers worse, the landlord would only sell the land, rented nominally at 20s, per acre (but with a rebate), for £150 per acre. The land has since for twenty years been let at 20s. per acre, and is still assessed at that rate."
* P.320.

The late Mr. Arthur Chamberlain, referring presumably to Birmingham, is reported as saying:* "In 1906 my company (Kynochs, Ltd., explosive manufacturers), for the purposes of the health and happiness of a large body of workpeople (2,000) wanted to obtain land for the purpose of erecting by easy stages their own houses. The scheme was brought to a full-stop and finally abandoned because of the inability to get land. We could not get land at a reasonable price. There was plenty of land in a suitable position, which we would have paid a fair price for, but the owners chose to hold the land up for the unearned increment. They asked such a price as made it impossible for me to build anything but slum property."
* P.325.

36. Dear land leads to overcrowding

The Report of the Land Inquiry Committee on the subject of overcrowding states:* "The crowding of houses to the acre, producing wildernesses of long, mean streets, although it was originally due to the high price of land, has become a custom which may tend to prolong itself even when land is cheapened. But, unless rents are to be materially increased, the size of building plots must always be determined by the price of land.... There is abundant evidence that in many towns, under existing conditions, it would be impossible to build cottages with adequate space round them and let them at rents which workmen can afford to pay."
* P.121.

37. Large areas of all towns rated as agricultural land — a premium on non-use or under-use

The House of Commons White Paper issued in 1913, and already referred to, shows for the year 1911-12 with respect to each Municipal Borough or other Urban District in England and Wales the area of the Borough or District and of the agricultural land comprised therein, the total amount of rates collected, and the amount of rates collected in respect of the agricultural land. It will be seen from this White Paper that there is a very large proportion of the areas of all our cities and towns rated as agricultural land,* that rates must form an intolerable burden on industry, and that there is plenty of "agricultural" land in all those towns from which come complaints of inability to obtain land and of exorbitant prices charged. We may take the cases of Tonbridge (Kent) and Birmingham, to which reference has already been made:
* It should be noted that by the Agricultural Rates Act, 1896, agricultural land is assessed at its net annual value to one-half only of the poor rates (by the Agricultural Rates Act, 1923, this has been reduced to one-quarter); and by Public Health Act, 1875, only pays one-quarter of the general district rates.

Corresponding figures for London are omitted from the White Paper, but were obtained by Mr. Edgar J. Harper, who gave them in a paper he read before the Royal Statistical Society in March 1918. The figures are for the year 1911-12. Taking the Administrative County of London, we get:

Total area74,816  acres
Area of agricultural land8,102    "
Total rates£15,869,181
Rates paid by agricultural land £2,594

If we take the Administrative County and include thirty-five adjacent districts we find:

Total area193,889  acres
Area of agricultural land53,242    "
Total rates£19,918,856
Rates paid by agricultural land £13,661

In the Administrative County the agricultural land paid only 6s.5d. per acre and other land* £237 17s. per acre, and in the larger area the agricultural land only paid 5s.1d. per acre against £141 10s. per acre for the other land.
* This figure is actually much higher, for the "other land" includes streets, parks, public open spares, sites of unrated churches, chapels, etc., and a large area of vacant land not assessed at all.

All the above examples would seem to prove conclusively that the system of rating in force in this country places a heavy penalty on the user of land in proportion to the use he makes of the land, and at the same time encourages the owner who is withholding his land from use for a rise.

38. Post-war housing shortage and unemployed builders. Rise in price of land and the ring round the house

The housing shortage of 1914 became intensified during the war owing to an almost complete cessation of building, with the result that at the end of the war it was computed that some 500,000 houses were urgently required, and there is little doubt that the number was roughly correct. Since the end of 1918, however, in spite of the enormous demand for houses and the complete disappearance of the house "to let," even the annual number of houses normally required has not been built, so that the actual shortage in 1923 was greater than ever. At the same time there is the remarkable fact that there were 142,000 unemployed in the building and constructional trades in October 1922, and there were actually less men returned as in these trades in 1922 than in 1914, the numbers for 1914 being 908,000 and for 1922, 868,000.*
* "The Third Winter of Unemployment."

Private builders have been almost powerless to build, at any rate the smaller type of house, because the cost of production was such that if the finished product were offered at its economic rent, no one would have been able to pay it, and few could or wished to purchase at such a price. The result has been that the majority of the working-class houses built since 1918 have been subsidized by the Government and local authorities, and those who rent these houses are thus living to a certain extent at the expense of the community.

As an example of what the London County Council has had to pay for agricultural land required for building we may quote the three estates of Becontree, Bellingham and Roehampton:

Annual Net Rateable
 Value before Purchase 
 Becontree2,050   3,590295,544  
 Bellingham252      49050,339  
 Roehampton 148      951120,000  

Not only have enormous prices been paid for all sites, but also for all materials, which are controlled by various rings and combines, having as their object the maintenance of high prices and the absorption of as large a proportion as possible of any Government subsidy. These trusts and combinations among the manufacturers of the component parts of the house have been described as "the ring round the house," but it is clear that these monopolies are but subsidiary to the great monopoly which comprises all the natural physical resources of the country, and would be powerless but for this monopoly.