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history: agricultural labour

A Herefordshire agricultural labourer's cottage in the early 19th century

 

Agricultural Wages

Taken from  John Clarke's 'General View of the Agriculture of the County of Hereford' published in 1794, agricultural wages at the time were as follows

LABOURERS WAGES

                                             Men hired by the year, from six to nine guineas.
                                             Boys from       -              -       two to three ditto.
                                             Women from      -           -       three to four ditto.
                                             Time of hiring in May.

GRAIN IS THRESHED

                                             Wheat for three pence halfpenny per bushel, of ten gallons.
                                             Barley, pease, and beans three half-pence,    ditto     ditto
                                             Also three quarts of drink per day to each man.

DAY LABOURERS

                                             Six shillings a week in summer, and a gallon of drink to
                                          each man.
                                             Five shillings a week in winter, with three quarts of drink.
                                             In harvest, fourteen pence a day, with meat and drink.
                                             Women, six-pence a day, with two quarts of drink all
                                          the year, except in harvest, when they also have meat.
                                             Time of working. In harvest, as early and late as they
                                          can see; in winter from light to dark; and in summer from
                                          six to six.
                                             The grain is cut by persons who come from the moun-
                                          tainous parts of Wales annually for that purpose, mostly
                                          from Cardiganshire. A foreman generally agrees for a whole
                                          farm at a stated price per acre, who finds the rquisite num-
                                          ber of hands to fulfill his contract, at whatever price he can.

                                             Planting hedges, and making the ditch, from six-pence to
                                          ten-pence a perch, (of seven yards) depending on the depth
                                          of the ditch.

                                             Plathing - (that is laying old hedges) from four-pence to
                                          six-pence a perch. This is done very neat. The plants are
                                          cut almost wholly through, in order to encourage the
                                          young shoots to spring round the old stump.

 

Wages seem to have risen by 1805 when John Duncumb published another 'General View of the Agriculture of the County of Hereford'

He said -

'the price of labour throughout the county, except during the period of harvest, averages six shillings per week in winter, and seven shillings in summer, with liquor and two dinners.  These prices are somewhat higher than those paid forty years ago; but in the opinion of the writer of this survey, the increase is not proportioned to the increase in [the cost of] provisions and every article of life since that date.'

In fact an agricultural labourer with a wife and three or four children, who worked for a six-day week of twelve or more hours, could not earn enough to feed himself and his family. Such men were obliged to go to the parish for support.

in 1805 Other workers wages were:-

                                        Waggoner        -         10 to 12 guineas per annum.
                                        Bailiff or cattleman     8 to 10 ditto.
                                        Dairy maid       -          6 to   7 ditto.
                                        Under maid      -          2 to   3 ditto.

 
 

Blacksmith at Woolhope in 1909

courtesy of Tim Ward

Using a tractor to plough at Perrystone in the 1930s

courtesy of Tim Ward

 
 

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Wye Valley History pages

maintained by Archenfield Archaeology Ltd

           

This project was part-financed by the European Union (EAGGF) and DEFRA through the Herefordshire Rivers LEADER+ Programme.