03 July 2012

Agricultural Records in Britain:17th-century events

Continuing from yesterday with some of the 17th century entries I found more interesting in the book Agricultural Records in Britain: A.D. 220 - 1977,
by Stratton and Brown.

1601: Hugh Platt estimates that a yield of four quarters of wheat per acre was about average and that some farmers were obtaining six or seven.
1604: The ceiling price for wheat, above which the export of wheat was prohibited was fixed at 26 shillings eight pence. Rye, beans and peas were not allowed to be exported when the price was above 15 shillings a quarter; and barley was not allowed to be exported when the price was over 14 shillings a quarter.
1616: Large-scale enclosures of common land began.
1619: The growing of tobacco in England was prohibited by law.
1626: John Lawrence estimates that one third of the cultivated land in England and Wales was in common fields.
1630: Formation of a company of "adventurers" to undertake the drainage of a large area of Fenland led by Francis, Earl of Bedford. Reclamation of the fen began, employing the Dutch engineer, Vermuyden.
1636: Plague was widespread.
1638: Gabriel Platts patented an implement for setting corn in drills.
1647: An Act of Parliament was passed to prohibit the export of wool.
1658: On September 3 a violent gale occurred. This was the day of Oliver Cromwell's death and the coincidence attracted considerable attention and comment.
1664: John Forster urged farmers to grow potatoes as a field crop.
1665: The great plague of London.
1666: The great fire of London broke out on September 12 being fanned with strong east winds, and the excessive heat and drought of the previous months was one of the causes of the tremendous damage done.
An Act of Parliament was passed ordering burial to be made in woolen fabric, as a measure to assist the wool trade.
1669: Publication (containing) an illustration of a horse-drawn drill which cut a furrow and sowed seed in one operation.
1677: In this year regular rainfall observations began for the first time in England. They were made at Townley in Lancashire.
1683: On December 15 began a most remarkable spell of cold weather extending right across Europe to England. It is recorded that many trees, particularly oaks, split with the frost, exploding with a noise like a gun. Even yew and holly trees in some places were killed and many shrubs.
1690: The sheep and lamb population in Great Britain was estimated at about 13 million.
1695: There was considerable migration of population from Scotland into Ireland because of the excessive price of corn in Scotland.
1696: Gregory King estimated the total acreage in England and Wales at 39 million of which 11 million were arable, 10 million meadow and 10 million pasture. The average yearly rent of the arable land was five shillings and 10 pence and of the pasture land five shillings. Of the arable land 10,000,000 acres were devoted to corn, beans and vetches, and 1 million to flax, hemp, saffron and miscellaneous crops. It was further estimated that there were in the country 640,000 horses and donkeys, 4.5 million cattle, 11 million sheep and 2 million pigs. The human population of England and Wales was estimated to be 5.5 million, of whom 1.4 million lived in towns and 4.1 million in the countryside.

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