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Collection Title: Farm book from an English estate, 1806, 1817-1834

Collection Number: M213

Dates: 1806, 1817-1834

Volume: 1 small ledger-type book and three leaves

Provenance: Donated by Larry L. Massey in September 1983.

Copyright: This farm book may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

This farm book seems to have been written by James A. Beck. Beck probably acted as a steward for the owner of the estate, although it is possible that Beck himself was the owner of the property. Little else about the author may be gleaned from this book; however, a general description of Northumbrians people may be in order.

The inhabitants of this county, in general, are stalwart and robust. Gray eyes, brown hair, and good complexions are common features. Some admixture of the old Brit-Celt, the Gypsy, and the Scandinavian may be found in this area. By nature, the people are clean, thrifty, honest, sincere, shrewd, and independent.

Several geographical and climatic references made throughout this farm book have helped to approximate the estate's location in the Cheviot Hills of Northumberland in England. Northumberland is the northern-most county of England. Ranking fifth in area among England's counties, it covers over 2000 square miles. The county is bordered by Scotland to the north, the North Sea to the east, and Cumberland and Durham counties to the west and south, respectively. Its physical geography is characterized by fells and ridges intersected by valleys from the Cheviot Hills, on the Scottish border and Cumberland county, to the sloping coast. Numerous lakes and valleys may also be found in Northumberland.

The winters are characterized by heavy snows and frozen lakes. Summer temperatures are usually mild. Both seasons experience numerous thunderstorms. As the country rises from the North Sea coast, rainfall increases. In the higher uplands of Northumberland County, the lambing season is fixed for the latter half of April. In spring, east winds prevail over the whole country; while during summer and autumn the wind is from the west.

In 19th century, over half of Northumberland County was pastoral and contained 1,290,312 acres. In 1875, agricultural holdings of 100-300 acres numbered 1313. Sheep were by far the most important livestock for this country.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of a small ledger-type book and three leaves containing farm records for the years 1806, 1817-1834, for an English estate located in Northumberland County.

The farm book contains daily entries pertaining to weather, wind patterns, land surveys, supplies bought, profits made, livestock records, daily agricultural activity, wildlife sighted, labor used, and wages paid. These records may have been kept by the property owner's steward.

Also included in this collection are two notes which were found inside the book. One note mentions several place names and property owners. The other note is probably from the owner and discusses his feelings toward his neighbors, whose boathouses encroach upon his land.

This farm book is significant in that it yields an extremely detailed description of a 19th century English farm. Many Northumberland farms were noted for their efficient management and superior quality of labor. This farm book is illustrative of an estate which employed systematic economical management. Used with other related or similar documents on 19th century English estates, the document may be valuable to the researcher in locating estates and comparing early agricultural activity, land ownership, and employee wages.

Some place names which appear in the book include Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the fells, Becksbridge, Dolton, Duddon, Troutell, and Ulpha. Many of the laborers' names are also recorded. These include J.A. Beck, Robert Barker, John Coward, James Dawbiggin, John Williamson, Thomas Hodgson, Braithwaite Claudsdale, James and John Postelthwaite, Jo. Gill, John Brown, C. Watson, William Quail (gardener), John Kirkbride, John Tyson, W. Rogerson, T. Satterthwaite, G. Ladyman, M. Kirkby, Betty Noble, A. Thwaites, M. Lambert, J. Riggs, W. Stoddart, E. Walker, R. Hirst, and S. Bainbridge.


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Revised: December 14, 2004