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Land of Hope
The Rector's Drainage Scheme

Barwicker No 11
September 1988

During the nineteenth century, the rectors of Barwick-in- Elmet were substant1al landowners. In 1861, Rector Hope owned about 1450 acres in Barwick township, with a gross annual rental of £1380. He farmed little himself, but leased his land to 16 farmers at Barwick, Whinmoor, Kiddal Lane, Grimesdike and Barnbow, including in Barwick village, Matthew Wilkinson (Rectory Farm), Margaret Perkin (Lime Tree Farm), John Hemsworth (Low Farm). Thomas Barton, Richard Newby and William Thompson (all three of Main Street).

In the mid 1850's, Rector Hope made major improvements to his lands. He arranged to have drains laid in 58 of his fields, about a quarter of his total land. The details are listed in two account books kept at the Leeds District Archives at Sheepscar. The work went on from 20 December 1853 to 8 February 1856, with breaks for haymaking, harvesting, etc. from early July to early October.

The work involved digging ditches and laying ear t henwar-e pipes costing £487. The pipes were not made locally, as the Yor it and North Midland Railway Company was paid £65 to transport the a . The pipes were carted to the fields at a cost of £69. They were laid in the ditches by eight men from Barwick Village: George and William Cullingworth, Thomas and William Knapton, Thomas and William Collitt (Collett), William Blakey and Thomas Siberry. For this they were paid an average of 2s. 8d. a day. They also did a small amount of the ditch digging and were responsible for unloading the pipes. at a total cost of £20.

The account books list the financial details field by field. The ditches were dug and later filled in by a considerable number of local labourers. They were paid as individuals, in pairs or in small groups of not more than three or four. perhaps members of the same family. They were not paid by the hour but by the length of ditch dug. The rate must have been individually negotiated as it sometimes varied slightly between men working in the same field It also varied a little with the season and for different fields.

The units of length used were changed several times. For the first three months. The records include an unfamiliar unit of length abbreviated to Ac., together with yards. Simple arithmetic reveals that one Ac. was equal to 28 yards. If any reader knows the Origin of the Ac., I should be glad to hear. This is my suggestion. Ac. looks like an abbreviation for acre. An acre is 4840 square yards. It is often represented as a rectangle of length 220 yards and breadth 22 yards. The term "acre's breadth" is used to mean 22 yards. However, there is a now-obsolete measure of area called an Irish acre, which was 7840 square yards. This can be represented as a rectangle of length 280 yards and breadth 28 yards. Was an Ac. an Irish acre's breadth?

For the next two months, chains and yards were used. (One chain equals 22 yards) Then chains and links were used. (One chain equals 100 links.) Finally for the rest of the scheme, rods were the chosen units. (One rod equals 5½ yards.) A satisfactory unit had finally been found by a process of trial and error.

In three fields worked during the week ending 18 February, 1853, at least 28 men were employed with a total wages bill of about £30. These would be drawn from labourers normally hired by the day, the week or the task, not the regular farm servants, who were hired by the year. Local labour only was used until the last 3-4 months of the scheme. Then, surnames such as O'Neill, Burke, O'Donnell, Doran, Flynn and Duffy are listed. A few travelling Irish labourers had arrived. They appear to have been recruited and paid in the same way as the local labour.

Who organised the scheme is not recorded. It is probable that the same person ordered the pipes, arranged their transport, recruited the labourers, superintended the work, paid the wages and the bills, and wrote up the books. The most likely candidate is Rector Hope's land agent, as yet unidentified, who in addition to his normal salary was paid an extra £1 a week for the work involved. The whole scheme cost £2455, including about £1900 spent in the township.

The scheme increased the value of Rector Hope's land. To the farmers involved it meant increased production from their fields, but also increased rent as the landlord recouped his investment. For the day labourers, it meant increased job opportunities, perhaps full-time employment for 25 men or the equivalent in part- time work, reducing unemployment in the winter months.

An increase in total wages of £1900 during two years represents a considerable injection of money. In Barwick village there would be more money spent on meat from the butchers' shops of William Thompson and James Perkin and more shoes bought from the Richardson brothers, the village shoemakers. There would be increased custom for the pubs; for William Knapton at "The Gascoigne Arms", John Fowler at "The Black Swan", John Pullan at "The William IV" and Richard Hewitt at "The New Inn". And there might have been more children educated at the village school.


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