Bourne Archive: FNQ: Economics

 http://boar.org.uk/ariwxo3FNQ918.htm           Latest edit 11 Aug 2009.   

Interactive version ©2008 R.J.PENHEY


The Bourne Archive


FNQ

Fenland Notes and Queries. Edited by Rev. W.D. Sweeting, Rector of Maxey.

Part 51. January 1902.

This quarterly periodical took the form of a forum in which people sent in questions about the history, ecology and so on of the Fens and the region’s environs and others replied with some sort of answer. Some ‘answers’ seem to have been spontaneous, so qualifying as ‘notes’.


Economics.

918. – Cattle Salesman’s Account (887). – In your issue for April I observe a very interesting paper under the above heading. This induces me to send you another similar account, though of much later date. Mr. Crane was a Thorney Fen1 Farmer. His sheep must have been of extraordinary weight, and even then mutton must have been very dear. They probably weighed 40 lbs. per quarter, and I should say they may have been three or four years old. The price of such mutton to-day2 would be difficult to fix; possibly not more than 3d. or 4d. a pound: and it would be hard to find anybody to eat it.

Tilney All Saints. 3                                                                           Stephen Gregory.

 

Direct to Me at Messrs. Sharpe & Sons, West-Smithfield, London.

104 Sheep sold for Mr. R. Crane 28 of Feb: 1814.

38

Howard.........112/-

212

16

Selling & Charges...........

4

6

8

7

Balsh.............116/-

40

12

Grass &c..........................

-

-

-

5

Neesham......115/-

28

15

Letters.............................

-

-

-

27

Howson.........116/-

156

12

Carriage...........................

6

8

10

Tuck..............112/6

56

5

Drover.............................

8

13

4

1

Bagley...........100/-

5

To..............

580

1

4

11

Beal...............118/-

64

18

 

 

 

 

5

Hatton..........114/-

28

10

 

 

 

 

104

 

593

8

 

593

8

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

William Hebb


Commentary.

The information in this bill is most useful when contrasted with that shown in FNQ887. The prices obtained in the present one are very high, a fact borne out by Mr. Gregory’s incredulity. The most obvious explanation is that demand for supplies to feed the army campaigning in Europe and the navy blockading France had outstripped the supply. We hear of the naval battles like that of Trafalgar though that was but a failed attempt to put a stop to the real business of the Navy, the blockade. That went on all day, every day while the wars lasted. Those men had to be fed. The battle of Leipzig had been fought in the previous October and Wellington’s Peninsular Campaign was coming to its finale at Toulouse in April. Though an army could forage more easily than a navy, still, those men and those of the organization of transport, shipyards and so on, which supported them there, had to be fed. Further, this document relates to a time late in the winter, when supplies had been eaten and the new lambs had hardly been born. The effect this had on agricultural labourers can be seen in FNQ895.

On the face of it, the combination of low labour costs and high prices for stock meant a bonanza for the farmers. This was to some extent so, and the market conditions did induce much investment in agriculture and agriculture-related business such as milling. Numerous of the remaining mill buildings, such as Baldock’s Mill in Bourne, date from the years around 1800 and the heyday of mills powered by impounding tidal water was at this period. There was money in agriculture but income only for those with stock to sell. Prices such as those in this bill, will have been obtained because, at a time of high demand and late in the winter, most farmers had sold their saleable stock. They had to retain some ewes to breed a new crop.

By Gregory’s time, a hundred years ago, the market for mutton as opposed to lamb, had faded away but much of it had remained until refrigeration meant that lambs could be killed and stored. Furthermore, they could be stored in steamships while being transported from Argentina or New Zealand. As today, by 1900, people had rather forgotten how to cook mutton, a meat which had generally not been seen on wealthy tables in any case.


 

RJP’s Footnotes.

1.         Around Thorney, grid reference TF2804.

2.         1901.

3.         A village in the Norfolk Marshland, at grid reference TF5618.

 


FNQ