Agricultural reports

The Government and others commissioned surveys of the state of Agriculture, especially during the war with France (1792-1815), for many counties in England and Wales. Additional surveys for North Wales and South Wales were published in 1810 and 1815 respectively.

Tourists might have been familiar with some of these reports;  some ran their own estates and were familiar agricultural practices, while others were concerned about improving them for the general good of the country. Several tourists described agricultural practices in Wales, especially when they thought that they required improvement.

These reports contain information which compliment the information provided by tourists about the landscapes of Wales and the poverty, diet and homes of the inhabitants.

see also

Young, Arthur, (F.R.S., Secretary to the Board of Agriculture), published A six weeks tour through the southern counties of England and Wales.

Subtitle:  Describing, particularly, I. The present state of agriculture and manufacture. II. The different methods of cultivating the soil. III. The success attending some late experiments on various grasses, &c. IV. The various prices of labour and provisions. V. The state of the working poor in those counties, wherein the riots were most remarkable. With descriptions and models of such new invented implements of husbandry as deserve to be generally known. Interspersed with accounts of the seats of the nobility and gentry, and other objects worthy of notice. In several letters to a friend. By the author of the Farmer’s letters, 1st edition, 1768; 2nd edition, 1769; 2nd edition, corrected and enlarged, 1771; 3rd edition, 1772; He toured part of south Wales in 1768 and South Wales and South Midlands in 1776

 Reports commissioned by the Board of Agriculture

  • 1794 Kay, G., (from Leith), General View of the Agriculture of North Wales, Flintshire, Anglesey, Caernarvonshire, Montgomeryshire, Merionethshire, Denbighshire, and Hints for the Improvement of North Wales. (Edinburgh, 1794)
  • 1794 Lloyd, Thomas, and Turnor, Rev., General view of the agriculture of the County of Cardigan.
  • 1794 Hassall, Charles, General View of the agriculture of the County of Carmarthen
  • 1794 Hassall, Charles, General View of the agriculture of the County of Pembroke
  • 1794, Clark, John, General View of the agriculture of the County of Radnor
  • 1794, Clark, John, General View of the agriculture of the County of Brecknock
  • 1794 Fox, John, General view of the Agriculture of the County of Monmouth
  • 1796 Fox, John, General view of the Agriculture of the County of Glamorgan

These reports are arranged under the following headings (but not all are included for every county, and not necessarily in this order): General description, Soils, Climate, Waste lands, Fences and Enclosures, Draining, Wood lands, Rivers, Roads, Obstacles to Improvements, Estates, Farms, Tillage, Farm houses and Offices, Manures, Rotation of crops, Potatoes, Beans and Pease, Barley, Oats, Corn Measure, Prices of Grain, Clover, Turnip, Hay, Corn and Hay ricks, Manures, Fuel, Paring and burning, Implements of Husbandry (Ploughs, Harrows), Wheel Carriages, Labour, Rent of Lands, Taxes, Black cattle, Horses, Sheep, Swine (Pigs), Asses, Goats, Towns, Mines and Manufactures, Price of provisions.

William Williams (Llandegai, 1738-1817) was critical of modern developments in Agriculture, industry and road building, all of which, he thought, harmed the local population in a number of ways.

Williams, William, ‘A Survey of the Ancient and Present State of the County of Caernarvon by a Landsurveyor’ (1806), NLW Ms 821C

Walter Davies (Gwalter Mechain, 1761-1849) and Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg) kept diaries of tours of Wales in preparation for a Government commissioned report on the state of Agriculture of Wales during the war with France (1792-1815). These were written by Walter Davies under the titles:

For each county there was a brief description of the climate, landscape and soil; fuel and manufactories, practice of tenancy; customs between Landlord and tenants and the incoming and outgoing tenants; mode of farming, implements etc and state of buildings.

The journals of both Walter Davies and Edward Williams contain much interesting information about the people of Wales their industries and buildings which was not published. The journals are in the National Library of Wales and a transcription of much of the relevant material is available:
Jones, David Ceri, Report of a research project on ‘The rural economy and society of Wales between 1790-1815 with special reference to the manuscripts of Walter Davies (‘Gwallter Mechain’)’, undertaken by Dr David Ceri Jones, on behalf of Professor David W. Howell and Professor Prys Morgan, Directors of the Project, for the History and Law Committee, Board of Celtic Studies, University of Wales, 2000-2001. NLW ex 2251.
This includes:
Appendix 1 selective extracts from Walter Davies’ note books, pp. 126-711
Appendix 2 (Iolo Morganwg’s notebooks on Glamorgan) pp. 712- 735;
Appendix 3 (Walter Davies’ correspondence), pp. 736 –836; (Correspondence with Iolo Morganwg; Sir John Sinclair and Lord Carrington and William Cragg all of the Board of Agriculture; Charles Hassell, Narberth; Thomas Johnes, Hafod; D Bird Allen, St Brides, Haverfordwest and others.)
Appendix 4 Iolo Morganwg’s letters pp. 837-913 (for background to Iolo’s notebooks see DCJ pp. 99-103)

Edward Williams asked to work with Walter Davies on his tours of south Wales (see letters to Walter Davies). Davies agreed and it appears that they met or even followed part of the tour together. In 1802, Iolo visited Davies at Meifod and visited Cardiganshire, north Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire on his way home and wrote notes on this which he sent to Davies in a letter in which he described how he had to stay at Pentre Breunant inn [Cwmystwyth] for 2 weeks to recover from an illness after touring part of Wales together. The note book appears to include a transcription of this letter:  {part with [i.e. left] Mr W Davies and becomes ill and has to stay there for 2 weeks with support from Thomas Johnes} NLW 1760A notebook 4. Itinerary no VI, 1802, Pembroke to Cardigan, pp. 18-21 and NLW 1808Eii 1525, letter from Iolo to Walter Davies, 29.8.1802 which describes his illness in more detail. This is also referred to in a letter from Walter Davies to Iolo dated 1.5.1803 (NLW 21280E, 79 ‘… At Pentre Breunant, when we parted, …

Also, the description of Carmarthen cottages as looking like mother hens appears in both Walter Davies’ notes and in an almost identical form in one Iolo’s notebooks, but it is not clear who was responsible for this. Iolo wrote much for Davies on Carmarthenshire, but his note is entitled ‘Miscellaneous enquiries, 1802 from WD [Walter Davies]’

Walter Davies’ notebooks contains extensive information on agricultural practices, innovations, farm buildings and equipment (sometimes illustrated), stock and crops and descriptions of some estates and how landlords influenced local farming practices for good or bad. During at least some of his tours, he appears to have stayed at farms overnight, giving him plenty of time to examine the practices and discuss them with the owners or tenants. Much of this was published in his two volumes on the state of Agriculture in Wales (1810 and 1815), but some of the following was not: descriptions and diagrams of agricultural equipment; notes on geology (including sketches of strata), quarries and building stones (several references to freestone); lime kilns; antiquities; friendly societies; prices of food, lime and other commodities; weights and measures; effects of inclosure; costs of the poor (poor rates for many parishes are recorded); food and its preparation; comments on local industries, including extractive industries, metal processing and wool production and manufacture of flannels, webs and stockings and how the various manufactories could be improved, what income they might produce and what competition they had to face. The state of roads, and comments on new ones and the cost of tolls; railroads and canals. There are a few comments on sources of dyes; changes in practices, prices life styles (his tours of Wales cover the period 1797 to 1813, so he records the effects of the war with France); population numbers (pre census returns); immigration and emigration. There is also a little on folk lore and customs (especially when servants began their year which varied from place to place). He records some of the sayings and proverbs in Welsh that he came across and comments on pronunciation and other aspects of the Welsh language. There are also extensive records of the weather. His descriptions of places tend to be brief. Many of the notes made during tours include references to other places and subjects which he presumably noted down when he thought of them. Also useful are the comments he recorded on trips to north Wales after his volume on that area was published.

Other surveys include:

  • Marshall, William, The Rural Economy if the Midland Counties (1790) (suggested the formation of a Board of Agriculture)
  • Sinclair, John, Statistical Account of Scotland (1791-9)
  • Lester, William, A History of British Implements and Machinery Applicable to Agriculture with Observations on their Improvement, (London, 1811) This includes a summary of some of the above reports.
  • 1827-1828  Kennedy and Lewis, The Present State of Tenancy of Land in Great Britain (1828-9) Includes Breconshire, Carmarthenshire, Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire. [For each county there was normally a brief description of the climate, landscape and soil; fuel and manufactories, practice of tenancy; customs between Landlord and tenants and the incoming and outgoing tenants; mode of farming, implements etc and state of buildings.]










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