Donald McDonald.

Agricultural writers from Sir Walter of Henley to Arthur Young, 1200-1800. Reproductions in facsimile and extracts from their actual writings, enlarged and revised from articles which have appeared in The Field from 1903-1907. To which is added an exhaustive bibliography online

. (page 1 of 19)
Online LibraryDonald McDonaldAgricultural writers from Sir Walter of Henley to Arthur Young, 1200-1800. Reproductions in facsimile and extracts from their actual writings, enlarged and revised from articles which have appeared in The Field from 1903-1907. To which is added an exhaustive bibliography → online text (page 1 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook













I 200 — 1800.






{Felloiv of the Linnean Society).






" Tlic produce of the /iiisba)id man's labours is the only
mcrcha)idise ivhicli all the world is ohlioed to deal iu, and it
Teas such a co)isideration that induced many early writers
to recommend agriculture as the most profitable of all the

" War, navigation, and commerce can never dispeople a
rvise nation whose agriculture flourishes in full vigour, as
industrious natio)!s are the most populous as well as the most
virtuous. Industry is the vis matrix of husbandry."

Canon Harte, " on Husbandry."


AGRIcri/lTRF. IS the art of obtaining, from the earth, food for the
sustenance of man and his domestic animals, and the perfection of the
art is to obtain the i^reatest possible produce at the smallest possible
<^xpense. I'pon the importance of the art it is needless to ex|)atiate.
for bv it every country is enabled to support in comfort an abundant
population. On this its strength as a nation depends, and, by it, an
independence is secured. An agricultural country has within itself the
necessaries of life, and to maintain these there will never be wanting a
host of patriotic men.

The origin of the simplest arts of life is involved in the obscurity
which envelops the early history of the human race. Before there can
be any motives to record events, some considerable progress must have
been made in civilisation. When attention is altogether directed to
obtaining the means of subsistence, there is little leisure, nor is there
any great desire, to communicate the knowledge acquired by experience.
Warlike achievements are the first things recorded, and the peaceful
labours of the husbandmen are overlooked. It has been often observed
that nations are very considerably advanced in civilisation before they
•commit to writing, records or memorials of any kind, and that a much
greater progression has been made before any notice has been bestowed
upon the most simple and necessary of all the arts of practice, in the
•employment of the earth for providing the necessaries of life.

In tracing the progress of an art from the lives and writings of the
inventors and improvers, the practical knowledge is derived which sees
the foundation of the system that has been followed, and perceives the
difficulties that are to be overcome and the contentions that are to be
•encountered in making the least deviation from established usages ; and
in this respect learning received advantages from the in\(iUion ot
printing, which spread the dominion of knowledge to an immeasurable
distance beyond its former limits, and there soon appeared a necessity ol
c-oUecting and condensing the widely scattered materials into such
limited forms as were easy of manijjulation and distribution. In tin-
oldest writings which have been handed down to us it is a curious
fact that the common operations of husbandry are mentioned or alluded
to in much the same terms in which we should describe them now, and
so are many of the implements and also the productions, but they are


only mentioned incidentally. It required a very advanced state of the
arts and of literature to produce in those days a treatise on any one
practical subject exclusively, and the simpler and more common the arts
the less they are noticed in the early literature of a nation, and there
would seem to be no other means of tracing the progress of husbandry
than by the manuscripts of the monks who troubled to record the ex-
periences of their labours.

The science of agriculture is remarkable for the few great names
whose discoveries or writings thereon adorn its early history. For an
explanation of this fact we must in some measure be contented with the
commonplace observation, that its advances, and improvements, were so
slow in coming as to be almost imperceptible. The great wonder is that
men should have looked upon nature so long and yet have known so
little about her. Outiof'some sixty centuries that make up the history
of the world as we know it, take away but the last and what a loss to
that great science, yet but little valued in its true importance, which
explains the growth and structure of all forms of life ? It is claimed that,
as the progress of the art altered with every condition at every step, the
early literature proved itself useless and was distrusted when every rule
laid down was found false on application. Another impediment to
agricultural knowledge was found in the conditions of the life of the
farmer, always more or less localised or isolated and lacking the salutary
influence of that mental attrition caused by the aggregation of numbers
in towns. Thus encircled with difficulties requiring, for the attainment of
considerable eminence, the union of both practice and experience, we w^ta
hardly feel surprised that the few illustrious exceptions to the general
rule have appeared at very distant intervals to describe in print the
inventions and improvements of their time.

In Britain it was not until the end of the eleventh century that the
practice of agriculture was honoured with a written notice, so that
previously to this time we have no means of tracing the progress of
the industry other than by those ancient writers who discoursed
upon the subject. The Doomsday Book describes the agricultural
aspect of the kingdom at the Norman Conquest as being generally
in uninclosed pasturage or co^'ered with vast tracts of forest and un-
productive coppice. Much of the otherwise waste land was given
over to the monasteries, and it was under the protection afforded by the
religious houses, the abbots of which paid more attention to the moral
and material welfare of their dependents, that the lands belonging to
them were better cultivated and more thickly inhabited than the estates
belonging to the- feudal lords (whose whole time seems to have been
engaged in fighting), and the earliest improvements in Elnglish husbandry
must be ascribed to their skill and industry.

In the early part of the eighteenth century, and thence to the present
time, a different class of men have engaged in the cultivation of the soiL

/.\/-A'f>n('('//(Ky. 3

The arciimulatimi of wealth from llic xast iiuTi-asc and improvement of
manufactures and eommcrec th(> belhr (hHiision of information, and lh<-
increased pc^pulation hav(> all contributed to this ettett. Indixiduals
engaged in the pursuit, whose education and habits recpiircd a larger
income foi their indulgence than could be afforded from the profits of a
small farm, engaged in the occupation of much larger areas, extending
even to over one thousand acres. From none of these facts, however,
have arisen any splendid discoveries, for such are not to be made in
agriculture ; there never can arise, so far as I can foresee, any Newton or
Watt in this art. but these enlightened cultivators have effected and are
accomplishing all that modern advantages can be expected to perform.
They have occasioned the collision of opinion, they have stimulated
the desire for improvement, and the\- have promot'-d the general
communication of its requirements.

The improvements which were m due time effected to remedy
deficiencies, consisted of a series of moves each depending on the other.
Two things were desirable, to increase the extent of culturable soil for
grain crops ; and to raise sufficient food for cattle and horses all the year
round; now these desirable points involved a thorough change in the
practice of husbandry. How was it possible to break up and profitably
cultivate indifferent soils, much of which had hitherto been considered
beyond all hope of improvement, without an abundant supply of manure,
and ho\v could the manure be procured without keeping large herds of
cattle, for which there was evidently no means of subsistence ? To over-
come these difficulties it was found necessary in the first place to
introduce what are called green crops, that is, crops of artificial grasses,
including clover, turnips and other roots and plants, for by having a
proper supply of these substances, two important ends were gained, the
support of stock for manure, and the alternation of green with grain
crops, thus at once enriching the land, and relieving it from the
scourging obligation to raise corn successfully. On these main points,
then, along with plans for drawing off by artificial drainage, the surplus
water lodged in or upon the soil, hang the great agricultural improve-
ments of modern time.

As to the literature on the subject, a prejudice has hitherto existed
among farmers against the agricultural knowledge contained in books,
but there are signs that these stagnant cultivators are gradually
disappearing. Ignorance is always bigoted and obstinate, and it is the
same mental sterility which made them formerly jealous of all new
practices. I heartily rejoice at this, and hope to see them more and mon-
a class of reading men. Practice must always be their chief tutor, but it
is invariably found most correct in its details when founded upon some
scientific knowledge. Foremost, then, among the primary circumstances
which caused the change was the publication of numerous and valuable
contributions to agricultural liter.iture during the eighteenth century, and


there can be no doubt that the communication of information through the
instrumentahty of books and journals promoted the advancement of the
art more than any other means. I do not say that a practical farmer is
to take as gospel all he reads in print, but there can be no reason why he
should not reflect upon what he reads, make small experiments and
extend them according to the value he has found in them. Further
powerful influences in promoting this spirit of improvement was the
formation of a number of societies for the diffusion of knowledge, the
encouragement of correct observations and beneficial discoveries.
In 1724 was instituted the Society of Improvers of Agriculture in

The Dublin Society was formed in 1749, and still doing good work in
Ireland ; next came the Bath and West of England Society, established
in 1777, and the Highland Society of Scotland, in 1784, and both of
these great institutions are still going strong in the dissemination of
knowledge. Then came the foundation of the Board of Agriculture
in 1793, under the presidency of Sir John Sinclair, Bart. By means of
this institution great numbers of intelligent practical men were brought
forward, who otherwise would probably never have been heard of, and,
being professedly concerned in farm management, agriculture generally
was rescued from the hands of theorists, and a revolution of no small
extent in ways and means was accomplished.^ The numerous surveys
of the art as practised in various counties, executed under the authority
of the Board, were of singular advantage, for whilst they pointed out
obstacles that lay in the way of improvement, they stated the most
effectual methods of removing them. In fact, the Board in a few years
collected a mass of agricultural information never equalled by the
accumulated stores of any other nation, and this good work was continued
until 1 8 19, when it was deemed unnecessary by Parliament, and, the
annual vote for its support being withdrawn, it ceased to exist, and w^s
not again constructed until within the last twenty years. During the
period which has elapsed since the last edition of Arthur Young's " Farm
Calendar," agriculture has benefited by mechanical ingenuity, by extended
resources and individual experiment vastly more than during any similar
period of history. No doubt the foundation of our present Royal
Agricultural Society, in 1838, had a deal to do with the change as this
great institution, including many similar associations now established in
every county, has stimulated cultivators, by the offer of prem.iums and
other honorary awards ; consequently the whole business is no longer an
act of labour, but is a science, and it is generally admitted that the present
Board of Agriculture serves to sustain the reputation of its progenitor
upon up-to-date methods, and earn the debt of gratitude that cultivators
are ready to pay to those who have helped towards their advancement.

* A list uf these writers will be found in the Bibliography at end of book.

/.yyA'(>/)/'('V7().y. 5

In close association with these cnliirhtcned societies, manv
noblemen, and even thr monarch of Enjjfland, became practical agri-
culturists, and everyone knows the great personal interest our King
takes in the industry ; indeed, it is safe to say that no model farms in
history compare with Windsor, and. that for knowledge oi the national
importance of stock-breeding, King Edward \'II. excels all his prede-
cessors. Other teachers of agriculture or i>lant improvers of eminence
during the past century may be mentioned in the names of Professor
Buckman, Dr. Carruthers, James Carter, Archibald Findlav, Dr. Fream,
Sir Brandreth Gibbs, Sir Henry Gilbert. Sir John Bennett Lawes.
Peter Lawson, Professor MacAlpine. Professor AlcConnell, John
Chalmers Morton, Miss Eleanor Ormerod. Professor Percival, (ieorge
Sinclair, Dr. Somerville, Martin John Sutton, Professor Wallace,
Sir Charles Whitehead, Professor \\'ilson, Professor Patrick Wright,
Professor Wrightson — these are a few — together with the many colleges
and institutions for learning the science in practice, now establisherl in
various parts of the kingdom.

In biographical notices the most proper circumstances are selection,
compass, and arrangement. Much attention is due to the period when
the author lived, and a fair allowance should be made, and a just pro-
portion observed, of the ease and abundance with which the materials
are formed as the times approach nearer our o\\ n.

I have added at the end an alphabetical list of the authors, so that
the publications of any one of them can be readily noted. This list
comprehends every British writer of whom any notice can be found
from the most careful researches. Necessity, compelled frequent
references to former lists, and in this connection I would especially
mention the following publications: Weston's " Authors of Husbandry,"
Johnson's " History of Gardening," Loudon's '' Encvclopaedia of
Agriculture," Miss Amherst's " History of Gardening," Miller's " (har-
deners' Dictionary," Felton's " Portraits of Authors," Donaldson's
" Agricultural Writers," and the " Dictionary of National Biograi)hy."

My reason for compiling this volume is mainly the fact that these
old writers have never been given the justice they deser\e in the
story of the progress of Agriculture in Great Britain ; and, as I possess
most of their original works, I ha\ c bec-n able to gather my informa-
tion largely from their own pages, and produce the result between
two covers. Bevond adding that my ancestors have been wedded
to the land for nian\- generations in Scotland, and that I also have
been interested in both practical and theoretical agriculture and
horticulture all my life, I claim no special knowledge on the subject.

DONALD McDonald.

Bexlcv Heath, Kent. JiDiiiarv \st. iQoS.


0? c|Vlehtr Vt>oftJ?c>r>a« K«Vi\
4 ng«1i 5rnc fitr i«>i9 Vv* All >• f ,j
n-npn fyreViivaU" Vbenk- C'c^

Wtilac-' CiirS ouj't rotitc a-tiiC< c<^>
Inin«f 5'ttr'totc WTU-clv>3«r- «f<9 onui

^ Siir n ftgC" <?uj^ <i(h?i • ou ^ Auov :^! vxi-u«' '
av.rt ^\ii Wtcf tc»\tc- Ic ^rt\-^lti6 tx\ctvr ca

\y« vju&ifl troc^ks-Wj-* rtuct-cftuc 4t^^-
•^^clcii ij«tuc\ncur «- Vme>i cs«. d) oau^ «6 V

tOdUwVmj Rioticttexmt ^x-tRc Vw.u^n
cruc^usnt-fittc'kclon'un- yfr*"' " ' ' ■''^■>

vir^tvaucVsfteHie m^ftralic.^i?eau»fvF
^as«* V*^-'^ *tt woe ^-ifr • «'tmttr«S^ticr-V Vc

n>Aj''Jro t ■• cue. f«l'.airtY u.r .«t»a^

nont-tie- V- (\"rt-l)i)nt .i^o^b^Vn.; - Ic ^vniti>

tOneVolimtC u-tourv'^in .ilrtcl)*f< .vlaWc
4u ajuVile ■S^\'S sotxcf foroftuvucnr A?^??-

^ en- (i'qnrcE- airrt. Scyiai^nc- c<\ucj''^'b.i

autrc<i aj«Vc*«W)'ni«-i. in<fro; c>icKjrU )*
5c^t«.u, tn^c4 5<CW«« tf-am.;.x«« X^'i

Photograph of part of the MS. of Sir Walter of Henley s " Hosebondrie," from the

original in the University Library, Cambridge.

(Ms. \2., about i^th century. Ee.i., If. 251. Edii'ard I.)


ThK olcK'sl (loc-umcnls that ha\c hccii hamlcd down arc mostl\- compila-
tions originall)- made hy rdiuated moid<s, who had the opportuiiit \
afforded them of sliulyino- abroad the writings of ihr orf^al (ircck ami
Roman scholars: Hcsiod, Cato, \'arro, X'irgil, Columella, IMin\-, and
lasl of all Palladius,^ who seems in his fourteen hooks to ha\c taken
the cream oi the informatic^n from his foreliears.


etc a-<*ng>- e.^ rors

Photoi^ralyli of a portion of the anonvmons'v written " II nshandrv," from the ori}(innl MS. in tlu
University Lihrary. ('(liiihridi^c. {Hit. III. 11./166. 14M rottury.)

Thp: FoiK Tui; \l ISI'.S which served such excelliiit purjxjses in
England, from the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries, may be de-
scribed as follows : —
Sir Wai.ikr of HjiNLEv'sf Tkiiai isk on Hish.wdrv.

A survey of the management of men and animals.
('See pages h and i i . j

Anon Hishandrn .

Com trued with the estate accounts, (See illustration abo\-e.)

* A Roman writer aluiut a.d. 400.

+ The Latin word " Doininu^," translated as Sir or Syr. wri oli-Ti ii-<-.| m ,11 Iv
davs prefix<-Hl to tlie r.amc f)f monks .ind friars.



Deals with the division of labour. (See below.)

The office of seneschal was similar to that of an agent or factor.

•maimer ^r^i (fe:^^^!-^ S'lVcii-r^nnctrc fi 1 »l«^«~(^'2^^'^tT«^•'^^•
L c jilMc^Ap Ivor- rf(7it>Vyn^.tiV<»HiC <*f mA^tJf;' fc^f n\cf i)'^*'^^f''=^*<*>''^"'5y'*'<i'^'i£'^Vf

votcft C^(;d;«q(X f.»n^.:.4»vcil >.K>>i1^b"tMv foig^ «V>1^ f\<;ir-Cf icUrc^W V<i>c

Phutugraph of a poriion of the Senescalcia MS. From the original MS. in the University

L ihrary, Ca in b ridge.

{Mm. I 27,./. 133. Early 14th century.)

•^/.i.y/scA'//>/s ,-v,


BiSHOi^ Grossetkstk's Kri.i:s.

Deals with the production and o.nsu.nj.t.on of .roos uul m-
agement ot the household. ^See pa 'a- , , ) ' "^•"'-

Ab Account '

%cpf , ant)>e eot> tino times fna ?fart,'
bat tbat Ijappensttj not eurq? t^a^ J
oeitber can eaerc one of t^em gtue P20«
£ts,bnt $}nel?acco;oinga0 t^c^Ginllbt:
fi9eUbcpt,an(tDcrst|)epp;ofite, eitbtf

Thij hujbandric made a Knight ^fif
Walter of Henley, wrho afccr ren-
dered himfclf inco the order of the
Fricrs-preacherf,&did teach vnto
the pcoplc,how they ought CO Ituo
vifely ind honcftly of their soods, ^
•ndnot to vafte too much before-; '
handjeft they ihould want after,

y^ttat^itxMt fobteolocage, ann'
fasoeto bis f(mne,fairefonne, lint
faifclp, aao;Dmg to C5o6, ano after tbi ;
luo;lo. s:oU)arD0 CDoD tktnbe often of
fbcpaffion.anooftlje JitatiHWX^tdii
C\i}itt fnffereti faj b8 , anD louefeim a#
fcoBcalltbtngs, antJPcarebim, «bap8
fctsrcmmanoemfnta. astotrfeingtbt
too;lt>, tfctnbc pee on tbe'ujfer.lcoffo?*
«Qne,l)ofri :v,i^»: tscj ro rirfif . :,a.-«) tot-^
'fefpare on tjje rep of tfec tcfta Ic, botoe

^mifcftanfc tbe^ Ooc fall infopouer*
tie,anD mo?e into affitdiona : tljcrefo;«
Jpjappou to o;oer?oar lifcaccojoing
as pour lanos are too;tij,'fjnD do cxttnit
bptbepcare, ano no bigljer : 3f pou cm
imp;oue pour lanDs to gatnc0,eitfjer b?
Homing 0^ bp otbcr parucpance nio;e
tbw the ojiDinarte rcucnuc, feaepc tit
oucrplas in tto?e:fo; if co;ne faiie,aoj«
bpetlj, o; burning Ijappcnctb to come,
ojanpotf}ermifcban«, t^cntbcfame
fijat son baue in ao;c U)ill be p;ofitabIe
to pan. 3f pon Do fpenb bp f be peare tbt
lDo;tb of pour lanos, fjanp lolTeinttig
pearc o; mifcljance bappen to come,pou
baue no rctourfe to pour ao;c , ano let
tbeUojcrmabj notoatte, no; oeSrop
l)ts;gQ3tjs,afl fome men Do,a« tbofe mar^
cbats twbicij oo bp fo; tUientie Ojillingfl,
ano 00 fell fo: ten, tfjat man is neubcr
ralleonojappjiDueotoifc, tfcatcanDc^
iwertimfclfc out of loffe ano Ootb it
not.|?on map fc fome men tobieb baue
JanocBnnoreuenarB, ana cannot tell
totoeto Ituc : iDbercfojc 3 tutll tell it
pou,befaafe tbcp line ioitbout ojDer ,oi
6npfo}ccaa,'D;pjoui(ionafo;c ^iutt,
C4 Avs

I'h'rrcd to

Facsi.„ile reproduction of pa,,e. inBellofs "Rook, of Thrift,- .

marvellous results which deceived the credulous (or manv c enturi,-. I
Ub^:^: C^ -P-duce so.e portions of the originals in'th: L^n ^a
Ubrar> at Cambndore. It is interestini^r to know that ih.-.,- document's
Ween translated, and reproduced in t, pe in a work cc:!;

merarN effort about agriculture in a thoroughly Knglish spirit/'
* Royal Historical Society. London, Longmans.




Frontispiece to Robert Grossetesie's " Buke of Husbandry,
(See opposite page.)

.v/A' WAr.rr.R or iiixi.i:y. ,i

SIR WAi/IKk oi- Ill^^•lJ•:^■.

1 2()()-i_>S :; [about).
A.N oducalcd man, who apjx-ars to havt- st-rNcd llic ollicf ol l)ailirt, or
perhaps monk in charoc, at one ol" the manors loiiiiccttHl with Cantcrhury
Cathedral. His Irratist- gives a fairly comj)K-lc picture of the systi'm of
estate management at this early age. For all we know, he ma\ ha\ i- had
a hand in the compilation of the second and third of the treatises I
ha\ f mentioned, as their authorship up to the present is by no means
settled. James Bellot* in his " Booke of 'Hirift " reproduces Walter of
Henley's " Husbandry " and states : " 'I'his husbandrie made a Knight,
Sir Walter of Henley who after rendered himself into the order of the
Friers-preachers, and did teach unto the people how they ought to live
wisely and honestly of their goods and not to waste too much before
hand, lest they should want after." I reproduce two pages from this
interesting little brochure. (See page y.) This treatise has also been
reproduced by the Royal Historical Society, as stated on page 9.



So variously has this name been spelt that it is 1)\- no means certain
which is correct. He was Bishop of Lincoln, and his set of Rules upon
Estate Management are believed to have been jirepared for a Dowager
Countess of Lincoln for use on her estates. He studied at the fniversity
in Paris, and his treatise was copied and used for tjuite a couple ol
centuries after his death. He was a \oluminous writer upon a \ariety
of subjects, and copies of his MS. are found in the British, Bodleian, and
Sloane Museums, and his Rules ha\c been reproduced in modern
English in the same work by l^lizabelh l.amond mentioned on page 9.

The old catalogue of the I'etcrborough Library ascribes to the Bisho])
" Liber qui vocatur Housbondrie," or " A Treatise of Husbandry, \\lii( h
Mayster Groshede, some time P)ishop of Lincoln, made and translated
out of French into English." It has been supposed that the bishop only
translated it from French ; and, otherwise, that he lirst wrote it in French
and then rendered it into l!nglish. Copies are also extant translated into
Latin. Among Bishoj) Moore's works, in the public library at Cambridgi-,
is a 4to " P)oke of Husbandry.'' I'nder this title, on a scroll, is the cut ol

» " 'Ihc liooke of 'Ihritt, containing a perfilc order and right mctliode to protite
lands. Englished and set out by J. B. Gentleman of Caen in F-'rance." I rui.lmi.
printed bv John \\'(^lfe, I5S().


a person standing in a wood or park, givini^ orders to a \\oodman who is
felling a tree. (See reproduction on page lo). It contains eighteen

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Online LibraryDonald McDonaldAgricultural writers from Sir Walter of Henley to Arthur Young, 1200-1800. Reproductions in facsimile and extracts from their actual writings, enlarged and revised from articles which have appeared in The Field from 1903-1907. To which is added an exhaustive bibliography → online text (page 1 of 19)