Grain and Chaff from an English Manor
Arthur H. Savory

Part 2 out of 6

Tricker, as a very typical representative of the agricultural labourer
in old age, was engaged as model for a figure in a picture by Mr.
Chevalier Taylor, then staying in Badsey. He sat in this capacity when
work was not very pressing, and day by day used to repair to the
artist's lodgings with his tools on his shoulder. His remuneration was
half a crown a day--ordinary day wages for an able-bodied man--but he
told me that the inaction was very trying, and that a day as model was
much more exacting than a day's work on the farm.

When the old man could no longer complete even a short day's work, and
suffered from the cold in winter, he decided to go to the workhouse
for a time, but he was out again before the cuckoo was singing, and we
found him light jobs "by the piece," so that he could work for as long
or as short a time as suited him. He was most grateful for any
assistance, and told me that "A little help is worth a deal of
sympathy." Eventually he became a permanent inmate of the workhouse,
much to my grief; but it is, of course, impossible to run a farm on
which heavy poor-rate has to be paid, as a philanthropic institution.
The difficulty with aged and infirm persons is not so much food and
maintenance as the necessity for nursing and supervision, which are
expensive and difficult to arrange. Tricker told me that he could live
on sixpence a day, and if it had been a question of food only, and our
village could have cut itself adrift from the Union and the rates it
entailed, we could easily have more than kept the poor old man to the
end of his days in comfort. For years he was the only parishioner
receiving any help from the immense sum the parish annually paid in
rates. I have heard it said that out of every shilling of the
ratepayer's contributions the poor people only get twopence or its
equivalent, the officials and administration expenses absorbing the
remaining tenpence.

My first gardener had been employed at the Manor, when I came, for
very many years, and at the end of ten more he was obliged to resign
through old age. He had planted the poplars round the mill-pond in his
earliest days, and, among other trees, the beautiful weeping wych-elm
on the lawn behind the house. The weeping effect he produced by
beheading the tree when quite small and grafting it with a slip of the
weeping variety, and the junction was still plainly visible. It was a
symmetrical and, especially when in bloom, a lovely tree, but as the
blossoms died and scattered themselves all over the grass, they
worried the methodical old man, and every spring he wished it had
never been planted. It had flourished amazingly, and we could
comfortably find sitting room at tea for sixty or seventy people at a
garden-party in its shade.

He was an excellent gardener, but did not care about novelties in
flowers, though at one time he made a hobby of raising new kinds of
potatoes. His greatest success was the original Ashleaf variety, the
stock of which he sold to Mr. Myatt for a guinea, and which was
afterwards introduced to the public as "Myatt's Early Ashleaf." It was
one of the best potatoes ever grown, very early, and splendid in
quality, and it was unfortunate that he parted with it so cheaply,
though, of course, the purchaser of the first few tubers had no idea
of its immense potential value, and possibly, like so many novelties,
it might have proved a failure. It is still in cultivation, though its
constitution is impaired, like that of all potatoes of long standing.
Later on I shall have more to say about this unfortunate tendency to

J.E. was one of my most reliable men, working for me, first as
under-carter and afterwards as head carter, for, I think, altogether
twenty-six years; he was well educated and a great reader, quiet and
somewhat reserved, and though his humour did not lie on the surface,
he could appreciate a joke. My recollections of him, after his
steadiness and reliability, are chiefly of his personal mishaps, for
he was an unlucky man in this particular.

I was on my round one morning when I met a breathless carter-boy
making for the village. Asked where he was off to, "Please, sir," he
replied, "I be to fetch Master E. another pair of trowsers!"
"Trousers," said I; "what on earth for?" "Please, sir, the bull ha'
ripped 'em!" I hurried on, and soon saw that it was no laughing
matter, for I found poor E. in a terrible plight of rags and tatters,
sitting in a cart-shed in some outlying buildings, on a roller. The
cowman was standing by holding a Jersey bull. The story was soon told.
The cowman, having to go into the yard, had asked E. to hold the bull
a minute. Unfortunately, the animal had only a halter on him, the
cowman having omitted to bring the stick, with hook and swivel, to
attach to the bull's nose-ring. No sooner was the cowman out of sight
than the bull began to fret, and, turning upon E., knocked him down
between a mangoldbury and the outside wall of the yard. In this
position he was unable to get a direct attack upon the man, but he
managed to gore him badly and tear his clothes to pieces. The cowman,
hearing E. calling, came back and rescued him, the bull becoming quite
docile with his regular attendant. Poor E. was black and blue when he
got home in the pony-cart, and was laid up for many weeks afterwards.
He undoubtedly had a very narrow escape. It is curious that, though
the Jersey cows are the most docile of any kind, the bulls are the
most uncertain and, when annoyed, savage; I had trouble with two or
three, and one became so dangerous that he had to be killed in his

E.'s bad luck overtook him again when returning from Evesham with,
fortunately, an empty waggon and team; one of the horses was startled,
and E. ran forwards to catch the reins. By some means he fell, and the
waggon-wheels passed over him; had it been full, as it was on the
outward journey, with a heavy load of beans, it would have been a
serious matter, but nevertheless he suffered a great deal for some
time afterwards.

J.E. must have walked many hundreds of miles among my hops with the
horses drawing "the mistifier," a syringing machine which pumped a
mist-like spray of soft soap and quassia solution upon the under-side
of the hop-leaves, when attacked by the aphis blight; and he must have
destroyed many millions of aphides, for the blight was an annual
occurrence at Aldington, and taxed our energies to the utmost at one
of the busiest times of year.

Mrs. J.E. was, and is, one of those kind persons always ready to do a
good turn to a neighbour. She and her husband brought up a large
family, all of whom have done well, and a son in the Grenadier Guards
especially distinguished himself in the war. She has a remarkable
memory for dates of birthdays, weddings, and such-like events, and
often writes us one of her interesting letters, full of information of
the old village.

I had many experiences of the honesty of the agricultural labourer,
but one especially remains in my mind. I.P., a man living some two
miles from Aldington, regularly walked the four miles there and back
for many years, in addition to his day's work. He was an excellent
drainer, and a most useful all-round man, exceedingly strong and
willing, bright and cheerful in conversation, and I had a very high
opinion of him. I had just reached the end of a long pay when he
reappeared--having taken his wages earlier in the proceedings--and
asked if I had made a mistake in his money; a sovereign was missing,
and he could not remember actually taking it from the table with the
rest of the cash. I at once balanced my payments and receipts for the
evening, but they corresponded exactly. It was a serious matter, as a
half-year's rent was due to the owner of his cottage that day, and
I.P. was one of those men who take a pride in paying up with
punctuality. I could see, as he realized that the sovereign was lost,
how disappointed and worried he felt, and being glad of an opportunity
to do him a good turn, I gave him another, and sent him away very
grateful. Later still he returned again, placed a sovereign on my
table, and said that he had nearly reached home when he felt something
hard against his knee, inside his corduroys, where he found the
missing coin; there was a hole in his pocket, but the encircling
string which labourers tie below the knee had prevented its escape.



"My crown is in my heart, not on my head:
Not deck'd with diamonds and Indian stones,"
--_3 Henry VI_.

The agricultural labourer, and the countryman generally, does not
recognize any form of property beyond land, houses, buildings, farm
stock, and visible chattels. A groom whom I questioned concerning a
new-comer, a wealthy man, in the neighbourhood, summed him up thus:
"Oh, not much account--only one hoss and a brougham!" A railway may
run through the parish, worth millions of invested capital, but the
labourer does not recognize it as such, and a farmer, employing a few
men and with two or three thousand pounds in farm stock, is a bigger
man in his eyes than a rich man whose capital is invisible.

The labourer in the days of which I am writing was inclined to be
suspicious of savings banks and deposit accounts at a banker's; his
savings represented a vast amount of hard work and self-denial; and he
looked askance at security other than an old stocking or a teapot. He
had heard of banks breaking, and felt uncomfortable about them. A
story was current in my neighbourhood of a Warwickshire bank in
difficulties, where a run was in progress. A van appeared, from which
many heavy sacks were carried into the bank, in the presence of the
crowd waiting outside to draw out their money. Some of the sacks were
seen to be open, and apparently full of sovereigns; confidence was
restored, and the run ceased. Later, when all danger was over, it
transpired that these supposed resources were fictitious, for the open
sacks contained only corn with a thin layer of gold on the top.

Formerly it was said of a certain street in Evesham, chiefly inhabited
by market-gardeners and their labourers, that the houses contained
more gold than both the banks in the town, and I have no doubt that,
even at the present day, there is an immense amount of hoarded money
in country places. Only a short while ago, long after the commencement
of the Great War, the sale of a small property took place in my
neighbourhood, when the purchaser paid down in gold a sum of L600, the
bulk of which had earned no interest during the years of collection.
No doubt people, as a rule, in these days of war bonds and
certificates, have a better idea of investment, but probably a vast
sum in possible loans has been lost to the Government through want of
previous information on the subject. It should have been a simple
matter, during the last fifty years of compulsory education, to teach
the rudiments of finance in the elementary schools, and I commend the
matter as worth the consideration of educational enthusiasts.

The labourer's attitude, as I have said, is suspicious towards
lawyers. I was chatting with a man, specially taken on for harvest,
who expressed doubts of them; he continued, "If anybody were to leave
me a matter of fifty pounds or so, I'd freely give it 'em," meaning
that by the time all charges were paid he would not expect more than a
trifle, because he supposed stamps and duties to be a part of the
lawyer's remuneration, and that very little would be left when all was

I was once discussing farming matters with a labourer when prospects
were looking very black, and ended by saying that I expected soon to
be in the workhouse. "Ah, sir," said he, "I wish I were no nearer the
workhouse nor you be!" It should not be forgotten that the
agricultural labourer's financial horizon does not extend much beyond
the next pay night, and were it not for the generosity of his
neighbours--for the poor are exceedingly good to each other in times
of stress--a few weeks' illness or unemployment, especially where the
children are too young to earn anything, may find him at the end of
his resources.

Almost the first time I went to Evesham, in passing Chipping Norton
Junction--now Kingham--three or four men on the platform, in charge of
the police, attracted my attention. I was told that they were rioters,
guilty of a breach of the peace in connection with the National
Agricultural Labourers' Union, then under the leadership of Joseph
Arch. Being so close to my new neighbourhood, where I was just
beginning farming, the incident was somewhat of a shock. Arch
undoubtedly was the chief instrument in raising the agricultural
labourer's wages to the extent of two or three shillings a week, and
the increase was justified, as every necessity was dear at the time,
owing to the great activity of trade towards the end of the sixties.
The farmers resisted the rise only because, already in the early
seventies, the flood of American competition in corn-growing was
reducing values of our own produce; and as all manufactured goods
which the farmer required had largely increased in price, he did not
see his way to incur a higher labour bill.

Arch sent a messenger to me a few years later, to ask permission to
hold a meeting in Aldington in one of my meadows. I saw at once that
opposition would only stimulate antagonism, and consented. The meeting
was held, but only a few labourers attended, and no farmers, and
agitation, so far as we were concerned, died down. One or two of my
men were, I think, members of the Union, but having already obtained
the increased wages there was nothing more to be gained for themselves
by so continuing, and they soon dropped out of the list. Eventually
the organization collapsed. Arch was a labourer himself, and
exceedingly clever at "laying" hedges, or "pleaching," as it is still
called, and was called by Shakespeare in _Much Ado About Nothing_:

"Bid her steal into the pleached bower,
Where honeysuckles, ripen'd by the sun,
Forbid the sun to enter."

Pleaching is a method of reducing and renovating an overgrown hedge by
which all old and exhausted wood is cut out, leaving live vertical
stakes at intervals, and winding the young stuff in and out of them in
basket-making fashion, after notching it at the base to allow of
bending it down without breakage. Arch was a native of Warwickshire,
the home of this art; it takes a skilled man to ensure a good result,
but when well done an excellent hedge is produced after two or three
years' growth. The quickset or whitethorn (May) makes the strongest
and most impervious hedge, and it flourishes amazingly on the stiff
clay soils of the Lias formation in that county and its neighbour

I have often wondered at, and admired, the labourer's resignation and
fortitude in adversity; a discontented or surly face is rarely seen
among them; they have, like most people, to live lives of
self-sacrifice, frugality, and industry, which doubtless bring their
own compensation, for the exercise and habit of these very virtues
tend to the cheerfulness and courage which never give up. Possibly,
too, the open-air life, the vitalizing sunshine, the sound sleep, and
the regularity of the routine, endows them with an enviable power of
enjoyment of what some would consider trifles. After a long day out of
doors in the natural beauty of the country, who shall say that the
labourer's appetite for his evening meal, his pipe of tobacco beside
his bright fireside, and his detachment from the outside world, do not
afford him as great or greater enjoyment than the elaborate luxury of
the millionaire, with his innumerable distractions and

The labourer has, as I have said, little appreciation of the invisible
or what does not appeal strongly to his senses; he cannot understand,
for instance, that a small bag of chemical fertilizer, in the form of
a grey, inoffensive powder, can contain as great a potentiality for
the nutrition of crops as a cartload of evil-smelling material from
the farmyard; nor is he aware that, in the case of the latter, he has
to load and unload 90 pounds or thereabouts of worthless water in
every 100 pounds with which he deals. Possibly, however, his
preference for the natural fertilizer is not wholly misplaced, for
there is, no doubt, much still to be learned concerning the relative
values of natural and artificial compounds with special reference to
the bacterial inoculation of the soil and its influence on vegetable

He is not without some aesthetic feeling for the glories of Nature
daily before him, and though like Peter Bell, of whom we are told that

"A primrose by a river's brim
A yellow primrose was to him,
And it was nothing more,"

and putting aside the metaphysical analogy and the moral teaching
which are presented by every tree and plant, he enjoys, I know, the
simple beauty of the flower itself, the exhilarating freshness of the
bright spring morning, the prodigality of the summer foliage, the ripe
autumnal glow of the harvest-field, and the sparkling frost of a
winter's day. But he very rarely expresses his enthusiasm in
superlatives: "a usefulish lot," and "a smartish few," meaning in
Worcestershire "a very good lot," and "a great many," is about the
limit to which he will commit himself. His natural reticence in
serious situations and calamity, and his reserve in the outlet of
feeling by vocal expression, give a wrong impression of its real
depth, and may even convey the impression of callousness to anyone not
conversant with the working of his mind.

To a nephew of mine who was surprised to see his gardener's little son
leaving the garden, the man explained: "That little fellow be come to
tell I a middlinish bit of news; 'e come to say as his little sister
be dead." Notice the "middlinish bit of news," where a much stronger
expression would have been justified, and note the restraint as to his
loss, suggesting an unfeeling mind, though in reality very far from
the grief he was shy of expressing.

An old woman in a parish adjoining mine, having lost a child, received
the condolences of a visitor with, "Yes, mum; we seems to be regular
unlucky, for only a few weeks ago we lost a pig."

A lady well known to me, the daughter of the Vicar of a Cumberland
parish, was calling on a woman whose husband had died a few days
previously, and expressing her sympathy with the widow in her
affliction, spoke of the sadness of the circumstances. The widow
thanked her visitor, and added: "You know, miss, we was to have killed
a pig that week, but there, we couldn't 'ave 'em both about at the
same time"!

All these incidents suggest callousness, but in reality they were
plain statements of fact from persons with a limited vocabulary and
unskilled in the niceties of polished language.

Another incident will illustrate how faulty expression may give an
unintended impression. A lady, calling at a cottage, exclaimed with
appreciation at the fragrant odour of frying bacon which greeted her.
The cottager was busy with it at the fire. "Yes, miss," she said, "it
_is_ nice to 'ave a bit of bacon as you've waited on yourself"--of
course, referring to the fact that she knew the animal was always fed
on really good food, an important and reassuring condition, though a
tender heart might have regretted the sacrifice of an intimate
creature which some would have regarded almost as a pet.

The cottager does not look upon his pig in that light; it is fed well
and comfortably housed with a definite object, and very little love is
lost between the pig and his master. Children in some places in
Worcestershire were formerly kept at home in order to be present on
the great occasion of the pig's obsequies. A woman, asked why her
children were absent from school, replied: "Well, sir, you see, we
killed our pig that day, and I kept the children at home for a treat;
there's no harm in that, sir, I'm sure, for pigs allus dies without

Villagers accept the novel significations which time or fashion
gradually confer upon old words very unreadily. I could see, at first,
that they were puzzled by my use of the word "awful," now long adopted
generally to strengthen a statement, very much as they themselves make
use of "terrible," "desp'rate," or "de-adly." They connect the word
"friend" with the signification "benefactor" only; a man, speaking of
someone born with a little inherited fortune, said that "his friends
lived before him." I told an old labourer that my little daughter
considered him a great friend of hers. He looked puzzled, and replied:
"Well, I don't know as I ever gave her anything." They still
distinguish between two words now carrying the same meaning. I told a
man that I was afraid some work he had for me would give him a lot of
trouble. He corrected me: "'Twill be no _trouble_, master, only

The labourer does not appreciate a sudden order or an unreasonable
change in work once commenced; he does not like being taken by
surprise in such matters: the necessary tool--for farm labourers find
their own hand implements--may not be readily available, may be out of
order, require grinding, or a visit to the blacksmith's for repair or
readjustment. The wise master introduces the subject, whenever
possible, gradually beforehand. "We shall have to think about
wheat-hoeing, mowing, potato-digging, next week," prepares the man for
the occasion, so that when the time comes he has his hoe, axe, scythe,
or bill-hook, as the case may be, ready. The job, too, may demand some
special clothing--hedging gloves, gaiters, new shoes, and so forth.

He is often suspicious of new arrangements or alteration of hours, and
is inclined to attribute an ulterior motive to the proposer of any
change in the unwritten but long-accustomed laws which govern his
habits; he lives in a groove into which by degrees abuses may have
crept, and some alteration may have become imperative.

When we introduced a coal club for the villagers, with the idea of
buying several trucks at lowest cash price, collecting their
contributions week by week during the previous summer, when good wages
were being earned, and delivering the coal gratis in my carts shortly
before winter, they seemed very doubtful as to the advantage of
joining. Some saw the advantage at once, knowing the high prices of
single half-tons or hundredweights delivered in coal-merchants' carts;
others would "let us know in a day or two," wanted time to consider
the matter, being taken "unawares"; others, assured that nobody would
undertake such a troublesome business without an eye to personal
profit, but anxious not to offend my daughter, who was visiting each
cottage, replied: "Oh yes, miss, if 'tis to do _you_ any good"!
Eventually, however, they were all satisfied and very grateful,
appreciating the fact that the cartage was not charged for, and that
they were getting much better coal than before at a lower price.

Village people, I am afraid, are rather fond of horrors; the newspaper
accounts of events which come under that description, such as murders,
suicides, and sensational trials, afford, apparently, much interest. A
man was working for me on some repairs close to my door; as he was a
stranger, I tried, as usual, to induce him to talk whenever I passed.
I had no success and could not get a word out of him, until, one
morning, I chanced to see a sensational headline in a local paper
about a suicide in a neighbouring town. On passing my workman, he
immediately broke out in great excitement, "Did you read in the paper
about that bloke who went to his father's house at W----, sat down on
the doorstep, and cut his throat?" The account had evidently seized
upon his imagination, and had thoroughly roused him out of himself,
but the following day he was as silent as before.

Births, marriages, and deaths are interesting topics in the village,
and perhaps with reason, for, after all, they are the most important
events in our lives, and in the villages most of the cottagers are
more or less related. All the inhabitants were much excited when a
poor old widow, living very near my house, sitting on a low circular
stone parapet round her well, lost her balance in some way, fell in,
and was drowned. I was foreman of the jury at the inquest, and after
hearing the evidence, which amounted to no more than the finding of
the body soon after the event, the coroner expressed his opinion that
it was a case of accidental death, with which I at once concurred.
With some reluctance, the other jurymen agreed; they had, I imagine,
as usual, made up their minds for a more sensational verdict, but
scarcely liked to suggest it, and a verdict of accidental death was
accordingly returned. Afterwards I heard that the villagers were
saying that it was very kind of me to bring in such an indulgent
verdict, but they "knowed very well it was suicide."

I was invited to the wedding feast of my bailiff's daughter, and
being, I suppose, regarded as the principal guest, was, according to
custom, requested to carve the excellent leg of mutton which formed
the _piece de resistance_. The parish clerk, considerably over eighty
at the time, was one of the most sprightly members of the company; he
kept us interested with historical recollections going back to the
Battle of Waterloo, and spoke of Wellington and Napoleon almost as
familiarly as we now speak of Earl Haig and the Kaiser. He had a
strong sense of humour, and, after a very hearty meal, announced that
he didn't know how it was, but he'd "sort of lost his appetite,"
pretending to regard the fact as an injury, premeditated by the
hospitality of our host and hostess.

The labourer dearly loves a grievance, not exactly for its own sake,
but because it affords an interesting topic of conversation. One
autumn, returning from a holiday in the Isle of Wight, I found the
whole village agog with the first County Council election. A
magistrate candidate, in the neighbouring village of Broadway, was to
be opposed by an Aldington man. I found a local committee holding
excited partisan meetings on behalf of the latter, active canvassing
going on, a villager appointed as secretary (always called
"seckert_ar_y" in these parts), and the election the sole topic of
conversation. The village people, always delighted in the possession
of a common enemy and a common cause, were making the election a
village affair, as opposed to the village of the other candidate;
popular feeling was running very high, Badsey, of course, joining up
with Aldington as strong allies. Some young men had lately been before
the magistrates at Evesham, and fined for obstructing the footpath,
and the magistrate candidate was selected as the scapegoat for the
affront to our united villages. At the election the Aldington man was
returned, and his supporters started with him on a triumphal progress
through the constituency. Of course, they visited Broadway, to crow
over the conquered village, but the wind was somewhat taken out of
their sails when the defeated candidate at once came forward, shook
hands with his opponent, and congratulated him upon his success! The
return journey was not so hilarious; one of the men of Broadway,
noticing a string of carts in the procession, conveying sympathizers
with the victor, in addition to the owners of the vehicles--thus
rendering the latter liable to the carriage duty of 15s. each--and
strongly resenting the spirit which brought the victorious party to
Broadway, sent a telegram to the Superintendent of Police at Evesham,
who met the returning procession and took down their names, with the
ultimate result of a substantial haul in fines for the excise!

During the Boer War the common foe was, of course, "Old Kruger" (with
a soft _g_), and we hoisted the Union Jack in front of the Manor
whenever our side scored a substantial success. The news of Lord
Roberts's victory at Paardeburg reached Badsey in the morning, after
the papers, and, returning by road from my farm round, I heard great
rejoicings and cheering from the direction of the village. Meeting a
boy, I learned that "Old Cronje" was defeated and a prisoner, with
"'leven thousand men!"--a report which proved to be correct with the
trifling discount of 9,000 of the latter! The same spirit of union for
a common cause was almost as evident at that time as in the far more
strenuous struggle of 1914-1918, and so long as England to herself
remains but true, doubtless our enemies will fulfil the part assigned
to them by the greatest of English poets.

A love of the marvellous is a common characteristic of country village
folks, and I have already referred to such beliefs in the supernatural
among my men. We had our own "white lady" on the highroad where it
turns off to Aldington, though I never met anyone who had seen her;
there were, too, signs and wonders before approaching deaths, and a
thrilling story of a headless calf in the neighbourhood.

An old house at Badsey, once a _hospitium_ or sanatorium for sick
monks from Evesham Abbey in pre-Reformation days, was reported to be
haunted, and people told tales of "the old fellows rattling about
again" of a night. Probably these beliefs had been encouraged in
former times by the monks themselves, to prevent the villagers prying
too closely into their occupations; and no doubt the scattered
individuals of the same body originated the popular theory that the
Abbey lands of which they were dispossessed would never, owing to a
curse, pass by inheritance in the direct line from father to eldest
son--an event that in the course of nature often fails, though by no
means invariably.

In recent years a startling story has been told, and even appeared in
a local paper, of a ghostly adventure near the Aldington turning. A
young lady (not a native), riding her bicycle to Evesham from Badsey,
passed, machine and all, right through an apparition which suddenly
crossed her path, without any resulting fall.

In connection with the monk's _hospitium_ I lately made an interesting
discovery as to the origin of a curious name of one of my fields,
which had always puzzled me. The field adjoined the _hospitium_, and
was always known as "the Signhurst." Field-names are a very
interesting study, they usually bear some significance to a
peculiarity in the field itself, or its position with reference to its
surroundings, and it has always been a hobby of mine to trace their
derivations. The word "Signhurst" presented no clue to its origin
except the Anglo-Saxon "burst," signifying a wood, but there was no
appearance or tradition of any wood having ever occupied the spot, and
the land was so good, and so well situated as to aspect, that it was
unlikely to have been such a site, even in Anglo-Saxon days. I
stumbled upon a passage in May's _History of Evesham_ which mentioned
the "Seyne House," meaning "Sane House," the equivalent of the modern
word "sanatorium," and I saw at once the origin of the corrupted word
"Signhurst"--the field near the Seyne House.

Wages are, of course, the crowning reward of the working-man's week;
throughout the whole of my time 15s. a week was the recognized pay for
six full summer days--"a very little to receive, but a good deal to
pay away," as a neighbour once said. During harvest, and at piecework,
more money was earned, and it always pleased me that I could pay much
better prices for piece-work among the hops than for piece-work at
wheat-hoeing or on similar unremunerative crops. The reason is
obvious: the hoeing of an acre of wheat, a crop which might possibly
return a matter of L10 per acre, takes no more manual effort than the
hoeing of an acre of hops, where a gross return of L70 or L80 per acre
is not unusual, and is sometimes considerably exceeded.

As wages must eventually always depend upon prices of produce raised
by the labour for which such wages are expended, when the agricultural
labourer buys his bread he is only buying back his own labour in a
concrete form plus the other relative expenses on the farm, and the
cost of milling, baking, and distribution, so that when he gets a high
price for his labour he must expect to pay a high price for his food;
and when the price of food is reduced the price of his labour also
falls. Here, again, the rudiments of economics, taught in the schools,
would conduce to his understanding the position, and the eradication
of discontent.

It is impossible, economically speaking, to defend the system of equal
wages to the most capable and industrious men on the one hand and to
inefficient slackers on the other; and as a graduated scale of
payment, according to results, is not practicable without arousing
ill-feeling and jealousy, the farmer's only remedy is to get rid of
the slackers. Inefficiency and slacking are often due to a man's
enfeebled mental and physical condition, owing to neglect in his
bringing up as a child, or to insufficient or unwholesome food
provided by an improvident wife in his home.

I was fortunate in meeting with very few of these degenerates, but I
remember one tall, delicate-looking man who seemed unable to apply
either his strength or his attention to his work. He was denounced by
the foreman under whom he worked as not only useless, but "the
starvenest wretch as ever I see," intended to convey the impression,
and confirming my own conclusion, that cold and hunger were really the
cause of his inability to render a fair day's work.

I remember, too, when some elderly women, with a younger one, were
hay-making, one of the old ladies, dragging the big "heel-rake" behind
the waggon in course of loading--always rather a tough job--tried to
induce the younger woman to take her place with, "Here, Sally, thee
take a turn at it; thee be a better 'ooman nor I be." My bailiff,
overhearing, at once interposed: "Be she a better 'ooman than thee,
Betsy, ov a Saturday night [pay-night]?"

Hard-and-fast laws and fixed prices for agricultural labour will be
found very difficult to maintain as to piecework; no wage board can
fix just prices, because conditions are so variable. Of two men
cutting corn on separate plots in the same field, the one at 12s. an
acre may really earn more money _per diem_ than another man at 15s. an
acre on the other side of the field, owing to the difference in the
weight of the crop or its condition, it being, perhaps, erect in the
first case, and laid by heavy storms in the second.

There is, too, a vast difference in the value of boys' work and
usefulness; one may easily be worth double another, yet no difference
is allowable by the new law; or one may demoralize another, so that
two are less effective than one. A good old saying puts the matter
very plainly: "One boy's a boy, two boys are half a boy, and three
boys are no boy at all!"

It is, in fact, ridiculous for townspeople, lawyers, and manufacturers
to legislate for the labour of the farm; they do not understand that
indoor labour in the workshop or factory, under regular conditions and
with unvarying materials, is totally different from labour out of
doors, in constantly changing conditions of season, weather, and the
resulting crops dealt with. An old maxim of the Worcestershire
labourer who, without a fixed place, took on piece-work at specially
busy times, will confirm this: "Go to a good farmer for wheat-hoeing,
and to a bad one for harvesting." I may explain that the fields of the
good farmer are clean and nearly free from weeds, so that hoeing is a
comparatively light job; but the same, or nearly the same, price per
acre is paid by the bad farmer, whose corn is overrun with weeds,
entailing much more time and harder work. On the other hand, the good
farmer's wheat crop is much heavier than that of the bad, and, the
prices for cutting being again very similar, more money _per diem_ can
be earned at harvest on the farm of the latter.

It is a sound old Worcestershire saying that "the time to hoe is when
there are no weeds"--apparently a paradox, but the meaning is simple:
when no weeds are to be seen above ground there are always millions of
tiny seedlings just below the surface ready to increase and multiply
wonderfully with a shower of rain; if attacked at the seedling stage,
these can be slaughtered in battalions, with far greater ease and
efficacy than when they become deep-rooted and established, and
dominate the crop.

I have heard of farmers to whom pay-night was a sore trial; one such
was frequently known to mount his horse and gallop away just before
his men appeared: how he settled eventually I do not know. Some
farmers will pay out of doors on their rounds, having a rooted
objection to business of any kind under a roof; and one small farmer,
I was told, always passed the cash to his men behind his back so that
he might not have the agony of parting actually before his eyes.

A labourer is supposed to come to work in his master's time and go
home in his own, thus sharing the necessary loss, and, as a rule, they
are fairly punctual; but one defaulter in this particular will waste
many moments of a whole gang working together, as it seems to be
etiquette not to begin till they are all present. I have often heard,
too, sarcastic comparisons made between the day-man and "the
any-time-of-day man."

The cottagers have their feuds, and the use of joint wash-houses or
baking-ovens between two or more adjoining cottages is a frequent
source. I have had excited wives of tenants coming to me at
unseasonable hours to settle these differences, and I found it a very
difficult business to reconcile the disputants. I could only visit the
_locus in quo_ and arrange fixed and separate days and regulations;
but though the wisdom of Solomon may administer justice in a dispute,
it is impossible to ensure a really peaceful solution that will

Sometimes feuds, originating in such or similar causes, were
maintained for years by neighbours living with only a 9-inch party
wall between them, and daily meetings outside, to the extent of not
even "passing the time of day." At last, however, in a day of distress
to one, the heart of the unafflicted other would melt, and after an
offer of help, or actual assistance, kind relations would be once more
established. Or a peace offering, in the shape of a dish of good
pig-meat, sent over with a kind message, would restore more genial
conditions, and they would return to happy and neighbourly

I once employed an old Dorset labourer, a tall, slim, aristocratic
figure, with an elegant, refined nose to match; he bore the well-known
name of an ancient and distinguished Dorset family, and I have no
doubt was well descended. He was decidedly a canny, not to say crafty,
man. I gave him a holiday at Whitsuntide to visit his old home, but he
overran the time agreed upon and returned some days late. Before I
could begin the rebuke I proposed to administer, he produced a
charming photograph of a ruined abbey near his old locality, and
handed it to me as a present. "I thought upon you, master, while I was
away, and knowing as you was fond of ancient things I've brought you
this picture." I was completely disarmed, and the rebuke had to be
postponed _sine die_.

As I was talking one day to my bailiff--one of the men who lived a
mile away standing near--he said: "Tom, here, is always the first man
to arrive in the morning; I have never known him to be late." I
congratulated Tom, and asked what time he went to bed: "Oh, about
seven o'clock!" He was, in fact, a lonely old bachelor, and, being "no
scholard," it saved lights and firing to be early to bed.

This man, like many villagers, had very vague ideas of geography. To
save the trouble of cooking, he lived largely on American tinned beef,
and got chaffed about it by his fellow-workers. "How be you getting on
with the 'Merican biff?" Tom was asked. "Oh," said he, "never no more
'Merican biff for me." "How's that, Tom?" "Why, the other day I found
a trouser-button in it!" The point of this story lies in the fact that
the Russo-Turkish war was proceeding at the time. _Tempora mutantur_,
we were then encouraging Turkey against Russia, though the latter had
declared war to avenge the atrocities in Bulgaria of which the Turks
were guilty, while in the recent struggle the position was almost
exactly reversed.

There was then a violent militant feeling here in Britain, and excited
crowds were singing:

"We don't want to fight but, by Jingo, if we do, We've got the ships,
we've got the men, We've got the money too."

Hence the expression "Jingoism," which we often hear to-day, though,
perhaps, the origin is now almost forgotten.

It is not unusual to see villagers, as married couples, complete
contrasts to each other in appearance and character--one fat and
jolly, the other thin and miserable; one happy and contented, the
other grumbling and morose; one open-hearted and generous, the other
close and parsimonious. In matrimony people are said to choose their
opposites, and possibly, as time goes on, the difference in their
appearance and dispositions becomes still more definitely developed.

The labourer understands sarcasm and makes use of it himself, but
irony is often lost upon him. Passing an old man on a pouring wet day,
I greeted him, adding, "Nice morning, isn't it?" He stared, hesitated,
and then, "Well, it would be if it wasn't for the rain!" I only
remember one surly man--not one of my workers or tenants. He was
scraping a very muddy road, and I remarked, for something to say,
"Makes it look better, doesn't it?" All I got in reply was, "I
shouldn't do it if it didn't!"

It is important, in managing a mixed lot of farm labourers, to find
out each man's special gift, making him the responsible person when
the time or opportunity arrives for its application. There are men,
excellent with horses, who have no love of steam-driven machinery, and
_vice versa_; and there are men who are capable at small details, yet
unable to take comprehensive views.

Responsibility is the life-blood of efficiency, and men can always be
found upon whom responsibility will act like a charm, producing
quickened perception, interest, foresight, economy, resource,
industry, and all the characteristics that responsibility demands. Put
the square peg in the square hole, the round peg in the round hole;
show the man you have confidence in him, teach him to act on his own
initiative in all the lesser matters that concern his job, coming only
to the master in those larger considerations to which the latter are
subordinate, and my experience is that your confidence will not be
betrayed, and that he will save you an immense amount of tiresome

The most difficult man to deal with is the over-confident "know-all";
he is always ready to oppose experience--often dearly bought--with his
superior knowledge, he can suggest a quicker or a cheaper way of doing
everything, and in his last place he "never saw" your system followed.
He is the penny-wise and pound-foolish individual, and his methods are
"near enough." It has been said that at twenty a man knows everything,
at forty he is not quite so sure, and at sixty he is certain that he
knows nothing at all; but there are exceptions even to this rule, who
continue all their lives thinking more and more of their own opinions,
and completely satisfied with their own methods. On the other hand,
the master will always find, among the more experienced, men from whom
much is to be learnt; they are generally diffident and not too ready
to hazard an opinion, but when consulted they can give very valuable
help. I willingly acknowledge my indebtedness to my old hands, their
well-founded convictions that were the fruit of long years of
practical experience, and their readiness to impart them in times of
doubt and difficulty.

Just as bad-tempered grooms make nervous, bad-tempered horses; rough
and noisy cattle-men, fidgety cows; ill-trained dogs and savage
shepherds, sheep wild and difficult to approach; so does the
bad-tempered, impatient, or slovenly master make men with the same bad
qualities, when a smile or a kind word will bring out all that is good
in a man and produce the best results in his work.

I began my farming with four dear old women, working on the land, when
wanted for light jobs; the youngest must have been fifty at least.
They received the time-honoured wage of tenpence a day, and worked, or
talked, about eight hours. They loved to work near the main road,
discussing the natural history of the occupants of passing carts or
carriages. They knew something comic, tragic, or compromising about
everybody, and expressed themselves with epigrammatic force. A farmer
occupant of a neighbouring farm in long-past days, was a favourite
subject of such recollections. After relating how "he were a random
duke," and recalling his habits, one old lady would conclude the
recital with an account of his last days, adding, as if everything was
thereby finally condoned:

"But there, 'e was just as nice a carpse as ever I see, and
I was a'most minded to put his paddle [thistle-spud] beside
him in his coffin, for he was always a-diggin' and a-delvin'
about with it."

One member of this quartet, when ill, had a dish of minced mutton sent
her in the hopes of tempting her appetite. She eyed the gift with
disfavour, and announced with scorn that "she preferred to chew her
meat herself!"

In due course these old ladies retired from active service and younger
women took their places; women were especially necessary in the
hop-yards for the important operation of tying the selected bines to
the poles with rushes and pulling out those which were superfluous. It
was difficult, at first, to accustom them to the fact that the hop
always twines the way of the sun, whilst the kidney bean takes the
opposite course. And there was a problem which greatly exercised their
minds: How were they to reach the hops at the tops of the poles--14
feet from the ground--when the time came? It did not occur to them
that it was possible to cut the bine and pull up the pole. They soon
became very quick and expert at the tying, and their well-worn
wedding-rings, telling of a busy life, would flash brightly in the
sunshine as they tenderly coaxed the brittle bines round the base of
the poles, securing them with the rush tied in a special slip-knot, so
that it easily expanded as the bine enlarged.

Women are splendid at all kinds of light farm work whenever deftness
and gentle touch are required, such as hop-tying and picking, or
gathering small fruit like currants, raspberries, and strawberries;
but I do not consider them in the least capable of taking the place of
men in outdoor work which demands muscular strength and endurance and
the ability to withstand severe heat or bitter cold or wet ground
under foot, through all the varying seasons. Village women have, too,
their home duties to attend to, and it is most important that their
men-folk should be suitably fed and their houses kept clean and

On the farm of my son-in-law, in Warwickshire, I have seen something
of the work of land girls, to the number of seventy or more, for whom
he provided a well-organized camp with a competent lady Captain; and I
know how useful they proved in the emergency caused by the War, but I
still adhere to my former conclusion as to the more strenuous forms of
farm labour, without in the least detracting from my admiration for
the courage and patriotism that brought them forward.

I know one woman, however, who quite successfully undertakes very
strenuous garden work, including digging, having been inured to it at
a very early age. If she could be spared from her own work to take the
position of instructress for young girls determined to make the land
their chief employment, they would be saved a vast amount of
unnecessary fatigue and labour by learning the art of using spades,
forks, hoes, and rakes in the way that experience teaches, relying
more upon the weight and designed capabilities of the tool to do the
work than upon their own untrained muscles.

We could always get a supply of excellent maids for house-work from
among the village families; they began very young, coming in for a few
hours daily to help the regular staff, and, as these left or got
married, they were ready trained to take their places. These girls
were quite free from the self-importance of the present-day domestic,
but I remember one nice village girl about whom we inquired as a
likely maid who, it then appeared, was engaged to marry a thriving
small tradesman. The girl's mother, being over-elated at her
daughter's apparently brilliant prospects of independence, rejected
the proposal with some hauteur, adding that her daughter "would soon
be keeping her own maid." I fear, however, that she was disappointed,
as the course of true love did not run smooth.

We preferred a married man as shepherd, because, when I had only a few
cows, he combined his duties with those of cowman; and, bringing in
the milk and doing the churning, he was much about the back premises.
On one occasion, however, I engaged a young bachelor, partly because
he replied, with a knowing smile, to a question as to whether he was
married, that he dared say he could be if he liked--which I
optimistically took to amount to an announcement of his engagement.

Time went on and he remained a single man, but it was observable that
he lingered on his milky way, and was more in evidence in the dairy
than his duties appeared to warrant. We concluded that he was
attracted by the cook. One day my wife said to another maid: "I can't
think why the shepherd spends so much time in the house. I suppose
cook is the attraction?" The girl blushed, hesitated, and looked down,
but finally courageously murmured: "Please, mum, it's me, mum!" They
were married in due course, and we lost an excellent servant.

Some of the village women and girls filled up spare moments with
"gloving"; the large kid-glove manufacturers in Worcester supplied the
material, cut into shape, and a stand, with a kind of vice divided
into spaces the exact size of each stitch, which held the work firmly
while the stitching was done by hand; they grew very quick at this
work, and turned out the gloves with beautifully even stitches, but I
don't think they could earn much at it in a day, and it must have been
rather monotonous.

I was interested to read in Mr. Warde Fowler's _Kingham Old and New_
an account of a peculiar ceremony--called "Skimmington," by Mr. Hardy,
in his _Mayor of Casterbridge_--which took place in Kingham village. I
have known of two similar cases, one in Surrey and one at Aldington,
under the name of "rough music." The Kingham case was quite parallel
with that at Aldington, being a demonstration of popular disapproval
of the conduct of a woman resident, in matters arising out of
matrimonial differences.

The outraged neighbours collect near the dwelling of the delinquent,
having provided themselves with old trays, pots and pans, and anything
by means of which a horrible din can be raised, and proceed to
serenade the offender. To be the subject of such a demonstration is
regarded as a signal disgrace and a most emphatic mark of popular
odium. Mr. Warde Fowler tells me, on the authority of a German book on
marriage, etc., that "the same sort of din is made at marriage in some
parts of Europe to drive evil spirits away from the newly married
pair." Possibly, therefore, the custom among our own villagers may
have originated with the same idea, and they may formerly have taken
the charitable view that evil spirits were responsible for evil deeds,
and that their exorcism was a neighbourly duty.

The holiday outings I gave my men were a _quid pro quo_ for some hours
of overtime in the hay-making, and included a day's wages, all
expenses, and a supply of food. They generally went to a large town
where an agricultural show was in progress, but I think the sea trips
to Ilfracombe and Weston-super-Mare were the most popular, offering as
they did much greater novelty. I have a vivid recollection of the
preparation of the rations on the previous night: a vast joint of beef
nicely roasted and got cold before operations commenced, my wife and
daughter making the sandwiches, while I cut up the beef in the
kitchen, sometimes in my shirt-sleeves on a hot summer night;
mountains of loaves of bread, great slices of cake, and pounds of
cheese, completed the provisions. The rations were wrapped in separate
papers and placed in a hipbath, covered with a cloth, and finally kept
in a cool building, whence each man took his portion at early dawn.
For the sea trips the train took the party to Gloucester and
Sharpness, where they embarked upon the steamer.

Many and thrilling were the tales I heard next day; the sea was fairly
smooth until they reached the Bristol Channel, but then, if they met a
south-west wind, the vessel began to roll, and jovial faces looked
thoughtful. I must not dwell upon the delightful horrors of the voyage
on such occasions; they were accepted with good-humour and regarded as
part of the show, but it was curious that not one of the narrators
himself suffered the fate that he so graphically described as the
portion of the others. Arrived at their destination, they inspected
the town, watched the people on the piers and parades, and the
children playing on the sands. The latter created the greatest
interest, busy with their spades and buckets, or, as one man expressed
it, "little jobs o' draining and summat!"

At Christmas the village children always came in small gangs to sing,
or rather chant, a peculiar and very ancient seasonable greeting:

"I wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year,
A pocket full of money and a cellar full of beer,
A good fat pig to last you all the year.
May God bless all friends near!
A merry, merry Christmas and a happy New Year."



"Last week came one to the county town
To preach our poor little army down."

Though machinery has lightened the labour of manual workers to some
extent, it entails much more trouble upon masters and foremen, for
breakages are frequent and always occur at the busiest time. What with
mowers, reapers, thrashing machines, chaff-cutters, root-pulpers, and
grain-mills run by steam-power or in connection with horse-gears;
hop-washers, separators, and other delicately adjusted novelties, the
master must of necessity be something of a mechanic himself. I doubt
if machinery is really quite the advantage claimed by theorists and
reconstructionists at the present day. Even the thrashing machine,
universally adopted, presents disadvantages in comparison with the
ancient flail, generally regarded as obsolete, though still to be
found in occasional use by the smallholder or allotment occupier. In
former times the farmer reserved his thrashing by hand, for the most
part, for winter work during severe frost or wet weather, when nothing
could be done outside. The immense barns, which still exist, were
filled almost to the roof at harvest; thatching was not necessary, and
every sheaf was absolutely safe from rain as soon as it was under
cover. Continuous winter work was provided for the men, and a daily
supply of fresh straw for chaff-cutting and bedding, besides fresh
chaff and rowens or cavings for stock throughout the winter. With the
thrashing machine in use for ricks, thatching is a necessity, and is
often difficult to arrange in the stress of harvest; the machine and
engine demand a day's work for two teams of horses to fetch them, and
the cartage and expense of much coal, now so dear. On a small farm
extra hands have to be engaged, the straw has to be stacked or carried
to the barns, and the same applies to the chaff and rowens. If the
weather is damp, straw, chaff, and rowens get stale, mouldy, and
unpalatable to the stock, a heavy charge is made for the hire of the
machine and the machine men, and the latter require food and drink or
payment instead. The machine breaks and bruises many grains of corn,
which are thereby damaged for seed or malting, whereas the less urgent
flail leaves them intact.

The sound of the thrashing machine gives an impression to outsiders of
brisk and remunerative work, but it is cheerful to the farmer only
when high prices are ruling. Far otherwise was it for many years
before the War, when corn-growers heard only its moaning, despondent
note, telling anything but a flattering tale, only varied by an
occasional angry growl, when irregular feeding choked its satiated

From the aesthetic standpoint uncouth and noisy machines, such as
mowers and reapers, cannot be compared to a lusty team of men with
scythes, in their white shirts, backed by the flowering meadows; or a
sunny field of busy harvesters facing a golden wall of corn, and
leaving behind them the fresh-shorn stubble dotted with sheaves and
nicely balanced shocks. The rattle of the machines, too, is discordant
and out of harmony with the peaceful countryside.

It is related of Ruskin that, hearing the insistent rattle of a mowing
machine in a meadow adjoining his home by the beautiful Coniston
Water, and his sense of the fitting being outraged, he interviewed the
owner, and, by an offer to pay the trifling difference between machine
and hand labour, induced him to discontinue the annoyance.

As to the relative cost of machine and hand wheat-cutting, quite early
in my farming I obtained the opinion of a distinguished farmer, then
well known on the Council of the Royal Agricultural Society, Mr.
Charles Randell, of Chadbury, near Evesham, on the subject: "If you
can get a good crop," he said, "cut, tied, and stocked by hand at
anything like 15s. an acre, don't use a machine. If the corn is ripe
it knocks out and wastes quite a bushel of wheat per acre" (worth at
that time about 5s., now nearer 9s. or 10s.). "I always bring out my
machines, and have them oiled and made ready, _but I don't want to use

In a wet harvest the machine is unworkable on sticky clay soil, and
after a wet summer, when the corn is badly laid and twisted, it makes
very poor work, cutting off the ears and scattering them, and leaving
a quantity of uncut and untidy straw on the ground.

In my own case my equanimity was never disturbed by a reaping machine,
with its unwieldy tossing arms, on my land, for I had to find
employment for my full staff of regular hands, specially required for
the much more important hop-picking a little later, and it pleased me
that they should get the extra pay for harvest work as well.

The cream separator, I admit, is a wonderful invention, and its hum is
not unmusical; it provides fresh skim milk for the calves and pigs
morning and night, which, as well as the cream, is thoroughly cleansed
in the process. The aeration of the skim milk leaves it a most
wholesome and nourishing article of diet for the villagers if they
could be made to understand its value, and that the removal of the
cream takes away only the fat (heating material), leaving the bone and
muscle making constituents in the milk. I could never induce my
village folk to accept this rudimentary proposition; they fancied that
all the goodness was gone with the cream, and though I offered the
skim milk at the nominal price of one halfpenny a quart, very few
would send their children to fetch it, though they mostly lived within
a hundred yards of the dairy.

The hay or straw elevator is one of the greatest helps, saving much
heavy overhand labour in rick-building. An old labourer, pointing to
one, with great appreciation, on a farm I was visiting, said:
"_That's_ a machine as will be always kept in the dry and took care
on." He spoke from experience of the arduous work of unloading and the
passing of heavy weights, sometimes from the bed of the waggon to the
summit of the rick; for, as my bailiff often said, "Nobody knows so
well where the shoe pinches as the man who has to wear it."

Steam has not done all that was expected of it as an agricultural
slave. The steam plough is not a success on heavy land where the
ridges are high and irregular in width, and even the steam cultivator
has to be used with caution lest the soil should be carried from the
ridges to the furrows, and the "squitch" (couch) buried to a depth at
which it is difficult to eradicate. The great convenience of steam
cultivation is that full advantage can be taken of a short spell of
hot, dry weather for fallowing operations, and the soil is left so
hollow that it soon bakes and kills the weeds. I fully sympathize with
Tennyson's, _Northern Farmer, Old Style:_

"But summon 'ull come ater meae mayhap wi' 'is kittle o' steaem
Huzzin' an' maaezin' the blessed feaelds wi' the Devil's oaen teaem";

for, except on a large farm with immense fields, the ponderous and
ungainly steam, tackle gives one a sensation of intrusion. Such a
field can be found on a farm between Evesham and Alcester; it contains
300 acres. The occupier, speaking of it, mentioned that it was all
wheat that year except one corner. To a question as to the size of the
corner, it transpired that it was 50 acres, and growing peas. For
comparison there is a story of a Devonshire farmer who said he had
been very busy one winter making four fields into one. "Then you've
got a big field," said a friend. "Yes," was the reply; "it's just four

When the farm labourer was enfranchised in 1885 he became an important
member of the electorate. Candidates and canvassers alike had a much
more strenuous time than ever before, the former were constrained to
hold meetings in every village, and the latter were obliged to visit
nearly every cottage. The late Sir Richard Temple after a
distinguished career in India, became Conservative candidate for our
division. The doctrine of "three acres and a cow," in opposition to
every tenet of rural economy, as well as the division of the land
among the labourers, were at the time paraded by theorists and paid
agitators, as bribes to purchase the votes of the new electors, and as
ensuring the salvation of the rural population, which was then
beginning to suffer from unemployment, resulting from the destruction
of corn-growing by foreign competition.

The more credulous of the labourers were excited and unsettled by the
alluring prospect of independence thus held out to them, and it was
reported that some went so far as to survey the fields around their
villages and select the plots they proposed to cultivate, and that
others took baskets to the poll in which to bring home the
all-powerful magic of the mysterious vote! Among the new voters in a
neighbouring village, a man of very decided views found it puzzling to
decide by which candidate they were most nearly represented, and,
determined to make no mistake at the poll, he consulted a
fellow-labourer, inquiring: "Which way be the big uns a-going, because
I be agin they?"

The Squire of an adjoining parish met an old villager with whom he had
always been on good terms; after mutual greetings, the man
sympathised: "I _be_ sorry for you, Squire." "Why?" was the rejoinder.
"Yes, I be regular sorry for you, Squire, that I be.." "What's the
matter?" asked the Squire. "Ay! about this here land; 'tis to be
divided amongst we working men." "Indeed," said the Squire; "but look
here, after a bit, some of you won't want to cultivate it any longer,
and some, with improvident habits, will sell their plots to others, so
that soon it will be all back again into the hands of a few; what will
you do then?" The man looked puzzled, scratched his head, and
cogitated deeply, until a simple solution presented itself: "Then,
Squire," said he, "we shall divide again!"

Sir Richard Temple was undoubtedly an able man, but he was a complete
stranger to the local conditions of the constituency. The villagers of
Badsey especially, as well as of other adjoining parishes, were just
beginning to retrieve their position, threatened by the collapse of
corn-growing and consequent unemployment, by the adoption of
market-gardening and fruit-growing. The land, run down and full of
weeds and rubbish, had been cut up into allotments and offered to them
as tenants, their only choice lying between years of hard work in
redeeming its condition or emigration. Many young men chose the
latter, and did well in the States of America; but where there was a
wife and young children that course was scarcely possible, and the man
became an allotment tenant. Passing one of these on a plot full of
"squitch," which he was laboriously breaking up with a fork to expose
it in big clods to a baking sun, I asked if he had taken it. "Well,"
said he, "I don't know whether I've taken _it_ or it's taken _me_!"

These men, by unceasing labour and self-denial, were just beginning to
turn the corner; they had cleaned the land, ameliorated its mechanical
condition by application of soot and by deep digging with their
beloved forks, and, having discovered how wonderfully asparagus
nourished on this deep, rich soil, had planted large areas, as well as
plum-trees and other market-garden crops, and the well-merited return
was coming in increasingly year by year.

Sir Richard Temple did not understand the difference between the small
holder, growing corn and ordinary crops in less favoured parts of the
countrymen the one hand, and market-gardeners in the Vale of Evesham,
with its early climate, splendid soil, and railway connection with
huge artisan populations, delivering the produce with punctuality and
despatch, on the other. He considered that small holders could not
make an economic success where the farmers had failed, and had made
his views well known in the constituency, but he did not distinguish
between the small holder and the market-gardener.

The men of Badsey felt aggrieved, they knew better, and at a meeting
he held in the village they gave him a rather noisy hearing, with
interruptions such as, "Keep off them steel farks," "Mind them steel
farks, Sir Richard," and so on.

Sir Richard came to ask for my support and assistance in our village,
and, as I was not at home, my wife entertained him in my absence, with
tea and wedding-cake. She innocently asked if he had come to canvass
me; her straightforward query surprised him, but, after a moment's
hesitation, he replied cautiously: "Well, something of that sort."

He was eventually returned, and the men of Badsey continued to
flourish on asparagus-growing in spite of his warnings; new houses
sprang up in every direction, and available labour grew scarcer and
scarcer. Those splendid asparagus "sticks" or "buds," as they are
called, tied with osier or withy twigs, which may be seen in Covent
Garden Market and the large fruiterers' shops in Regent Street, are
grown in and around the parishes of Badsey and Aldington. They command
high prices, up to 15s. and 20s. a hundred for special stuff, and this
year (1919) I see that L21 was realized for the champion hundred at
the Badsey Asparagus Show. That, of course, must be regarded as quite
exceptional, and possibly there were special considerations which made
it worth the money to the purchaser.

Later came difficulties; after successive dry summers the asparagus
was attacked by a fungoid complaint, called by the growers "rust."
Instead of growing vigorously after the crop had been gathered--which
is the time when the buds for next year's crop are developing on the
crowns of the plants--and finally dying off naturally in beautiful
feathery plumes of green and gold, it presented a dingy and rusty
appearance, eventually turning black. Asparagus cannot stand
long-continued summer and autumn drought; it likes plenty of moisture,
in free circulation but not stagnant. The crops that followed the
appearance I have described were very deficient, proving that the
growing season of one year's foliage is the time when next year's crop
is decided.

The growth of asparagus is still a very important part of the
market-gardener's business in the parishes referred to, but it does
not continue to produce the best results indefinitely and continuously
on the same land, and the growers have been obliged to extend their
acreages and take fresh plots. I have little doubt that with the
scientific application of artificial fertilizers the yield would
continue satisfactory for a much longer period. Plant disease of any
kind is nearly always due to starvation for want of the chemical
constituents upon which the crop feeds, though sometimes caused by
unhealthy sap, the result of late spring frosts or unsuitable weather.

The asparagus-growers relied too much upon soot as a fertilizer; it
has a marvellous effect upon the mechanical condition of heavy land;
its particles intervene between the particles of the almost impalpable
powder of which clay is composed, and the soil approximates to a
well-tilled garden plot after a few applications and careful
incorporation, and in the local phraseology, it becomes "all of a
myrtle." But as plant food soot contains nitrogen only, a great plant
stimulant, which quickly exhausts the soil of the other necessary
constituents. If the growers would make use of basic slag,
superphosphate, or bone dust to replace the phosphate of lime removed
by the crop, and of potash in one of its available forms, they would
soon experience a great improvement in the power of their asparagus to
resist disease and deterioration.

I am aware that some of the smaller growers regard all kinds of
artificial fertilizers with suspicion, but they may be interested,
should they ever read these pages, in the following story. When
Peruvian guano was first introduced into this country, the farmers
could not be persuaded that it merited any reliance as a manure. The
importers, in despair, caused some of the despised stuff to be sown in
the form of huge letters spelling the word "FOOLS" upon a bare
hillside, visible from a great distance. The following spring, with
the beginning of growth, and throughout the summer, the word stared
the farmers in the face whenever they chanced to look that way, in
dark green outstanding characters upon the yellow background; after
this practical demonstration there was no difficulty in finding

Sir Richard Temple was opposed by Mr. Arthur Chamberlain, one at least
of whose canvassers was not above stretching a point to obtain the
votes of the labourers. My men told me that they had been promised
roast beef and plum pudding every day of their lives should the
Liberal party be returned. These tactics were again resorted to in the
election of 1906, when walls were placarded with pictures of the
Chinese employed in the gold-mines of the Transvaal, driven in chains
by cruel overseers, presumably representing the Conservative
Government which had sanctioned their employment. I know from what I
heard in my new home, for I was no longer at Aldington, that this
misrepresentation decided the votes of many of the more ignorant



"Where many a generation's prayer,
Hath perfumed and hath blessed the air."

I saw a good deal of my three successive Vicars, for I was Vicar's
churchwarden for a period of nearly twenty years, and was treasurer of
the fund for the restoration and enlargement of Badsey Church. My
first Vicar had held the living for over thirty years when we decided
upon this important undertaking; and not wishing to be burdened with
the correspondence which the work would entail, he invited me to act
for him. I was pleased, because I have always been interested in the
architecture of old buildings, especially churches, and readily
undertook the post. I had the constant and intimate co-operation of my
co-warden, Mr. Julius Sladden, of Badsey, and I may say that no two
people ever worked together with greater harmony.

The restoration had been debated for many years; the ancient church
was sadly dilapidated, and disfigured by an ugly gallery at the west
end of the nave, which obscured the finest arch in the building,
leading into the tower; and the incident which brought the matter
within the range of possibility was romantic. The Vicar succeeded
quite unexpectedly to a large inheritance; the news reached him and
his wife, who was away from home at the time, simultaneously. The
letters they wrote to each other on their good fortune crossed in the
post, and characteristically each wrote "Badsey Church must now be
restored." Soon afterwards the Vicar came to my house and, sitting
down at my table, wrote me a cheque for L500 to start the fund.

On the advice of the patrons of the living--the Dean and Chapter of
Christ Church, Oxford--we invited Mr. Thomas Graham Jackson, now Sir
Thomas Graham Jackson, R.A., to undertake the duties of architect. His
work was well known at Oxford at the time, as the beautiful New
Schools had just been completed from his designs; we were also most
fortunate in obtaining the services of Mr. Thomas Collins, of
Tewkesbury, as builder. Mr. Collins was devoted to church
architecture, and the financial consideration of such work was to him
quite secondary to the pleasure he experienced as a connoisseur in
restoring to the dignity and beauty of the past any ecclesiastical
building of distinguished interest. The first estimate was, I think,
L1,500, exclusive of architect's fees, but when the work was completed
we had expended in all a sum of over L2,130. We did not finally clear
off the debt until 1894, nine years after the reopening of the church,
and since then a considerable further sum has been expended in
rehanging the old bells and adding two new ones to make up the full
peal of eight.

It was delightful to experience the willingness of everybody to help;
subscriptions, large and small, came in readily at the very outset,
and this part of the work never became arduous until the last few
hundreds had to be raised. Most of us experienced the truth of the
proverb _Bis dat qui cito dat_, but in a different sense from that
which usually commends it, for many who gave quickly not only
literally gave twice, but three times or more. Bazaars, concerts, and
entertainments of all kinds were undertaken by the parishioners, a sum
of L376 being raised by these means. Among them a bazaar at Badsey
realized L130; another, later, at Aldington in one of my old barns,
L80; and two concerts--afternoon and evening--at Malvern, organized by
my wife and her sister, Miss Poulton, L100.

The Vicar received a notable letter from the late Lord Salisbury, the
Premier; they had been at Eton and Christ Church together, and Lord
Salisbury was godfather to the Vicar's eldest son. The Vicar had
written of the fortune he had inherited, and spoke of some rooks as
having brought the luck by building, for the first time, in an
elm-tree in the vicarage grounds. Lord Salisbury, in sending a
donation of L25 to the restoration fund, added: "I see a great many
rooks building near my house" (Hatfield), "but the luck has not come
to me yet." The Vicar's comment to me was: "If the luck has not yet
come to Lord Salisbury, I don't see how anyone can hope for it!"

The Malvern concert was a strenuous undertaking; Badsey being a long
way from Malvern, it was necessary to interest the inhabitants and to
some extent to plead _in forma pauperis_, for we were really a poor
parish without any large resident landowners. The first thing was to
get a good list of influential local patrons; and as soon as Lady
Emily Foley consented, the promoters felt that the work was half done.
Lady Emily Foley was supreme at Malvern, a very distinguished old lady
and most popular, but perhaps a little alarming.

On the day of the two concerts I was detailed with a troop of young
men, relatives of the patrons, to conduct the people to their seats,
and an elaborate plan of the large Assembly Room was given me, with
minute particulars of the lettered rows and numbered seats, presenting
the appearance, somewhat, of a labyrinth. I was studying it at the
doors, and arranging with the young stewards as to their individual
functions, when I heard an alarmed exclamation from one of them: "Look
out! here comes Lady Emily Foley!" In an instant the whole crowd took
to their heels and disappeared down the corridor. With some little
difficulty I succeeded in finding the seats of Lady Emily Foley's
party, but I could see that she regarded me as a rather feeble

She was, however, exceedingly gracious after my wife's first solo,
which pleased her so much that we had to make an exception in this
case, and allow an encore by her special request, though it had been
arranged, owing to the length of the programme, that no encores were
to be given. Lady Alwyne Compton, wife of the Dean of Worcester, very
kindly assisted as a performer, my wife having frequently sung at
charity concerts and entertainments for her in Worcester and the
neighbourhood, among them a recital by Mr. Brandram of _A
Midsummer-Night's Dream_, when she undertook the soprano solos
occurring in the play, at the Worcester Guildhall. Lady Alwyne Compton
was very musical, and rehearsals were held in the stone-vaulted crypt
beneath the Deanery, a place of splendid acoustic properties, which
intensified the sound without coarsening it, and brought the voice
back to the singer in a way unknown on the usual platform, decorated
with screens, curtains, and flags, and obstructed by floral

Among the performers at the Malvern concerts some professionals had
been engaged from London, including Miss Margaret Wild, a well-known
pianist. I had given my men a holiday for the occasion and was anxious
to hear their opinion of the performances. They considered the music
rather too high class for them, but they thoroughly appreciated the
nimble fingers of Miss Margaret Wild; one of them adding
enthusiastically: "My word, her did make 'im (the piano) rottle!" Our
old parish clerk too, at the time over eighty years of age, who walked
three miles to Evesham Station in the morning, ascended the
Worcestershire Beacon--nearly 1,500 feet--and finally walked back from
Evesham to Badsey at night, was much struck by the recitations of Miss
Isabel Bateman at the concert. The dear old man was somewhat deaf, and
told me that, sitting towards the back of the room, "I couldn't hear
nothing, but I could see as the gesters [gestures] was all right."

This old clerk was prominently devout in the church responses, and had
some original pronunciations of unusual words; in the Nicene Creed he
generally followed a few bars, so to speak, behind the Vicar, but one
never failed to catch the words "apost'lick church" towards the end.
He was very scornful of ghosts, and told me that he had been about the
churchyard very often at night for fifty years without seeing anything
like an apparition. But the whole village was alarmed, including the
clerk, one Sunday when, about midnight, the tenor bell was heard
solemnly tolling. The clerk, with some supporters and a lantern,
unlocked the door, and found the village idiot--silly C.--in the tower
ringing the bell. It appeared that, after service, the clerk had
extinguished the lights and locked up for the night about eight
o'clock. C., who had gone to sleep in the gallery with his head upon
his arms before him on the desk, slumbered on until he woke in alarm
some four hours later, to find himself alone and the church in total
darkness, but he was intelligent enough to remember the bell and get
his release.

C. had a hand-to-hand fight in the church tower with Aldington's
special imbecile. After service the clerk invited me to the scene of
the battle, pointing out some crimson traces on the stone pavement. I
called upon our imbecile's parents on my way home, and the old father
was greatly shocked. "Here he be, sir," he said; "I hope you'll give
him a jolly good hiding." I told him I could hardly undertake the role
of executioner on a Sunday, in cold blood, and contented myself with a
severe reprimand.

I was handing the collecting-bag one morning after service, and
finding it did not return from the end of the row of chairs as quickly
as usual, I discovered this same individual with his hand _in the
bag_. I signed to him impatiently to pass it back. After service he
came to the vestry and said that he had contributed a florin in
mistake for a penny, and was trying to retrieve it. I could generally
estimate pretty accurately the amount of the collection, as I handed
the bag, knowing the extent of each person's usual gift, and sure
enough, there was an extra florin among the coins, with which I sent
him away happy.

The parish must have been an uncivilized place in former times; there
was an accusing record beneath the west window of the tower, in the
shape of a blocked up entrance. I was told that the ringers, not
wishing to enter or leave the tower through the church door during
service, and also to facilitate the smuggling in of unlimited cider
had, after strenuous efforts, cut an opening through the ancient wall
and base some feet in thickness, and that the achievement was
announced to the village by uproarious cheering when at last they
succeeded. A door was afterwards fitted to the aperture, but the
entrance was abolished later by a more reverent Vicar.

The belfry was decorated with various bones of legs of mutton and of
joints of beef, hung up to commemorate notable weddings of prominent
parishioners--perhaps, too, as a hint to future aspirants to the state
of matrimony--when the ringers had enjoyed a substantial meal and
gallons of cider at the expense of the bridegroom. There seems to have
been a traditional connection between church bell-ringing and thirst,
for Gilbert White relates that when the bells of Selborne Church were
recast and a new one presented in 1735, "The day of the arrival of
this tuneable peal was observed as an high festival by the village,
and rendered more joyous by an order from the donor that the treble
bell should be fixed bottom upward in the ground and filled with
punch, of which all present were permitted to partake."

The Vicar of Badsey told me that at the neighbouring church of
Wickhamford, then also in his jurisdiction, that when he first came,
in the early fifties, it was customary, as the men entered the church
by the chancel door, to pitch their hats in a heap on the altar. Also
that on his home-coming with his bride, he was, the same evening,
requisitioned to put a stop to a fight between two drunken reprobates
outside the vicarage gate. Badsey people can in these modern times
point with pride to a much higher standard of civilization, and they
fully recognize that "'Eave 'alf a brick at his 'ead; Bill," is a
method of welcome to a stranger not considered precisely etiquette at
the present day.

There was no vestry before the restoration of Badsey Church; the
Vicar's surplice might be seen hanging over the side of one of the
square pews which obstructed the chancel, and when the Vicar appeared
he was followed by the clerk, who assisted at the public ceremony of
robing. Church decorations at Christmas consisted at that time of
sprigs of holly stuck upright in holes bored along the tops of the pew
partitions at regular intervals, and at the harvest thanksgiving an
historic miniature rick of corn annually made its appearance on the
altar. In those days, however, flowers, which are scarcely suitable
for a festival where the decorations should proclaim the abundance of
the matured season of growth, by corn and fruit, were not included. I
have seen too many of these, to the exclusion of corn, in modern town
churches, and even wild oats, which, though very pretty, are not
exactly typical of thanksgiving.

It is surprising how much damage may be done to valuable old woodwork
by an enthusiastic band of decorators, assisted by an indiscriminating
curate, and how inharmonious may be the general effect of individual
labours--though charming taken separately--where a comprehensive
scheme is neglected. I have counted fourteen differing reds--not tones
or shades of the same colour--including the hood of the officiating
clergyman, in one chancel at the same time, bewildering to the eye and
distracting to the mind. And I once saw a beautiful and priceless old
Elizabethan table in a vestry, covered with a mouldy piece of purple
velvet secured with tin-tacks driven into the tortured oak. There are,
or were, two lovely old Chippendale chairs with the characteristic
backs and legs inside the altar-rails of Badsey Church; they are
valuable and no doubt duly appreciated, not only for their own sake,
but because they were the gift of dear old Barnard, the clerk, who
spent fifty years of his life in the service of the church.

I once heard a curate preaching to an agricultural congregation at a
harvest thanksgiving after a disastrous season, when the earth had not
yielded much by way of increase, remarking that in such a time of
scarcity we might be thankful that plenty of foreign corn would be
available; good theology, perhaps, but scarcely expedient under the

We found Sir Thomas Graham Jackson a purist in the matter of church
restoration, and in my capacity as churchwarden and treasurer, I was
fortunate in having to confer with a man of such pre-eminent good
taste. He would not allow some new oak panels, with which we had to
supplement the old linen-pattern panels of the pulpit, to be coloured
to match the old work. "Time," he said, "will bring them all
together." Possibly the lapse of two hundred years may do so, but I
saw at once that he was right in the principle that no sham should be
tolerated in honest work, more especially in a sacred building. We
objected also to a new chimney which surmounted the junction of the
nave and choir exteriorly: it seemed to smack of domestic detail; but
here again he satisfied us by saying that, as heating the building was
a modern necessity, there was no reason to be ashamed of such an
indispensable addition. As a matter of fact, this chimney long ago
became nicely toned down by its native soot, and is practically

There is much American oak, I believe, now used in new churches and
public buildings; it appears to resemble chestnut much more than
English oak, and I doubt whether it will ever acquire the beautiful
tone which time confers upon the latter. It should, however, be
recognized that much of the depth of colour of old oak panelling is
really nothing but dirt, though the true dark brown tint of old age
can be found underneath, and right to the centre of each piece.
Spring-cleaning of the past consisted very much in polishing with
beeswax and turpentine, without removing the dirt produced by smoky
fires and constant handling, so that extraneous matter became coated
with the polish and preserved beneath it. I have had occasion, when
restoring old woodwork, to wash off this outside accretion, and when
removed, the tone of the wood remained still dark, though lighter than
before it lost its black and somewhat sticky appearance.

The fakers of sham old furniture produce the intense darkness by
stains of various kinds. I once found myself at an inn in Devonshire
which contained a quantity of "delft" and "antique oak" furniture for
sale. While the attendant was bringing me some refreshment, I tested
the genuineness of the oak by a small chip with my pocket-knife, and,
as I anticipated, found perfectly white wood under the surface, and, I
believe, American oak. The irony of the transaction is striking; here
was a piece of wood imported from the States only a few months before,
converted in this country into Elizabethan, Jacobean, and Stuart
furniture, and then, it may be, bought by American visitors and taken
back to their own country.

Some years before the church restoration could be taken in hand, a
piece of land, bordering the west side of the churchyard, and between
it and the highroad, and another similar piece on the east side of the
churchyard, were offered for sale by auction. They belonged to the old
Badsey Manor property and of course occupied important positions lying
in each case just between the churchyard and the adjoining roads. An
individual who had fallen out with the Vicar announced his intention
of purchasing these pieces and building cottages and a public-house
upon them, presumably "to spite the parson."

The Vicar at once saw the absolute necessity of acquiring the land for
the church and enclosing it with suitable walls, as an addition to the
churchyard. It would have been a terrible eyesore from the village
street if ugly brick and blue-slated buildings were erected in front
of the beautiful old grey church, and the idea of an inn in such a
place was intolerable. He consulted the patrons of the living, who
agreed to help, and simultaneously a good old aunt gave him leave to
bid up to a certain sum on her behalf as a gift to the parish.

The patrons sent a representative to the sale with an undisclosed
price, at which he was empowered to make the purchase. Absolute
secrecy was preserved, and, except the Vicar, no one knew the man or
whom he represented; he was to leave the train from Oxford at
Honeybourne Station so as not even to come through Evesham to Badsey.
The Vicar had arranged that the patrons' representative should also
bid on behalf of the aunt, but did not disclose the limit. The man was
not to bid until the Vicar himself stopped, and he was to go on
bidding until the Vicar removed a rose from his button-hole, which
would signify that the aunt's limit was reached. Whether the patrons'
representative could go any further or not, the Vicar did not know.

Before the auction the two did not meet, and they sat apart during the
proceedings. The village malcontent was in great form, making certain
of success, and was delighted when the Vicar apparently gave up
bidding as if beaten. The rose was still in his button-hole, but
before long the aunt's limit was reached, and it had to be removed; he
was however relieved to find that the patrons' representative
continued to bid. His opponent was getting very fidgety as the price
rose, hesitating for some moments every time the bidding was against
him. Just as the hammer was about to fall he would arrest it with,
"Try 'im again," but the stranger instantly capped his reluctant bid,
always leaving him to consider a further advance in great discomfort.
At last in despair but quite certain that the Vicar at any rate was
knocked out he gave up, exclaiming, "'E med 'ave it, 'e med 'ave it";
and the hammer fell. All eyes were fixed upon the unknown bidder, and
the auctioneer demanded "the name of the buyer"; very quietly came the
announcement, "The Dean and Chapter of Christ Church." Horribly
disgusted the malcontent fired a parting shot as he reached the door:
"If I'd a-knowed the pairson was a goin' to 'ave it, I'd a made 'im
pay a pretty penny more nor that."

This Vicar was a very impressive reader, especially of dramatic
stories from the Old Testament. As he read the account of the
discomfiture of the priests of Baal by the Prophet Elijah one could
visualize the scene. Elijah's dripping sacrifice blazing to the skies,
the priests of Baal, mutilated by their own knives and lancets, in
vain imploring their god to send the fire to vindicate himself. The
heavens were black, and one could hear the rush of Ahab's chariot, the
roar of the thunder and the hissing torrent of rain, and see the
prophet running swiftly before him. The Vicar, however, was not an
actor like a clergyman I was told of, who got so excited over Agag and
his delicate approach to Samuel that he could not resist an
illustration to intensify the action by taking a mincing step or two
aside from the lectern.

No village is complete without its curmudgeon or self-appointed
grumbler, just as every village has its special imbecile. The
curmudgeon originates in a class above the idiot; very often he is an
ex-churchwarden, guardian, way-warden, or other official, who has
resigned in dudgeon or been ousted from his post for some neglect or
failure. He is a man with whom the world has gone wrong, a sufferer,
perhaps, from some disaster which has become an obsession. He views
everything with distorted eyesight; nothing pleases him, and he wants
to put everybody right. He cherishes a perpetual grievance against
some individual or clique for a fancied slight, and goes about trying
to stir up ill-feeling among the ignorant by malicious insinuations.
In former times he was an adept at "parson-baiting" at the annual
Easter vestry meeting, when he would air his grievance against the
Vicar of the parish or any person in authority.

At these vestries the Vicar is wise if he declares the curmudgeon to
be "out of order," and declines to hear him, for, legally, the
business does not include any matter which does not appear upon the
notice convening the meeting, signed by the Vicar and churchwardens.
This usually announces that churchwardens will be elected and the
accounts produced; the latter, since church rates were abolished, is
not obligatory, and only subscribers have a right to question them.
The proceedings are not legal unless three _full_ days have elapsed
since the publication of the notice on a Sunday before morning
service, the following Thursday being thus the earliest day on which
the meeting can take place. It is important to remember that no
churchwarden has a legal status before he has been formally admitted
by the Archdeacon.

In former times, before the creation of Parish, District and County
Councils, the curmudgeon, after the reaction of the winter months,
became very prominent towards the time of the Easter vestry, when he
would appear, having enlisted a small band of supporters, with a
number of grievances relating to rates, parish officials, rights of
way, footpaths, and such-like debatable subjects. Of course, he should
have been promptly squashed by the chairman, but too often an
indulgent Vicar would allow him to have his fling.

Now, however, the curmudgeon can easily get himself elected upon one
of the numerous councils; having mismanaged his own affairs until he
has none left to manage, he appears to regard himself as a fit and
proper person to mismanage the business of other people, and the brief
authority which his position confers gives him a welcome opportunity
of letting off superfluous steam.

Parishioners sometimes combined and elected an unpopular person to a
troublesome post which nobody wanted. Such was the office of
way-warden, under whose jurisdiction came the management and repair of
parish roads, superintending and paying the roadmen, and keeping the
necessary records and accounts. A market-gardener, a canny Scot, who
had fallen into disfavour, had this office thrust upon him much
against his will. Once elected, the victim had no choice in the
matter, and, being a very busy man, he was thoroughly annoyed. He soon
discovered a weapon wherewith to avenge the wrong--one which his
opponents had put into his hands themselves; during his year of office
he restricted the road repairs to a lane adjoining his own land,
leading to the railway-station, which his carts traversed many times
daily. He gave it a thorough good coat of stones, and all the
available labour, as well as the cash chargeable on the rates of the
parish, was in this way expended, chiefly for his own benefit, though
the parish shared to the extent of the use they made of this
particular piece of road. Great was the outcry, but nothing could be
done till the year of office expired, and, naturally, he was never
elected again.

The purchase of the land adjoining the churchyard had a remarkable
sequel; it was conveyed to the Vicar and churchwardens for the time
being, these original churchwardens having been long out of the office
before my appointment. After the restoration of the church my
co-warden and I, with the Vicar's consent, levelled the rough places
in the neglected churchyard, sowed it with grass seeds, and planted
various ornamental shrubs; we had the untidy southern boundary
carefully dug over, and set a man to plant a yew-hedge. He was thus
employed when a parishioner appeared in some excitement, and objected
to the planting of yew on account of possible damage to sheep grazing
in the churchyard, claiming the right--which, as a matter of fact,
belonged to the Vicar alone, though never exercised--to such grazing,
jointly with the Vicar. He proceeded to pull up some of the young yews
as a protest, and threw them uprooted on the ground. The man employed
reported the matter to my co-warden, living near, who was very soon at
my house.

We decided to prosecute the offender, and obtained the Vicar's
consent, he being the legal prosecutor. The case was heard by a bench
of magistrates composed entirely of clergy and churchwarden squires,
who naturally sympathized with us, and, quite logically, convicted the
defendant in a fine, I think, of about 25s. and costs, or a term in
Worcester Gaol in default. The defendant refused to pay a farthing and
was removed in custody; but later our dear old Vicar, very generously,
came forward and paid the amount himself.

Shortly before the church restoration I had a notice to attend an
archidiaconal visitation, and duly appeared at the church at the time
arranged. The Archdeacon made a careful inspection of the fabric and
property of the church, not too well pleased with its dilapidated
appearance. Nothing much was said till we reached the
fourteenth-century font, showing signs of long use. The Archdeacon
motioned to the clerk to remove the oak cover, and the old man, with
the air of an officious waiter, lifted it with a flourish, disclosing,
inside the cracked font, a white pudding-basin, inside which, again,
reposed a species of beetle known as a "devil's coach-horse." The
Archdeacon, peering in and evidently recognizing the insect and its
popular designation, and looking much shocked, exclaimed with some
warmth: "Dear me! I should scarcely have expected to find _that_ thing
in a font!"

This story reminds me of a similar visitation depicted in _Punch_. The
Archdeacon was seen at the lych-gate of a country church in company
with a churchwarden farmer, the Vicar being unable to attend. The
contrast was well delineated--the Archdeacon tall, thin, and ascetic,
in a long black coat and archidiaconal hat; and the farmer of the John
Bull type, in ample breeches and gaiters. The churchyard presented a
magnificent crop of exuberant wheat:

_Archdeacon_. I don't like this at all; I shall really have to speak
to the Vicar about it.

_Churchwarden (thinking of the rotation of crops)_. Just what I told
un, sir--just what I told 'un. "You keeps on a-wheating of it and
a-wheating of it," I says; "why don't you tater it?" says I.

At Badsey objections were soon heard to the innovation of the
surpliced choir and improved music in the restored church; one old
villager, living close by, expressed himself as follows concerning the
entry of the Vicar and choir, in procession, from the new vestry:

"They come in with them boys all dressed up like a lot of
little parsons, and the parson behind 'em just like the old
Pope hisself. But there ain't no call for me to go to church
now, for I can set at home and hear 'em a baarlin' [noise
like a calf] and a harmenin [amening] in me own house."

On a similar occasion, in another parish where more elaborate music
had been introduced, an old coachman, given to much devotional musical
energy, told me as a sore grievance: "You know, sir, I'd used to like
singin' a bit myself, but now, as soon as I've worked myself up to a
tidy old pitch, all of a sudden _they_ leaves off, and I be left a

Among various special weekday services I remember a Confirmation when
an elderly Aldington parishioner had courageously decided to
participate in the rite. She was missing from the ceremony, and told
my wife afterwards, in answer to inquiries, that a bad headache had
prevented her from attending, adding: "But there, you can't stand agin
your 'ead!"

I was at the house of a neighbouring Vicar where the Bishop of the
diocese had been lunching shortly before, when there was a dish of
very fine oranges on the table and another of Blenheim orange apples.
The Bishop was offered a Blenheim orange by the Vicar, who remarked
that they came from his own garden. The Bishop had probably never
heard of a Blenheim orange, and the latter word directed his attention
to the dish of oranges. He examined them with great surprise, and
exclaimed: "Dear me! I had no idea that oranges would come to such
perfection out of doors in this climate."

A capital story was told by a Bishop of Worcester, in connection with
the efforts of the Church in that part of the country to alleviate the
lot of the hop-pickers, who flock into Worcestershire in September by
the thousand. One of the mission workers, who had gone down to the
hopyards, met a dilapidated individual in a country lane, who said he
was "a picker." Pressed for further particulars, the man responded:

"In the summer I picks peas and fruit; when autumn comes I
picks hops; in the winter I picks pockets; and when I'm
caught I picks oakum. I'm kept nice and warm during the cold
months, and when the fine days come round once more I starts
pea-picking again."

My second Vicar was a scholar, an excellent preacher of very condensed
sermons; he conducted the services with great dignity, but his manner
to the villagers was a little alarming. He found the old clerk
somewhat officious, I think. One evening, after service, when some
strangers from Evesham attended--for Badsey was a pleasant walk on a
summer evening--the clerk announced to the Vicar, with great
jubilation, that "the gentleman with the party from Evesham expressed
himself as very well satisfied with the service." No doubt the clerk
had received a practical proof of the satisfaction. The clerk
imagined, I believe, that he was as much responsible for the conduct
of the services as the Vicar, and thought the latter would be equally
pleased with the stranger's commendation. He was disappointed, I fear,
for the Vicar did not seem in the least impressed, showing, too, some
annoyance at what doubtless appeared to him great presumption.

At the time of the Boer War, followed by the Boxers' revolt in China
and the Siege of Peking, when telegrams were exhibited in the
post-office every Sunday morning, I saw one day, on my way to church,
that Peking had been relieved. The Vicar--my third--preached on the
subject of the terrors of the siege--his sermon having been written on
the previous day--and drew a harrowing picture of the fate of the
defenders. After service I asked if he had not seen the telegram, and
told him the good news. "Good gracious!" said he; "I _am_ glad I
didn't know that before the service; what _should_ I have done about
my sermon?" I was a little surprised that the delivery of a sermon
which was no longer to the point should appear more important than the
announcement of the happy event; but perhaps the position would have
been somewhat undignified had he been obliged to explain, and dismiss
the congregation with apologies.

An elderly Vicar, in a parish in the adjoining county,
Gloucestershire, found the morning service with a sermon very
fatiguing, and the patron, the Squire, suggested that the
ante-Communion service would be less tiring in place of the latter. He
was not a very interesting preacher, and the Squire was quite as well
pleased as the Vicar when he agreed. There was never a sermon at the
morning service thereafter.

Other denominations besides the Church, of course, existed in the
parish and neighbourhood; we did not hear much about them, but the
following story was related as occurring in a neighbouring village. To
see the point it is necessary to introduce the actors; they consisted
of Daniel S. and Jim H., rival hedgers in the art of "pleaching," of
which Joseph Arch was such a notable exponent. Daniel had lately been
employed upon a job of this kind for a farmer, Mr. (locally Master) R.
The scene was the room that did duty for a chapel in the village.

Daniel S. advanced to the reading-desk, and, turning over the leaves
of the Bible to find the Book of Daniel, announced sententiously:
"Let's see what Dannel done in his dai (day)." Up jumped Jim H. at the
back of the room: "Oh, I can tell tha (thee) what Dannel done in his
dai--cut a yedge (hedge) for Master R., and took whome all the best of
the 'ood (wood)!"

A story was current too--nearer home this time--of a grand fete given
to the children. They marched in procession from one village to
another, in which the tea was to take place, under the leadership of
an ancient parishioner. Of this person it was said that he had
violated every article of the Decalogue, and that had the number been
twenty instead of ten he would have treated them with equal
indifference! As the children entered the second village with beaming
faces and banners waving, as he gave the word of command, they sang in
sweet trebles and in perfect innocence, "See the mighty host
advancing, Satan leading on!"



"Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much;
Wisdom is humble that he knows no more."

When I came to Aldington I found that by the energy of the Vicar an
elementary school had been built and equipped, and was working well
under the voluntary system. I accepted the post of treasurer at his
invitation, but as time went on financial difficulties arose, as the
Education Department increased their requirements. The large farmers
were being gradually ruined by foreign competition, and the small
market-gardeners, in occupation of the land as it fell vacant, could
not be induced to subscribe, although their own children were the sole
beneficiaries. A voluntary rate was suggested, but met with no general
response, one old parishioner announcing that she didn't intend "to
pay no voluntary rate until she was obliged"!

Matters were getting desperate when Vicar No. 2 arrived, and it soon
became evident that the voluntary system had completely broken down. A
School Board was the only alternative, and, as all the old managers
refused to become members and no one else would undertake the
responsibility, a deadlock ensued. We were threatened by the Education
Department that, failing a Board of parishioners, they would appoint
for the post any outsiders, non-ratepayers, who could be induced to
volunteer. The prospect was not a pleasant one, and on the invitation
of a deputation of working men, I agreed to stand (chiefly, perhaps,
in my own interests, as the largest ratepayer in the parish, with the
exception of the Great Western Railway Company), and others eventually
came forward.

The Board was constituted, and we were rather a three-cornered lot: my
co-warden; a boot and shoemaker in Evesham, with land in Badsey; a
carpenter and small builder; three small market-gardeners and myself.
I was elected chairman, and we obtained the services of an excellent
clerk, who held the same office for the Evesham Board of Guardians--a
capable man, and well up in the forms and idiosyncrasies of the Board
of Education. Our designation was "the United District School Board of
Badsey, Aldington, and Wickhamford." It was not easy to discover the
qualifications of all the members from an educational point of view;
some at least represented the village malcontent section, now getting
rather nervous as to School Board rates. And there was a talkative
section who illustrated the truth of the old proverb, "It is not the
loudest cackling hen that lays the biggest egg," and of, perhaps, the
still more expressive, "It's the worst wheel of the waggon that makes
the most noise." One, at any rate, was definitely qualified--"He
knowed summat about draining!" The majority were conspicuous as
economists in the matter of probable school expenditure, and it
appeared later that two, if not three, of the members were unable to
write their own names, so that sometimes we could not get the
necessary number of signatures to the cheques, when some of the more
efficient members happened to be absent.

Early in our existence as a United Board, one of the economists made a
little speech in which he propounded the theory that "our first duty
is to the ratepayers"; but I could not help suggesting that, as a
legally appointed body, we were bound to obey the law beyond all other
considerations, and corrected his dictum, with all respect, by
substituting that "our first duty is to the children." I must do him
the justice to say that he accepted my suggestion in a complimentary

It soon became evident that it is not always desirable to belong to a
parish grouped with others under a United District School Board.
Aldington possessed the largest rateable value with the lowest
population, which was about equal to Wickhamford with the lowest
rateable value; and Badsey, with by far the largest population, came
between Aldington and Wickhamford as to rateable value--the obvious
result being that Aldington was called upon to pay an excessive and
unfair share of the cost of educating Badsey's children. We did not,
however, want a school in our quiet village; it is something to get
rid of children when inclined to be noisy, so we did not grumble at a
little extra expense.

We carried on the school at first in the old building, but very soon
the Department began to press for a larger and better-equipped
establishment. Many of their requirements we considered unnecessary in
a country village, and put off the evil day as long as possible, with
such phrases as, "The matter is under consideration," or, "Will
shortly be brought to the notice of the Board." Like "retribution,"
however, the Education Department, "though leaden-footed, comes
iron-handed," and when all other methods failed they always put
forward as a final inducement to comply with their demands the threat
of withholding the Government grant; so that, in spite of the
shoemaker's encomium, that "Our chairman has plenty of
com_bat_iveness," we had eventually to give way.

At the outset it was decided to admit the Press; our meetings were
generally expected to afford some spicy copy for readers of the local
papers, but I am pleased to think that both reporters and readers were
disappointed. Some of our neighbours had given us specially lively
specimens of the personalities indulged in at the meetings of their
local bodies, Boards of Guardians, and Councils--notably, at that
time, those of Winchcombe and Stow-on-the-Wold, where these
exhibitions appeared to form a favourite diversion. It is a mistake
for such a Board as ours to admit reporters; the noisy members are apt
to monopolize the speaking, to the exclusion of the more useful and
more thoughtful; the former play to the gallery to the extent of
visibly addressing themselves to the reporters instead of to the
chairman, as is proper.

The first point we had to consider was the acquisition of a suitable
site for the new buildings, the old site not affording space to
enlarge the premises or for the addition of a master's house. We were
lucky to get the offer of an excellent position, allowing not only
space for all the buildings in contemplation, but ample room for
future enlargements, which it was evident would be needed before many
more years. I was requested, with another member, to interview the
vendor's solicitors, and we were empowered to make the best bargain we
could arrange for the site.

We concluded the purchase, and congratulated ourselves upon the
acquisition of a central and in every way desirable site, with a long
road frontage, for the very moderate sum of, I think, L90. On
reporting to the Board at our next meeting, the sum appeared large to
some of the more simple members, and they were inclined to be
dissatisfied, until I told them that I was prepared to appropriate the
bargain myself, and they could find another for the school. This
settled the matter, and, I suppose, at the present time the site would
fetch two or three times what it cost us.

Plans and specifications were now necessary, and from inquiries I had
made I was able to suggest an architect with much experience in school
buildings. He appeared before the Board later, and was subjected to
many questions from the members, of which I only remember one that
appealed to me as original: "Do you pose before this Board as an
economical architect?" We soon had the work in train, but, of course,
before any active steps were taken, all our proposals were submitted
to, and approved by the Education Department.

The question of religious instruction became urgent, and I was pleased
and surprised at carrying a unanimous resolution through the
Board--although it included some Nonconformists--that the Vicar (No.
2), who had declined to be nominated as a candidate for election,
should be invited to undertake the religious instruction of the
school. The Vicar consented, and the arrangement worked smoothly for
some years. One day, later, a member rose, and inquired if the
children were receiving religious instruction. "Yes," I said. "Are the
children taught science?" "Yes," again. "Well," said he, "how do you
reconcile the fact, when religion and science are not in agreement?"
Fortunately, I had been lately taking a course of Darwin, and I was
able to refer him to the concluding lines of the _Origin of Species_.
We debated the matter with some energy, but having made his protest,
the member was satisfied to let the matter drop.

All went well thereafter until we were settled in the new building,
and Vicar No. 3 was in possession of the living. He was young and
inexperienced in the conduct of a parish, and was imbued with ideas of
what he considered a more ornate and elaborate form of worship.
Innovations followed--lighted candles over the altar and the
appointment of a Server at the Communion Service. Almost immediately I
heard objections from the villagers; they could not understand the
necessity for a couple of dim candles in a church on a summer day,
when the whole world outside was ablaze with the glory of the sun.

A member arose at a Board meeting, and began: "Mr. Chairman, I wish to
draw the attention of the Board to the question of religious
instruction in the school, for I reckon that our children are being
taught a lot of Popery." I could see that he had been in consultation
with other members of the Board, and that he had a majority behind
him. I tried hard to smooth matters over, but they had made up their
minds, and he carried his resolution that, in future, the new Vicar
should be authorized to enter the school for the purpose of religious
instruction only one day a week! I think this small indulgence was
accorded only as a result of my efforts in his favour, though I was by
no means pleased with the innovations myself.

I put the matter before the Vicar, asking him if he thought his
novelties were worth while in the face of the opposition of the
village and the loss of his religious influence with the children. He


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