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AGRICULTURAL LABOUR

Cwrtnewydd, about 1900

exhibition number: Agriculture 31

On most farms in the early 19th century the farmer was known to the workers as uncle but later in the century as mister: he would supervise the men. The farmers wife was known as aunt, then mistress: she would supervise the women.

sheep 1

The men would be involved in growing crops, looking after the horses, repairing fences, clearing ditches and assisting on neighbouring farms. The women would look after the poultry, pigs and cattle, work in the dairy, gather eggs, prepare meals and help with the harvest.

After the Second World War, when men no longer had horses to look after, they began to do some dairy work, including milking.

The Gentry (y Gwyr Byddigion / y Gwyr Mawr) owned much of the land in Ceredigion. They normally employed enough staff to run the home farm and leased out the rest of the estate to farmers for various terms of years which became shorter during the 19th and 20th century.

There were a number of minor gentry that held small estates

Farmers often held or rented a few hundred acres. They employed the following on various terms during the late 19th and early 20th centuries:

Farm servants. Young, unmarried men who slept in the outbuildings. They were joined then replaced by the farmer's sons as soon as they were old enough to work hard. They were responsible for horses and did much of the agricultural work on the farm. They were appointed at the November fairs (until the very late 19th century) for a year and were paid when they needed money, which was rarely, and at the end of the year when they would buy a new pair of boots and trousers, or pay their debts to the cobbler and tailor. After seven years on the same farm, a servant was given a heifer - a practice that continued until the 1940s.

Farm Labourers. Married men, often former servants. They carried out basic farming activities such as fencing and ditching. They were employed by the day or week.

The 'people of the little houses' or cottagers (pobol tai bach). The men from cottages provided essential labour at harvest time (dyled gwaith, dyled cynhaeaf or duty tatw) in exchange for the right to grow potatoes on the farmer's field, which the farmer manured (tatw mesure). In Mid Cardiganshire, if the cottager provided his own manure (from pigs and peat ash), he owed no debt to the farmer (tatw dom). If the cottager could not pay his debt, he would send another member of the family. In Llanybydder, a Winchester bushel of seed potatoes from the farmer was exchanged for four days work at harvest time. Another benefit for those in the potato setting groups (medel) was a New Year's Day dinner (up to 1870) or a trip to the seaside between the hay and corn harvests. The cottager could also borrow the farmer's cart, take water from the farm well, fish in the farm river and have the farm bull serve his cows in exchange for labour. Many of these arrangements only applied to the corn growing farms, particularly those of south Cardiganshire and they came to an end with the coming of the reaper-binder.

The cottagers' wives. These provided labour, normally for payment in kind such as butter (menyn dyled), curds and whey, oatmeal, straw, swedes, some meat at Christmas time, twigs that the farmer left for fire wood and some wild fruits and berries. At harvest time, the cottagers' wives and children were fed by the farmer and were given food to take home (swper adre) which might have been flour, bread or cheese. These payments in kind were linked to the potato-setting groups (medel) and were known as charity (cardod).

Children. The farmer's children would help on the farm in various ways until they were about 14 or 15 when they would start to help with reaping at harvest time and ploughing.

Jenkins, David, (1971), The Agricultural Community in South-West Wales, 46, 77,

Jenkins, David, (1998), 'Land and Community around the close of the nineteenth century' in Cardiganshire County History, III, 94-112

Howell, D.W., (1969), Welsh Agriculture, 1815-1914, Ph D Thesis, University of London.

Howell, D.W., (1973), The Agricultural Labourer in Nineteenth Century Wales. Welsh History Review, 6, 3.

Howell, D.W., (1977), Rural Society in 19th century Carmarthen, Carmarthenshire Antiquary, XIII.

HowellS, B., (1974-5), Social and Agrarian Change in Early Modern Cardiganshire, Ceredigion, vii, nos 3-4,

Lewis, W.J., (1963), Labour in Mid Cardiganshire in the Early 19th Century, Ceredigion, iv, no. 4, pp. 321-335

Williams, L.J., and Jones, D., (1982), The Wages of Agricultural Labourers in the 19th Century, the Evidence from Glamorgan, B.B.C.S., 29,

Williams,-Davies, J., (1977), Merched-Gerddi, A Seasonal Migration of Female Labour from Rural Cardiganshire, Folk Life, 15,

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