The Smithson Farms
Documents – wills and inventories, records of sales, estate surveys and maps – provide us with insights into the lives led by the farmers among the Smithsons from Weardley in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The Smithsons held farmland at Weardley for over three centuries, but for much of that period we know little about the location and extent of that land. More is known of the farms later established by Smithsons at East Rigton and Alwoodley. Smithsons farmed at East Rigton from around 1700 to about 1830 and at Alwoodley for much of the 18th century. The last prominent farmer at Weardley was Thomas Smithson who died in 1846.
THE LOST FARMS OF WEARDLEY
It is ironic that some of the biggest gaps in our knowledge of Smithson farms relates to farms in the area where the Smithsons farmed the longest – at Weardley.
When William Smithson, yeoman of Weardley, made his will on 15 November 1597, he bequeathed his ‘interest and title’ to his farmhold in ‘Wardley’ to his sons, Michael and Richard Smithson. Little is known of this farm, apart from the fact that William cropped and ran cattle and sheep.1 Also unclear is the nature of William’s title to his farm. If freehold, William owned the land outright and could bequeath it to whoever he chose. If his title was copyhold, William was a tenant of the lord of the manor who owned the land, subject to custom existing between the lord and tenants on the manor. In such a case, William could bequeath the farm to his sons, but the transfer had to go through the lord of the manor who had it recorded on the manorial court roll with a copy held by the tenant – hence the term, copyhold.
The nature of the Smithsons’ title becomes clearer by 1636, when William’s grandson, also Richard, was listed as a tenant-at-will in a ‘General Survey’ of the Wentworth estate on the manor of Harewood.2 There was no indication of freeholding. Indeed, this seems to have been the case in 1602, when William’s son, Richard, identified himself as a ‘husbandman’ in the marriage contract of his daughter, Ann.3 This stands in contrast to his father’s claim to yeoman status. The definition of yeoman (‘for the most part farmers to gentlemen’) and husbandman (a small farmer who did not undertake wage labour) as social classes was rather loose,4 but yeoman did suggest freeholder status in the Harewood area. For example, Richard Smithson of Alwoodley who leased, but not owned, Alwoodley Hall and 160 acres around the turn of the 17th century was regarded as a husbandman, not a yeoman. It is unclear whether there had been a change in the family’s holdings after 1597 or if William, probably relying on his brother John’s standing, had exaggerated his status in 1597.
If the status of Richard Senior and Junior had slipped, they were certainly in a social class above the majority of other residents in Weardley, termed ‘cottagers’. Richard junior was one of thirteen farmers identified on the bill of sale of the Manor of Harewood as living at Weardley when the manor was sold by the Earl of Strafford in 1649.5 In terms of rent paid in 1636, of the twenty-three copyhold tenants and four tenants-at-will identified at Weardley, Richard Smithson paid £9 per annum for his messauge [dwelling house with surrounding land, outbuildings, orchard and garden] and land, the fifth highest rent taken – ten other tenants paid less than a pound. Cottagers in this period were farm labourers with a little land. Later, as common land was enclosed, they became more dependent on wages paid by farmers.6 Smithsons at Weardley would fall into this class during the late 19th century.
Both William Smithson’s probable brothers, John and Marmaduke, claimed yeoman status. In John Smithson’s case, the claim was undeniable. John Smithson was the major landholder of the family and a good deal of research is still needed to fully understand his dealings. Many of John’s landholdings were located in a tight area around Burden Head. His farm there seems to have spilled over into neighbouring Eccup in the parish of Adel, which would account for him being identified on one occasion as ‘de Ecopp’.7 In 1586, he purchased the ‘Manor of Brerehaugh [Brerehaugh or Breary near Harewood] and five messuages with lands there and in Arthyngton [Arthington] and Adle [Adel]’ in partnership with Edward and Richard Midgeley.8 In 1598, some land in this area – ‘a messuage and a cottage with lands in Breareshawghe [Breary], Ardington and Addle’, partly owned by Thomas and Mary Kent, was sold to Michael Wentworth.9 It was a transaction possibly connected with the marriage of an unnamed sister of John’s to George Kent. Also linked to the affairs of another sister, Margaret Smithson who married Richard Dighton, was the sale of a messuage, garden and orchard in Micklegate, York, in 1589.10 John also purchased, in partnership, ‘the woods called Whitwood or Wetewood and Ledeswroye or Ledeswraye with all buildings etc., in the towns, fields and parishes of Kirkstall, Adel and Leeds’.11 It would appear from John’s 1602 will that a substantial amount of John’s farmland was rented out.12
Marmaduke Smithson, unlike John or William Smithson, appears not to have ventured forth from Weardley to make his fortune. He remained close to Burden Head and seems to have been the most active farmer of the three brothers. Yet, little is known about the extent of his holdings. What land has been linked to him may have largely been inherited from his brother John and his yeoman status may also have reflected that of his brother’s. According to John’s 1602 will, Marmaduke and his son, Francis, would inherit John’s land after the death of his wife, Alice. In his will, John was careful to ensure that Alice was clear of financial connections with his brother and nephew and, for reasons unknown, to delay any transfer of land to them for six years after Alice’s death. Alice, however, appears to have cut Marmaduke and Francis loose by 1607. In that year, Marmaduke and Francis sold ‘a messuage and lands in Addle, Ecop, Arthington and Weardley’ to Cyril Arthington and Francis Midgley and Grace his wife.13 The first three portions of land were in localities known to be associated with John and the last may have included Marmaduke’s own land probably on the Weardley side of Burden Head. As noted in Smithson Story: The Earliest Smithsons, this transaction marked the departure of Marmaduke and Francis from the Weardley scene. Alice also departed, marrying John Wood of Wetherby, a gentleman, at Bardsey in 1608.
It would be reasonable to assume that William Smithson’s farmhouse stood in the village of Weardley, nominated as his residence in his will. But this may not have been the case. William’s probable brothers, John and Marmaduke Smithson, although associated with Weardley, appear to have resided at nearby Burden Head. In the Skyrack Muster of 1539, their probable father Thomas Smithson was listed among those forming the household of Sir William Gascoigne of Gawthorp the elder and not on the Weardley village list. On the other hand, this may have been an indication of Thomas’ rank rather than geography and later, on the Lay Subsidy Roll of 1545, Thomas was listed with the rest of the inhabitants of Weardley. Counting against the proposition that the 17th century Smithsons lived outside the Weardley village is the fact that very few farmhouses are shown lying outside the village on the map of the Harewood Estate, produced in 1698 when it was held by John Boulton.14 Yet, it was in just such a house – ‘on Weardley Moorside, not far from Rawdon Hill’- that Peter Smithson (1718-1800) lived in the 18th century.15 Of course, Peter did not occupy the old Smithson farm at Weardley – it was held by his nephew, Thomas Smithson (1759-1846), whose residence was located within the village when the census was taken in 1841. Even so, Thomas was nearing his life’s end in 1841 and one must consider the possibility that he had lately relocated from his farmhouse, which lay elsewhere.
Much of what is known about the Thomas’ farm dates from a 1796 survey compiled when his land was incorporated into the Lascelles’ Harewood Estate, although it did not pinpoint his farmhouse’s location.16 There is little reason to doubt that the farmhouse described was the same farmhouse occupied by Thomas’ great uncle Peter Smithson (1666/67-1728/29) and, indeed, by Peter Smithson’s father (Peter, 1630-1718). Peter’s farm was inherited by his brother, William Smithson of East Rigton, and signed over to his eldest son, Richard Smithson, Thomas’ father, in around 1737. The farmhouse was renovated in 175017 and the farm was finally bequeathed to Thomas in 1791.
Just as uncertain are the precise locations of the fields farmed by Smithsons over the centuries. In the case of Richard Smithson in 1636, documents only provide the rental value of Smithson lands. We do, however, know the names and area of fields farmed by Thomas in 1796 and Thomas’ great uncle Peter in around 1723.18 What is surprising is that, with the possible exception of one small field, neither the names nor the acreage of these two sets of fields match.
One could conclude from this that Peter and Thomas were occupying different farms. Yet, a simple comparison of two field lists could be misleading. The names of fields may have changed in the 73 years between surveys, their boundaries adjusted or their areas reassessed. Although some fields seem to have maintained their names from the time the Harewood manor was mapped in 1698, that comprehensive map did not name the great majority of fields. Only two of nine fields held by Peter (both those held in partnership) and two of eight fields held by Thomas can be located with any certainty on the 1698 map. In fact, it was stated in one survey conducted at the time the Lascelles family purchased the Harewood Estate in 1738 that even the boundaries of Weardley were not adequately marked on the ‘Great Survey’ of 1698.19 Weardley estate maps compiled in the 18th and early 19th centuries that could cast light on Smithson occupation of fields have not been located to date, if they exist.
What we may conclude from the available evidence is that the fields comprising the Smithson farm at Weardley were not consolidated into a compact unit. Instead, they were scattered across the Weardley section of the estate and managed from the Smithson farmhouse located in Weardley village. It is probable that fields were leased and surrendered, not only from generation to generation, but sometimes from year to year. It may even be that the only enduring component of the Smithson farm at Weardley throughout its history was the farmhouse and its yard or croft.
Rental records provide evidence of this fluidity between 1723 and 1812. In around 1723, Peter Smithson held 19 acres, 2 roods and 22 perches (around 8 hectares) on his own with a share in a 79-acre (32 hectare) block and a share in another 22-acre (9 hectare) block, both held in partnership with three other farmers. Peter’s own land was valued (presumably for rental purposes) at £16/8s/6d.20 In 1735, William Smithson of East Rigton, now in possession of Peter’s land, was paying a comparable £14/10/0 a year in rent. This suggests that Peter’s farm had been transferred almost intact, perhaps with the loss of a little land or with a renegotiated rent. Further changes took place in in 1737. Rental returns for the estate show a Smithson in partnership with a Nicholson paying £20 in rent. This, together with further changes to the acreage leased, may have contributed to the increased rent of £25/1/0 paid in 1738 by William’s son Richard, now in possession of the farm. The rent paid on the farm (and presumably its acreage) fell to £20/3/0 in 1739 before increasing to £22/5/0 in 1740, the yearly rent maintained until 1770.21 By 1796, Richard’s son Thomas Smithson held 37½ acres and paid £37/5/3 in rent. By December 1812, Thomas had benefitted from land made available through enclosure and increased his acreage to just over 69 acres on which he paid an annual rent of £100. Yet, in another document produced around the same time, Thomas’ acreage had dropped to about 67½ acres with a rent of £118 11s. Apart from the additional acreage leased, these rent increases probably also reflected the increasing value of farmland in this period and a new rental regime instituted by the Lascelles after 1796.22
There is one tantalising lead for researchers to follow that emerges from the lists of fields held by both Peter and Thomas Smithson. Thomas Smithson held two fields named Low Close in 1796. Low Close appears to be located at Burden Head, with one field bounded on the south by Stubhouse Beck – beck is Yorkshire dialect for stream. Adjoining Low Close was a freehold property, ‘Mr Sam Midgley’s Land’, perhaps a member of the family who had purchased Marmaduke Smithson’s Adel and Weardley properties in 1607.23 Peter Smithson held two fields: Upper and Lower Beck Closes, and a pain (manorial order) was laid in April 1722 that Peter Smithson, ‘do cut the wood out of the Becke … and take away the Roots’ adjoining his ground.24 That these records refer to Stubhouse Beck is given some credence by Peter’s relationship to Roundell Smithson of Stubhouse – Stubhouse was an old manor and settlement that was in sharp decline during the 18th century. Roundell was no relation, being a member of the Arthington Smithson family, but he was called upon to help compile an inventory of Peter’s assets after his death in 1728/9. Was this because he was a neighbour, as well as an important and respectable community member? Then there is the matter of Thomas Smithson being identified as ‘of Eccup’ in the Harewood parish register on the occasion of his burial in 1846. Did Thomas die in the neighbouring village of Eccup in the parish of Adel or was this a reference to Thomas’ association with land that bordered the parish boundary at Burden Head and Eccup? All these snippets of information lead one to suspect that Burden Head had been a focus of farming activity for the Smithsons of Weardley from the days of John Smithson in the 16th century, if not earlier.
Beyond these mysteries, there is still a lot that is known about Smithson farms and farm life at Weardley. Even more is known about Smithson farms at Alwoodley and at East Rigton in the parish of Bardsey.
RICHARD SMITHSON OF ALWOODLEY
Richard Smithson of Alwoodley was the earliest well-documented Smithson from Weardley to take up a farm beyond the Weardley area. It is unclear how Richard was related to the Smithsons of Weardley, but he was most probably an unrecorded child of Richard and Ann Smithson. It was his probable brother, Peter Smithson, who witnessed his will in 1704 and Peter and his son, also Peter, compiled the inventory of his estate, along with Robert Marshall and Samuel Midgley. Midgley was an important Alwoodley tenant who, with his wife, were also witnesses to Richard’s will. If Richard did not belong to Richard and Ann of Weardley’s family, it would have been the only Weardley family in six generations without a child named Richard.
While William Smithson, yeoman of Weardley, assumed the right to pass his farm on as he desired in his 1597 will, this was not exactly the case when Richard Smithson of Alwoodley (bur. 1704/5) made his will. As has been noted above, Richard identified himself as a husbandman, despite having the means to lease the substantial property of Alwoodley Hall and its adjoining 160 acres on the manor of Alwoodley. Richard bequeathed ‘the goodwill of my farme’ equally between his wife, Dorothy (bur.1736/7), and his eldest son, Richard (1683/4-1729).25 Some wills of the period are more informative concerning the relationship between lessor and lessee when using this terminology. In the 1730 will and administration of Thomas Lancaster of Micklethwaite, parish of Bingley, for example, Thomas bequeathed ‘to John Booth the goodwill of my farm provided Mr Buffiele will “Except [accept] of him”’.26
Some idea of Richard Smithson’s residence, Alwoodley Hall, can be gleaned from a plan of Alwoodley Manor drawn by Joseph Parker in 1682 27 and from the inventory of Richard’s estate compiled after his death. Parker’s plan shows the late-medieval timber-framed hall, leased by Richard. Standing alongside this building was a new stone hall constructed by Sir Gervase Clifton in 1640. Alwoodley Hall may have been built on a grander scale than farmhouses surrounding it – having two chimneys rather than one – but it appears to have been constructed on the same design principle as the others, with living quarters and farm facilities located under the same roof. John Jones reports one recollection of the Hall: ‘The rooms in it were very large and wainscotted to the ceiling’.28 Although the 1704 inventory refers to upper and lower barns and a ‘waine’ (wagon) house, no such separate buildings are shown on the Parker plan. The dual function of the Hall may account for what would seem to be two doorways to the Hall shown on Parker’s plan: one for people and the other servicing the farm. In contrast, only one such ‘doorway’ is shown on the new stone hall, suggesting that the new Clifton hall did not provide room for farming activities.
The inventory of Richard’s estate provides almost a guided tour through Alwoodley Hall and allows us some insight into Richard’s life and status. The assessors began the inventory in Richard’s kitchen which contained equipment that would allow the preparation of a substantial meal over a good size cooking fire: four spits, two pair of racks, two dripping pans, five pans, three pots, a frying pan and a warming pan. Food could be served to more people than just Richard’s family: the kitchen contained fifteen pewter plates, fifteen plates, two flasks and candlesticks to illuminate the diners. Surprisingly, there were only three pewter tankards, although the sixteen tins that were noted may have served as drinking vessels. An amount of beef and bacon was noted, but no other foodstuffs. There were activities other than cooking associated with the kitchen: a smoothing iron for pressing clothes and a book that suggests the kitchen served as a place for relaxation or instruction.
The presence of a little table, six chairs and six stools in the kitchen would allow for family meals to be served in that room, but not for more extensive dining. Larger meals could be served in the hall which contained a table. Nevertheless, if fifteen guests were to be seated, fifteen chairs needed to be brought in from two other rooms – the parlour and great chamber. Two guns (‘fire wheels’), a fowling piece and four bottles gave the hall a sporting touch. All in all, one gets the impression that Richard could provide good dining for country folk.
When the assessors turned their attentions to the parlour, the great chamber and the little chamber, it is interesting that they used both the terms ‘parlour’ and ‘chamber’ on the inventory. All three rooms contained beds. Chamber was the older term for such rooms, rather than parlours. The parlour (Old French parleor or parler meaning ‘to speak’) was originally a late medieval innovation – a room set-aside for private receptions. Having a parlour set a household socially above the majority of people who lived in houses of only one or two rooms. By the 16th century, parlours had evolved into separate sleeping areas. However, during the 16th century, the parlour began to revert to its medieval social function and evolve into the more modern ‘sitting room’.29 It would appear that the parlour in Arthington Hall was the bedroom with the highest status. It contained only one bed with hangings, while the other chambers generally contained beds without hangings. Both the parlour and the great chamber acted as social rooms: one table and 2 ‘formes’ (long seats without backs) were located in the parlour, while the great chamber held two tables and six chairs. One wonders if the great chamber served as a storage area for chairs and tables that may have been used on occasion in the hall. Certainly, the great chamber was used as storage and held a chest and linen press. The great chamber was second in status to the parlour and contained a single bed, although two bunks were also located there. There is no doubt that most of the family occupied the little chamber. It contained four beds – two with hangings to provide privacy.
What seems to have been an important room for the household was the ‘Boutling’ or Bolting House, a room where meal and flour were prepared and bread baked. It would appear that the bolting house was located close to the kitchen as it was assessed immediately following that room. The equipment noted in the bolting house seems excessive for the production of bread solely for the Smithson household: five ‘Rainges’ or kitchen grates, two ‘arkes’ (cabinets used to store flour and meal), a ‘Cuver’ (probably a fire cover, a bell-shaped metal device designed to keep embers alight overnight), a kneading trough, two hogsheads and four tubs. One wonders if the Smithsons were supplying surrounding households with baked bread. It is clear that Richard employed at least one servant – the bolting house also contained one bed with bedding.
After valuing the residential portion of Alwoodley Hall, the assessors moved to areas devoted to farm activities. Wheat and ‘masleion’ (mastlin or meslin) was stored in a chamber and in the ‘over barn’. ‘Masleion’ was the milled product of hard-corn, a mixed crop of wheat and rye. Richard had recently sown a crop of hard corn that was estimated to take ‘seaven days worke’ to harvest. ‘Masleion’ was used to produce a style of bread popular in Northern England.30 Two other products were noted in the chamber as well as in the over and ‘Lowe Barn’: oats and (dried) peas. It is likely that the oats and peas in the chamber were to be used for human consumption.
That the barn portions of the house (assuming that all were under the same roof) were termed ‘over’ and ‘low’ suggests that Alwoodley Hall was a double storied building. The low barn and the ‘waine’ house, the last rooms the assessors visited, appeared to be on the ground floor of the farm section of the Hall. Unlike the over barn, which held only grains and dried peas, hay was stored in the low barn with some peas and oats suggesting the contents were to be used as stock feed.
Richard’s transport and farm equipment were stored in the waine house: four carts, one sled, saddles, two ploughs, ‘severall yoakes’, ‘five teames with horse geare’, two pairs of ox harrows and four horse harrows with bolts, ladders and Standherks (standing hooks, presumably scythes). The contents of the waine house indicate the importance of cropping on Richard’s farm. At the time of his death, his fields held twenty day’s work of peas and oats, in addition to the previously mentioned hard corn crop. Cropping requires fertilizer and the assessors did not neglect to place a value of two pounds on the manure held in Richard’s fold.
Cropping was conducted by ox power, possibly in combination with horse power. Richard possessed four oxen, four old geldings and mares and five young horses, some of which could be expected to be saddle horses and some draught animals. Apart from crops, Richard ran a range of animals on the farm that the assessors were careful to grade for valuation: ten kine (cows), five steers, three heifers, six calves, 82 sheep and two pigs.
Richard Smithson’s assets were assessed at 340 pounds and 9 shillings, of which 29 pounds and 18 shillings were debts owed to him. Most of his ‘personall Estate, Goods and Chattells’ were left to Dorothy and his eldest son Richard. However, Richard bequeathed a total of £140 to his other children, with his sons’ portions to be spent putting them to trades. Unfortunately, things did not turn out as Richard had planned. Richard junior decided or was forced to give up Alwoodley Hall sometime after 1711 and he died in 1729 without male heirs. His brother, Thomas Smithson (1685/6-1759), became the farmer in Alwoodley in his place. He was followed by his son, William, regarded as one of the principal inhabitants of the parish of Harewood.31 William died in 1802 and was the last Smithson known to farm at Alwoodley.
PETER SMITHSON AND HIS WEARDLEY FARM
Richard Smithson’s farm at Alwoodley Hall definitely outshone that of his nephew Peter Smithson’s at Weardley. Peter was born in 1666/7, the son of Peter Smithson (1630-1718) of Weardley, and it is presumed that Peter inherited his farm intact from his father.
Details of Peter Smithson’s farm were recorded in a survey completed around 1723, probably in consequence of John Boulter’s sale of a Weardley section of his Harewood Estate to Charles, Earl of Orrery, and George, Lord Willoughby de Broke. As has already been noted, Peter held around 8 hectares on his own with a share in another 41 hectares held in partnership with two groups of three other farmers. The land held by Peter in his own right had an improved value of £16/8/6, the fifth highest of the 27 farms at Weardley (not counting the two portions held by Peter and others in partnership). Of these 27 farms, however, 16 were valued at less than ten pounds. Peter was paying £11/5/0 a year in rent for the land in his sole possession, the 9th highest at Weardley – 17 other tenants paid less than ten pounds and, of these, 13 paid less than five pounds.32
In 1728/9, Peter Smithson of Weardley died. He did not have surviving children and, apart from a few small bequests made in his will, his surviving brother, William Smithson of East Rigton received ‘all the rest of my personal estate quick and dead goods and chattels’.33
Peter’s farming and household assets were valued at £50 in his probate inventory, an average figure for most farms in Yorkshire late in the previous century,34 but almost six times lower than those of his uncle Richard’s at Alwoodley. It remains a mystery how Richard was able to achieve such prosperity compared to his relatives back at Weardley. Even if Richard had been the eldest son in the family, Alwoodley Hall would seem to have been a most generous portion to be granted by his father. It was equally likely that Richard was a younger son sent out to trade where he made his fortune which he reinvested in land. Several Arthington Smithsons had followed this path, including Roundell Smithson, a merchant of some status, who helped compile Peter’s inventory.
What is surprising in Peter’s inventory is the amount of money owed to Peter: a sum of £111 and more than twice the value of his farm and household assets. It is likely that the value of Peter’s farming assets was depressed as a result of a winding back of farming operations prior to his death, thus hiding the true extent of his farm during his life. However, to put the sum of Peter’s assets in context, the value of his declared assets (not including land) in 1728/9, of £161/14/0, amounted to about one year’s earnings for a solicitor, or nine year’s wages for an agricultural labourer.35
Peter’s probate inventory provides valuable information on the Smithsons’ farming activities at Weardley. We have evidence that Peter’s farm was devoted to the raising of cattle and sheep and the growing of crops; very much the same regime followed by his great grandfather, William Smithson, and his uncle Richard at Alwoodley. Cows were milked and butter produced. Corn – a contemporary term encompassing any grain – was grown, but the inventory indicates that some was retained unthreshed, possibly as stock feed. Some small amount of oats, which may have been grown on the farm, was listed in the inventory, probably for feeding Peter’s riding mare.
The stocking levels on Peter’s farm are a little surprising. He carried only one cow (kine), three heifers, one calf, 24 sheep and one mare. Studies of probate inventories taken in this area during the late 17th century would lead one to expect Peter to have had more animals on his farm. The number of sheep he owned was above the average for farms in his area, but the number of his cattle was half the average number carried on similar farms.36 Even more puzzling is the absence of draft animals – horses or oxen – despite Peter possessing cultivation implements, a cart and a store of corn and hay. All this lends support to the theory that Peter’s farm operations had wound down during his last years.
The inventory also gives some idea as to the nature of Peter’s house. The living area was dominated by the ‘firehouse’, the area of the house where food was cooked and eaten and social activities carried out. Peter’s house was obviously quite traditional, as the later 17th fashion of calling the firehouse a ‘kitchen’ – the term used on his uncle Richard’s inventory twenty years previously – had not been adopted.37 As the name ‘firehouse’ suggests, food was cooked in a fireplace in small pans and on a spit, from which dripping was collected in a pan – all items listed in the inventory. Water was boiled over the fire in a kettle. Food was served on pewter plates or platters and eaten from pewter dishes – Peter had six of the latter, but only one tankard for drink (almost certainly, ale). This dinnerware was stored in the single cupboard. Meals were eaten at a long table, provided with three chairs and three stools. The firehouse served as the main area for socialising.
The balance of Peter’s living area consisted of two parlours – one on the west side and the other on the east side of the house. One wonders if Peter Smithson would have referred to these rooms as ‘chambers’, the older term for such rooms, rather than parlours. It should be remembered that the inventory was compiled by respectable neighbours, including Roundell Smithson, who may have used the more fashionable term ‘parlour’. Peter’s parlours appear to be primarily sleeping areas. The west parlour contained two bedsteads with bedding, two chests for storage, and hustlements (odds and ends), while the east parlour contained only a bedstead with bedding. However, Peter’s west parlour may have been used as a ‘sitting room’ as it contained a ‘form’ – a long seat without a back – allowing some social activities to take place in the room.
As discussed above, it is likely that Peter’s house was that later occupied by his nephew, Richard Smithson, son of Peter’s brother William of East Rigton, and inherited by Richard’s son, Thomas Smithson of Weardley. If so, spaces identified in Peter’s inventory as the fire house, milkhouse, carthouse and barn were almost certainly not separate structures, but housed under the same roof. If Peter Smithson’s inventory was compiled as the valuers moved through Peter’s house in a systematic fashion, the valuers would have entered the building at one end, at the dwelling house entrance, and passed through the fireroom to the parlours. During the 18th century, social pressure led to the physical separation of animals and people in houses by the construction of a dividing wall and providing a separate animal entry.38 So, the valuers would have entered the livestock area, either at the other end of the building or via an internal passageway, moving through the milkhouse (a room for the processing and storage of milk), a chamber (in which two quarts of oats were stored), the carthouse (containing a cart, plow and harrows) and, finally, the barn (holding hay and unthreshed corn). Last on the inventory, outside and close by the house, was the fold: a fenced enclosure that held Peter’s animals when they were brought off pasture.
WILLIAM SMITHSON’S FARM AT BARDSEY CUM RIGTON
In 1746, twenty years after the death of his brother, Peter, William Smithson of East Rigton died and was buried in the parish church ground at Bardsey. His will and inventory supplements Peter’s in providing insight into the Smithson family’s property and circumstances in the early 18th century.39 Luckily, researchers can obtain further information from a survey map of the Bardsey and Rigton manor compiled in about 1735.40 This can be compared to the information contained in a survey and valuation book for the manor compiled in 1815 that describes William’s grandson, John Smithson’s farm.41 John’s father, James Smithson (1722-1798), was William’s youngest son and, together with his mother Jane (who lived until 1774), had inherited William’s farm.
William’s probate inventory provides some indication of the size and condition of William’s land. An assessment of the value of standing crops on William’s farm informs us that he held 47 acres of arable land, but he probably held additional pasture land. The 1735 survey map shows that these 47 acres were not a compact unit but were small fields scattered around the Bardsey-cum-Rigton manor. Unfortunately, the map that identifies the fields held by William does not show their areas. By 1815, John Smithson was holding nearly twice that area in arable land and around 25 acres of pasture land. Many of the field names had changed from 1735 to 1815, so precise comparisons cannot be made between the 1735 map and the 1815 survey and valuation book. Further research may uncover supporting documents that provide such detail.
Of William’s land identified in the inventory of 1747, eleven acres were left fallow. The balance of his land comprised ten acres of hard corn (a mixed sowing of wheat and rye), eleven acres of barley and 12½ acres of oats with 2½ acres of ‘bledings’ (blendings), a mixed nitrogen-fixing crop of peas and beans. The latter two crops could be cut and bound into sheaves and used for winter feed.42 Hard corn, as has been explained above, was grown for the production of the local variety of bread; barley was in demand from maltsters for the production of beer; and oats was increasingly sown to provide feed for horses which would, in time, replace oxen as farm draught animals. All three grains represented crops that could be sold as well as used to satisfy household and farm needs. Cropping required machinery and the inventory lists a plough, two harrows, yokes (for oxen) and teams (probably harness).
William followed a system of crop rotation that had been used in Europe from the end of the Middle Ages. A crop of cereals was followed by a crop of peas or other legumes, then the land was left fallow before the rotation began anew. William’s farming was influenced by another medieval survival: the open field system. Under this system, land in a manor was cultivated by tenant farmers in long strips without a physical boundary between each farmer’s strip. Cereal production lay at the heart of this system and it often did not develop in areas unsuited to such crops. Physical boundaries between each strip were foregone because the usual ditch and hedgerow boundaries would have reduced the area of cultivated land and caused crop shadowing. The strip shape of these open fields was determined by ploughing, which favoured long passes by an oxen team with minimal turns. The strip fields were originally called furlongs – ‘furrow lengths’ – because their size was governed by the distance a team of oxen could plough without resting. William was allotted six of these strips in 1735.
Not all land in a manor lent itself to open fields. In William’s manor at East Rigton, strip farming would not have been employed in certain fields identified as ings – water meadows or marshy land – that were unsuitable for cereal production. The open field system came under pressure from changing land use in England, for example when sheep-raising began to eclipse cereal production. Open fields did not suit the management of livestock and this was a major land use on William’s manor. By 1735, a pattern of field types had evolved on the manor of Bardsey and Rigton. There were lands that had been enclosed for the use of individuals – closes, crofts (land associated with houses), garths (yards or gardens), ings (water meadows or marshy land) and leys (land put down to grass, clover and the like for a limited period); and there were still the unenclosed fields divided into strips. Fields were not necessarily leased solely by individuals and William leased fields in partnership with other farmers.
William also leased fields that were identified as Intacks. These were fields brought in from common land and enclosed. Common land was owned by the lord but all residents on a manor had rights to use it for such activities as grazing and firewood gathering – both William’s brother Peter and his grandson Thomas, for instance, exercised rights to use common land at Weardley. Unlike the enclosure of open fields negotiated between farmers with rights over the land in question, enclosure of common or waste land affected whole communities, especially the landless. Enclosure of common land from the time of the Tudor monarchs was often opposed, sometimes violently. Nevertheless, the process continued and was accelerated when enclosures were sanctioned by acts of parliament during the 18th and 19th centuries. Despite their impact on the poorer members of a community, William and several other Smithson farmers benefitted from enclosures. In 1791, William Smithson of Alwoodley and several fellow tenants extended their landholdings into Black Moor on Alwoodley Common and sought official acknowledgment of the encroachment.43 Around 1800, two Smithsons leased land enclosed on Weardley Moor (Common): Thomas Smithson of Weardley leased just over twelve acres with another fifteen acres in partnership with Henry Buckle, while the poorer Richard Smithson leased just over an acre (half being a quarry) at a yearly rent of £1/18s.
Apart from crops, William ran small numbers of cattle and sheep on the farm. His sheep were limited to thirteen old sheep and seven lambs and his cattle included two cows, a three-year-old calf and three ‘kitt’ (small?) calves. Also listed were three ‘sturks’ (yearling cattle): one steer and two ‘whys’ or heifers. Two oxen were listed in the inventory and were almost certainly used to draw William’s plough and two carts. A mare and a gelding provided transport. William also kept four pigs along with a sow.
In contrast to William’s brother Peter’s probate inventory, William’s inventory is less precise about his farm house. What can be ascertained is that, at some point, a new house had been constructed on William’s farm, but the old house was retained. Three rooms in the new house were assessed. The main room was a kitchen/living area (fire house). It was furnished with a dresser containing pewter dishes and plates, a long table and chairs; and brass things and a dripping tray were kept near the fireplace/cooking area. This room also held ‘kange and kockons’, one of many Yorkshire dialect words that grace the inventory but which have defied translation at this point in time. The remaining two rooms were parlours (in the older sense of the word). The larger parlour presumably held William and Janes’ bed and hangings (fabric hung around the bed for privacy), a chest of draws, a press and a table. The rest of the household (at this time, two persons) slept in two beds with hangings located in the smaller parlour – their belongings were kept in a chest and a box.
No mention was made in the inventory of outbuildings or a barn, but it seems that the old house was given over to some farm activities. Only two rooms were assessed in the old house, indicating that it probably had been constructed in the much older longhouse style. One was a large room holding a cheese press and a pair of racks; the other – the back room – contained three kettles and sundry items. No specialist farm buildings were identified in the inventory.
The information provided in the inventory can be supplemented by detail obtained from the 1735 survey map, which included sketches of buildings. Two of William’s fields contain buildings. A single building is located in a croft field north of and facing the main roadway that ran through the East Rigton village area. It has two windows shown at ground level, a solitary dormer window above and a single centrally placed chimney. Across the roadway, to the south, on the intersection with another roadway is a small garden enclosure, labelled as leased by William. On it is drawn another substantial building with a single centrally placed chimney. Also shown is a separate, smaller building to the south-west of the larger building.
Despite being compiled eighty years after the survey map, some insight into these original Smithson farm buildings can be obtained from the 1815 survey and valuation book for the manor that describes William’s grandson John Smithson’s farm. This can itself be checked against a tithe map compiled in 1845,44 although the Smithsons had for all intents and purposes departed from the area, probably around 1830.
The 1815 survey and valuation book describes John Smithson’s house as ‘an old Building of stone partly covered with slate and part thatched containing four low Rooms with a dairy on the west end and a cellar on the East’. The only Smithson building with an east-west orientation shown in the 1735 map was that located in the northern croft field. A substantial building is located in the same place on the 1845 tithe map. The 1815 book goes on to describe the building as having a chamber story containing ‘four laying rooms’. There are some discrepancies between the 1747 inventory and the 1815 description of the rooms in the main house. This may be due to the cursory nature of the inventory, but it is also possible that additions were made to the building or the rooms reconfigured in the eighty years since William’s death.
However, the 1815 survey and valuation book describes an additional building near this main house: ‘Another stone and thatched cottage is detached built about 30 years ago by Tenant – containing two Rooms in front with a pantry behind – the Chamber story is used as a Granery’. The estimated date of this construction is close to the year of John Smithson’s marriage to Mary ‘Molly’ Jackson in November 1787. It is presumed that John began his married life in the cottage. There had been some redrawing of field boundaries between 1735 and 1845, but the 1845 tithe map does show a cottage in the old northern croft field, fronting the road alongside the main house but with its own garden. A cottage shown on the 1735 map in neighbouring ‘Pale Garth’, a field not leased by William Smithson, should not be confused with John’s cottage. This other cottage, which appears to have been demolished before 1845, was aligned north-south unlike John’s cottage which had the same alignment as the main house.
The 1845 tithe map shows that the Smithson buildings across the roadway to the south on the intersection had remained as they were in 1735, although another building had partially encroached on the old plot from a garden that had been established in the intervening years on what had been vacant land to the west. The 1815 book provides a detailed description of these Smithson buildings:
“An old Post and Pan Barn, stable and Mistal [stable or shed for cattle] are detached over the way part covered with slate and part thatched with a Cart shed adjoining and an old thatched Mistral on Post and Pan is on the South Side of the Fold.”
The description of the ‘old thatched Mistral’ accounts for the small building shown in the south-west corner of this plot on the 1735 map. That William’s old house had become the barn of John Smithson’s time, rather than having been replaced by a new barn, is confirmed by its description as an ‘old Post and Pan’ – that is, a building with exposed timber framing infilled with brick or similar material, a style already regarded as antiquated by 1815 and often associated today with Tudor-age buildings. The plot was recorded on the tithe map of 1845 as the ‘Barn Yard’. Today, the plot lies opposite the small, triangular Rigton Green, at the intersection of Rigton Green and Mill Lane, East Rigton.
THOMAS SMITHSON’S FARM AT WEARDLEY
Thomas Smithson inherited the Smithson farm at Weardley upon the death of his mother, Frances, in 1790. Francis had assumed control of the farm upon the death of her husband, Richard Smithson, in 1779. She was not the only widow to farm in the Weardley area. Although she could draw upon the support of three sons, her will leaves no doubt that this support was, excepting that from her youngest son Thomas, less than she expected.
Frances’ husband, Richard, had been given the farm by his father William Smithson of East Rigton as ‘his portion’ in 1737. Little is known of Richard but some of his day-to-day dealings to 1770 are preserved in the estate accounts of Sir Charles Herbert Sheffield.45 They reveal something of the relationship between the lord of the manor and the Weardley tenants. Rent collection, for instance, took on a festive air. It was collected on two days of the year: Whitsunday, the seventh Sunday after Easter and a traditional pause in the agricultural year, and Martinmas, 11 November, at harvest time. On the occasion, the lord of the manor had his tenants supplied with gifts of ale, bread, cheese and pipes and tobacco. The Estate also aided tenants who had suffered reverses, such as the loss of property by fire. In 1750, Richard was paid £3/3/0 by the estate for the loss of his cattle from contagious distemper – he was not the only tenant on the estate who lost cattle to this disease and received financial support around this time. The same year also saw the Estate undertake a major renovation of Richard’s house and barn involving the hiring of a carpenter and glazier and the supply of hair (for plastering), slate and nails.
The renovation of Richard’s house appears to have been part of a program of modernisation and construction carried out on the Sheffield estate at Weardley around the time that questions surrounding the inheritance of the Estate by Sir Charles were being clarified.46 Richard benefitted in more ways than one. In 1752, Richard was paid for carting stone, wood, sand, thatch and other materials to be used for the construction of two cottages on the estate. Cartage of materials for various other projects undertaken on the estate provided Richard with an occasional source of additional income.
This employment seems to have been in addition to work that Richard would have been bound to do, free of charge, for the lord of his manor. This ‘boon work’ was a survival from medieval times and was specified in a rental agreement made in 1794 between Sir Charles’ son, Sir John Sheffield, and Richard’s son Thomas Smithson, who had to ‘upon reasonable notice and request find and provide a good and sufficient Team and three horses twice in every year for the use of the said Sir John Sheffield…’. In 1812, after Thomas’ farm was transferred to the Lascelles family and his acreage increased, boon service was set at ‘four days work, with a wagon or cart, and three horses, in leading coals, or such other materials for the use of the Earl of Harewood… without any payment or allowance for the same…’. 47
Details of Thomas’ farm have been preserved in a survey and valuation and new arrangement of Edward Lascelles’ estate conducted in 1796-7 upon the transfer of land at Weardley from Sir John Sheffield to Edward Lascelles of the Harewood Estate. 48 Thomas’s farm was described as ‘a Farm House, Barn, Stable, Cowhouse etc under the same roof with lean to Stone and Slate in good Repair’. The survey also provided details of the land that made up Thomas’ farm. His holdings amounted to around 37½ acres. It would appear that his fields were not consolidated but consisted of ten blocks scattered across the area surrounding Weardley village. His smallest field was the quarter acre ‘homestal’ (homestall or homestead – place of the house). Thomas also had ‘advantage of common’ giving him rights to use Weardley Common. As stated above, Thomas was one of several farmers who took advantage of the enclosure of this common in about 1801, adding around 19 acres of land to his farm.
It is clear that Thomas in 1796, unlike his grandfather William Smithson at East Rigton in 1746, was following a version of the four-field rotation system of cropping introduced from Flanders during the early decades of the 18th century. This system involved a rotation of crops: for example, wheat, turnips, barley and clover, where wheat and barley provided a cash crop; turnips provided winter stock feed; and clover, a nitrogen-fixing plant that, when combined with grazing, provided a natural fertilizer. Thomas’ crops consisted of one nine-acre field of wheat, one seven-acre field of turnips, a four-acre field of barley, a five-acre field of oats, three fields totalling about 6 acres of lay (or ley) pasture and two fields totalling about five acres of permanent pasture. Under this system, land no longer needed to lie fallow, bringing more land into production and facilitating an unprecedented increase in the British population after 1750. It was a crucial development in what has become popularly known as the English ‘Agricultural Revolution’ that laid a foundation for the industrialisation of Britain in the 19th century.
The size of Thomas’ farm was just under the median in terms of size and value amongst the sixteen tenants who held land at Weardley. The largest farmer held around eighty acres valued at around £103 while, of the smallest tenants, two held less than ten acres and three had cottages on less than an acre. Certain cottages were reserved for the poor (under the supervision of the Overseer of the Poor) and were occupied by five persons, including Richard Smithson, Thomas’ brother. Two cottages were given to persons providing necessary services: a smith and a schoolmaster.
Thomas Smithson died in 1846 and was the last Smithson able to pursue viable farming at Weardley. None of Thomas’ sons succeeded to his farm. Only one son, James Smithson (1806-1854), remained for any length of time in Weardley where he was recorded as an agricultural labourer in 1841 and in 1851, when he was farming two acres of land. The circumstances surrounding the end of Smithson farming at Weardley are discussed in Smithson Story: Joining the Revolution.