The state of the weather has always been a crucial consideration for farmers, preoccupied as they are with crop yields and livestock husbandry. Both the length and the content of this report bear witness to this.
The heat of the summer with light showers made for good harvest weather, while the steadier rain of subsequent months onto soil already warmed by the sun was conducive to the sowing of winter wheat. In contrast the severe frosts early in the following year devastated the bean crop and the heavy rains in later months levelled the crops of wheat. In 1844 the most salient feature of the year came in the dry months from late March to the middle of August. In the searing heat of that month pools and wells almost dried up and pastures shrivelled away, causing cattle to die. As Battle Farm was a mixed farm, with the production of wheat and other cereals appearing to take greater precedence, the impact of this crisis was likely to be of rather less importance than might have otherwise been the case.
Given the current concern of possible global warming, there is a popular conception that seasons long past were more clearly defined. This is not always supported by the weather reports gleaned from the newspapers and diaries of the 19th century, as illustrated by the description of the very mild December at the bottom of the report, (which continued into early January of 1845).
George Lines (1827-1886)
This small volume1 provides a fascinating glimpse into the life of one son of Warwickshire, namely George Lines. It begins as an account book and ends as a diary, and this variation equates with the changes in George’s life. He worked with his father John at Battle Farm, Kineton until his father died in 1851, after which he became the innkeeper at the Swan Inn, Kineton. He later took up the duties of an overseer of the poor.
Possibly the most interesting part of the volume relates to the accounts of Battle Farm. These contain invaluable detail on the workings of a large farm of some 250 acres in the middle decades of the 19th century. There are lists of the tasks undertaken and very importantly the costs of labour, the quantities of specified crops produced and the changing prices of wheat and other cereals; plus, of course, the numbers of cattle and pigs kept. The names of purchasers are also entered, so family historians as well as economic historians may find this a useful source.
1 Warwickshire County Record Office reference CR3222/1
This article was Document of the Month for the Warwickshire County Record Office in March 2010. Further articles can be found on their website.