« PreviousContinue »
usually stay a week or two at a place; and the cattle which they keep, serve to transport their few articles of furniture from one common to another. These, during the stay of their owners, are turned adrift to procure what food they can find in the neighbourhood of their tents, any the deficiency is made up from the adjacent hay-stacks, barns and granaries. They are known never to buy any hay or corn, and yet their cattle are supplied with these articles, of good quality. The women and children beg and pilfer, and the men commit greater acts of dishonesty in short, the commons of this county are well known to be the constant resort of footpads and highwaymen, and are literally and proverbally a public nuisance."
Common Fields.-P. 114. "The common arable fields of this county contain about 20,000 acres.'
"Nearly half the foregoing quantity consists of a good turnip and barley soil; the other half of a bean soil.”
P. 138. (Section "Tillage") "The arable land of this county is, for the most part, confined to common fields. The rest consists of such parts of the said fields, as have lately been inclosed, under separate acts of parliament, as at Stanwell and Enfield-chase; and of a field or two here and there, seldom of more than ten or twenty acres together, in other parts of the county. All the inclosed arable land is supposed to be under...............
I have before stated the quantity of commonfield arable land at about
making together 23,000 acres." PROVISIONS.-P. 387. " Bread throughout the county of Middlesex, is at the same price as in the city of London. In the vicinity of the metropolis, every kind of butcher's meat is equally dear, or rather more so, than in the London markets. In the more remote parts of the county, and in the market-towns of Uxbridge and Brentford, pork, poultry, eggs, vegetables, and milk, are to be had something under the London market price."
FUEL.-P. 391. "Coals are in general use for the fires of this county. The exceptions are only on the north side of it, in cottages and small farm-houses, where the expence of coals, and the carriage of them, induces the use of wood fires."
POOR RATES.-P. 63. "The rates are from 6d. to 7s.— perhaps 3s. 6d. would average the county."
Mr. Middleton's "Observations" on the present mode of meliorating the condition of the indigent, are of some length. Most of them are too general for a provincial Re
port. Nevertheless, some of them are so pertinent that it would be wrong to overlook them.
P. 64. "Agriculture occasions very few poor; on the contrary, it provides them almost constant labour. It is only the blind, the extreme old, the very young children, and idiots, which become chargeable in a parish purely agricultural.
"A labourer in agriculture, is more likely to support his family without assistance from the parish, at twelve shillings a week, than is a journeyman in any large manufactory, though his earnings should be a guinea, or a guinea and an half.
"In the parish of Merton, in which is my country residence, we have several large manufactories of calicoes, and, as a necessary consequence, many pattern-drawers, &c. whose earnings are from one guinea to one guinea and a half per week; but these are never assessed to the poorrates; the fear of their families becoming chargeable to the parish, prevails over the vestry so much, as always to prevent persons of that description from being rated.-J. M."
P. 65. "All the really necessitous, and who only want a part of their support, should be assisted in their own houses, where five shillings will frequently go as far as twenty would do in the work-house."
P. 67. "The funds raised for supporting the idle poor of this county are so numerous, efficient and comfortable, as to operate against the general industry of the labouring poor.
Lodging and diet in the work-houses, in every instance, are superior to what the industrious labourer can provide for his family. It is obvious that this must have an influence over their minds, and become most injurious to the interests of society. It holds out encouragement to prefer the work-house to labour; and, by filling the poor-houses with improper inhabitants, it reduces the amount of industry.
"In those parishes with which I am acquainted, the annual expence of each pauper is about fifteen guineas; a stout healthy labourer in husbandry, with a wife and three children, earns only thirty for the support of five persons.
"The earnings of the inhabitants of work-houses, on an average of the whole of this county, does not amount to eight shillings per head per annum; which taken from the former sum, leaves fifteen pounds seven shillings, or near six shillings a week, as the expence of supporting each pauper."
P. 69. "Every institution which tends to make the poor depend on any other support than their own industry, does them great disservice, and is highly injurious to society."
TITHES.-P. 58. "In many parishes of this county, the tithes are taken in kind; and which is nearly the same, in others they are annually valued, and compounded for. In several parishes, a reasonable composition is taken; in some it has been very little advanced during the last twenty years; happily there are farms which pay a modus, and others that are entirely tithe-free.
"I doubt not but that I shall stand excused for relating the following oppressive cases of tithes. It is in order to shew more clearly than I could otherwise do, that tithes operate againt the improvement of the soil, and consequently against the interest of the nation."
After noticing some flagrant instances, Mr. M. thus reflects on them. P. 59. "A few instances equally oppressive with these, have happened in every county in England; and the necessary consequence is, that they have severally put a stop to some expensive, but promising improvement. Every matter of this kind becomes a subject of general conversation among farmers, and of course prevents their making the like attempts. In short, an act of parliament to prohibit the improvement of land by any considerable expenditure, would not more effectually do it than the tithelaws."
INLAND NAVIGATION.-P. 401. The river Thames is rendered famous by the port of London, in every commercial part of the world; and is navigable, for ships, to London-bridge, and, for barges, along all the southern borders of this county. The Lea, on the east, is navigable from the Thames near Blackwall towards Tottenham, about eight miles, where a canal navigation quits that river, and runs nearly parallel to it through the meadows of Tottenham, Edmonton, and Enfield, accommodating the whole eastern border of the county with a water-carriage to Hertford on the north, and London on the south."
P. 403. "The Grand Junction canal, just finished to the extent of this county, from Brentford passes through a rich corn district near Hanwell, Norwood, Harlington, West Drayton, Cowley, Uxbridge and Harefield. It is already of great importance to the lands through which it passes, and particularly to the market of Uxbridge, and will daily increase in its consequence as it extends, till it reaches Braunston, in a length of ninety miles."
ROADS.-P. 395. "Most of the parish highways in this county, are superior to any other of equal extent, that I have ever seen. They are hard and clean in every sort of weather; so much so, that gentlemen may ride along them, even directly after rain, and scarcely receive a splash.
"The turnpike roads, on the contrary, are, generally, very bad; although at the toll-gates of this county there is collected a very large sum of money, probably not less than 30,000l. a year; which is uselessly expended in sinking wells, erecting pumps, building carts, and hiring horses and men, to keep the dust down, by watering, instead of more wisely scraping it off. By the folly of this practice, the roads are kept many inches deep in mud: whereas, if 'they were raked and swept clean, winter and summer, there would neither be dust in such quantity as to offend, nor any of the present obstructions. There is now double the draught necessary for conveying every carriage on the roads, along which there is no riding even in boots and horseman's coat, during half of the year. The mud indeed is so very deep all the winter, and so fluid after rain, as to render it unsafe to meet horses, owing to their feet throwing the mud not only over an horseman's clothes, but also into his eyes."
P. 396. "The road from Tyburn through Uxbridge, is supposed to have more broad-wheeled waggons pass over it than any other in the county. Therefore, if broad wheels were advantageous to the roads, this would be in high condition, as it certainly is sufficiently rolled; and it has also the advantage of lying on a bed of gravel. But these, and the present management, are insufficient to keep it in repair.
"During the whole of the winter 1797-8, there was but one passable track on this road, and that was less than six feet wide, and was eight inches deep in fluid mud. All the rest of the road was from a foot to eighteen inches deep in adhesive mud.
"This track was thronged with waggons (many of them drawn by ten horses, and most of them having broad wheels, even to sixteen inches wide) and farmers' six-inch-wheel carts, which occupied almost the whole of this confined space. It was therefore with great difficulty, and some danger, that horsemen, and light carriages could pass.
"The road continued in this infamous condition during the whole winter half year. No exertions were made towards cleansing it, although an expenditure of such a trifle as twenty pounds, in the employnient of a road-scraper, drawn by one horse, would have effectually kept it clean and dry; and would also have prevented the unnecessary destruction of upwards of three hundred pounds worth of materials, that were reduced to mud by being soaked and ground, for six months, in water mixed with pounded flints. "The only labourers to be seen on the road, during se
veral succeeding months, were those of a neighbouring gentleman; and they were employed in carting the footpath into his inclosures."
MARKETS.-P. 408. "At Uxbridge-market a great deal of corn is sold, and there is a large public granary over the market-place, for the purpose of depositing it from one week to another.-At Hounslow-market there is a considerable show of fat cattle; such of which as are not disposed of there, are sent on to Smithfield-market."
P. 409. "The following is an account of the number of black, or neat cattle, and sheep, annually brought for sale to this market, from the year 1731 to 1795, being 63 years: which I have divided into seven averages of nine years each.". Those averages stand thus:
1732 to 1741-83,906 Cattle 465,650 Sheep.
41 to 50
The source from whence this statement was drawn does
LAWS concerning AGRICULTURE.-Under a head, entitled, "Agricultural Legislation and Police," Mr. Middleton complains, and on good grounds, of the insufficiency and impolicy of the present laws relating to pilfering, or petty thefts. What he advances, however, is applicable to London and its environs, rather than to the County of Middlesex and the kingdom, at large.
Mr. M. appears to be well versed in the polity of the Metropolis and its neighbourhood.-P. 460. "The fields near London are never free from men strolling about in pilfering pursuits by day, and committing greater crimes by night. The depredations every Sunday, are astonishingly great. There are not many gardens within five miles of London that escape being visited in a marauding way, very early on a Sunday morning, and the farmers' fields are plundered all day long of fruit, roots, cabbages, pulse and corn. Even the ears of wheat are cut from the sheaves, and carried away in the most daring manner in open day, in various ways, but mostly in bags containing about half a bushel each. It has been moderately estimated, that 20,000 bushels of all the various sorts are thus carried off every Sunday morning, and 10,000 more during the other six days of the week, or one million and a half of bushels in a year, which, if valued at so small a sum as six-pence each, would amount to 37,500l.