Farming in Surrey – the diary of John Greenwood, 1793-1794

Farming in Surrey at the end of the 18th century is described in a rarely surviving farming diary kept by John Greenwood, bailiff of Wanborough Manor Farm, from 17 June 1793 to 23 August 1794.

The diary opens ‘The Journal and Remarks made on Wanborough Farm beginning with 6th mth 17th 1793’. It records the day to day work carried out on the farm which grew crops including turnips, barley, oats, corn, peas and sanfoine [‘holy hay’] and stocked sheep and pigs, with oxen and horses for ploughing.

It describes the condition of the soil at various times throughout the year. Prices of crops and sheep are constantly mentioned as when ‘John Roker of Shackleford sent in 14 sacks of old white wheat – cost £12 12s per load’, and when in September John Greenwood ‘went to Hazelmere fetched home 140 Southdown Ewes which came from T. Newman at Singleton – 100 of which cost 23s per head and 40 £1 1s’.

Information about trade routes is also given, for example in the entry regarding wool which ‘is to be sent next fifth day to Guildford to go by Watsons Waggon to London from thence to Hustler and Peckover, Bradford, Yorkshire, who sort it and give a fair price for it’.

Workmen’s wages, hours of work and diet are also mentioned, as with the ‘Months men, four of them have 2 guineas for the month and the other two, who are young men, have 30s, also our two carters who have 2 guineas’. These men ‘come to the house at four o’clock in the morning and have some bread and cheese and a pint of ale’. One entry mentions the fact that ‘a broom-maker is coming to sort’ 12000 hedge stakes which had been cut out in copse, and to ‘take such as will do for broom sticks’.

The author of this farming diary is not named in the diary itself but has been identified as John Greenwood, a Quaker (1773-1855), through the records of Guildford and Chelmsford Monthly Meetings (see R G Vevers, ‘The Diary of a Farming Quaker, Wanborough, 1793-94’, Surrey History, vol II, no.2). Dates are generally given in Quaker style in the diary, replacing names with numbers.

Wanborough Manor Farm belonged to Thomas, 2nd Earl of Onslow, and was let to Morris Birkbeck, for whom Greenwood acted as bailiff between June 1793 and August 1794, before moving to Essex.

Similar details of farming activity can be found in the account book kept by George Steer when tenant of Comforts Place Farm, Blindley Heath, Godstone, between 1807 and 1814.

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