Sunday, 20 March 2016

Family History: 1767 - 1922 A Cornish Farming Family

A Cornish Farming Family 
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Cornwall had grown prosperous from agriculture, unlike today, agriculture was the mainstay of the counties economy, an economy which was based on small farms, most with under one hundred acres of land that specialised in dairy, stock rearing and horticulture. Horses had replaced oxen and winter crops were grown and the potato was the staple diet of the poor. A thriving market gardening industry appeared towards the end of the 1900’s growing spring crops such as carrots, cabbages and onions. 

It was during this period that my 4x great grandfather, William Mitchell, farmed over 90 acres of land on the west coast of Cornwall.
Farming in Cornwall
The eighteenth century saw the end of the Stuart period and the beginning of the Georgian age, it was an age of expansion, an age of inventions that brought changes to the textile industry, the mining industry and in agriculture.  In 1761, six years before the birth of William Mitchell, George III was crowned king of England. Remembered mostly for his spells of ‘madness’ he was also famous for his passionate interest in agriculture and because of this nicknamed Farmer George. It was during his reign that England underwent an agricultural revolution where men such as Jethro Tull from Berkshire and Robert Bakewell from Leicestershire are credited  with improving the life of those working on the land. During this time farming output almost doubled, an increase in the use of crops grown as food for animals allowed farmers to keep more livestock and this meant more meat was produced and sold in the markets to feed the growing population. This revolution saw the introduction of new systems of cropping and selective breeding but interestingly, it has been argued that this revolution did not happen at all, that the increase in farm production was a slow progress of events beginning in mid sixteenth century and ending in the eighteenth. This agricultural revolution occurred at the same time as the more famous Industrial Revolution and Cornwall could lay claim to at least seven inventors in engineering alone, men like Sir Humphrey Davey, Adrian Stephens, and Henry Trengrouse. These Cornish born engineers were  at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution but it was mining engineer Richard Trevithick whose invention benefited both industry and agriculture. 
My families story continues on my website

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