Farming in the area 1754-1790

In this period the demesne land at Arley was used to support cows and horses. About a dozen cows provided milk, butter and cream for the main house. Pasture land was also required by the horses that drew the coach and chaise, the riding horses used by the family and the grooms, the horses that drew the farm wagons and carts and occasionally the plough and harrow. Much hay was made to provide winter feed for all these animals. The grain requirements of the establishment were provided by buying the tithes of Aston, Gt Budworth and Crowley from Richard Massey. He was the agent of Christ Church, Oxford, who owned the advowson of Gt Budworth and the tithes that went with it. The Receipted Invoices include a number of payments to him. The Estates' workers had to gather the sheaves of tithe corn in all the fields in the townships where it had been grown, cart it to Arley and store it in the barns. There it was slowly threshed out over the years and stored in the Granary as shown in the sample pages from the Granary Book of 1762. From there the wheat was taken to the mill and mostly returned to Arley Hall as flour. If there was a surplus it was sold, usually in the mill. The barley was mostly taken to the malt kiln to be made into malt and returned to the house for brewing into beer. Small amounts were fed to the poultry and pigeons. The oats were divided between the horses and the cows who were given oats as well as hay for their winter feed. An extra bit of information provided by the records kept in the Granary is that they list the horses of visitors who stayed overnight and who therefore had to be fed some grain (see Seven Households, pp 195-6).

After 1767 the Estate decided that the market for grain in the area had become so large and secure, as a result of improved ships, road and canals, that they did not need to control local supplies. They therefore stopped buying the tithes, which the Estate had often bought since the 16th century, and bought grain in the market as required. This removed the need to employ people to gather, store and thresh the tithe grain. Therefore the number of workers on the time-sheets declined over the years. In the 1780s maintaining the hedges, ditches and roads and spreading dung on the grasslands were probably the principal occupations of the employees, other than hay-making and working the gardens which steadily grew in size. There was only one fully trained gardener from 1764 to the 1790s who was John Phipp.


The detailed tithe sheets are rare documents describing the corn grown by every farmer in 1752-3 and the cow tithes show the number of cows kept by every farmer in Aston except the Warburtons, who had a 'modus' (see Cheshire Cheese, p 107), and Crowley in the years 1757 - 66. The single sheet for 1752 indicates the wide damage done by the cattle plague.

The leys (pasturing) of cattle

Lists for the leys of cattle 1745 - 1784 show who was farming in the area. It was an old tradition to employ some land as pasture to which anyone could bring a calf, heifer or cow and pay for the summer grass which it ate. A bull or two was also provided so that heifers and cows could be served as they came into season. It was particularly useful for small farmers with only a few acres, who had to provide grass for their one milking cow but might not have enough for another.

Roads before the 1760s were wide potholed areas through which carts tried to thread a way avoiding the worst holes. These wide lanes provided grass feed for the cattle of cottagers. In the 1760s and 1770s as roads were improved and turnpikes were built they were narrowed to their modern width of just one carriageway with a ditch and hedge each side. This reduced the ability of cottagers to keep stock (see Cheshire Cheese, pp 70 - 71).

The need for leys therefore diminished and in the 1770s and 1780s more of the demesne lands were converted into rent paying dairy farms and new houses were built for the tenants like New Farm on Bate Heath.

The scans below include Timesheets for the years 1754-1790 (four or five selected from each year, 156 in total), Grain tithes of Aston-by-Budworth 1752-53, Small tithes of Aston 1751, Small tithes of Aston 1757-66, Small tithes of Crowley 1758-66, Leys of Cattle 1745 - 1784 and three pages of the Granary Book 1762.



Leys of Cattle

Granary Book