1902 Encyclopedia > England > Division of Land. Agriculture.

(Part 3)


Part 3. Division of Land. Agriculture.

Till within the last few years nothing whatever was known regarding the ownership of land in England, and widely differing estimates, none of them of any real value, in the absence of all authentic facts, were brought forward from time to time about the subject. Various attempts to get official returns failed, till at last the House of Lords consented to an inquiry, which resulted in the publication, in 1876, of a report in two volumes imperial quarto, entitled Landowners in England and Wales: Réturn of the Owners of Land of One Acre and upwards in England and Wales, exclusive of the Metropolis, with their Names, Addresses, Extent of Lands, and Estimated Gross Rental. Though the information put forth in this Bluebook, referring to the year 1873, is nor distinguished by great accuracy, the returns regarding the extent and rental of the land being based on the parish valuation lists, mostly very defective, while large extents of land are not accounted for at all, still the publication proved of the highest interest, as containing the only actual facts known about the division and ownership of the land.

The summary of the return published by the Government, referred to frequently as the New Domesday Book, showed that in the year 1873 there were in England and Wales 972,836 owners of land, holding together 23,013,515 acres, of a gross estimated rental of £99,382,301. The subjoined table exhibits the number of landowners, under thirteen classification of ownership, the total extent of lands held by each class, and the gross estimated rental:—


Of the total area of England and Wales comprising 37,324,883 statute acres, no less than 4,311,368 are not accounted for in the foregoing returns. These must consist partly of waste spaces, moorlands, and other areas, including that of the metropolis and crown property, internationally set aside; and partly of lakes, rivers, and roads. This leaves perhaps a million or more of acres wanting, through great errors and omissions in the parish lists on which the returns were based. Still, with all these imperfections and the undoubted miscalculations in the rental values, generally admitted to be large under-statements, enough remains to give a fair idea of the division of landed property in England and Wales.

One of the most notable features of the returns of the returns is the fact that the number of landowners possessed of less than one acre is as high as 703,289, being 72·3 per cent. of the whole. The great decrease seen in the number of those who possess from one acre to ten, being considerably under one-fifth of the first class, is remarkable; and no less so is it that there are more landowners who possess form 100 to 500 acres than who possess from 50 to 100 acres. The total number of landowners in England and Wales is altogether, according to these returns, very far above to what was formerly believed, for in the census returns of 1861 the number of "landed proprietors" was given at 30,766, an in those of 1871 at 22,964. But while it is seen that real property is so widely distributed, there appears not the less from the Bluebook of 1876 the all-important fact that he proprietors of over 5000 acres, who deserves, more especially, the title of "great" landowners, 874 in number, hold 9,367,031 acres, or more than one-fourth of the country. The owners of 1000 acres and upwards, numbering 5408, hold 18,695,528 acres, being more than one-half of the land; and those of 500 acres and upwards, 10,207 in number, hold 22,013,206 acres, or two-thirds of the whole of England and Wales.

Together with the returns of landowners in England there were issued similar ones for Scotland and Ireland. It is not a little interesting to compare the relative facts given in these various returns, which illustrate to a striking degree the diversity of the ownership of the soil and division of the land in the three portions of the United Kingdom. While in England the proportion of landowners below an acre is 72·3 per cent., it is 85·5 per cent. in Scotland, and 52·6 in Ireland. Again, in landowners possessing more than one acre, the proportion who have less than 500 acres is 96·1 per cent. in England, 86·5 per cent. in Scotland, the twelve largest owners hold in the aggregate 1,058,883 acres, while the twelve largest owners in Scotland possess 4,339,722 acres, and the twelve largest owners in Ireland 1,297,888 acres. Thus the ownership of the twelve principal landowners of England is not one-fourth that of the twelve chief landowners of Scotland.
The total number of landowners in each of the division of the United Kingdom was given as follows in the official returns:—


The gross estimated rental value of the landed property enumerated in the returns was stated as follows:—


In England, one person in 20 of the population is an owner of land, against one in 25 Scotland, and one in 79 in Ireland. The proportion of owners of land to inhabited houses is 1 to 4 in England, 1 to 3 in Scotland, and 1 to 14 in Ireland. In England, the average extent of land held by each owner is 33 acres 3 roods 30 perches, while it is 143 acres 1 road 6 perches in Scotland, and 293 acres 1 rood 32 perches in Ireland. The average estimated rental of each owner of land in England is £102, 3s., against £141, 8s. in Scotland, and £195, 3s. in Ireland.

According to the New Domesday Book, about two-thirds of the landed property accounted for in the returns as existing in England and Wales is held by 10,207 owners, who, therefore, well deserve the old title of the "upper ten thousand." The following proprietors outside the metropolis are returned in 1873 as either holding upwards of 50,000 acres, or having estimated rentals exceeding £100,000 per annum:—


In some cases the estimated rental exceeds the income derived from the property. The average estimated rental value of the whole of the land is given £3, 0s. 2d. per acre, which is thrice that of Scotland, where the average is 19s. 9d. per acre, and four and a half times as much as in Ireland, where it is 13s. 4d. per acre. The comparatively high rental of the land in England and Wales, combined with the limited ownership of the soul, two thirds being in the hands of little over ten thousand persons, and the rest divided among nearly a million, must have naturally the greatest influence on the state of agriculture of the country. To what extent this is the case will be seen from the "Agricultural Returns" annually published by the Government.

These returns, drawn up under a well-organized system, on the basis of information regularly furnished by the occupiers of the land to the officers of the inland revenue, divide the whole of England, exclusive of Wales, into two great districts, the first being called the Western or "the Grazing diviosion," and the second the Eastern or "the Corn-growing division," viz.:—


Although the number of counties is nearly the same in each of these two groups, the total average is larger in the grazing than in the corn division in the ratio of 53 to 47 per cent. of total acreage under crops and grass in England.

The following tables furnish a concise account of the acreage under crops and otherwise, together with the number of live stock, in the two divisions of grazing and corn-growing counties of England, according to the Agricultural Returns fro the year 1877:—


The following short statement gives a summary of the preceding table, showing the percentage of the distribution of the acreage for each division:—


In the returns of the census of the 1871, before given, the total area of England was stated at 32,590,397 acres, and that of Wales at 4,734,436 acres. In the Agricultural Returns for the year 1877 it was reported that the total acreage under crops, bare fallow, and grass had come to be 24,312,033 acres in England, and 2,731,159 acres in Wales. Thus there were 8,278,364 acres, or about one-fourth of the total, not accounted for in the agricultural Returns for England, and 1,643,327 acres, or about one-third of the total, in those for Wales. The subjoined tables exhibit the distribution of the acreage, and the numbers of live stock, both for England and for Wales in the year 1877.


It appears from the last annual Agricultural returns that the extent of arable land in England and Wales is on the decrease, as is also the produce of live stock, while, on the other hand, the area of pasture land is on the increase. The decline in the acreage of arable land, very marked in the five years from 1872 to 1877, was greater in Wales than in England, and embraced all the principal crops. The land under wheat fell iron 3,336,888 acres in 1872 to 2,987,129 in 1877, in England; and from 126,367 acres in 1872 to 100,226 in 1877, in Wales. During the same period the acreage under potatoes fell in England from 339,056 to 303,964, and in Wales from 48,417 to 42,942; and that under clover in England from 2,822,392 to 2,727,387, and in Wales fro, 370,850 to 351,797. In the acreage under barley and oats there was a slight increase in England, but a decrease in Wales; while in the acreage under turnips and Swedes there as a trifling increase in England and a decrease in Wales during the period. Taken altogether, the extent of arable land in England fell from 13,839,000 acres in 1872 to 13,454,000 acres in 1877, being a decrease of 385,000 acres. In Wales, the extent of arable land sank from 1,104,000 acres to 999,000 acres in the same period, the decrease amounting to 105,000 acres. The decrease of arable land during the five years was very steady, and so likewise was the increase in the acreage of pasture land. There were in England under pasture—exclusive of heath and mountain land—9,991,000 acres in 1872, and 10,858,000 acres in 1877, the increase in the five years amounting to 867,000 acres, being more then double the extent of decrease of arable land. In Wales there were under pasture 1,532,000 acres in 1872, and 1,732,000 acres in 1877, making the increase amount to 200,000 acres, this also being not far from double that of the decrease in arable land. The decrease in the extent of arable land, and simultaneous increase of pastures, may be explained by the fact of England being supplied, more and more, with corn from foreign countries, where it can be grown cheaper than at home. Naturally, the produce of pasture lands cannot be brought in the same way into the country.

If the decrease of arable land and increase of pastures can be thus explained, it is not so easy to account for the decline of live stock which also took place during the same period, more especially from 1874. It might have been expected that the widening of the pastural area would have led to an increase of five stock, but the contrary was thelength in June 1874, and 18,330,377 in June 1877, being a decrease of 1,529,381. In Wales, during the same period, the number of sheep fell from 3,064,696 to 2,862,013, being a decrease of 202,682. Thus the total decline in the number of sheep in England and Wales was no less than 1,732,064 in the short space of three years. The great diminution of live stock during the triennial period from 1874 to 1877 was not confined to England and Wales, but occurred simultaneously in Scotland, as well as in Ireland, being greatest in the latter country, where the decline in sheep alone amounted to 10 _ per cent.

In the census returns of 1871, the number of persons entered as "agriculturists" in England and Wales was 1,447,481, comprising 1,264,031 men and 183,450 women. At the preceding census (1861) the number of "agriculturists" was given at 1,833,652, showing a diminution of 386,171 within the decennial period, the probably to the augmented use of machinery for the cultivation of the soil.

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