A farmer's view (of life at the farm around the year 1900). My grandfather used to say, "If a man is good enough to work for me, he's good enough to eat with me". In those days everybody working on the farm was part of the farm. They were living there and therefore it was their home. My grandfather used to say, "Everybody should be at home to have their Sunday dinner". The work people and the family would sit down together to Sunday dinner. They could go home and have their tea at their home on Sunday if they wished, although there would be tea for them if they didn't. They were treated as workers but they were also members of the farm. Here (Hartland) and at Docton the people that lived here and worked here ate together - all my families on both sides were the same about this - the people that worked here ate with them on normal occasions. On Sundays or great feast days they had their meals separate if they had guests, and the girls waited on them. But at Christmas-time and Sundays they ate together.

It was not the same everywhere. Some people had their workpeople eating separately, and different food. The people would eat in the kitchen while the servants ate in the back kitchen or scullery. Some people divided the table, the farmer and his family having a tablecloth while the workers ate off the bare table. Some people had a tablecloth for the whole table, but with a line dividing it. Some people had separate tables in the same room. There were those who were known for keeping a good table and looking after their workpeople. There wre others who were so mean that even a fried egg would be divided between two.("Family Servants and Visitors", Mary Bouquet, 1985) ........The labourer's view (in 1843) follows..Scroll Down..
The following are some revealing accounts of the poor of Devon, as reported to the
Poor Law Commissioners, whose report was published in 1843.
Hoskins & Finsberg, "Devonshire Studies", 1952.
See also..
Marwood and Braunton. Also, visit a selection of paupers for an alphabetical list.

"..there were 21 of us in the family all at one time....", stated Charles Medway.

The statement of Mary Puddicombe, wife of Samuel of Exeter, labourer.

My father was a farm-labourer at Bridford. I am 41. I cannot read or write. I was apprenticed to Matthew Coleridge of Bridford, when I was 9 years old. My master died when I was 14; I was not apprenticed afterwards. When I first went, there were two boys and a girl apprentices; when my master died, there were three girls and four boys apprentices. The girls slept in our master's daughter's room, the boys in another room. We had to go through the boys' room to our room. Three of us slept in one bed; the four boys slept in one bed.

The family got their dinner all together, and supper too. There was no difference in the meat,and we always had wheaten pudding. There was wheaten bread ready, if anybody came in. I lived much better there than I should have done a home. We might go to the bread and cheese whenever we liked, any of us. We were not clothed very well. I didn't go to church for a long time, not for three years, and then because the clergyman interfered; then we got better clothes for Sunday. We were never taught to read prayers, and we never said our catechism: people were not so strict in those days as now. It is a good thing for children now that they are brought up to education. It is a good thing for children to read and write; it keeps them out of mischief. Most all my children go to to school.

I used to be employed when I was apprenticed in driving bullocks to field, and fetching them up again; cleaning out their houses, and bedding them up; washing potatoes and boiling them for pigs; milking; in the fields leading horses or bullocks to plough; maidens would not like that work now. Then I was employed in mixing lime ad earth to spread, digging potatoes, digging and pulling turnips, and anything that came to hand, like a boy. I reaped a little, not much: loaded pack-horses; went out with horses for furze. I got up at five or six, except on market mornings twice a week, and then at three. I went to bed at half-past nine.

I worked more in the fields than in the house. When my master died, I went as a servant at Blackiston for two years. I was treated very bad there: the people beat their servants. I used to be beat black and blue. The servants beat me; my master used to bang me. I never was much hurt. I never complained to a magistrate. I told my father and mother, and they told me to be a better maiden next time. Apprentices were treated worse; two, without fathers to look after them, were beat with a stick for anything that happened. One maiden had her arm cut to the bone with a stick the young master cut out of the hedge at the time, for not harrowing right, for not leaving enough harrow to go back again. That went to a justice: master was fined and had to pay the doctor's bill. The fine was given away in bread to the porr. The parish did not bind any apprentices after that.

I married at 19; my husband was 24. We have got six children; the eldest a boy of 22. He was apprenticed when nine to Mr. Emmens, of Bridford, until he was 21. It was a very good place indeed: the boy was always comfortable; he liked being with his master.

I worked in the fields many years after I married; lately I have done washing. I think washing is harder than working in the fields.

I think it was a good thing for young boys and maidens to be apprenticed; now they are not brought up to learn anything. If they are bound out, and get good places, they can't do better; but bad places are very bad. Apprentices were not so well attended to as they are now; they were sometimes very badly treated.

and now, Charles Medway, labourer of Doddiscombsleigh.

I was born at Bridford. My father and mother were farmers' labourers. I am 39 years old. I was apprenticed ro Mr. Smallridge, of Bridford, a farmer: he had a farm of 230 acres.

I was first put out at six years old to a place to fetch cows, water, etc. I was afterwards, between seven and eight, apprenticed. My master died one year before my time was out; I served the rest out with his widow. There were three or four other apprentices at the same time; two of them girls. It was a very good place, as good a place as a person could wish to be in: plenty of meat and drink. As for work, why people must work, and there was plenty of that. The boys lodged with the master's sons, in the same room; the girls slept in another room with the master's daughters. There were 21 of us in the family all at one time. I was clothed pretty well. I had two suits, one for Sunday and one for week days. I always went decent to any place on a holiday. There was never any serious disagreement between master and mistress and their apprentices; a few words, perhaps, but none of them ever went before a magistrate. I was living much better in the farm-house than I might be at home.

I married at 28. I have got four children; the eldest is a boy of 10. He lives in a farm-house; he works for his meat, drink, and clothes and lodging, but he is not apprenticed.

I think it is a good thing for boys to be apprenticed. They used to be beat sometimes where I was; a stick or whip was used. We didn't like it, but now I think it was necessary. Where there are several young people together they must be done so to keep them in order. My young boy is now beat in the same way, but I don't think it is a matter to find fault with. He always tells me of it; if I thought it serious I would take him away directly.

I learned to read in the farm-house. Master took care we should read of winter nights, on Sundays particularly. All the apprentices were brought to the reading in the same way. I went to church twice on Sunday generally. I said my catechism every Sunday to my master; he made his sons and daughters attend to us. I was confirmed: master was always anxious about that with his apprentices.

My wife was an apprentice at Bovey Tracie. I never heard her say that she was badly off in any way. She was 27 when we married.

I think apprenticeship a good thing; a labourer gets rid of children, and the children are better off, if in a good place. I was in a good place, but I was lucky. I know many places where I should not like a child to be sent to: the children in such places have no clothes to wear; they are beat and half-starved. There are many such places; but generally speaking, places are good.

Finally, Mary Rendall, whose experience was NOT good....

When I was an apprentice, I got up as early as half-past two, three, four, five, to get cows in, feed them, milk them, and look after the pigs. I then had breakfast, and afterwards went into the fields. In the fields I used to drive the plough, pick stones, weed, pull turnips, when snow was lying about, sow corn, dig potatoes, hoe turnips, and reap. I did everything that boys did. Master made me do everything. I took a pride to it, when I used to reap, to keep up with the men.

My mistress was a very bad temper; when bad tempered she treated me very ill; she beat me very much; she would throw me on the ground, hold me by the ears, kneel upon me, and use me very ill; I used to scream. This has happened several times-a-week. I have not been free from sore from one week to another. I have still marks upon me from kicks. At other times she treated me pretty well. When she was violent, we had not enough to eat.

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