Author Topic: Possibly stupid question about farms and horsemen  (Read 462 times)

Offline Stanwix England

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Possibly stupid question about farms and horsemen
« on: Saturday 05 June 21 23:52 BST (UK) »
I'm looking at a census record for 1911 and a family member who was the only domestic servant on a farm.

I noticed that the head of the family is listed as 'farmer', but one son, and the other servant are both listed as 'horseman'.

That made me wonder, does that mean it's likely that they were raising horses? At least for part of their income? Is horseman just a generic term, or does it mean a person was specifically caring for horses a lot. I know farmers did still use horses in the 1910s, so that might be an explanation, but on the other hand, I did wonder why a farm that doesn't seem to be particularly huge would need more than one horseman.

It's interesting because I can remember a family story about that particular relative giving tips to someone about which horse to pick in a race, and she won, so it did make me wonder if she had picked up a bit of knowledge while in that job.
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Offline GR2

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Re: Possibly stupid question about farms and horsemen
« Reply #1 on: Sunday 06 June 21 00:10 BST (UK) »
A horseman is a farm worker who looks after a pair of horses and uses them to plough, pull harrows, carts etc.

Offline Nick_Ips

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Re: Possibly stupid question about farms and horsemen
« Reply #2 on: Sunday 06 June 21 01:15 BST (UK) »
Is horseman just a generic term, or does it mean a person was specifically caring for horses a lot. I know farmers did still use horses in the 1910s, so that might be an explanation, but on the other hand, I did wonder why a farm that doesn't seem to be particularly huge would need more than one horseman.

As GR2 says, it was their job to look after the draught horses and put them to work. It was a skilled and highly respected role - requiring not only knowledge of care and treatment of the horses, but also having the skill to plough.

All but the smallest arable farms would need multiple teams of horses - activities like haymaking and harvest are highly weather dependent, so the farm would need the resources (workers and horses) to be able to complete the activity quickly when the weather was right.

Does the census return give the size of the farm in acres? They often do. If you use a rule of thumb of one plough team (two horses and a man) being able to plough between 1 and 2 acres per day (depending on soil type and conditions) that would give you an indication of how much of the year would be spent ploughing with one team vs two (or more) teams.


Offline Maiden Stone

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Re: Possibly stupid question about farms and horsemen
« Reply #3 on: Sunday 06 June 21 15:24 BST (UK) »
To add to what the others said, the number of horse-teams & men would have depended on the size and type of farm.
My family had a small dairy farm + a milk-round. Milk was delivered twice daily before homes had fridges. A pair of horses was kept. They shared the milk-round and farm-work. The horse which went out on the morning round was rested on return to the farm while the other horse did farm work. If there was no horse-work on the farm that day, the other horse could do the afternoon round. Labour was mainly family with occasionally part-time or seasonal or temporary help.
Was the horseman the only son who worked on the farm? "Farmer's son" was a census occupation. It denoted that a man or boy was working on his parent's farm and not as a paid labourer on someone else's farm. Eldest son of my family had "farmer's son" as his occupation on 1911 census. As it was a small farm everybody in the family did everything.

A man who was groom at a riding stables in my village when I was a child had previously worked on farms. He said doing farm work with horses was more interesting than with tractors. 
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Offline DonM

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Re: Possibly stupid question about farms and horsemen
« Reply #4 on: Sunday 06 June 21 17:42 BST (UK) »
We were largely Cattle but a couple of farms were in Barley, Oats and Corn so we used Mules for ploughing.  You could plough more land with a pair of Mules over a heavy horse.  They were built for this type of work their legs are leaner with a smaller hoof so they can get in and out of the furrow easier.  Any four legged beast has to travel 8.25 miles/acre a Mule can cover 5 acres/day while a heavy horse 3-4 acres per day if its flat land.  We had 5 Mules and heavy horses which my GG Gran bred.  We got rid of the Mules in 1919 replaced by the tractor. 

Offline Maiden Stone

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Re: Possibly stupid question about farms and horsemen
« Reply #5 on: Monday 07 June 21 10:57 BST (UK) »
You can search a census by occupation on some websites. Results can show how common an occupation was in an area. You could then look at some individual households for comparison.
 
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Offline Stanwix England

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Re: Possibly stupid question about farms and horsemen
« Reply #6 on: Monday 07 June 21 13:01 BST (UK) »
Thank you so much everyone, I didn't expect to get such interesting information!

Unfortunately the census doesn't appear to specify how many acres belonged to this particular farm.

My only clue about the potential size of the farm is that it appears to still be around today. When I looked for it, part of it has recently been converted into a wind farm. You need quite a lot of land for a wind farm (at least the one I know has lots of space between the windmills). That's assuming of course that the farm hasn't expanded since 1911, which of course it could have. So it could have been fairly sizeable.

The people living there at the 1911 census were a married couple, one son of 18 (listed as 'horseman on farm) and their grandson who was only 5. They said they had 3 children born and 3 living, and the grandson has their surname so must be the child of a son not a daughter. So perhaps they had at least one other adult son who perhaps worked the farm but just wasn't there that day for what ever reason.

Other than that there is my relative the domestic servant, and one male servant who is also listed as horseman on the farm.
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Offline Maiden Stone

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Re: Possibly stupid question about farms and horsemen
« Reply #7 on: Monday 07 June 21 13:34 BST (UK) »
Acreage of farms could change through time. Land was bought & sold, farms were split or amalgamated, additional land might be enclosed. You may be able to trace the farm back through each previous census. Farmers stated number of acres on at least 1 19thC census. Youngest ag. lab. son (b. 1810) of one of my ag. lab. ancestors progressed to farmer of 4 acres late in life.
Tithe records (1830s/1840s) gave acreage and land use of each piece of land on each farm. There are maps to go with the written records. Land holdings and land use might have changed significantly between then and 1911.
Look at neighbouring households on the census and other farming households in the area to get a fuller picture.
Farm sales and lettings and jobs may have been advertised in a local newspaper or in farming papers. A local newspaper may have included farming news items (sales of cattle &c., agricultural shows, ploughing matches) which can give an idea of the type of farming going on.
Local histories and reminiscences.
       
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