Cumnor in the 1860s: How Far Did Dependence on Agriculture Shape Its Social Structure?
‘We stood in Cumnor ..A straggling line of scattered cottages with mud or rough stone walls uncemented and rude and low overhanging thatched roofs with here and there the bee hives on a bench by the gate in the low stone wall or a few brown faced urchins who peeped slily at the unaccustomed stranger….(Anon 1850) ..
‘We turned our back upon the line of cottages or huts perhaps they might be called’ the writer continued, ‘ ..Cumnor is at best a poor squalid place.’ Though lacking the intensity of urban life famously described by Engels (1844), Cumnor epitomizes aspects of a sharply polarised society with a land-less rural working class. This paper …show more content…
The proportion of householders in the parish exercising the lowest level of social power reflects their place within this particular form of capitalist agriculture. On the basis of an analysis of tax returns for 1860, Purdy (1861) provides a rule-of-thumb suggesting the division of revenue between the three classes: the yearly income of the Labourers is equal to the yearly rental of the landlords and to twice the yearly profits of the farmers. His paper suggests that farmers might typically have advanced £3.40 an acre on rent and wage payments together, securing in return a profit of around 86 pence per acre. On this basis, the lessee of a typical Cumnor farm might have anticipated an annual income of around £215. Extending this logic, the annual income of farm labourers’ families might have been around £50 7 .
Land Ownership and Occupation
The power of landlords to shape local social structure was substantial and it will be argued that Cumnor’s dependence on agriculture resulted primarily from the principal landowner’s perception of his interests. Influence might be exerted through controlling farm size, through controlling the supply of workers’ housing, or through control of agricultural practice through leases. In this paper such matters can only be imputed.
Cumnor was a