Farming About London in the 18th and 19th Centuries
of the nineteenth-century London was surrounded by market gardens
and agricultural lands. There were approximately 8,500 dairy
cattle kept to supply the metropolis with milk, of which most
were Holderness cattle, originally from the East Riding of Yorkshire.
Each cow produced about eight quarts of milk per day.
to the retailer for about one shilling ninepence per eight quarts,
the milk was transported to London's markets by 'robust Welsh
girls' in tin pails where it was distributed twice daily. Before
being put up for sale the milk was often adulterated with river
water, decreasing its quality and increasing the likelihood
of the consumer catching an unhealthy dose of cholera from their
description of the cow-keeper's daily routine comes from a Mr
Foot in the early nineteenth century (c. 1809). Note that the
cows were not milked by their keepers, but by the city retailers:
the night the cows are confined in stalls. About three o'clock
in the morning each has a half-bushel basket of grain. From
four o'clock to half past six they are milked by the retailer-dealers.
When the milking is finished, a bushel basket of turnips is
given to each cow. Soon afterwards they are given an allotment,
in the proportion of one truss to ten cows, of the most grassy
and soft meadow-hay, which had been the most early mown, and
cured of the greenest colour.
several feedings are generally made before eight o'clock in
the morning, at which time the cows are turned into the cow-yard.
twelve o'clock they are again confined in their stalls, and
served with the same quantity of grains as they had in the morning.
half past one in the afternoon the milking again commences,
and continues till near three, when the cows are again served
with the same quantity of turnips; and about an hour afterwards,
with the same distribution of hay as before described.
mode of feeding continues throughout the turnip season, which
is from the month of September until May. During the other months
of the year they are fed with grains, cabbages, tares, and the
fore-going proportion of rouen, or second-cut meadow-hay, and
are continued to be fed and milked with the same regularity
as before described, until they are turned out to grass, when
they continue in the field all night.
during this season they are fed with grains, which are
kept sweet and eatable for a considerable length of time,
by being buried in pits made for that purpose.
are about ten bulls to a stock of three hundred cows. The
calves are generally sent to Smithfield
market at one, two, or three days old, where they sell
from one pound six shillings to one pound, eleven shillings
and sixpence each.
which gave an extraordinary amount of milk were kept for up
to seven years, after which they were 'dried' and sold off
to a butcher.
also visit Old London Maps
on the web as many of the maps
and views available there have plans and depictions of gardens
the medieval period through to the late nineteenth century.
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