Farming

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Even before the advent of the Normans, the Pembrokeshire mainland was largely pastoral, for the Celtic people were semi-nomadic graziers, under the tribal system peculiar to Wales. The cattle were the chief source of wealth of the groups of families which occupied the Pembrokeshire settlements (gwelys) under the headman (uchelwyr). Sometimes a powerful nobleman or uchelwyr was the son of, or became a petty prince. The land was for the common use of the community, but the land tenure and certain rights were later handed down by inheritance as the country became more populated. Prince Hywel Dda codified a system of tenure which included the law of gravelkind by which the land was passed from father to each of sons equally. This resulted in the division of fields and plowland into narrow strips, each held by a related but separate household. The system meant wastage of ground in excessive verges more travelling between widely dispersed inherited plots and boundary disputes. Animals listed by him include domestic - horse, pigs, oxen, sheep, goats, geese, chickens, bees; - wild include wolf and beaver. Wheat barley and oats were cut with a scythe.

1194 Geraldus says - (Description of Wales - Welsh are a pastoral people with no liking for agriculture, eating more flesh than corn - frugal yet hospitable - wearing rough clothes beggars unknown - humble homes - seats and beds were of rushes or hay and the bed clothes consisted of a coarse woven cloth Three people shared one wooden plate or bowl in which cawl was poured made of meat and herbs - every day a flat bread loaf was baked like a plank bread. They ploughed the land with two or four oxen or sometimes two horses and two oxen, the ploughman leading the team walking backwards before the yoke. They would not marry a woman until they were sure she was capable of becoming a mother. Giraldus also gives a good description of agriculture around a Norman castle Manorbier.

 

1326 - Extent of the lands and rents of the Lord Bishop (of St David's) gives a picture of life for tenants in the south of the County. Normans attached to their manors had fishponds and columbarium (Pigeon lofts).

Chief crops were wheat, barley and oats with some peas, beans and buckwheat grown on twice ploughed land.  Houses were of wood or stone with thatched roofs.

The tenants were expected to perform numerous unpaid services as well as taxes, including repairing his mills as well as transporting new grindstones for them, grinding his corn and transporting the flour, transporting coal for burning limestone to make lime for spreading on the fields, maintaining his salmon fishing weirs, moving heavy building material.

1600 - George Owen gives a picture of this period saying that the winter wheat of the south was good and plentiful enough to be exported to France, Spain and Ireland. In the north of the county oats were grown year after year without change until the land was exhausted. He also says about - "of the naner of husbandrie & tillage of the lande, and of the naturall helpe and amendements the soile it selfe yealdeth for betteringe and mendinge the land as lyme, two kinds of Marlesand woase (ooze) or oade (weed) of the sea" - the limestone was burned between layers of anthracite in small kilns both materials being readily available in the County. The burned lime was carted to the fields where the heaps were slaked by the rain, ready for spreading Marling or claying of light land and sanding of heavy land was also practised the sanding being good for manuring barley. Seaweed was gathered and rotted down before being used as manure and cattle etc., would be penned on land due to be ploughed to manure it.

Sheep were allowed to roam each being marked with their owners mark but some of the owners were not as honest as others and disputes commonly arose. Before the time of enclosures - Owen.

Records, that more than three thousand young people were employed herding cattle and horses.

Cattle were marketed once a year at the annual fair and would be purchased prior to driving to the English markets - they were mainly Welsh Blacks.

 

1794 Charles Hassall compiled "A General View of the Agriculture of Pembroke", Farmers he said were backward compared to those in England - the area was not suitable to the growing of corn and advocated a reduction of tillage in favour of grass - by this time much of the land had been enclosed.

 

1890's - deep agricultural depression and landlords disposed of many estates.

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