Staffordshire Working Lives
Letter pleading for leniency from the landlord

Letter pleading for leniency from the landlord on behalf of a farmer ruined by the collapse of corn prices, 1816.

(© Staffordshire Record Office: D603/K/16/73A)

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Collapse of corn prices: letter pleading for a ruined farmer

Letter pleading for leniency from the landlord, 1816

In this letter the father of a struggling farmer writes to the landowner, Lord Anglesey on behalf of his son who is facing ruin on his farm at Bentilee on the north-east edge of Stoke on Trent. George Booth, senior, sets out the previous years’ accounts, commenting on the collapse of the corn prices which followed the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1814 and which triggered a widespread agricultural depression. He pleads for concessions particularly on the grounds of improvements made to the farm, and he also blames the poor quality of the “deceitful” land.
In this month of September, it is the time of the corn harvest. The corn had to be cut and stacked into ricks. As the weather is so crucial in farming, there are almost daily weather reports. The farmer gives thanks that the weather has been good and the harvest productive.

The opinion from Lord Paget's agent is not sympathetic, stating that the accounts have been badly kept, do not add up and that the improvements would have been done by any farmer under the tenancy and were barely discernable in terms of added value.

Further background about this difficult time is supplied in another letter in this collection, where another failed farmer had destroyed fences and fruit trees before quitting the farm and the agent suggested an example should be made of him. Clearly there was a fear that other failed farmers would take out their frustrations upon the landlords and damage the farms as they left.


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