Object 5 – Agricultural Labourers

A History of Newmarket Farm in Twelve Objects

Object 5 – Agricultural Labourers

Object 5 – Agricultural Labourers

  • Money

Only 2 halfpennies and 2 farthings were excavated from the cottage site, all from reign of George V

1919 halfpenny from trench 1B
1919 – George V – Halfpenny
1927 - George V - farthing
1927 – George V – Farthing


Money – Very low earnings; how poor were they?

Purchasing power of agricultural labourer;

  • Earnings hard to calculate
    • Records for wages not known to exist for Newmarket Farm labourers
    • Wages higher at harvest time, lower in winter
    • Wages varied greatly by locality
    • Extra income from various sources
    • Remote location implies less earning opportunities (longer travelling times – less free time)
    • Poaching
      • Punishment if caught very much higher in 1830 than in 1930, so more likely in later times
      • also, shepherds did not like to be deprived of their perks by lower status agricultural labourers
        • but, the widespread use of barbed wire after WW1 to contain sheep, etc, meant fewer visits by farmer or shepherd, so chances of getting caught were greatly reduced
    • Increasingly cheap foreign imports of food, especially with advent of refrigerated ships, meant farm profits – and hence wages – dropped
  • Expenditure very difficult to assess
    • Did they pay rent for cottage?
    • Did the farmer provide extras such as food and drink at harvest time?
    • Remote location implies higher costs (fewer money saving opportunities)
    • Types of expenditure varied enormously over 100+ years
      • Baths in hot water were not considered healthy till mid-nineteenth century (soap taxed till 1853)
      • Cooking over an open fire or range, replaced by paraffin stove by 20th century
      • Lighting by candle replaced by bright paraffin lamps
      • Industrial mass production reduced the cost of goods
        • Woolworth’s in 1920’s (the original equivalent of today’s pound shops) enabled people to buy more luxury household items
    • Individual families;
      • some never spent money on alcohol
      • some didn’t spend any money on toys and treats for children
  • Some published sources have attempted to make general statements

Object 5 – Agricultural Labourers

Edward Phipps – featured in Daily Express shortly after leaving Newmarket Farm

Edward Phipps in Daily Express 1938
Edward Phipps in Daily Express 1938
  • Edward Phipps worked for less than the dole;
    • As a result of this report, Daily Express readers sent his children lots of presents for their best Christmas ever!

How did Reg Latham get Edward Phipps’ job?

  • Edward Phipps (1934-1938) worked with horses – like all those before him;
    • Painting below, by Douglas Holland of horse ploughing opposite Downs Hotel, Woodingdean, shows Newmarket Hill in background
  • The decorative hand-forged wrought iron hoof pick we excavated could have been from any farm labourer since the cottage was built
Horse Ploughing, Downs Hotel, Woodingdean from a painting by Douglas Holland
Horse Ploughing, Downs Hotel, Woodingdean from a painting by Douglas Holland

How did Reg Latham get Edward Phipps’ job?

  • In 1938 the government required farms to increase production in preparation for the likely war with Germany;
    • So the farm for which he worked bought two tractors to meet this demand
    • On Reginald Latham’s marriage certificate, his occupation was: tractor driver
  • The shiny metal piston rod excavated from the ‘cubby hole’ (shed) may have been from a tractor
Tractor ploughing at nearby Falmer, WW2
Tractor ploughing at nearby Falmer, WW2

Previous: Object 4 – Census Records

Next: Object 6 – Heating, Cooking, Laundry

One reply on “Object 5 – Agricultural Labourers”

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