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Friday, June 25, 2010

Dad Silly Sausage


[By Theo, Monday 22nd June 2010]

He likes to blog about us and he loves to wear his Polar Fleece jacket.

He likes to joke around - he says that Mum's gone to ship with the pirates and he likes to go to the Marenui (Surf Club Cafe).

We play soccer in the park together.

I love him.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Too Bad for the Rest of Us

I have just had an extra irritation in seeing New Zealand held to a goal-less draw by Paraguay.

This involves Jane ‘oohing and aahing’ about Roque Santa Cruz being the best looking man in football.

Complaints about Roque’s roguish charms are widely shared – going as far as the New Zealand Captain.

All Whites Captain Ryan Nelsen and Paraguay Striker Roque Santa Cruz are mates having played soccer together for Blackburn Rovers. Santa Cruz, 28, now plays for Manchester City but he and Nelsen became good friends when he joined Blackburn from the Bundesliga in 2007-08.

"We live near each other and we've stayed in touch since Mark Hughes took him to Manchester City".

"Roque's a brilliant guy. He speaks four or five languages, he plays the guitar and he sings as well as any pop star. In fact, he had a No1 hit when he played in Germany for Bayern Munich.

"He's also a good-looking bloke. It's embarrassing when you take your wife to see him and she can't stop staring at him. Even my mother was mesmerised the first time she met Roque.

He has that effect on women - too bad for the rest of us. You just know no-one's going to pay attention to you if Roque's in the room."

Sunday, June 20, 2010

No Goal in any other Game could Smeltz so Sweet!


Shane Edward Smeltz, who was born 29 September 1981 in Göppingen, Baden-Württemberg of American and English parents, is a very talented and heroic New Zealand soccer player.

Smeltz played for a variety of professional Australian clubs and then tryied his luck in England with five matches for Mansfield Town in 2005. Before signing briefly for English side Halifax Town, Shane Smeltz played in 61 competitive matches for AFC Wimbledon, including 11 as a substitute, and scored 26 goals.

Smeltz returned to New Zealand in 2007 signing a two-year deal with the Wellington Phoenix. In his first season he finished second in the Golden Boot race with nine goals from 19 appearances.

In the 2008–09 season, Smeltz scored a record 12 goals for the A-League season proper, resulting in the A-League Golden Boot 2008/09, and also goal of the season for his winning strike against Melbourne Victory at Westpac Stadium in round 13. The game finished 2-1.

Smeltz has played for the under 20, 23 and full New Zealand national team. In May 2007, he was the scorer of both New Zealand's goals in an impressive 2-2 draw against Wales.

He also became the first AFC Wimbledon player to win international honours, and the first to become an international goal-scorer (on 25 April 2006), when he netted in an away friendly against Chile.

Following his impressive goal scoring form with the Phoenix in the A-League as well as consistent performances for the All Whites, Smeltz was voted New Zealand footballer of the year on 19 November 2007, ahead of English Premier League star Ryan Nelsen and Celtic striker Chris Killen.

Smeltz was named in the 2009 Confederations Cup New Zealand squad to travel to South Africa and again this year for the World Cup.

Shane scored in New Zealand's second game of the tournament in South Africa on 20 June 2010 in the seventh minute to give them an initial 1-0 advantage against reigning champions Italy.

Grumpy Old Man grapples with Grumpy Old Woman


[Letter to the Editor, Sunday Star Times, 20/06/2010]

As a 'Grumpy Old Man', I alternate between loving and loathing Rosemary McLeod's 'Grumpy Old Woman' columns in the Sunday Star Times (see article below).

She is obviously one of the girls that I remember from the 1970s who would berate you for looking down their blouse and then steal your Speight's from the fridge.

But just for the record, she has got it all wrong on the Scarlett Johansson and Sandra Bullock 'Girls' lip lock' issue.

It has absolutely nothing to do with Red Blooded Males and their sad "Can I watch?" fantasies in lonely hotel rooms - regardless of who picks up the tab.

Get real Rosemary, these girls are your true 1970s offspring and they apparently need men like a shubunkin needs a mountain bike (or motorbike in Sandra Bullock's case).

The message is clear – I can always unicycle or tandem if need be.
And by the way, kindly make sure in future that the fridge door is shut and the toilet seat up!"

Rosemary's article:


[By Rosemary McLeod, Sunday Star Times, 13/06/2010]

'First there was Britney and Madonna, and now there's Scarlett and Sandra. I wonder how we ever coped before girls started snogging in public.

Surely there's never been a better time for the "Can I watch?" fantasy so beloved of a certain kind of man, with starlets all slathering each other in lip gloss.

Once you had to hire videotapes of this sort of thing from seedy old men who kept them in curtained-off areas of sex shops, but that was when people thought Brazilians came from Brazil and the sound of hardware clinking from multiple piercings wasn't yet an essential accompaniment to lovemaking.

Is it an assertion of some kind of newly rediscovered 70s feminism, empowering women to express their true sexuality? More about teasing the boys, surely, in a tired old way but true, because the essential ingredient of this scenario is the mighty male who enters the room, rips down his daks, and shows the girls a thing or two that – oh my lord! – they never imagined, not even when they were vacuum cleaning in the nude while carrying feather dusters.

They're all at it: big hair, big lips, big smooch. Last week it was Sandra Bullock and Scarlett Johansson at the MTV awards, in what looked like a totally choreographed, scripted lip lock.

There was no need for Johansson to be present otherwise; she wasn't handing over the trophy; but she said she'd wanted Bullock to win the "Best Kiss" trophy, "hinted" that she wanted to snog her, and Bullock generously obliged.

Oh wow, two really famous women and they're kissing! But they'd spring away from each other like terrified cats if one of them accidentally touched the other in the washroom.

The trend dates back, I guess, to Madonna's kiss with Britney Spears at the 2003 MTV awards, which Johansson and Bullock just reprised.

Then there was Katy Perry with her 2007 hit, "I Kissed a Girl". You may recall that she followed through coyly with, "I hope my boyfriend don't mind it." Mind it? He's gagging for her to do it again. Or, then again, maybe he's reading a book.

This is all harmless enough, but there's something about serious actors and singers having to titillate like this that isn't all that playful, and isn't great as role modelling.

Aren't we tired yet of expecting talented women to perform nearly naked to prove that their bodies are as great as their voices – like Beyonce, so embarrassing at the Video Music Awards earlier this year, or Lady Gaga in her many incarnations?

And, can't a girl sing without pelvic thrust anymore? Besides, there are women who rely on these activities to earn a living, and it's hardly fair to strip income from the pockets of needy sex workers and strippers.

Whoever you are, it's a basic rule of the workforce not to do the other man's job'.

Shane Jones & the 'Meanness in Other People's Tragedies'


Over the last two weeks, the New Zealand national newspapers have been unnaturally preoccupied with political correctness, wowserism and snipping Tall Poppies.

First some definitions:

Political Correctness: ‘a set of attitudes and beliefs that mandate how people should think and what they are permitted to discuss’. Or ‘the prescription of norms of social behaviour in laws and the institutions of government that focus on the addressing the concerns and interests of minority sector groups’.

Wowserism: ‘a sense of morality that drives the small-minded to deprive others of their sinful pleasures’. Or, as that wonderful ‘Sentimental Bloke’, Australian writer C.J. Dennis sums it up ‘a wowser is an ineffably pious person who mistakes this world for a penitentiary and himself for a warder'.

Tall Poppy: ‘a successful Try-Hard who is seen to take him or herself too seriously and flaunt their success without due humility’. Or ‘One of few bright stars who leave the supposedly level playing field carrying a trophy and therefore become the object of thinly-veiled envy and resentment from the pack’.

So from these ingredients, you can mix a deadly cocktail of conformity, puritanism, jealousy and schadenfreude - one that is a popular recreational aperitif in New Zealand.

And it really doesn’t matter that much whether those who are imposing, judging or undermining are on the political left or the political right.

One man or woman’s sinful pleasure is another’s opening for complaint that the participants are attempting to impose a moral minority – and both apparent pleasures and complaints are compounded by passing the parcel and envying the last to unwrap a difference.

So, by way of example, let’s consider Michael Laws’ right-of-centre line on New Zealand’s ‘Expenses Expose'.


[By Michael Laws, Sunday Star Times, 13/06/2010]

It is entirely typical of the Labour Party that its first modern sex scandal should be one of its leading MPs having an affair with himself in the privacy of his own hotel room.

And that this should occasion such media convulsion and revulsion that the demands are for Shane Jones to resign. In his own words, he has been publicly shamed and humiliated. All his important relationships – with his wife, with his leader and with his colleagues – have been damaged and, potentially, fatally.

But, sorry, I cannot gloat at such a fall from grace. It is too human, too petty, too minor and, ultimately, too irrelevant. It does not deserve the press pack gangbang that so played out on Thursday night and Friday morning. Instead it serves as a moral lesson for us all: political falls are always occasioned by the minor and the minute, never the mad and the grand.

This is all so demonstrably petty. If a minister used his card to charge a movie to his overall and legitimate hotel bill – and then paid the cost later... where is the scandal? Was it illegal or even inappropriate?

Not according to ministerial rules of the time. However, if a minister used the card for a demonstrably private purchase – whether a meal or golf clubs, a massage or flowers for a lover – that is manifestly wrong. As of this past week, the media seem to be suggesting that both practices have the stain of immorality.

All these issues might indeed have subsumed into the ether were it not that the prurient and the tabloid so perfectly conflagrated with Shane Jones's hotel receipts.

The man likes to watch porn.

If that were a crime, and a reason for sacking, then the internet would cease to exist. Over half the male population and probably one-third the female population would be dismissed by tomorrow.

No, say the media. It's not that he watched porn – titter titter – but that he got the taxpayer to assist him. But, did he? If he repaid the private purchases on his hotel bill – as some sort of monthly financial reconciliation – then the crime is not criminal.

If Shane Jones made repeated transgressions of credit card policy – and acted recklessly even after official warning and/or sanction – then that would be a different matter again. That evidence, presumably, awaits.

For that reason – and not for the auto-eroticism of a lonely MP – this matter will reach into the coming week.

And yet it was the pornography issue that appears to most threaten his political career.

Poor Shane Jones now must reassure his Labour female colleagues that he respects them for their minds, and has never once regarded them as sexual objects. And as a former MP, who once used to look across the House at such forms, I can testify that such a confession would be remarkably easy to make. I was utterly unsure as to gender, let alone attendant creature comforts.

Nevertheless, it is all very petty and very puerile. Oh dear, they must live very sheltered lives in our newest tabloid broadsheet newsroom - because this is not a scandal that approximates any such extremes.

Instead it is an entirely Kiwi affair: minor mendacity writ small’.


At first glance the Michael Laws’ article can be interpreted as an endorsement of pre-emptive reimbursement and a spirited defence of the right to privacy on matters of voyeurism and onanism.

But if it really is ‘all very petty and puerile’ why has the case been raised in the first case – and why has Mr Laws seemed compelled to comment? And why is he so obviously enjoying wallowing in tut-tutting and innuendo.

So, I have to agree with Finlay Macdonald (even though he also was milking the case by the pail in a parallel recent column on the incident) that:

‘the peculiarly Kiwi mixture of prurience and prudishness that attended Shane Jones's abasement only underscored the unbecoming nature of this whole affair.

Not so much his own unbecoming behaviour, but the way we belittle ourselves by turning a tawdry little sideshow into a national cause celebre.

We managed to look adolescent, hypocritical, petty and puritanical all at once. If there's anything to feel ashamed about, it's that’.

But there is more. As the quotation illustrates, the issue also provided Mr Laws with a wonderful excuse to slag the NZ Labour Party’s former leader Helen Clarke and other female members of the former Government’s Front Bench.

Although I have my own doubts about some PC manifestations of feminism, I think that Laws’ comments on the Labour Party’s senior women were not only ‘politically incorrect’ but also simply rude.

As Oscar Wilde commented:

‘By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community’.

But please let’s try move to quietly noting ethical infringements and the follies of our politicians with better manners and tolerance.

In this regard more quotations from Oscar won’t go amiss!

'The pure and simple truth is rarely pure and never simple'.

'In modern life nothing produces such an effect as a good platitude - it makes the whole world kin'.

'Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live'.

'There is always something infinitely mean about other people's tragedies'.

'Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people whom we personally dislike'.

'I sometimes think that God in creating man somewhat overestimated his ability’.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Danish Maori proves New Zealand is God's Own Country!


If there is anyone in the world that does not know or will not soon know that the New Zealand ‘All Whites’ Soccer Team has just won its first ever point in a Soccer World Cup, there are people here in Wellington who are ready to leap on a plane and hire a Land Rover to bring the news to the Berber villages in the Atlas or the nomad Amerindians of the Amazon.

For those who prefer privacy from intrusive Kiwis – a selection of quotes from our newspapers:

Forget about Richie McCaw and Dan Carter, New Zealand has a new hero. Winston Wiremu Reid scored a dramatic 93rd minute equaliser to secure a well deserved 1-1 draw in the All Whites opening match against Slovakia to send the country into hysterics.

Assistant All Whites coach Brian Turner says he has no idea how young defender Winston Reid popped out of nowhere to score against Slovakia in the dying seconds of their opening Group F World Cup match this morning to salvage a 1-1 draw.

Turner told Radio Sport that when the game progressed into three minutes of time added on, the word went out to the All Whites, trailing to a 50th minute goal, to push up and try and win the ball back in the Slovakian half.

Then with mere seconds to go, striker Shane Smeltz made room to cross from the left and his ball to the far post found Reid whose header beat goalkeeper Jan Mulch.

"I don't know why Winston was there - he's in the back three but he was, and he put the ball away," a delighted Turner said.

"Winston said he prayed before he went to bed and he said he never believed in it and then he played and then he scored a goal - and that is the power of prayer."

Reid has been something of a revelation, having been a late addition to the All Whites finals campaign after declaring himself available for selection only in March this year after giving up a chance to play for Denmark.

Reid, 21, left New Zealand as a 10-year-old with his New Zealand mother and Danish stepfather and became a youth professional at Denmark Super League club FC Midtjylland at 15.

The 190cm player, who made his senior club debut at 17, has established himself as a key first-team member at Midtjylland, playing over 100 matches for the club including in Europe in the UEFA Cup.

There have also been stints with the Denmark youth sides including the national under-21 team.

He earned his first All Whites cap against Australia in a World Cup warm-up match in Melbourne last month, doing enough with 20-year-old Tommy Smith, who plays for English club Ipswich to convince Herbert to look at new blood in his defence.

On the whole, NZ coach Ricki Herbert will be absolutely delighted with the point but some NZ players like Nelsen, Elliot and Vicelich will be disappointed that a win has slipped by. But one has to take things as they come and the fact that Slovakia’s Vittek had strayed ever so slightly into an offside position to score their only goal is heart breaking.

That the country's expectations have increased dramatically is also a reflection on what this team has done and could potentially achieve.

A first ever win at a World Cup is becoming more realistic by the day.
Former All Whites coach John Adshead says New Zealand's 1-1 draw against Slovakia leaves them in the "box seat" psychologically to advance to the next round of the football World Cup.

Adshead admitted to pangs of nostalgia when he tuned in to watch New Zealand secure their first point in World Cup history this morning (NZT), having coached them to three losses in their only other appearance, in Spain in 1982.

He described the result as "absolutely fantastic" and, with all four teams in group F now level on one point, believed New Zealand were in the strongest position of any side heading into their second match, against defending champions Italy at Nelspruit on Monday morning (NZT).

"What they've gone there to achieve, I think they've achieved it, they've got a result. Going into the next game, it's all on Italy isn't it?" Adshead told NZPA.

"Italy has to win their second game so the pressure is on them - immensely.

"I think New Zealand is probably in the box seat. They are the least expected to win, they've met the expectations of the country already."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Matariki - Tapu te Ranga


Our birth-folk
Sky and earth
Together and apart
Grief and yearning
Heaving and strain.

Their children
The woodlands
And the seas
The winds and waves
The food stores
War and stillness.

Though the young struggle
With storms and snares,
The dark and emptiness
Are overcome by light and growth
And the sky is clothed in stars.

Get ready for the westerly
Stand fast for the southerly
It will be icy white inland
And icy cold on the shore.

May the dawn rise
On snow, on frost

The breath of life!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fox Hunting and the Point-to-Points


I feel compelled to add a little to my earlier posts on the history of dairy farming in South Cheshire.

First, I think that I need to explain a little more about the role of the aristocracy and the integral part that its members played in the area's social and economic development in the 19th century. And second, this provides a context for understanding the importance of fox hunting and horses in local culture.

As Mark Overton explains, the 19th century was like no other in that Malthusian constraints on population growth fortunately failed. Thanks to the Industrial Revolution (and the accompanying intensification of international trade), England faced an unprecedented and continuous increase in demand for agricultural commodities:

“In 1750 English population stood at about 5.7 million. It had probably reached this level before, in the Roman period, then around 1300, and again in 1650. But at each of these periods the population ceased to grow, essentially because agriculture could not respond to the pressure of feeding extra people [within a closed system].

Contrary to expectation, however, population grew to unprecedented levels after 1750, reaching 16.6 million in 1850, and agricultural output expanded with it”.

These developments also constituted a enormous opportunity for landowners. Whereas in the past rents had tended to stabilize and then fall on a cyclical basis, from 1750 or so onwards they tended upwards as product markets firmed, accompanied by increasing innovation and specialization.

As I have mentioned previously, some 400 km2 of Cheshire was held by aristocratic landlords in the mid-1800s, with 287 km2 (71,000 acres) being held by the four largest. This meant that as rents increased from say £1 13s 4d per acre in 1840 to £2 per acre 1870, the four largest landowners received an additional £47,000 per year (worth nearly £4 million per year in today’s money).

This extra cash funded the construction of extensive Gothic Castles and Jacobethan Great Houses, and the enjoyment of lavish lifestyles. However, the recipients also funded farm consolidation and farm house and building reconstruction, which reinforced the adoption of innovations and larger scale production by their tenant farmers.

From the fortunate larger farmer’s point of view, this was no bad thing. As cattle became relatively more expensive and cheese-making more demanding, it was sensible for all to ensure that costs should be shared between those who provided the capital in the form of land and those who provided the capital in the form of cattle (and who also bore the operating costs).

The New Zealand ‘Share Milking’ system is very different in form but has a similar underlying logic.

So there were two upshots from a social stance. The aristocracy had plenty of money and leisure – and they had created a relatively powerful class of large holding tenant farmers. And what kept both classes together in no small measure was the interest that emerged, and that they then both shared, in fox hunting and horse racing.

We have some interesting insights into the emergence of these trends in the form of a poem or ballad called ‘Farmer Dobbin’ written by Rowland Eyles Egerton-Warburton in 1853.

I have taken the liberty of straightening it out a bit and changing the surname references to the locals (Dobbin not being a Cheshire name). A shortened version is given below. Almost certainly, it was first recited in the Swan Inn in Tarporley, Cheshire around 1850.


‘Owd man, it’s well-nigh milking time, wherever hast thee bin
There’s slutch upon they coat, I fear, and blood upon thy chin?’
‘I’ve been to see the gentlefolk of Cheshire ride a run
Owd wench! I’ve been a-hunting and I’ve seen some rattling fun.

Our owd mare was at the smithy, when the huntsman he trots through
With Black Bill still hammering, the last nail in her shoe.
The woods lay weam and close, and so jovial seemed the day
Says I, “Owd mare, we’ll take a fling and see them go away”.

And what a power of gentlefolk did I set eyes upon
A reining in their hunters, all blood horses every one.

I seed that great commander in the saddle, Captain White
And the pack that thronged around him was indeed a gradely sight
The dogs looked smooth as satin, and himself as hard as nails,
And he gives the swells a caution not to ride upon their tails.

Says he “Young men of Manchester and Liverpool, come near,
I’ve just a word, a warning word, to whisper in your ear
When starting from the cover side, you see bold Reynolds burst
We cannot have no hunting if you gentlemen go first”.

Tom Rance has a single eye, worth many another’s two
He held his cap above his yed to show he had a view;
Tom’s voice was like the owd raven’s when he skriked ‘Tally-ho!’
For when the fox had seen Tom’s face, he thought it time to go.

Eh my! A pretty jingle then went ringing through the sky
Hounds Victory and Villager began the merry cry
Then every mouth was open from the owd’un to the pup
And all the pack together took the swelling chorus up.

Eh my! A pretty skouver then was kicked up in the vale
They skimmed across the running brook, they topped the post and rails
The did’na stop for razor cop - but played at touch and go -
And them as missed their footing there, lay doubled up below.

I seed the hounds a-crossing Farmer Fearnall’s boundary line
Whose daughter plays the piano and drinks white sherry wine
Gold rings upon her fingers and silk stockings on her feet
Says I “It won’t do him no harm to ride across his wheat!”

So tightly holding on by the yed, I hits the owd mare a whop
And ‘oo plumps into the wheat field going neck and crop
And when ‘oo floundered out on it, I catched another spin
And Missus that’s the occasion of the blood upon my chin.

I never risked another hap but kept the lane and then
In twenty minutes time, they turned on me again
The fox was finely daggled and the hounds were out of breath
When they killed him in the open and owd Dutton seed the death.

Now Missus, since the markets be doing moderate well
I’ve welly made my mind up to buy a nag myself
For to keep a farmer’s spirits up when things be getting low
There’s nothing like fox-hunting and rattling ‘Tally-ho!’

[adapted from ‘Farmer Dobbin’ by Rowland Eyles Egerton-Warburton, 1853]


The original is much longer and is marred for modern readers by its deliberately antique spelling and comedy turn dialect.

It was clearly written to entertain the members of the Tarporley (Cheshire) Hunt Club by providing a parody of the argot spoken by the farmers that they met on their estates – and a good deal of the poem consists of catalogue or ‘Who’s Who’ of the important members of the Hunt and local high society.

However, there are some interesting social insights to be drawn here.

In the first place, it is notable that the farmer is now welcome enough on the hunt and that by the 1850s he felt that things were going well enough to buy himself a ‘hunter’ (i.e. part thoroughbred horse).

Secondly, there is mention of the ‘young men of Manchester and Liverpool’ whose wealthy merchant and mill-owner fathers were happy to see hunting so that they could rub shoulders with the establishment – and maybe make a match with the daughters of the nobility.

Third, there is some attempt to mock the wealthy independent farm owner whose daughter ‘plays the piano and drinks white sherry wine’ (in the original the Farmer is called Farmer Flare-up). Obviously, not being beholden like the tenants he would very much resent the Hunt crossing his land.

One has to doubt though whether Farmer Dutton / Dobbin would capriciously ride across his neighbour’s wheat – this seems much more the sort of thing that the aristocratic or parvenu huntsmen would do.

And it is sobering to reflect on how new and synthetic Cheshire's fox hunting culture really is. As we will see later, the original Hunt Club that was founded in 1762 in Tarporley started off with hare coursing. It was only prosperity, farm consolidation and the widespread introduction and proper maintenance of hawthorn hedges that made fox hunting viable.

For all the social nuances, my Darlington family was totally enamoured with fox hunting and point-to-point / steeple chase horse racing – which of course went very much hand in hand. Point to point horses got a lot of their training in full cry, and riding to hounds was equally a way of testing a rider’s mettle.

I have therefore dropped in a photo of my grandfather Herbert Darlington’s pride and joy – Catherine the Great - who was a successful race horse and brood mare – and who, as we were never allowed to forget was half-sister to Russian Hero who won the Grand National in 1949!


“Welcome to the online home of the Cheshire Hounds and the Cheshire Hunt Supporters Club.

The Cheshire Hunt was founded in 1763. The area hunted encompassed the whole of Cheshire. This vast area was subsequently divided between the Cheshire and the South Cheshire Hunts in 1877, and the two portions were then reunited in 1907. This separation occurred again from 1931 until 1946.

The country now hunted is about twenty five square miles with the main centres around Tarporley and Nantwich, with Chester, Kelsall, Whitchurch and Malpas at its boundaries.

The Hunt meets on a Tuesday and Saturday at 11am from November until mid March, with a bye day being held once a fortnight on a Thursday at 12noon.

Cheshire is predominantly a dairy county with miles of grass, fenced by hedges and ditches.

The Hunt uniform is a scarlet coat with hunt buttons. A green collar is worn by Hunt Staff, Masters, and by invitation of the Tarporley Hunt Club.

The kennels are situated in the North of the country. Thirty five couple of hounds are kept and the pack will vary from either a bitch or a mixed pack depending on the meet. Hounds are bred for speed and endurance, and many miles will be covered in a day’s activities”.


‘The Tarporley Hunt Club is a hunt club which meets at Tarporley in Cheshire, England. Founded in 1762, it is the oldest surviving such society in England, and possibly the oldest in the world. Its members' exploits were immortalised in the Hunting Songs of Rowland Egerton-Warburton. The club also organised the Tarporley Races, a horse racing meeting, from 1776 until 1939. The club's patron is Charles, Prince of Wales.

At first the club organised hare coursing, but its focus had already begun to switch to fox hunting within the first few years. Membership was limited to twenty in 1764, expanded to twenty-five in 1769 and later to forty.] The club's headquarters soon became the Swan Hotel, which dates from 1769. In the founding set of rules, members were required to drink "three collar bumpers" after both dinner and supper, and, in the event of marriage, to present each club member with a pair of buckskin breeches.

The club used the first pack of foxhounds in Cheshire, whose master was John Smith-Barry, son of the fourth Earl of Barrymore, of Marbury Hall. Among the hounds was the famed Blue Cap, which had beaten the hound owned by Hugo Meynell, founder of the Quorn Hunt, in a race held in 1762. After Barry's death in 1784, the hunt used a pack kept by Sir Peter Warburton of Arley Hall, which later became known as the Cheshire Hounds.

Members of the Egerton, Cholmondeley, Grosvenor and other prominent local families joined not long after the club's foundation. Among the many early members who were important in county or national affairs were Sir Philip Egerton of Oulton Park; Richard Grosvenor, first Earl Grosvenor, of Eaton Hall; Field Marshal Stapleton Cotton, first Viscount Combermere, of Combermere Abbey; Thomas Cholmondeley of Vale Royal; and his son, also Thomas Cholmondeley, first Baron Delamere.

Rowland Egerton-Warburton, president in 1838 and later one of the club's few honorary members, was known as the club's poet laureate. He immortalised some of its members' exploits in his Hunting Songs, and also wrote a history of the club to accompany an edition of the verses.

George Wilbraham, one of the club's original founders, purchased an estate in Delamere Forest including Crabtree Green, which had been used as racecourse since the mid-17th century. In 1776, the club held a sweepstake there with seven runners, and the contest became an annual event.

In the 1800s, the Tarporley Races became a permanent fixture in the Racing Calendar. Originally, only horses owned or nominated by members could enter, but in 1805 or 1809, a silver cup was awarded for a "farmers' race". The members' race was ridden in hunting costume.


As the website explains for the 2010 season:

“The Cheshire Hunt Point to Point will take place on Sunday 18 April 2010 at Alpraham, Nr Tarporley. The first race starts at two o’clock, although many visitors choose to arrive early to set up for lunch - candelabras and full dining sets have appeared in previous years!

There will be seven races and a parade of hounds later in the day. Those with a weakness for the odd flutter will be well-served by onsite bookmakers....

Various catering outlets, trade stands and amusements for the children will be available around the site, and there's every reason to make a day of it.

2010 will mark the fiftieth year of racing at this particular course at Alpraham and a celebration lunch will take place to mark the occasion. The lunch will be held adjacent to the paddock and tables will be retained all day so that guests can enjoy the racing from the comfort of their chairs.

A champagne reception will be held prior to lunch, and afternoon tea is included to ensure that a memorable day is had by all. Full details of how to obtain tickets can be downloaded here.

Admission – car parking costs £20, £30 or £35 for reserved forward parking. Tickets for the celebratory lunch cost £50 in addition to car parking charges.

Further details will be published as the event draws near.....”

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dairy Farming in South Cheshire - the Past is another Countryside


In my previous post / article, I introduced my grandmother Sally Darlington and her family (the Kinseys and Prices of rural South Cheshire). I also promised to follow my established practice of matching the family history to the economic history of the locale and times.

Fortunately, in this case I have some fairly solid and original information to draw on.

In May 1965, I finished a mini-thesis on the agricultural economics of dairy farming in South Cheshire in the period 1930 to 1965 as a requirement for my Honours Degree in Geography at Cambridge.

The theme was the interplay between rapid changes in market access and farming techniques and the seemingly unchanging landscape ‘where time has affected little change in what has always been a carpet of grass with a very delicate pattern of arable’ (E.P. Boon ‘Land of Britain’ (1941)).

So I can tell you a pretty good story of the South Cheshire that I experienced as a boy - and that framed the working life of my stepfather Horace (born 1917) and the latter part of the life of his mother Sally (born 1877).

But if it is true that ‘you can take the boy out of the country, though you can’t take the country out of the boy’, the question remains ‘what piece of country do we see when we look back?’ The past is not just another country - it is also another countryside.

Generally, there is much more change than we are prepared to credit.

In this context, the tendency for constant adjustment within given constants (which are themselves ultimately adjustable) has continued to fascinate me.

And to give change and tradition their proper due, I’ll start back in the 16th century by drawing together and augmenting information that is available on line.


Apparently Camden's ‘Brittania’ records that ‘Cheshire Cheese is more agreeable and better relished than those of other parts of the kingdom’. And the 1637 edition refers to cheese making in Cheshire as follows:

"the grasse and fodder there is of that goodness and vertue that the cheeses bee made heere in great number of a most pleasing and delicate taste, such as all England againe affordeth not the like; no, though the best dairy women otherwise and skilfullest in cheesemaking be had from hence."

The local and ready availability of salt was another factor that fostered development.

Although there are few records, it seems certain that Cheshire cheese had a long medieval history of being exported through the Port of Chester, and that it played an important part in provisioning both merchant shipping and English armies destined for North Wales, Ireland and Scotland.

1623 - First recorded instance of Cheshire cheese being shipped to London by road. This would have been pressed, aged cheese that was sufficiently hard to stand up to journeys by horse and cart to London and sufficiently cured to survive long sea journeys during which it was a staple food for English seafarers.

‘If you will have good cheese and have old
You must turn him seven times before he is cold’.

During the 17th century red clover gradually improved the nutritional value of Cheshire grasslands. It appears to have been introduced from the Netherlands. Clover can triple the amount of available nitrogen in the soil and substantially enrich pasture.

1650 - Start of the trade in Cheshire cheese to London by boat following cattle disease in Suffolk in the 1640s. Until then large amounts of Suffolk cheese went to London ordered especially by the Navy.

Port of London records show the growth in Cheshire Cheese landings from 1650. This was a full milk cheese (as originally was its Suffolk rival) but Cheshire cheese was cheaper.

As the production of Suffolk cheese declined in the wake of cattle disease, farmers there switched to making butter for the lucrative London market and made poorer tasting skimmed milk cheeses. After this period, Cheshire Cheese would have been sold at a premium to the now inferior Suffolk Cheese.

1690s - Trade with London slowed due to the loss of ships to the war with France.

1713 - Trade resumed at the end of the war and from 1739 the Navy gave precedence to Cheshire cheese. By this time London had become the major market.

1748 to 1759 Dr Samuel Johnson rents a house near to a famous old pub built in 1668. The pub ‘Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese’ still stands near Fleet Street in the City of London

In 1750 English population stood at about 5.7 million. Contrary to past experience population grew to unprecedented levels after 1750, reaching 16.6 million in 1850, and agricultural output expanded with it.

From 1750 onwards, the Industrial Revolution and the growth of the Northern mill towns and the Potteries opened new markets to Cheshire farmers. Sales into the Mersey basin increased - not just of cheese but also of milk and butter.

Between 1721 and 1835, Cheshire, Lancashire and the Midlands were laced by an interconnected network of canals:

1721 - River Weaver (canalised)
1761 - Bridgewater Canal
1772 - Chester Canal
1777 - Trent and Mersey Canal
1829 - Wardle Canal
1831 - Macclesfield Canal
1835 - Shropshire Union Canal

The canals and then the railways opened up new markets and demand for cheaper, younger cheese started to develop especially by the poorer industrial workers. The canals also allow inputs to be brought in, including fodder from outside the county.

The presence of brickworks along the canals makes bricks readily available for the enlargement and new construction of farm buildings and the development of farmhouse dairies (with the rear of the houses and the dairies being essentially merged). The larger farmhouses also help to secure live-in dairymaids to assist with cheese-making.

Cheeses rise gradually from 20 lbs to 40 lbs and then 60 lbs in weight as transport improved and new presses are brought into play. The bigger cheeses produced under conditions more akin to factory rather than craft production require larger amounts of milk – this in turn favoured larger farms.

1800 – In the period from 1800, efforts to improve Cheshire pastures were intensified – often linked to the enclosure of common land.

Stock-proof hawthorn hedges were planted and regularly re-laid and trimmed. Ditches were dug and maintained along the boundary hedges and field drains were put in place, oftentimes preceded by the corrugation of the fields into higher strips (bawks) edged with dips or ‘reens’ that crossed the contours.

Where deposits of marl occurred, this was mined and spread to reduce soil acidity. At the same time, many of these marling holes became farm pits from which stock could be watered. Pits were also dug near farmsteads to assist in ‘swilling out’ the shippons and to provide water for stall-fed stock during the winter.

1823 - Cheshire cheese production estimated at 10,000 tonnes a year.

1840s - Alternative markets for milk produced in Cheshire continued to develop (milk and butter to the industrial areas) and production of Cheshire cheese was pushed back to the south of the county. London remained an important market - especially for aged Cheshire cheese.

Younger, fresher, crumbly cheese that required shorter storage—similar to the Cheshire cheese of today—began to gain popularity towards the end of the 19th century, particularly in the industrial areas in the North and the Midlands. It was a cheaper cheese to make as it required less storage.

Such cheeses tended to be marketed in Stockport and Nantwich-Crewe that were astride the major lines of rail access to the industrial towns of South Lancashire.

1845 – 1880 The era of massive, planned estate consolidation by the major aristocratic landowners in Cheshire who between themselves owned over 400 km2 of dairy land (with 287 km2 being owned by the 4 largest) – see my previous post on the Tollemache’s.

The power of the landowners overturned many traditional practices and brought in a highly structured and competitive system of production. Many second and younger sons were pushed out of farming. Although the successful farming families had some perceived rights to pass on tenancies to elder sons, the system was ultimately competitive and land agents introduced tenders and unilateral rent reviews for tenancies.

Professor Mark Overton sees this as a major factor in the continued adjustment of English agriculture to new conditions and challenges:

“The key probably lies in the way the English workforce was organised and employed. The development of agrarian capitalism in England, with those involved in agriculture divided into landowners, capitalist tenant farmers and labourers, saw the development of better farm management and more efficiency in using the workforce”.

1865-66 - During the Rinderpest Cattle Plague several Cheshire clergymen claimed that the plague was divine punishment for the sins of the people, the first being the making of cheese on a Sunday. Landowners then gave prizes for the best cheese "made without Sunday labour". As a result Monday's cheese was often asserted to be the best as the milk had stood over the weekend.

At the same time, liquid milk production expanded. From the late 1860's to the end of the 19th century the population of Lancashire increased by roughly 50 per cent. And per capita milk consumption increased by 25 per cent, while overall demand, is estimated to have risen by almost 90 per cent. This was due in no small degree to the growing popularity of tea drunk in the traditional manner with milk and sugar, by even the poorest mill and mining families.

All in all, milk prices stayed remarkably stable except during the depression of 1883-6 and the hard years of the early 1890's while cheese prices fluctuated more widely. The relative profitability of milk production became even more apparent during the I890's when the prices of butter and cheese fell markedly in industrial areas (partly due to growing imports).

The shift to liquid-milk production was strengthened by two further factors. First, a marked fall in rail transport costs took place. Second, the cost of concentrates -oats, maize, oilcake - fell by some 40 per cent, while savings were made on labour costs by reducing the numbers of paid workers (including live-in cheese maids) and increasing the amount of family labour.

Not surprisingly the amount of liquid milk produced and sold in Lancashire increased by over 50 per cent. This was drawn from an ever widening hinterland with rail access being a major determinant of the switch from cheese to liquid milk production. South West Cheshire being the most remote from direct access to major urban markets remained a bastion of traditional cheese production into the 20th century.

Organised agricultural education was introduced in Cheshire in 1890 with the formation of an Agricultural Instruction Committee comprised of forward-looking landowners and farmers. This committee founded a teaching centre on a dairy farm at Worleston.

By 1914, it had become increasingly clear that the Worleston Dairy Institute could no longer meet the demand. Meanwhile, a College of Agriculture had been established at Holmes Chapel in 1895 and this was affiliated to Manchester University. It was then felt that one centre should be found to accommodate all agricultural education in Cheshire.

In 1919, Reaseheath Hall, near Nantwich came on the market and with the aid of a Government grant, the estate was purchased by the County Council for an enlarged agricultural training centre – this became a centre of excellence and good practice – though it was often spoken of in derogatory terms by traditional farming families.

1900 - The move to younger, fresher, crumbly cheese that required shorter storage - similar to the Cheshire cheese we know today - continued. The cheese was sold every week during the grass growing season rather than the once or twice a year sale that typified cheese marketing in earlier years.

This shift resulted in a decline in the volumes of cheese sold into London. But the main markets at Whitchurch, Chester and Nantwich were increasingly used to sell traditional cheeses - primarily into markets in the North West. My grandparents were claimed to have actually made Lancashire Cheese (even milder and more crumbly than the new Cheshires).

1927 - The Cheshire Cheese Federation was formed to control standards and grade cheese on farms. It was they who set the standards for how good Cheshire Cheese should be made and graded. Most of the Cheshire being made was still being produced on farms.

1939 - The Second World War resulted in the end of cheese production on farm and was only re-started at the end of rationing in 1953 by the Milk Marketing Board. In the intervening post war years, imported cheese was freely available "off ration" and helped to create a market for such cheese at the expense of traditional British varieties.

1960 onwards - Milk production and cheese production grew strongly in the UK and the range of cheese available increased considerably. Crumbly cheeses like Cheshire became less fashionable as they did not lend themselves to the new pre-packing requirements of the supermarkets - traditional crumbly cheeses simply did not pack well.

Faced with such competition, Cheshire sales gradually declined from their peak of around 40,000 in 1960 to about one sixth of that level today. Today, three Cheshire makers account for the greater part of the Cheshire cheese made in the North West.


I will now turn over to some of the comments made and findings drawn in my 1965 Mini-thesis.

Although South Cheshire still held a traditional focus on cheese production in 1930, it was already very much part of the world economy. It was known for its high stocking rates but these were only partly explained by the quality of its grass. It also depended heavily on ‘concentrates’ (including maize from Canada, beans from Argentina, and waste from cotton and palm oil processing in West Africa) to boost milk production.

Around 1930, there were about 1,000 regular farm-house cheese makers operating in the Cheshire Cheese area (this consists of Cheshire, North Shropshire, North Staffordshire and the lowlands of Flint and Denbighshire). Production at that time was about 20,000 tons.

The cheese economy of this era depended heavily imported cattle feed. A Manchester University survey of 17 farms gives an average expenditure on feed of £16 per cow, consisting of £8.8 on purchased concentrates, £4.5 on home grown hay and root crops and £2.7 per cow on grazing.

Four factors supported this production model:

1. Bought in feed (supported by Imperial trade preferences) was readily and relatively cheaply available
2. The extra feed increased milk yields and extended lactations smoothing the application of labour and extending cash flows – and it was particularly important to smaller farms in boosting scale in cheese-making
3. Heifers could be imported in large numbers from Ireland and Wales, allowing Cheshire farmers to maximize the benefits of Spring calving – and avoid the need to grass feed young stock
4. As the final output was cheese rather than milk, efficiencies in craft manufacturing were just as important as efficiencies in pasture usage.

But the Great Depression forced down commodity prices such that ‘cheese was 4 pence a pound on Nantwich market and unemployed labourer would walk 3 miles out of town to meet farmers to hold the horses bridle while the cheese was unloaded, for 6 pence’.

Despite the heavy reliance on imported feed, milk yields were low. The stock consisted almost exclusively of Dairy Shorthorns with an average yield of around 600 gallons per cow and low butterfat content.

Not that cow performance was the whole issue: ‘it was the aim of every rising farmer to increase the number of cows on his farm, his proudest boast that he kept more than his predecessor, his most earnest desire to get a farm where he could keep more cows – his very standing in the neighbourhood seemed to depend on the size of his herd’.

However, the cheese industry collapsed rapidly as the decade wore on. By 1939, the number of farmhouse cheese-makers had dropped to 250 and output was around 2,500 tons, partly offset by increased factory production. These trends exacerbated the shortage of essential live-in cheese maids and skilled labour became harder to find.

Amid the problems, the Milk Marketing Board (set up in 1933) encouraged the production of liquid milk. This in turn led to a greater emphasis on stall fed winter production and increases in hay-making and fodder crop cultivation. However, it was generally held that ‘a farm of 80 acres is too small for a tractor’ which further encouraged the consolidation of holdings.

World War II brought even greater adjustments. In 1939, the cultivated area within twenty representative parishes rose from 5 percent to 17 percent as the government encouraged wheat production and farmers were faced with a virtual standstill in the importation of concentrates and the need therefore to grow their own supplementary feed. Importation of heifers from Ireland was also curtailed.

In consequence, the average number of cows and heifers per 100 acres fell from 49 to 40 but the farmers tended to resist reducing stock numbers as ‘no one ever thought of reducing their herds if it could be at all avoided’. This being no doubt in part due to the fact that the War brought prosperity as British consumer access to world markets was also affected.

In the period 1945 to 1955 was marked by the maintenance of cultivation (except for wheat for human consumption which was rapidly abandoned), a cutback in cow numbers, and the growth of self-sufficiency in herd replacement. This also was an era of considerable prosperity as world commodity prices were high.

At the same time, the government was keen to provide the stability and know-how that could underpin British self-sufficiency. The Agriculture Act of 1947 put in place guaranteed prices and regular price reviews and much more emphasis was placed on technical training and innovation.

Among the important innovations was the introduction of silage which partially supplanted concentrates (which were rationed until 1953). In 1944, only 4,000 tons of silage had been made in Cheshire but this rose to 110,000 tons in 1950 and 180,000 tons in 1956.

During this period silage making was very labour intensive as it required buck-raking damp mown grass to silage pits where it had to be layered by hand with 4-pronged forks. The feeding of silage was equally demanding as it involves slicing down cuts (known colloquially as ‘wadges’ or ‘kenches’) from the silage face with a peat knife and then taking them by wheel-barrow to the shippons where they were forked again into the troughs or ‘boozies’ of the cattle housed in their winter stalls or ‘tyings’.

Beyond 1955, the pace of technical change accelerated. As the yield advantages of alternative breeds of cattle became obvious to everyone the Dairy Shorthorn became a farmer’s third choice. No longer available from Ireland, few took to breeding this type of cattle.

And as the ‘Milk Act’ of 1950 intensified the payment differential for milk for Tuberculin Tested milk, there was an additional incentive to bring in new stock.

This led at first to the development of new trading links with South Western Scotland and the importation of Ayrshire heifers. Eventually though higher yielding Friesian cattle came to predominate, aided by the availability of artificial insemination.

Tractors also became relatively cheaper and more economic on smaller farms, since ‘each horse needs 3 acres of land – such that a tractor releases 6 acres for alternative use when a team is dispensed with’.

In 1944, there were only about 2,550 tractors on farms in the whole of Cheshire. By 1954, the total had grown to around 8,300. Over the same period, the number of milking machines rose more slowly from around 2,300 to over 4,000 (hindered by the slow extension of access to the national electricity grid).

On Corner Farm, which we farmed from 1949, the latter problem had been solved by the installation of a diesel engine which drove the milking machine system and stored excess electricity in a special battery house for use in the house and buildings outside milking times.

With respect to tractors and machinery, there was constant improvement and we had Fordson Major and Massey Ferguson models. The TVO (Tractor Vaporising Oil) ‘Fergie’ was always a favourite and it was the precursor of modern tractor and implement systems, using hydraulics.

No doubt here there was also a version of 'mine is bigger than your's' going on with competition over toys for the boys. The early Fordsons were particularly impressive - and gratifyingly hard to start for the uninitiated. And even small farmers claimed to need their own baler though it was only used for a few weeks a year.

One of the most marked changes in the later period was the increase in milk yields with average yields rising from around 8,000 lbs per cow per year in 1952 to around 9,500 lbs per year in 1964. This was aided by the adoption of higher yielding breeds (particularly Friesians) and the strengthening of on-farm replacement which gave farmers a pride in seeing young-stock develop into productive heifers.

The concomitant to this was a renewed commitment to concentrates as an aid to production, with an average of 25 cwt per year being fed per cow – fostered obviously by the resumption in world trade after WWII. But the range of overseas feedstuffs continued to widen, embracing locust bean (Carob tree beans) from Egypt, tapioca chips from Thailand and dry sugar beet pulp from Poland.

As kids we used to eat the locust beans from the concentrates hand-cart in the shippons – as well as the rolled / flaked maize or ‘Uveco’ that came in large hessian bags and that was used particularly for poultry.

And the availability of AI (Artificial Insemination) aided small farms which could not afford to run a bull – and eventually allowed larger farms to largely dispense with their dangers. Getting the bull to stand for a veterinary examination by trapping his head with a chained yoke after he had taken some corn was no fun. And I still have a broken joint in my left thumb as a result of the farm bull brushing his head against the galvanized iron bars of his pen (with my thumb in between) when I was about 7 years old.

Friesians were also increasingly prized for the Hereford-cross calves that could be produced once the required number of replacement heifers had been bred. And these calves, together with the redundant male Friesian ‘Bobby calves’ were a major source of cash or ‘spattling brass’ and a marvellous excuse to regularly attend Beeston Auction (and the immediately adjacent ‘Beeston Castle’ pub to meet up with friends and share brown ale, scotch whiskey and anecdotes.

Despite the fact that Cheshire dairy farms had the densest stocking rates at around 28 cows per 100 acres, there was a constant drive to increase scale by either intensifying land-use or increasing farm size. On average (at 77 acres) Cheshire farms were small compared to farms elsewhere in England and three quarters of the farms in South Cheshire were below 100 acres in size in the early 1960s.

This held despite the view of the National Farmers’ Union President at this time that ‘for dairying, the family farm of 50 to 100 cows is most efficient’. But the available data shows that returns on larger farms were up to 50 percent higher than they were for smaller farms and there was constant pressure to amalgamate units.

This pressure was intensified by relative stability in the price of milk, with the expectation being that improvements in productivity would cover increases in the cost of inputs and labour.

As reported in the Nantwich Chronicle of December 5th 1964:

‘A member of the National Farmers’ Union pointed out that he had been getting about a penny per gallon less for his milk (in 1964) than he had in 1952 – yet during this same period, his rent had doubled’.

With respect to rents, the Peckforton Estate (by that time covering 31 farms) had increased its rents from £3 10s per acre in 1953 to £6 – £7 per acre in 1963. In the same period, the estimated value of the land rose from £75 to £200 per acre.

The net result was that farmers who failed to keep up with the treadmill of innovation, tended to fall behind in terms of income.

The emerging innovations included forage harvesters for silage, self-feed silage to cattle standing during the winter in yards with overnight housing in ‘cow kennels’, milking bails and tank storage, zero grazing (taking the cattle off the pasture and feeding it cut and chopped by harvesters) and the introduction of new forage crops like kale.

Of course, the pace of innovation has continued to pick up since the 1960s as ‘farmers become more scientific and the scientists become more practical ‘ [quote from Sir George Stapledon, UK Grassland Management Survey, 1935].

And as I record in my research ‘the farmers of Cheshire and Staffordshire received 1.33 million in 1963-64 in government grants for improvements in buildings and plant and the development of field crops' – not that this development received approval from the old school of farmers.

Looking again at my mini-thesis, I can see that the sentiments of the farmer’s son tended to outweigh judgments I could have made as an agricultural economist. I, like my stepfather, ended my study with something of a diatribe against government policies and the low prices set by the Milk Marketing Board.

My concluding sentence was that: ‘Government policy on foodstuffs is the greatest single factor behind the inadequate returns earned by milk producers’.

Sadly though, the reality was that we had never been among the innovators or among those who tried to increase their scale of operations.

My stepfather Horace had the fatalistic view that hard work should bring its own reward and little effort was made in labour-saving. And when he had the opportunity to take on the tenancy of Corner Farm in the late 1950s, he decided against taking the 150 acres that lay some distance along the lanes in favour of restricting the tenancy to the 65 acres that surrounded the farmhouse.

Incidentally, we milked at least 40 and sometimes more in the summer on the 65 acres. From the layout of the ‘Old Shippon’, the same farm back in the 1880s milked no more than 18.

Horace’s absolute commitment to the practical virtues of working with his hands exacerbated the heart condition that he had developed. And when the 1967 Foot and Mouth Outbreak occurred, Horace had a broken heart to nurse as well. It is a very hard thing to see the cattle that you care for shot and then bulldozed into limed pits.

Left to wander the desolate farm in the period following the Outbreak, his health deteriorated, though he must have taken some comfort from purchasing in-calf heifers for a re-start of production, as well as buying in some replacement gilts (young sows) for farrowing.

It seems that he insisted on layering fork in hand all the grass that had been brought in by buck-rake for the coming winter’s silage – and this mighty labour killed him. He became unable to mount the stairs to take to his ordinary bed upstairs and a bed was made up in one of the downstairs lounges across from the fire and the television. He died of heart failure on 4th August 1968.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Sally Darlington & the Kinseys of Burwardsley, Cheshire


My grandmother, Cheshire farmer’s wife Sarah ‘Sally’ Darlington, was a daunting, formidable but ultimately good-hearted lady who jousted and sparred with my mother. My mother was sometimes driven to fury at the things that were said – and in turn she gave as good as she got.

Of course, there is a very long tradition of strong women in the North West of England.

Cartimandua was the prototype. As mentioned by Tacitus in AD 51, she ruled the Brigantes of the North West with a succession of weaker husbands and consorts. Of "illustrious birth", she seems to have inherited her power by right rather than through marriage.

She handed the resistance leader Caratacus over to the Romans in chains, secured great wealth from the Romans, and then divorced her husband and married his young squire. Having seized her ex-husband’s brother as a hostage and fought off attempts to tame her, she was involved in further wars, treacherously playing off the local male leaders against the Romans.

Eventually she retired to the family hill fort to terrorize her sons and daughter in laws.

The tradition has also been illustrated repeatedly on the TV Soap Opera ‘Coronation Street’ with characters like Ena Sharples, Elsie Tanner, Annie Walker and Blanche Hunt - and laconically mocked under their breath by comedians from the North West:

"My mother-in-law said 'one day I will dance on your grave'. I said 'I hope you do, I will be buried at sea.'" [Les Dawson]

"My mother-in-law fell down a wishing well, I was amazed, I never knew they worked." [Les Dawson]

"I haven't spoken to my mother-in-law for eighteen months. I don't like to interrupt her." [Ken Dodd]

"A police recruit is asked during an exam, "What would you do if you had to arrest your own mother-in-law?" He replies, "I'd call for backup." [Bernard Manning]

"My mother-in-law has come round to our house at Christmas seven years running. This year we're having a change. We're going to let her in." [Les Dawson].

I still feel guilty making these kinds of associations – perhaps I will be called to account in my dreams tonight.

Both my mother and my grandmother had strong ideas about things and Sally liked ruling the roost with her three boys George, Horace and Richard. She intimidated them and Horace was 32 years old when he broke away. His younger brother Dick took even longer to fly the coop. And the boys’ father Herbert Darlington benefited of course from their ‘labours of love’ on the family farm Hoolgrave Manor, Church Minshull.

I still have very immediate memories of Hoolgrave Manor as it was in the period 1949 – 1955. With oil lamps as the only form of lighting and no external source of entertainment like TV, there was a tribal sense of hunkering down in the dark winter evenings by the open range fire in what seemed to me to be a vast farm kitchen, overshadowed by bacon curing among the rafters.

The conversation ranged over the offspring, weddings and funerals of the local farming families; farm sales and tenancies; auction prices for stock; milk and cheese prices; harvest prospects: fox hunting; point-to-point and steeple chase horse breeding and racing; and the follies and foibles of the local aristocracy.

Family history and genealogy provided the essential information for judging whether individuals were ‘oreet’ (i.e. alright or suitable). Sue and I, being orphans, were never quite sure that we measured up.

For all that, Sally sometimes Sally framed a lovely smile to light her deep set eyes and I felt very privileged to visit her in hospital with my father when she grew frail.

Sally was born Sarah Price Kinsey and I will now tell something of her story, with some comments on the social changes that her family experienced in the 19th century. The account can also linked to my next post which provides a brief review of the history of dairy farming in South Cheshire and summarizes the findings of some research that I did as a student back in 1965 on the agricultural economy that Sally’s sons faced.


Sally was born in 1877. She was christened Sarah Price Kinsey. Her father, George Kinsey (born in 1843) was a dairy farmer. In 1891, George was farming Cambridge Farm, Burwardsley (pronounced ‘Bozley’) near Tattenhall, Cheshire, and in 1881 he was farming Grindley Brook Farm, Bunbury, Cheshire.

The 1881 Census records that Grindley Brook was a farm of 65 acres and that George was employing 2 labourers (one of whom, Joseph Clutton was ‘living in’ at the farm house). There was also a girl who was a house servant and who probably assisted with milking and cheese making.

Sally’s siblings were Thomas (b 1872), Elizabeth (b 1876), Frances May (b 1879) and Ada (b 1885). All of the children took Price as their middle name.

In the 1851 Census, George is recorded as a 7 year old boy, with siblings Robert, Ellen, Ann and John. His father George Kinsey (Snr) had been born in 1816 and the family farm at Burwardsley is recorded as being 20 acres. Living with the family was Moses Ellson, ‘retired farmer’ who was the father of Sarah, George’s wife. Moses would have been born around 1781.

As for the elder George Kinsey’s father, we find no trace of him in the censuses, though it is likely that George’s mother Mary is recorded as living independently in Bunbury in the 1841 Census (having also been born around 1781).

The Price’s were an equally well-established family. Sally’s mother Mary Price was born in 1842, the daughter of James Price (b 1813) and Frances Miller (bca 1818). It seems that Mary’s mother died at a young age. In the 1861 Census, Mary (19) was living with her mother’s sister Elizabeth (b 1815), and her grandfather John Price (b 1786) who was farming 30 acres at Tattenhall, Cheshire. Elizabeth was unmarried and John was widowed. No doubt Mary was helping out with dairy tasks.

In 1861, Mary’s father James was recorded in the Census as a butcher living with his brother George (39) at the latter’s public house the Bear and Ragged Staff Inn at Tattenhall. Also living with them were unmarried sisters Mary (47) and Jane (43), together with two house servants Martha and Margaret Clarke.

Further back in 1841, James is recorded as being 28 working as a butcher but living in Tattenhall with his innkeeper father George Senior and mother Martha (born born circa 1789) and siblings Thomas, Mary, Jane, Sarah and Hannah. Almost certainly, the management of the Bear and Ragged Staff Inn was handed down from father to son.

A simple story then it seems of Cheshire farmers, butchers and innkeepers all living within a very small compass. But this summary hides rapid change in dairy farming over the period 1840 to 1890 – of which a glimpse is caught in shift from 20-30 acre farms (which in the early part of the period sustained a family and several workers) to farms of double this size and greater in the second half of the 19th century as holdings were consolidated.

Even though there is a strong sense of continuity from the various censuses, there was plenty of change afoot – change that decimated the old half-timbered farmhouses and dispossessed hundreds of poorer families.


Both Burwardsley and Tattenhall were very much part of the area that was ‘ruled’ by the Tollemache family.

John Jervis Tollemache (born John Halliday), 1st Baron Tollemache (5 December 1805 – 9 December 1890), was the son of Admiral John Richard Delap Halliday and co-heir of Lionel Tollemache, 4th Earl of Dysart. He was elected to the House of Commons for Cheshire South in 1841, a seat he held until 1868, and then represented Cheshire West from 1868 to 1872.

John Tollemache was the largest landowner in Cheshire in the 19th Century, owning 28,651 acres (115.9 km2). His estate exceeded those of the Duke of Westminster who owned 15,138 acres (61.3 km2), Lord Crewe with 10,148 acres (41.1 km2) and Lord Cholmondeley with 16,992 acres (68.8 km2).

He was considered by his peers to be a good estate manager and British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone (who had an estate at nearby Hawarden) described him as "the greatest estate manager of his day".

Tollemache had over fifty farms and many cottages built on his Cheshire estate, at a cost of around £280,000. This formed part of a grand scheme to consolidate the estate into larger farms that were better able to develop high quality cheese making.

But the downsides of all this were also serious. In the first place, the new farm houses meant the destruction of over 50 ancient buildings – though to be fair the new buildings have proved both durable and highly attractive.

And secondly, many small farmers and small-holders were dispossessed by the consolidation process.

To counter the social upheaval that he created, he encouraged the augmented class of labourers to rent 3 acres (12,000 m2) of land to farm to supplement their income.

Apparently, his catch-phrase for this was "three acres and a cow".

As written up his admirers: ‘He was generous to his tenants and advocated improvement of their social conditions. He believed in a self-reliant labouring class and made popular the idea of his tenants having a cottage with sufficient land to keep a few animals’.

[In 1844 – 1850, Lord Tollemache built Peckforton Castle on a massive scale as a replica of a Crusader castle. Set on the ridgeline of the Peckforton Hills, it cost around £60,000 and has been described as the last serious fortified home constructed by the nobility in England.

Built around a walled courtyard with battlements and towers, the castle stands opposite the genuinely medieval Beeston Castle, and is surrounded by a dry moat. George Gilbert Scott, the Victorian architect called it "the very height of masquerading".

Uninhabited since the Second World War, the castle has been used as a film and television location, and as a venue for civil weddings and live-action fantasy role playing. For example, it featured in the opening scenes of the 1991 movie ‘Robin Hood Prince of Thieves’ starring Kevin Costner].

So it is disturbing to reflect that much of the architecture and landscape that I knew as deeply historic when I was a boy was actually rather new in its form. The Victorian-era castles with their surrounding manicured estates attempted to recreate a feudal sense of stability and continuity – masking the severe social and economic disruptions that were imposed from above by the large landowners.

It seems then that the ‘sturdy and independent yeoman farmers’ that I idealized – and idolized - when I was young were partly creatures of myth. The Kinseys and Prices really had to struggle to stay ‘oreet’ among the Middling Sort.

Having said that, there is always the story that was handed down about my grandfather Herbert Darlington being so vexed that his aristocratic landlord had not met a promise about paying for house and farm improvements when he took up a tenancy – and so bothered no doubt by his young wife’s sharp tongue on the subject – that he took his pony and trap and drove it across the garden in front of the ‘Big House’, ruining all the flower beds.

When all is said and done, faced with choosing between angering the toffs and fending off the nagging of his young wife Sally, Herbert really didn’t have any sort of choice.