Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Book of the Farm
Detailing the Labours of the Farmer, Farm-Steward, Ploughman, Shepherd, Hedger, Farm-Labourer, Field-Worker, and Cattle-Man by Henry Stephens, 4th Edition (1889) and Revised by James MacDonald


Nearly twenty years have elapsed since the third edition of The Book of the Farm was prepared. In that comparatively short period of time British agriculture has undergone a striking change. It has seen its highest point in prosperity and almost its lowest in depression. Since the disastrously wet and sunless year of 1879, bad seasons have in themselves swept away a vast amount of farming capital. Foreign countries, with virgin soil and cheap labour, have flooded our open ports with meat and bread-stuffs; and, in spite of a largely increased population and much greater purchasing power on the part of the consuming public, the prices of nearly all varieties of farm produce have greatly declined.

How serious is the influence which these great movements have exercised upon our beloved country cannot readily be conceived. What they have signified to the farming community itself has, alas ! been only too clearly visible. How fundamentally the fabric of British agriculture has been affected will be best understood by a consideration of the figures which represent the movements in imports and prices of agricultural produce, as well as the variations in the cropping and stocking of British farms.

The value of the imports of agricultural produce had grown in 1887 to the formidable figure of £117,019,064, rather more than 48½, millions sterling in excess of the sum sent abroad for these commodities twenty-one years ago. Reckoned per head of population, the imports now amount to £3, 3s. 9d. for every man, woman, and child in the United Kingdom, or nearly 18s. 6d. per head more than in 1866. And the growth in quantities has been greater than in the value of the imports by from 25 to 30 per cent.

With such a vastly increased volume of foreign competition as these figures exhibit, the prices of farm produce in British markets could not fail to have suffered decline. The falling off in prices has indeed been very great, and it has extended in less or greater extent to almost every article produced on British farms.

It has been greatest in grain, greatest of all in wheat. From about 50s. per quarter in 1866 wheat fell to 31s. in 1887. In the same period barley lost us. and oats 8s. per quarter. Wool has fallen from 1s. 9d. to from 10d. to 1s. per lb.

The prices of beef and mutton have had many "ups" and "downs" since 1866. They are now (October 1888) not much below the level they presented then, but are from 15 to 25 per cent below the high range of prices attained between 1870 and 1883.

In sympathy with these alterations in prices, the systems of cropping and general farm management pursued throughout the United Kingdom have naturally undergone, and are still undergoing, considerable modification.

In the extent of cultivated land—arable land and permanent pasture — there has been a substantial increase in the past twenty years,—no less than 2,870,714 acres in Great Britain. But, as the result of the depression, as many as 833,393 acres have in twenty years gone from regular tillage into permanent pasture.

Looking more narrowly into the division of the arable land amongst the various crops, we find that the past twenty years have introduced changes which are even more significant. The corn crops have lost ground considerably, falling from about 52 per cent of the arable land in 1S67 to about 48 per cent in 1887. Green crops and grasses have both grown in proportionate extent —the former by about 7 and the latter by 58 acres in every 1000 acres of arable land. But the most notable change occurs in the area of bare fallow, which has fallen off by nearly 50 per cent. In Ireland similar movements have taken place.

In the relative positions of the individual crops in regard to acreage, the. past twenty years have effected some significant changes. Amongst cereals, wheat has had to yield the premier position to oats. Barley has been nearly stationary. Beans have declined by nearly 30 per cent. Turnips are losing ground, potatoes gaining a little. The former is still, of course, by far the most extensively grown of the green crops. Mangels have increased by about 50 per cent.

It is thus obvious that corn-growing has lost its supremacy in the agricultural interests of this country. Increased reliance is placed upon live stock; and although this industry has not escaped the vicissitudes of the recent depression, it has nevertheless made substantial progress during the past twenty years. The progress in that period has not been continuous, and it has not extended to all varieties of farm live stock; yet the national wealth in the live stock of the farm is very much greater now than it was prior to 1870.

Since 1867 the stock of cattle in Great Britain has increased by nearly million head, and in Ireland by about half a million head. Curiously enough, the stock of sheep has in the same period fallen off by nearly 3 million head in Great Britain and 1½ million head in Ireland. Somehow pig-rearing, although when well conducted it is notoriously profitable, does not find favour with the majority of British farmers, and their stock of pigs has decreased by more than half a million head in the past twenty years. Irish farmers are more kindly disposed towards the pig, and their stock has increased substantially since 1867. Despite the prediction that the steam-engine would tend to supplant horse-labour, the demand for draught-horses is now greater than ever. The stock of horses is larger than it was twenty years ago; yet it is undoubted that the breeding of horses might be extended with profitable results.

The important circumstances thus briefly indicated have produced something like a revolution in the position and prospects of the British farmer. He can no longer be the easy independent waiter upon Providence that he used to be when wheat was at 50s. per quarter. His life must be a struggle for existence, and he must prepare himself with a scientific and technical knowledge of his work in all its details and departments; must acquaint himself with the latest ideas of the practical and scientific agriculturist, and test them by his own experience and possibilities; and must cast around him in search of information as to how he can make the most of the altered condition of things. It is by knowledge combined with experience that the farmer of the future must make his way. The State has begun to appreciate this fact by establishing means of providing agricultural instruction. But the practical farmer requires more full and special sources of information,—a work which he can with profit make the subject of general study, and which he can with confidence refer to at any moment when he is in want of advice. Such a work, it is hoped, The Book of the Farm in its new and enlarged form will prove to be.

In the preparation of this the Fourth Edition of The Book of the Farm, the important changes of the past twenty years have been carefully and anxiously considered. To a largo extent the work has been rewritten; what remains of the original text has been carefully revised.

Alike in providing the new matter and in revising the old, the great object aimed at has been to adapt the work to the altered and still shifting circumstances and surroundings of the British farmer. Without neglecting, or turning our back upon, any of the branches of farming which may perhaps be of comparatively less importance than in former times, we have devoted more attention than was given in previous editions to some other interests which have risen in the scale of importance. Prominent amongst these latter is the great subject of stock-rearing, notably the breeding and feeding of cattle. The portions in the new edition relating to this branch of farming consist almost entirely of fresh matter; and so important is it considered, that it has been dealt with more fully and more exhaustively than has ever before been attempted.

Scientific and practical research have thrown fresh light upon the fundamental processes of maintaining the fertility of the soil. An entirely new chapter places the reader in possession of this extended and corrected experience. The system of ensilage, the latest agricultural innovation, and the extension of dairy farming, have received due attention. Every modification and development of great or minor importance, every new or extended influence affecting agriculture, has had careful consideration. A full history and description of all the varieties of British horses, cattle, sheep, and swine also form a new feature; and its interest and usefulness will be enhanced by a full series of high class animal portraits, which embraces typical animals of all the leading breeds, and which has been specially prepared at great expense for this edition by eminent artists.

The original plan of the work has been in the main preserved. With the view of facilitating reference, some minor changes, such as headings instead of numbers to paragraphs, have been introduced. Much care has been bestowed upon the introduction of these paragraph headings, and they are set forth clearly, so that the reader may learn at a glance the subjects dealt with in any part of the work.

As in the third edition, the work is divided into heads: 1. Initiation, in which the young man desirous of becoming a farmer is advised to acquaint himself beforehand with certain branches of science which have a close relation to Agriculture, and is also instructed as to how this knowledge is to be obtained and as to where he can best learn the practice of his art; 2. Practice, which details the entire operations, through the four seasons, of raising crops, and rearing the domesticated animals; 3. Realisation, wherein the young farmer is advised how to bargain for and stock a farm—how to execute many operations he may have to undertake—how to judge and to conduct the breeding of live stock—and, lastly, how to keep accurate accounts of all his transactions.

It is hoped that the new edition, in its greatly extended and thoroughly revised form, may efficiently help farmers to pursue their occupation with pleasure and profit. Farming, if it is to maintain its importance as an industry, must, like any other business, be conducted at a profit. With reduced prices and other magnified obstacles, it is more difficult than ever to accomplish this. More than ever, therefore, is it important that the farmer should fortify himself with all the guidance, stimulus, and encouragement which The Book of the Farm is capable of affording to him. The work is designed as a guide to him in every piece of practical work and every item of farming business he is called upon to engage in. It presents itself as a faithful compendium of the experience of a whole army of agricultural "specialists,"—men who have shown themselves to be proficient in some special branch of practical farming or province of allied science. The work thus aims at forming in itself a compendious professional library for every well-equipped farmer.

In taking up the life-work of the able and respected author of The Book of the Farm, I have felt the responsibility all the greater because of the exceptional conditions which at the present moment surround the British farmer. Happily, in the preparation of the new edition, I have had the privilege of the cordial co-operation of a great many of the leading agricultural and scientific authorities of the day, and I feel that I have thereby been enabled to impart to the work a quality of some special importance,—a comprehensiveness and efficiency which could not otherwise have been attained. It will be sincerely gratifying to me if the work in its new form should be considered worthy the memory of the late Henry Stephens, whose services to the interests of British farmers have earned for his name a lasting place in the annals of agriculture.

When the publication of the work is completed, it will be my duty and pleasure to express my obligations to those who have thus so ably assisted me.


Edinburgh, 1888.

Electric Scotland Note:  I found this book due to watching the BBC series "Victorian Farm" in which they quote this book as the source of information for the series. I also noted that in the series there was mention that there was a book about how the farm household was run and they did mention a book that many farmer's wives would have referred to and so I also sought out that book as well.  So in all there are now 7 volumes for you to download here. In addition I found the original publication printed in 1852 which I also provide below as that was pre a lot of the more modern farming inventions.

Victorian Farm Episodes 1-6

Victorian Farm is a British historical documentary TV series in six parts, first shown on BBC Two in January 2009, and followed by three Christmas-themed parts in December of the same year. The series recreates everyday life on a farm in Shropshire in the mid-19th century, using authentic replica equipment and clothing, original recipes and reconstructed building techniques. It was made for the BBC by independent production company Lion Television and filmed at a preserved Victorian era living museum farm on the Shropshire estate of Acton Scott. The farming team was historian Ruth Goodman and archaeologists Dr. Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn.

Much use was made of period sources such as The Book of the Farm: Detailing the Labours of the Farmer, Farm-steward, Ploughman, Shepherd, Hedger, Cattle-man, Field-worker, and Dairy-maid by Dr Henry Stephens, first published in London in 1844.

Division 1
Division 2
Division 3
Division 4
Division 5
Division 6
Modern Cookery

"The Book of the Farm" detailing the labour of the Farmer, Steward, Plowman, Hedger, Cattle-Man, Shepherd, Field-Worker, and Dairy-Maid by Henry Stephens 1852 in three volumes.

Volume 1 (71Mb) |  Volume 2 (33Mb) |  Volume 3 (33Mb)

Return to our Agriculture Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus