Some Old Farm Implements and Operations (1918)

Author(s): Chope. Richard Pearse Origin: DA Transactions
Topic(s): agriculture and history Year published: 1918
Location(s): Hartland and Torquay Pages: 268-292

By Richard Pearse Chope, B.A.
(Read at Torquay, 24th July, 1918.)

As the Torquay Museum possesses the only collection in the county of old farm implements, in the formation of which it was my privilege to render some assistance, it seems fitting that at this meeting of the Devonshire Association at Torquay – indeed, in the Museum itself – I should contribute a paper describing these implements and explaining their uses, especially as most of them have already become quite obsolete, and in a short time even their uses will be but imperfectly understood.

The half-century just past, over which my memory extends, has witnessed a great change in farming methods and operations – perhaps greater than in any other national industry. Hand labour in such operations as breaking up land, sowing seed, reaping and mowing, sheafing and, stacking, thrashing and winnowing, has been almost entirely replaced by machinery, driven at first by horses but now largely by engines and motor tractors. Some processes, then universal, such as reed-combing and rope-spinning, have completely disappeared. The pack-saddles and crooks, or pots, for carrying goods on horseback, although even fifty years ago becoming rare, have now given way altogether to wheeled carts, butts, and wagons, generally drawn by horses but occasionally by motors.

The timbern zoles and drags have been replaced by iron ploughs and harrows, and a number of new cultivating implements have been introduced, such as were then undreamt of. Every farm was much more nearly self-supporting than can now be easily realized. Such articles as bread, beer, cider, wines, jams, and cheese¹ were all made at home from the produce of the farm itself, and on one occasion, when a large number of sheep died of the caud² (liver rot), I recollect tallow candles were made.

1. There are two screw-actuated cheese presses in the Museum, but the one at my home was a lever press with a heavy stone weight, and I have recently seen another in which the stone weight was suspended by links and acted without leverage.
2. O.E. coðu, disease.

The corn, it is true, was ground off the premises, in a grist mill, but it was returned to the farmer, after deduction of toll,¹ in the form of flour, meal, and bran. The barley, too, was sometimes sent away to be malted, but several farms had their own malthouses, and, indeed, still have them, though they are now converted to other uses; and nearly every farm had its own brew-house and its own pound-house or cider-house. Formerly, even the clothes of the farmer and his household were made on the premises by the village tailor from cloth woven from the yarn spun by the females of the household from the wool of sheep bred on the farm itself – the yarn being sent away to be woven on a loom and returned in the form of cloth.

1. This practice of taking toll in kind has given rise to two local sayings, namely, (1) “The toal’s more’n the grease” (grist); and (2) “Millerdy, millerdy, dousty pole (dusty poll), How many peeks hev you a-stole?” the latter being shouted after the miller by children in derision.

There are two spinning-wheels in the Museum, but I have no recollection of seeing one in actual use, though I have heard people speak of them and I have had an old woman pointed out to me as the last spinster. It was, however, still the practice for the tailor to visit the farmhouses, and make and repair clothes with the cloth provided for the purpose; and I well remember him sitting cross-legged on the kitchen table at his work. Alas! the kitchens themselves, with their open fireplaces and cloamen ovens, their chimbly-crooks and crooks, their oak settles, their dressers laden with pewter plates and dishes¹ as well as with cloam, and their bacon racks in one corner, have been quite transmogrified, and converted into dandified semi-parlours.

1. The pewter was considered inferior to the cloam, and was only used by the labourers in the harvest-field. Most of the pewter plates and dishes that made so brave a show, have been given up to mean uses, such as trays for feeding chicken, and, as Chapple says, “glazed earthen plates must now dull the edges of our knives; and the country squire to keep a step higher than his neighbouring farmers, to please his modish madam, and escape being censur’d as a tasteless churl, must prefer the brittleness and frailty of Dresden porcelain to the solidity and permanence of Damnonian pewter.” (Review of Risdon’s Survey, 98).

Much, indeed, might be said about the changes in the internal economy of the farmhouse, but it will be necessary for me in the present paper to limit my observations to the more usual outdoor farming tools and implements.

Taking the operations in their natural sequence, we must first consider the breaking up of old ground for cultivation, which was then almost invariably done by the process known as burning bait.¹ This was described by Risdon, about 1630, as “paring the grain of their ground with mattocks into turfs, then drying and loughing [piling] those turfs into burrows, and so burning them, and spreading their ashes on the ground so pared; which kind of beating and burning is rare in other shires, and seems to be originally peculiar to this county, being known by the name of Denshering in other counties.”²

1. This is called in some districts burn-baiting, and it is still an open question whether bait (beat) was originally applied to the operation of digging up the turf, or to the turf dug. It seems to be agreed that the word is not the same as peat, for “peats” in Devon are known as turves or vags.
2. Survey of Devon, 11.

“There are, at present”, writes Marshall¹ in 1796, “three distinct methods of separating the sward or sod, provincially the spine, from the soil”, namely, (1) handbeating, (2) spading, and (3) velling, or skirting.

1. Rural Economy of West of England, i, 141.

“The first is performed with a beating axe,¹ namely, a large adze, some five or six inches wide, and ten or twelve inches long; crooked, and somewhat hollow or dishing. With this, which was probably the original instrument employed in the operation, large chips, shavings, or sods are struck off. It is still used in rough or uneven grounds, especially where furze or the stubs of brushwood abound. In using it, the workman appears, to the eye of a stranger at some distance, to be beating the surface, as with a beetle, rather than to be chipping off the sward with an edge-tool”.

1. Also known as bait-ex or biddix.

Although here described as a distinct tool, it differs little from the ordinary rooting maddick (mattock) which is still employed for digging furze, earth, etc. Indeed, Vancouver,¹ writing in 1807, says that all the operations of “holeing, digging, gripping, ditching, hacking, and handbeating are entirely performed with a broad-bitted mattock, which is so fastened upon the shaft, as to incline inwards little short of an angle of 45° with the line of its handle”, and of which he gives an illustration. Further, he says that this mattock “is used to grub up, chap, and displace the surface”, but “the grubbing of roots is generally performed with the two-bill,² or double-bitted mattock”, which is formed as a heavy mattock in front and a small axe at the back, and which he also illustrates.

1. General View of the Agriculture of Devon, 126—7; Plate IX.
2. Also known as visgy or bisgy. A specimen has since been given to the Museum. In East Devon, I am told, the term two-bill (pron. toobal) is applied only to the double-pronged digging-maddick or digger described below.

At the present time there are three forms of mattock in use, namely, the rooting maddick already mentioned; the hacking maddick, for breaking up clods of earth already ploughed or turned up (now comparatively rare); and the digging maddick, or digger, formed with two prongs, and used for digging potatoes, etc. “The operation of hand-beating”, says Chapple,¹ about 1780, “is thought to be as hard a labour as any in which the husbandman is employed, hence the common saying among our Devonians, of any painful drudgery or toilsome task, that ‘it is as bad as hand-beating’.” Within my recollection it was rarely practised, for it was only necessary in cases where the ground was too full of roots, or too stony, to admit of the use of the spade or the velling zole.

1. Review of Risdon’s Survey, 47.

The spade bears little resemblance to the common gardener’s spade, with a short handle, which, says Vancouver, “is scarcely anywhere seen among the farmers in North Devon.” The name is invariably applied to the paring-shovel or breast-plough: this “is from 9 to 10 inches wide at its insertion with the handle, which is made with a considerable curve upwards; the blade is about 12 inches long, terminating with a broad angular point, which, with its sides, are always kept very sharp and keen for cutting; on the left hand, or land-side of the tool, a sharp comb or coulter rises obliquely, to sever the pared slice from the whole ground; but this, from the toughness of the surface, and impediments presented by the roots of the furze, flags, and heather, is frequently dispensed with, and the slice is rent or torn off by the operator as well from the side of the whole ground as cut and separated from the stratum below.” The handle is fitted at the top with what is known as a drift, namely, a large flat wooden crosspiece having hand-pins, or handles proper, at its sides.

In working the tool for spading the ground, the operator, who wears a leather apron or guard,¹ jerks it along with the force of his hands and his body against the cross-piece.

1. Thick leather knee-protectors, known as strads, are worn by thatchers, rabbit-trappers, and others, from which we get the saying: “So stiff’s a strad.”

“When a foot or 15 inches of the slice rises upon the handle of the breast-plough, an effort is made to separate it from the uncut surface, and which by a turn of the paring-spade is whelmed over. This effort of separating the cut from the uncut ground, is always (when circumstances allow that the surface is not too much encumbered with furze or heather) much lessened by having the slice next to be pared, cut, or nicked into such lengths as may be most convenient to the workmen; indeed, the regular nicking of the slice to be pared from the whole ground is, in some particular situations, found indispensably necessary, where the moor is of such a nature as to render impracticable the operation of the breast-plough.”¹

1. Vancouver, General View, 126.

Marshall says that, in some instances at least, a mould-board is added – fixed in such a manner as to turn the sod or turf as a plough turns the furrow slice – in which case the tool becomes literally a breast-plough. “In working with this tool, the labourer proceeds without stopping to divide the sods into short lengths, this part being done by women and children who follow to break the turf into lengths and set the pieces on edge to dry.”¹ I never saw a spade provided with a mould-board, and even in Marshall’s time it was apparently falling out of use. In addition, however, to the turf-paring spade, or spade proper, which was still common within my recollection, we had a special draining-spade, very long and narrow, and a turve-spade, for cutting turves or vags for burning in the house; the latter consisted of an almost semicircular cutting-blade secured to a board handle, about 4 inches by 1½ inches in section and 4 feet long, and having a hole at the top for one hand and a wooden loop near the middle for the other.

1. Marshall, Rural Economy, i, 142–3.

The third, and more usual, method of turf-paring, namely, velling or skirting, is performed with an ordinary timbern zole (which will be described later on), provided with a special form of sheer (share). Again to quote Marshall, in preference to giving a description in my own words:

“The instrument at present used, for separating the spine or grassy turf from the soil, by farmers in general, is the common team plow, with some little alteration in the size and form of the share according to the fancy or judgment of the farmer or his plowman, there being two different ways of performing the operation. The one is termed velling, the other skirting, or skirwinking. For velling, the share is made wide, with the angle or outer point of the wing or fin turned upward, to separate the turf entirely from the soil. For skirting, the common share is used, but made, perhaps, somewhat wider than when it is used in the ordinary operation of plowing. In this mode of using the plow, little more than half the sward is pared off, turning the part raised upon a line of unmoved turf, as in the operation of ribbing, rice-balking, raftering, or half plowing. The paring of turf in this case is from 1 to 2 inches thick on the coulter margin, decreasing in thickness to a thin feather edge, by which it adheres to the unmoved sward.

“Having lain some time in this state, to rot or grow tender, it is pulled to pieces with rough harrows, drawn across the line of turf; and, having lain in this rough state until it be sufficiently dry, it is bruised with a roller, and immediately harrowed with lighter harrows (walking the horses one way and trotting them the other) to shake the earth out more effectually from among the roots of the grass; going over the ground again, and perhaps again, according to the season and the judgement of the manager, until most of the earth be disengaged. The beat, or fragments of turf, being sufficiently dry, it is gathered into heaps of five or six bushels each, either with the drudge, first into rows,¹ and then, drawing it along the rows, into heaps; or is pulled together with long-toothed hand rakes, adapted to the purpose. The former is more expeditious, and requires fewer hands; the latter gathers the beat cleaner – freer from earth, which is liable to be drawn together by the drudge.²

1. Known as trones. Mr. C. H. Laycock_thmks this is really a double plural of tro or trough, and should be written troens, but I have only heard the term applied to ridges or raised rows, and the word trough is not by us pronounced tro, but traw.
2. Marshall, Rural Economy, i, 143—5.

The drudge (pronounced droodge) is a very heavy and cumbersome implement, so much so that the term is often extended to other large and unwieldy articles, and even to persons. It consists of a big beam, about 6 feet long and 6 inches square in section, having broad wooden teeth set closely together, with the flat side foremost,¹ and having also four handles projecting at the back to enable it to be lifted and manipulated by two men. It was generally drawn by horses working in ordinary butt shafts attached to iron eyes or staples in the beam. It was sometimes called a clum, and the operation was always called clumming.

1. In an example I have recently seen there are 17 teeth, 18 in. long, 2 in. wide, and 1½ in. thick.

“The beat burrows, or heaps, being rounded and shook up light and hollow, a wisp of rough straw (a large handful) is thrust, double, into the windward side of each heap; and a number of heaps being thus primed, a match or flambeau is formed with reed or straight unthrashed straw; one end of which is lighted, it is applied in succession to the loose ragged ends of the wisps of straw, which readily communicate the fire to the heaps. The centre of the heaps being consumed, the outskirts are thrown lightly into the dimples or hollows, and the heaps rounded up as at first; continuing to right up the burrows¹ until the whole of the beat be consumed, or changed, by the action of the fire. The produce of the first skirting being burnt, and spread over the surface, the operation is sometimes repeated, by running the plow across the lines of the first skirting, thus paring off the principal part of the spine; again dragging, rolling, harrowing, collecting, and burning, as in the former operation.”²

1. This operation is known as braunding.
2. Marshall, Rural Economy, i, 145–6.

The most important of all the cultivating implements is, of course, the zole¹ (sull, plough). The Museum, unfortunately, has no example of this in its simplest form, but the accompanying outline drawing, which I have had made from an illustration in Vancouver’s book, will give a fair idea of its general construction. It consists of a beam, a, mortised and fastened by a beam-wadge to the hal, or left handle, b, a peculiarly-shaped stiff piece of wood extending beyond the beam and terminating in a foot, by which it is secured by two hoop-pins, c, to the chip, or sliding bed, d, carrying the sheer (share), e. The beam and chip are also connected together by two spills, or stout pegs, f, passing through both and secured by wadges. The hand-wrest, or right handle, g, is comparatively slender, and is nailed to the front spill and to the ladder, h, which is a board connected to the hal by two cradle pins, or cross-bars, i. The grute-wrest,² or mould-board, j, is nailed to the ladder and to the front spill. The coolter (coulter), k, is passed through a hole in the beam, where it is adjusted and fixed by three wadges, the front one being called the pole-wadge. The implement is drawn by a head-taw, l (here shown as a plain swinging loop, but generally provided with notches for adjusting the draught), to which is hooked the short-chain. The crooked stick, m, passing through a mortise in the beam, is called a devut,³ and is used by young ploughmen to regulate the depth of the furrow, though it is not often seen. The zole being a swing plough (that is, having no wheels for guiding or regulating it), some skill is necessary to set and control it, and nearly all the parts are made adjustable by wadges for this purpose. A hatchet for shaping and fixing these wadges forms a necessary part of the ploughman’s equipment, and a paddle is also carried for clearing the grute-wrest and sheer when necessary. All the parts, except the sheer, coolter, and head-taw, are made of wood – hence the name timbern zole – most of them being of ash or oak, but the chip, according to Vancouver, generally of apple wood.

1. O.E. sulh, sūl, a plough.
2. Vancouver calls this groutiss.
3. Probably the same word as the Scotch divot, a turf, but here transferred, in a manner not unusual, to a gauge for the thickness of the turf; or, is it merely dee-vut, a D-shaped foot? I do not know how it is pronounced.

Vancouver confines the name sull to a still more primitive form, having only one spill and the grute-wrest apparently nailed to the hand-wrest and inclined upwards from the chip.¹ Marshall, too, speaks of “ the mold-board standing some inches above the level of the chip”,² so the exact form was probably subject to some variation.

1. Plate III in Vancouver’s book.
2. Rural Economy, i, 123.

The implement in the Museum is what is known as a two-way zole,¹ being adapted to turn the furrow at will either to the right hand or to the left. This is of great advantage in ploughing sloping or hilly ground, where it is desired to throw each furrow up the hill. It will be seen that the zole has the sheer, coolter, and grute-wrest duplicated, so that it can work in either direction. There is a head-taw at each end, but these are open at one side and connected to each other by a long iron rod running along by the side of the beam, so that, as the oxen or horses pass from one end to the other, the hook of the short chain merely slides along this rod without turning the implement. The two handles are connected together by cross-bars, and pivoted to the middle of the beam, so that they can be swung over from one end to the other when it is desired to reverse the direction of ploughing. In another form of two-way zole,² the zole itself is turned at the end of the furrow like an ordinary one-way zole, but there is a grute-wrest at each side hinged to the front spill, and these are connected together by a cross-bar, so that, as one is brought into action, the other is withdrawn. A similar implement, in which the grute-wrests are fixed so that both work at the same time, is known as a ridging-zole, or taty-zole, and is used mainly for earthing up potatoes in ridges.

1. See Plate A.
2. Shown on Plate IV in Vancouver’s book.

The other plough in the Museum is an interesting specimen of what is known as a Derby plough,¹ an intermediate form between the old timbern zole and the modern iron plough. In this the beam and handles are still made of wood, but the other parts are of iron. The head-taw is adjustable in height, and is connected by a link to the middle of the beam, so that the draught is from this point instead of the end of the beam. A wheel is also provided to regulate the depth of the furrow.

1. See Plate A. The object shown in front of the wheel is, I think, a detached velling sheer.

The object shown by the side of the Derby plough is an ox-yoke, which formed the sole harness of oxen employed in drawing zoles or other implements. The use of oxen in Devon is beyond my recollection,¹ but some of my father’s labourers had driven them when they were boys. Four oxen formed the usual plough, the word plough being formerly applied to the team of oxen or horses, not to the implement as at present. “The yoke of Devonshire”, says Marshall, “is of too valuable a construction to be passed without notice. It is by far the best I have anywhere seen. It is at once light and easy to the animal. The operative part of the woodwork, that which rests upon the withers of the ox, is broad and gently convex on the under side, to sit easy; and hollowed out, above, to give it lightness. To prevent this thin part from being split by the action of the bows in work, rivets are or ought to be run through it horizontally, close to the outer sides of the bow holes. The species of wood is chiefly alder, sometimes elm. Another most admirable part, in the construction of this yoke, belongs to the draught iron, which, instead of having, as is usual, a single staple or eye to receive the ring, the crown of the staple is enlarged, and is divided into three compartments or notches, like those of the draught iron of a plow, in order to give the weaker ox the requisite advantage. An admirable thought, and equally good in theory and in practice.² The bows are invariably, I believe, of elm.”³

1. I have, however, seen them at Cambridge (about thirty-five years ago) being used for harrowing. A member at the meeting said he had seen them being used in East Devon for ploughing in 1878.
2. The specimen in the Museum has not got an adjustable draught iron.
3. Rural Economy, i, 125. I think they are usually of ash. A similar bow, called a neck-rope, the ends of which are passed through slots in a flat latch of wood, called a clops (clasp), is used for tying a cow to an iron ring, called a riddle, which slides up and down a post, called a zaaltree (stall-tree), in the shippen.

Cultivators and harrows are of various forms, and both are used for stirring up the ground and clearing it without inverting the soil. All cultivators are made with frames which carry a number of stems having curved points or shares for penetrating the soil, and the whole framework is carried on wheels. Harrows, however heavily made, do not possess wheels, and this feature distinguishes them from cultivators. Marshall, indeed, does not mention such implements as cultivators, and Vancouver lumps them together – “scarifiers, scufflers, shims, and broad shares of various constructions” – under the general name of tormentors, and says they “are very much resorted to in crossing the balks of whole ground left after the velling and skirting operations for beat-burning.”¹ Marshall, as we have seen, says this operation was performed by harrows. The tormentor shown by Vancouver consists of a triangular wooden frame, carrying seven tines (each 15 inches long), and mounted upon three wheels, which are provided with means for adjusting the depth of work. He says “there is another sort of tormentor in use with two wheels before with a crane neck.”² As far as I can recollect, this tormentor with four wheels would be very similar to what we called a scuffle or scuffler. This was not with us, as it was apparently in West Somerset,³ the same as a scarifier (pron. skerrifier), which was a horse-hoe, generally formed with three tines only and used for working between the drills of green crops to kill weeds, etc.

1. General View, 121.
2. Plate VII of Vancouver’s book.
3. Elworthy, West Som. Word-book.

Harrows, too, vary considerably in construction. Marshall says: “The rough harrows of this country – provincially drags – consists of two parts (each of three beams), hung together with hooks and eyes, and drawn by the corner of the foremost. They hang remarkably steady behind the team.”¹ Vancouver says: “The harrows commonly used consist of a very heavy drag, usually drawn by four or six oxen; and a lighter kind of harrow, sometimes in one piece, but more generally divided in the middle, and connected so with links as to yield to the curved form of the eight- and ten- furrow ridges, and to perform its work very completely on them.”² The specimen in the Museum is an excellent example of an early pair of drags.³ In this case each part has four longitudinal wooden beams, called larras, connected together by four thin cross strips, called zoards (swords), which are here made of wood but in later forms were of iron. The two frames were hinged together, for the purpose described above, by eyed rods on each frame connected either by a long rod passing through all four eyes or by two short bolts and cotters; in the forms I remember, the rods on one frame had eyes and on the other crooks, like gate hangings. Originally, such a pair of drags was drawn by a single head-taw at the left-hand corner of the left-hand frame, so that the implement worked diagonally, but in later forms (as in the example shown) there is a second head-taw at the corresponding corner of the other frame, and these are connected to opposite ends of the whippintree (whippletree), so that the implement works less on the skew. The draught-hook in each frame can be adjusted in notches of the head-taw (as shown), so that the tings (tines), of which there are five in each beam, run in distinct lines, and no two follow each other. The result is that the tings make forty different lines at equal distances, and leave very little ground unstirred; this completeness of action lends force to the proverbial saying about a man in difficulties, that he is “like a toad under a harrow”, that is, he is knocked about from pillar to post and does not know which way to turn in order to get clear. The modern harrows are made entirely of iron, and the parts are not hinged together, but to a wooden crossbeam which is connected to the whippintree. Fifty years ago chain harrows were also employed, but they were then a modern invention, and, as they are still in use and are well known, it is unnecessary to describe them.

1. Rural Economy, 125.
2. General View, 120; Plate V.
3. See Plate B. Unfortunately, it is exhibited backsy-vore, that is, with the backside or underside in front.

A local form of implement, which is perhaps confined to North Devon, is known as an idjit¹ or hitchit, and is generally classed as a cultivator, though, as it has no wheels, it is more of the nature of a harrow. It consists of a square iron frame, which carries sixteen short tings with small triangular feet, and it is drawn from one corner. It was in use fifty years ago, but I think it was then a modern implement, but made only by local smiths.

1. Sometimes in advertisements spelt idiot, which word is pronounced in exactly the same way.

Marshall expressed his surprise that “the roller of this district has not yet been furnished with shafts, or a pole, to check it in going downhill, notwithstanding the unlevelness of surface”¹, and Vancouver, showing a roller of this type,² says: “The common one and two horse-rollers, with heavy granite or moorstone rollers, of from 5 to 8 feet in length, and of proportionate diameter, are very generally used; the latter for rolling the wheat and pasture-grounds, and aiding the operation of separating the spine from the mould on the beat-lands, in preparation for wheat or turnips.”³ These granite rollers are still in use, but, instead of being mounted as shown in Vancouver’s book, they are pivoted in the middle of a rectangular wooden swing frame, to the ends of which, at either side, the traces are directly attached.

1. Rural Economy, 125.
2. Plate VI in Vancouver’s book.
3. General View, 120.

In former times all corn was sown broadcast from a zellup (seedlip), a kidney-shaped, deep wooden tray, which was carried by means of a broad strap across the shoulders, and in some cases supported by the left hand engaging with a handhole or handle at the outer edge. It is still frequently used for distributing artificial manure, though the modern zellup is made of galvanized iron. There is a local saying at Hartland:

When the say-gulls cry by lan’,
’Tis time to tak the zellup in han’;
When the say-gulls cry by say,
’Tis time to draw the zellup away.

The sea-gulls crying by land indicate the approach of wet, stormy weather, before which the corn should be sown; while the sea-gulls crying by sea indicate continued fine weather, which is unsuitable for seed-sowing owing to the lack of moisture to promote germination. The seeds are covered in by harrowing with light barrows, and rolling.

The wheat was weeded in due course by women working with spitters or spuds, which were chisel-shaped tools mounted on long handles.¹ The ordinary hoe was, and is, used mainly for thinning and weeding turnips, etc.

1. A stronger tool of the same character, known as a stubber, was used for “stubbing up” the roots of “vuz” and other shrubbery plants. I think this is the tool shown at the upper left-hand corner of Plate F.

The operation of reaping was performed with reap-hooks¹ having smooth, not serrated, cutting-edges; “these hooks”, says Vancouver, “are used occasionally with either hand, the operator shifting hands, chopping the stubble low, and gathering about half a sheaf at a time, which, put together, is bound with reed, combed from former wheat-straw, or with a double length of the wheat reaping.”²

1. The so-called “reap-hook” in the Museum is, I think, a browse-hook, (see below). It has neither the shape nor size of a real reap-hook.
2. General View, 128.

Marshall describes a process of hewing wheat, a kind of mowing with one hand. “The yowing-hook”, he says, “is formed like the common sharp-edged hand reaping-hook of this and other places, but somewhat larger every way – longer, broader, and stouter; with a hooked knob at the end of the handle, to prevent its slipping out of the hand. With this instrument the corn is struck at, horizontally and almost close to the ground, with one hand; while the other hand and arm strike it, at the same instant, about the middle of the straw; thus driving it, upright, against the standing corn : the workman taking a sweep round as much as will form a sheaf, and collecting the whole together in the centre, into a sort of leaning cone; finally striking the hook under its base to disengage it entirely from the soil, but still supporting it with the left or loose arm and the leg until the hook be put beneath it to lift it, horizontally, to the band. In variation of this method I have seen the hewer force his way up one side of a narrow ridge against the wind, and back on the other side, thus collecting half a sheaf; and then fetching another half sheaf in the same manner.”¹ Women worked with a smaller hook, called a hand greeping hook; it was used in the right hand, while the wheat was greeped (gripped) with the left.² About six greeps, or handfuls, were made into one sheaf. For mowing, the zie (scythe) was, and is still, used; the long, bent wooden snead,³ or stem, carries the two hand-pins (handles), and has a hole near the end to receive the calk, or spike, on the heel of the blade, which is secured by a ring and wadges. The zie may be hang’d, or set, either “too high” or “too low”, and is adjusted accordingly.

1. Rural Economy, i, 168.
2. A similar hook, called a browse-hook or brawl-hook, was used for browsing, that is, trimming hedges, cutting brushwood, etc.; while the ordinary bill-hook, or claiver, was used for cleaving or splitting wood. The hedger wore a thick glove, called a cod-glove, having only a thumb-stall and a pouch for the fingers, like an infant’s glove.
3. O.E. snæd.

The loose corn that was left on the ground after the reapers was sometimes collected by women with ordinary wooden hand-rakes, but the meaders (mowers) were always followed by women or boy tathers, who gathered up the corn into bundles to be afterwards bound into sheaves, either by tathing-crooks, made of iron and having a wooden handle, and in shape like a reap-hook, but of course blunt, or by tathing-rakes, or scoring-rakes, narrow wooden rakes, about a foot wide, and having four or six long teeth.¹ The tathers were followed by men benders (binders), who made their own beens (binds, bands), either from the same corn or from reed previously made, and bound the bundles into sheaves.² After the sheaves had been set up in stitches, or shocks, the whole field was raked over again with errish³ rakes, very large and peculiarly-shaped wooden rakes, having a handle forked into two branches for connecting it to the beam, and a cross-bar between the two branches by which it is drawn along by the right hand, the left hand being placed at the top of the handle for steadying and lifting the rake when required.

1. See Plate C. A tathing-crook has since been given to the Museum
2. The twist or turn at the end of the been, for securing it in position, was known as a choke. In catchy weather the sheaves were often goated, that is, set up loosely, with only a twisted straw keeble (cable) or band around them near the top.
3. O.E. ersc (in ersc-hen), a stubble field. See Plate C.

The hay-rake for gathering hay into trones, or rows, was also of peculiar construction, and is still in use. It is known as a tumble-jack. It is drawn by a horse, and consists of a heavy beam, 10 feet long and 4 inches square in section, having a number of long straight wooden teeth passed right through it, the teeth being pointed at each end and slightly curved in opposite directions.¹ Near the middle of the beam are two oval blocks surrounding it and shod on their edges with iron; on these the rake slides along the ground. Two handles are loosely connected to the beam by loops, and engage stops on two of the teeth. When sufficient hay has accumulated on the rake, the handles are raised and the rake turned right over, leaving a trone of hay behind it and allowing the opposite ends of the teeth to gather for the next trone. The horse’s traces are connected to two arms loosely jointed by loops to the ends of the beam. The trones are afterwards gathered up into pokes (cocks) by peeks and hand-rakes.

1. In an example I have recently seen there are 17 teeth, as in the droodge, but they are 4 ft. long and 1¼ in. square in section, and, of course, are set much wider apart. The handles are 4 ft. 6 in. in length.

Both Marshall and Vancouver ridicule the peek¹ (pike), or pitchfork, used for pitching corn and hay. The former says the tines are “not longer than those of a man-of-war’s beef-fork”² while the latter says they “seem scarcely sufficient for holding or lifting a bulk beyond that of a rook’s nest.”³ But the peek was really a very effective tool, and I can speak from experience, for I have spent many days catching sheaves with such a tool on the top of a mow.

1. Peek or pick is also used for a pickaxe, though the usual name for this is peckice. The peek described is shown in Plate C.
2. Rural Economy, i, 210.
3. General View, 128.

Marshall admits that its use has been “brought, by practice and the emulation of young men, to an extraordinary degree of slight (sic) and expertness. The sheaves are flung, provincially pitched, from the point of a prong, formed very narrow in the tines, over the head of the pitcher – a boy placing the sheaves fairly before him. I have seen a man thus pitching sheaves up to the roof of a stack above the ordinary height, throwing them several feet above the reach of his fork. The spring is got by the arms and the knee jointly, or is done at arm’s length. When the height is very great, or the sheaves heavy, two men’s exertions, it seems, are joined – one man placing the tines of his pick under the stem or handle of the other! Much probably depends on the forming of the tines of the prong – they contract upwards to an acute angle; the sheaves, of course, part from them with a degree of spring given by the straw compressed between them.”¹

1. Rural Economy, i, 177.

An analogous tool for loading dung and the like is known as heavle or heable;¹ it is formed with three or four tines, spaced much farther apart than the tines of a peek. But the commonest and most useful tool of all for this purpose and many others, is the shool (shovel), which is still in general use. As Marshall says: “It supplies the place of both spade and shovel, there being no such tool as either a spade or a shovel, of the ordinary construction, in the hands of farmers or their labourers.” It is, I believe, the Cornish mining shovel, and is made with a small pointed blade, shaped like the pips on the suit of spades in playing cards. The blade has a crease, or raised ridge, at the middle of the top, for strengthening purposes, and a vale, or socket, to receive the end of “a long, strong, crooked handle, the back of the bend being turned upward; and, in using it, the hollow of the bend is rested upon the thigh, which is usually guarded with a shield of strong leather bound upon it. This tool”, continues Marshall, “has many good properties. It enters any substance much easier than a broad-mouthed shovel or spade, and answers, in the hands of a West-country man, every purpose of the shovel, the spade, the yard scraper, and the dung fork of other districts. As a substitute for the last, however, it is less eligible than it is for the three first.”²

1. Generally spelt evil in advertisements. The two kinds are distinguished as a “dree-prang” and a “vower-prang”. Any fork, even a table-fork, is often called simply a prang (prong).
2. Rural Economy, i, 127.

“Formerly,” says Marshall, writing in 1796, “carriage of every kind was done entirely on the backs of horses,¹ except in harvest, when sledges drawn by oxen were sometimes used; also heaps of manure in the field were dragged abroad in small cart sledges, either by oxen or horses. Twenty years ago, there was not a ‘pair of wheels’ in the country (at least, not upon a farm), and nearly the same may be said at present. Hay, corn, straw, fuel, stones, dung, lime, etc., are, in the ordinary practice of the district, still carried on horseback.” In passing from Bideford through Barnstaple to Southmolton, the first “pair of wheels” he met was at Swimbridge, though he remarks “a freer use of wheel carriages in North Devonshire than in the South Hams and West Devonshire.”² The Rev. Stebbing Shaw, travelling from Tavistock via Lydford and Okehampton to Crockernwell, in 1788, did not meet a single carriage the whole day.³ Fifty years ago in North Devon pack-horses had entirely given place to wheeled vehicles, although donkeys with pack-saddles were, and still are, used for landing sand and gravel from the beach to the top of the cliff, and, at Clovelly, for conveying goods up the village street. In South Devon, judging from the excellent specimens of pack-horse furniture in the Museum, the use of pack-horses continued until a later date.

1. See also Early Tours in Devon and Cornwall, 118, 261, etc.
2. Rural Economy, i, 113; ii, 73, 64.
3. Early Tours, 229.

“The furniture varies with the load to be carried. Hay, corn, straw, faggots, and other comparatively light articles of burden are loaded between crooks, formed of willow poles about the thickness of sithe handles and seven or eight feet long, bent as ox bows but with one end much longer than the other.¹ These are joined in pairs, with slight cross bars, eighteen inches to two feet long; and each horse is furnished with two pairs of these crooks slung together so that the shorter and stronger ends shall lie easy and firmly against the pack-saddle, the longer and lighter ends rising perhaps fifteen or more inches above the horse’s back and standing four or five feet from each other. Within and between these crooks the load is piled and bound fast together,² with that simplicity and dispatch which long practice seldom fails of striking out.

1. See Plate D.
2. By means of a balsh, or balsh rope.

“Cordwood, large stones, and other heavy articles are carried between short crooks,¹ made of four natural bends or knees, both ends being nearly of the same length; and, in use, the points stand nearly level with the ridge of the pack-saddle.

1. Known also as crubs.

“Dung, sand, materials of buildings, roads, etc., are carried in potts,¹ or strong coarse panniers, slung together like the crooks and as panniers are usually slung; the dung, especially if long and light, being ridged up over the saddle. The bottom of each pot is a falling door, on a strong and simple construction. The place of delivery being reached, the trap is unlatched and the load released.

1. See Plate E.

“Lime is universally carried in narrow bags, two or three of them being thrown across a pack-saddle, which is of wood, and of the ordinary construction.”¹ The pack-saddle was secured on the horse’s back by a hairen gease, or sissing girt, a peculiar girth formed partly of hair webbing and partly of rope, and passing over the saddle. In the case of the donkey’s saddle referred to, the pots are replaced by bags, open at top and bottom, the mouth at the bottom being simply tied up with string and released as required.

1. Marshall, Rural Economy, i, 121–3.

“In carrying sheaf corn, the sheaves are packed in between the crooks, head to tail, with the butts outward, and carried up even, piling the load considerably above the horse’s back. The lower part of the load is laid in by hand, the upper part piled up with a fork, which being set firmly under one of the cross bars of the crooks, a rope, previously thrown over, is pulled down tight and fastened, the fork being a stay or purchase to pull against. A string of horses being thus laden, a boy travels them soberly to the barn or rickyard, where they are unloaded by pushing back the upper part of the load with the fork, throwing it over the tail of the horse to the ground or upon a cloth laid to receive it, the crooks being cleared by hand, in a somewhat immechanical manner. The whole string unloaded, the boy mounts, and, standing upright between the crooks, trots or perhaps gallops his horses back to the field; frequently, to the no small dismay, or perhaps injury, of peaceful travellers. A somewhat uncivilized practice.”¹ Dr. W. G. Maton, about the same time, wrote: “In narrow lanes we were often much incommoded by these unceremonious travellers.”² They must, indeed, have been awkward things to meet in a typical Devonshire lane, and the “unceremoniousness” of their behaviour gave rise to a local saying:

He hath’n a-got no more manners
Then a ’oss an’ a pair o’ pang-ers.

1. Marshall, Rural Economy, 1, 176. See also Early Tours, 131.
2. Observations on the Western Counties, i, 230; Early Tours, 261.

Of course, heckney saddles, or riding saddles, were also in universal use, the farmer’s wife or daughter riding behind the farmer himself, or a man-servant, on a pillion. In some cases large open boots, known as gambadoes or gambaders, were used for the protection of the legs; they are thus described by the Rev. Stebbing Shaw: “The country people ride in a prodigious large boot of wood and leather hung instead of a stirrup to the horse’s side and half open, which they call gambades.”¹ There is a specimen of one of these in the Museum.²

1. Early Tours, 216.
2. See Plate F.

The few vehicles that were in use at the time of Marshall and Vancouver were of two kinds, namely, those without wheels and those with wheels. The former were known as sledges or sleds, and Marshall describes two forms, namely, (1) the dray, which was “merely two side pieces joined together with cross bars”, and was “large, strong, and useful on many occasions”; and (2) the gurry-butt, or dung sledge, which was a sort of sliding cart, or barrow, the sides and ends of which were about 18 inches high, and fixed, the load being discharged by overturning the carriage. It was usually of a size proper to be drawn by one horse, but was sometimes larger, and Marshall says he had seen four oxen drawing compost upon a fallow, in one of these little implements. He says it might anywhere be made useful, on many occasions, especially in moving earth, stones, rubbish, or manure, a small distance.¹

1. Rural Economy; i, 120–1.

By Vancouver’s time this sliding butt had apparently been replaced by three-wheel butts, for he says: “The three-wheel butts, with barrow-handles, drawn by one horse, and holding, level-full, from five to six bushels, are much used, and found very suitable for removing stones or any heavy load to a short distance.”¹ He also describes one-horse carts, or butts, made to tip like tumbrils, and holding about five seams, or from ten to twelve bushels each; “being placed on low wheels they are very convenient for loading large stones, or any heavy article.” In addition to these, he says, “there are a number of two horse carts, carrying from 15 to 18 cwt. each, in very general use, wherever they can with convenience be substituted for the long or short crooks or dung-pots.” Marshall describes also the Cornish wain, which, he says, is among the simplest of wheel carriages, and is adapted either to oxen or horses; “it is a cart without a body, at least without sides, saving only two strong bows, which bend over the wheels to prevent the load from pressing upon them.” The wagon apparently was rare, and only in general use in the neighbourhood of Axminster; it was “of the West-country construction, with the outer rail bending over the hind wheel in the same manner as that of the Cotswold waggon.”

1. General View, 125. An intermediate form, having one wheel in front and two sleds behind, and known as a sled-butt, is apparently still in use in West Somerset. (Elworthy, West Som. Word-book.)

Fifty years ago the dray was still in use for conveying rollers and other implements to and from the fields, but in some cases small wheels were provided instead of the sleds.¹ The wheeled vehicles in general use were one-horse butts and carts, and these even now form the usual means of conveyance, four-wheeled wagons being comparatively rare. The butts are for carrying dung, stones, sand, lime, etc., and are formed with boarded or closed sides and a removable tail-board at the back. The body is formed to tip backwards about the axle of the butt, in order to discharge its load, being normally held in the horizontal position by a trip-stick or road-axe (pron. raud-ex) in front securing it to the sharps, or shafts. The carts are for carrying hay, sheaf corn, straw, etc., and are formed with open ladder sides, called rails, the front and back being closed in by loose hurdles or lades, called gearings. When the load has been lawed, or piled, on the cart, it is secured by two cart-ropes passed over it from an ooler (roller) at the back and fastened to the sharps at the front, the ropes being tightened as required by two iron winch handles passing loosely through the ooler.

1. This term is, I think, now only used for the sliding sole of the modern iron plough, corresponding to the chip of the timbern zole. It is pronounced slade.

Having brought the corn to the mow,¹ we have now to consider the operations of thrashing and winnowing to prepare it for food. The former operation, known as drashing, was always performed in the barn, on a specially-made wooden barn’s-floor between the front and back doors. The corn was first carted into the barn and deposited in a zess, or pile, on one or both sides of the floor, and was then drashed on the floor by means of drashles, the corn being laid upon the floor in two rows, with the ears together in the middle. The drashle, called elsewhere a flail,² has two main parts, namely, the hand-stave (handle) made of hazel or ash, and the vlile (flail) made of holm (holly). The connecting parts are three loops of leather or untanned hide, called toad’s-head, keeble (cable), and middle been (bind), respectively. The toad’s-head swivels on the end of the hand-stave, and the keeble is firmly fixed on the end of the vlile. The two are connected by the middle been, the ends of which are fastened by a wooden kay (key). The other two parts are sewn with thungs (thongs), said to be made of eel-skin, the holes for sewing being made by a nale (awl).

1. The mow was built up on a mowstead (pron. moostid) or mowstaddle, a loose wooden framework supported about two feet from the ground by mow-stones or staddle-stones. Surrounding each stone was a mow-collar, a. circular hellen (slate) to prevent rats and mice from climbing up. Ricks (for hay) did not require such supports.
2. See Plate F.

When the straw is intended to be subsequently made into reed for thatching, spinning rope, or other purposes, the corn is only thrashed lightly, so as to extract the grain with the least possible injury to the straw; or, for this purpose, “the ears may be beaten across a cask, by hand, until the grain be got pretty well out of them.” The straw is then made up into liners, or bundles, containing about two sheaves to a bundle, for the process of reed-combing. This is well described by Marshall as follows:

“The next operation is to suspend the straw, in large double handfuls, in a short rope fixed high above the head, with an iron hook at the loose end of it; which is put twice round the little sheaflet, just below the ears, and fastened with the hook’s laying hold of the tight part of the rope. The left hand being now firmly placed upon the hook, and pulling downward, so as to twitch the straw hard and prevent the ears from slipping through it, the butts are freed from short straws and weeds by means of a small long-toothed rake or comb”, known as a reed-comb.¹ “This done, the rope is unhooked and the reed laid evenly in a heap. A quantity of clean, straight, unbruised straw, or reed, being thus obtained, it is formed into small sheaves, returned to the floor, and the ears thrashed again with the flail, or is again thrashed by hand over the cask, to free it effectually from any remaining grain which the former beating might have missed.”² The reed thus formed is made up into small sheaves, called wads, and six of these are bound together in a bundle, called a knitch. The reed is used for thatching houses and for spinning straw rope for securing the thatch of mows and ricks, the thatch itself being now generally made of long straw, which is made by taking a handful of thrashed straw in both hands, separating the hands so as to divide the handful in the middle, and shaking out the short straws. Reed-combing was also done by a machine called a reed-comber, consisting of a rapidly-rotating square wooden drum, having rows of iron spikes or teeth along its four edges. Handfuls of the corn were beaten down upon this drum against a breast in front, the ears and butt ends being presented alternately.

1. See Plate F.
2 Rural Economy i 181–2.

The apparatus for spinning rope was known as a wink (winch) or spinner.¹ It consisted of a rotary skeleton drum having spider arms, of which those in front were notched at the ends. It was mounted on a bar-ire (crowbar) driven into a wall. The rope, as it is made from the damped reed, is wound upon the body of the drum, and is passed through one of the notches, so that, as the rope maker moves his hand and inserts fresh reed into it, he causes the wink to rotate and spin a fresh length of rope. When the wink is full, the rope is unwound from it, and rewound into a large ball, called a clew, about 2 feet 6 inches in diameter.²

1. Sometimes called a skeiner, giving rise to the common saying about anything going very fast: “It go’th like a skeiner.”
2. Mows (of corn) and ricks (of hay) were thatched with long-straw, which was secured by long ropes (longitudinal ropes) and thort ropes (athwart or transverse ropes), all made of straw m the manner here described. The former were fastened at the end by nibs (hooked stakes), and along the roof by spears (split sticks of withy, i.e. willow, or nit-halse, i.e. hazel, pointed at each end and doubled over). The thort ropes were twisted around each long rope, and tied at their ends to large pebbles, called mow-stones, which pressed upon the edge of the thatch and prevented it from being blown off by the wind. The end of the long ropes was carried from end to end of the stack by a roping-pole.

In the case of barley, the zears (awn) are broken off by stamping the barley in a heap with a piler, which consists of a square or oval iron frame, having a number of blunt cross-blades and connected by legs to a central socket, to receive a vertical wooden handle, which may have a T-head. A specimen of each kind is in the Museum.¹

1. See Plate F.

In Marshall’s time winnowing was still performed in the open with the natural wind. Farmers of every class (some few excepted) carry their corn into the field, on horseback, perhaps a quarter of a mile from the barn, to the summit of some airy swell, where it is winnowed by women! the mistress of the farm, perhaps, being exposed in the severest weather to the cutting winds of winter, in this slavish and truly barbarous employment. The machine fan, however, is at length making its way into the western extremity.”¹ The field where the operation was performed was sometimes known as the Winding (i.e. Winnowing) Place, and the canvas cloth on which the corn was allowed to fall, as a wim-sheet. Fifty years ago hand-driven enclosed winnowing-machines were in general use, but the “machine fan”, or winding-van, and hand sieves were also employed. The zemmet, or blen’ zaive (blind sieve), which was a large tambourine-shaped vessel with the bottom formed of closely-interlaced wide chips, was primarily intended for heaving, or allowing the corn to fall from a height in a current of air, either outside or inside the barn, but was then more often used for taking up corn for, or from, the winnowing-machine.² Then, there were meshed sieves of the same shape, known as casers, used for separating large corn from small. The size of the mesh varied according to the kind of grain treated, the different sieves being distinguished by the name of the grain for which they were used, as whait-casers, barley-casers, wut-casers. In machine winnowing the process of casing consists merely of passing the corn through the machine a second time, when finer wire sieves are used than in the first process, which is called heaving. Finally, there were small-sieves (pron. zmaal zaives) for the finishing process. In these the mesh was very fine, and the sieve was given a peculiar rotary motion, known as rewing,³ by which the oaze-corn (coarse corn and husks) collected at the centre and was picked out by hand, while the good corn was left at the circumference, the small seeds of weeds, etc., passing through the meshes.

1. Rural Economy, i, 184. This “machine fan” consisted of a rotary skeleton frame carrying loose canvas flaps for creating a current of air through the barn.
2. See Plate F.
3. In East Devon this is apparently known as ryving, and the sieve as a ryving sieve. (Trans. Dev. Assoc., XIII, 93.)

The dowst, or refuse, was usually conveyed away in large deep baskets, called maunds, about 18 inches in diameter and 2 feet deep, provided with two handles at opposite ends of a diameter. Such maunds were also used for carrying roots, chaff, etc., to the cattle. The small wooden tub used for feeding calves was known as a drapper (dropper), and the smaller tub used for dipping up liquids, particularly beer in course of brewing, was known as a lade-bucket; both were formed with handles, the former with a hand-hole in a projecting stave, and the latter with a reduced portion and T-head on a much longer stave.

In conclusion, I should like to express the hope, not only that my paper will have been found interesting in itself, but also that it will have directed the attention of members of our Association and others to the special needs of the collection in the Museum. It is obvious that at present this can only be regarded as the nucleus of what should be a most important and valuable exhibit. Indeed, if the Museum authorities were only able to provide house-room for the larger implements, which are always the most interesting and the most difficult to procure, the collection might become a unique record of old farm life. A list is given in an Appendix of the articles already possessed, but it is hoped that many others will be added before it is too late.

The old order changeth, yielding place to new;

the old implements soon disappear through natural decay and wilful destruction, but some remnants may yet be saved and help us the better to realize the days that are past.


Inventory of Farm Implements in the Torquay Museum.

  • Two-bill (Hartland, pres. by John Hockridge).
  • Two-way zole or plough (Hartland).
  • Derby plough (Hartland).
  • Ox-yoke (Hartland, pres. by Matthew Cole).
  • A pair of drags or drag harrows (Hartland).
  • Dock-spitter or stubber.
  • “Reap-hook ” (pres. by Alderman Kerswill, J.P.).
  • Tathing-rake (Hartland, pres. by John Cory).
  • Tathing-crook (Hartland, pres. by John Hockridge).
  • Errish-rake (Hartland, pres. by John Cory).
  • Peek or pitchfork (Hartland, pres. by John Cory).
  • Pack-saddle with long crooks.
  • Do. with dung-pots (pres. by P. Q. Karkeek).
  • A pair of detached dung-pots.
  • Gambado (Hartland, pres. by H. Haynes).
  • Drashle or flail – imperfect (Thorverton, pres. by G. Way).
  • Do. (Hartland, pres. by John Cory).
  • Reed-comb – imperfect (pres. by C. Shapley).
  • Do. (Hartland, pres. by George Brimacombe).
  • Barley piler – oval (Hartland, pres. by J. T. Haynes, J.P.).
  • Do. – square (Hartland, pres. by R. P. Chope).
  • Zemmet or blind sieve (Hartland, pres. by Miss Croscombe).

Other writings by R. P. Chope