Desborough Study

Occupations: Farming

Farming seems to have been in slow decline in Desborough during the nineteenth century. Directories list nine farmers in 1854 and eight in 1876. By 1890 there were only five. As I've investigated the farming families through the censuses, it's emerged that many had additional occupations: 'maltster', 'innkeeper', 'horse dealer', 'butcher' and even 'brick & tile manufacturer'.

Bear in mind when reading these notes that the census records do not always make clear whether the place of residence is also the farm, and also that the occupation shown may simply be what the individual regarded as their primary occupation. Note also that names of farms are not always consistent between censuses. I hope, at a later date to enhance these notes from other sources.

The only farmer in the following list that I've not yet tracked down in the census records is Joseph Woolston Chater.

Farmers18541876 1890
Aprice John** 
Cave Elizabeth (Mrs.) *    
Chater Joseph Woolston   *
Cheney William (1854), Elizabeth (1876) * *  
Clark Thomas   *
Crick Jane (1854), Joseph (1876) * *  
Curtis Thomas   * *
Driver William *    
Humfrey Richard   *  
Kilborn Robert *    
Liner Chas.    *
Mitchell Richard ** 
Sumner James (1854), George (1876-90)* **
Tailby William**  


Aprice: Black Horse, Harborough Road

John Aprice was a farmer on a small scale; his farm only 14 acres in 1851, when his family consisted of his wife Sophia, and children John and Ann. In the 1841 census John gave his occupation as "carrier".

The farm increased in size over the next ten years to 58 acres. In 1861 John was described as a victualler and farmer. He was now employing a man and two boys.

By 1871 John was a widower, and gave his occupation as 'coal merchant', though the 1876 directory still showed him as a farmer. His son, married to Harriett, was working as a carter.

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The Cave farm

The Cave farm was short-lived, as far as accessible records show. William Cave, of the High Street, Desborough was a farmer in 1841. He died before 1851, by which time his widow Elizabeth was living as an annuitant in Rugby, Warwickshire, with four of her children. Within three years however, Elizabeth was back at the High Street in Desborough as a farmer.

In 1861 Elizabeth was still living in the High Street, but no longer described as "farmer". She was once again an annuitant. Living with her were her daughter Elizabeth, a fund-holder, and two of her younger sons: William, an articled clerk for a solicitor, and George. Two grandchildren, born in St John's Wood, London, were also there: Arthur (3) and Edith (2).

Some distance away along the High Street, next door to the Swan Inn, was her son Henry Haddon Cave, now the farmer of 296 acres and employing fourteen men and eight boys. His household included his wife Mary Ann, their baby daughter Isabella, Mary's brother Henry John Branson, a student of medicine, and two servants.

Some time during the next ten years Henry Cave moved out of farming and became a land agent. By 1868 he and his family were living in Glanford Brigg, Lincolnshire, where three of his children, Geraldine, Henry and Haddon, were born. Henry senior continued as a land agent for at least the next twenty years, but by 1901 he was living in Rugby as an estate agent.

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Cheney: The Lodge, Loatland Wood

There was a 146 acre farm at the Lodge from at least 1851 to some time between 1881 and 1890, run by various members of the Cheney family.

In 1851 William Cheney (age 43) was the farmer, employing five labourers. The family consisted of William, his wife Mary Ann (age 34), sons William (9), Henry W. (7) and Richard Blunsom (2), and daughters Ann M. and Maria A. (12 and 5 respectively). All the children were born at Harrington, except Richard, who was born at the Lodge.

In 1861 William senior was at Maidwell, his occupation given as Maltster and Grazier. With him were his wife and four children. His third son William was farming at the Lodge, High Street, Desborough, with his older sister Ann acting as housekeeper. 12 year old brother Richard and 6 year old sister Mary were also at the Lodge. William senior and his wife moved back to "Desborough Lodge" where he died on 31st December 1862.

The 1871 census lists William senior's widow Mary as farmer at the Lodge, employing 3 men and 2 boys. Her unmarried children Ann, Richard and Mary (born 1854) were living with her, along with a grand-daughter Frances.

1881 is the last census when a farm is recorded at the Lodge. Mary was still farming, accompanied by two unmarried daughters Ann and Mary. Another daughter Maria, now married to Fred Kilborn, a farmer in Braybrooke, was visiting at the time of the census.

In 1891, no. 1 Rothwell Road, "Farm Lodge", was occupied by an agricultural labourer George Bassett and his family. Mary Cheney was living in Arthingworth "on her own means".

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Clark: 41 Buckwell Street

Thomas Clark was a farmer's son, born in Westmorland about 1847, but living and farming at a number of different places in Lancashire until at least 1884.

By 1891 he and his family had moved to the farm house at 41 Buckwell Street, Desborough. He doesn't appear to have stayed in Desborough for long, however, as in 1901 he was farming the Church Farm at Clapham in Bedfordshire.

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The Crick farm

There are two Crick farmers mentioned in the directories: Jane Crick (in 1854) and her son Joseph (in 1876).

Jane, born about 1793, was married to George Crick, a silk weaver, who died before 1851. Jane was then living in Gold Street with her daughter Jane and two of her sons: Herbert, age 26, a master baker, and Joseph, 20, a miller. The 1851 census does not mention any occupation for Jane, so it may have been later than this that she acquired the farm.

By 1861 Joseph Crick was both miller and farmer of 40 acres, employing four men and two boys. He was married to Eliza, and they had five children: Eliza Jane (7), George W (5), Frederick Joseph (4), Charles Henry (2) and Samuel (7 months).

Over the next ten years their family continued to grow: John Robert was born about 1863, Arthur Edward (c. 1864), Ellen Laura (c. 1868), Tom Harry (c. 1869) and Florence Maud (c. 1870). During this period they moved to the Kings Arms in the High Street, and Joseph added 'innkeeper' to farming 31 acres and being a miller.

They were still at the Kings Arms in 1881 and 1891. Another son, Alfred Edwin (c. 1875), and daughter, Kate Evelyn (c. 1877) completed their family of eleven children, though not all were living at home.

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Curtis: Desborough Grange

Thomas Curtis was born about 1827 in Carlton, Leicestershire. In 1861 he and his wife Ann were living at Bottom Lodge in Little Houghton, Northamptonshire, where Thomas was the Farm Bailiff doe W. Smyth Esq.

By 1871 they were living at the Grange, Pipwell Road, Desborough, and Thomas was farming 25 acres on his own account. He employed four men and four boys, increasing to six men and three boys by 1881.

Ann died some time before 1891. Thomas was still farming at "Desborough Grange". There is no mention of farm employees in this census, just the domestic servants: Emily Kilborn, housekeeper, and Elizabeth Glover, general servant. Thomas died early in 1894.

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The Driver farm

William Driver was born in Market Harborough, Leicestershire, about 1823. By 1851 he was farming 220 acres in Desborough. He and his widowed mother Mary were living on the High Street, next to the Swan Inn, with two servants.

By 1861 William was married and had moved to Coventry, where he had a small farm (24 acres). The census gave his occupation as "farmer and grazier" and he employed six labourers and three boys.

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The Humfrey/Humphrey farm

Richard Humphrey was born in about 1847 in Countesthorpe in Leicestershire, where his father was a farmer and butcher. He married Eliza Ann Harris late in 1870 and moved to Desborough where they lived with his widowed mother-in-law Ann Harris. According to the census Richard was a grazier, maltster and shepherd with 142 acres of land.

Harrod's 1876 directory confirms that Richard was a farmer as well as a grazier and maltster.

By 1881 Richard, a "grazier and maltster", was the head of the household in the High Street. His family had grown by four children: Eliza, age 9, John, age 7, Frederick, age 6, and Alice, age 4. They had two servants, Selena Adams, a governess from Suffolk, and Emma, a general servant. The farm had also grown a little, to 152 acres.  Richard's brother-in-law, Sumner Harris, was living two households away—he was described as "manager of farm". It's possible that Sumner was working for Richard.

The 1891 census describes Richard as "grazier, maltster and corn dealer". Again there is no mention of a farm, but brother-in-law Sumner Harris, living next door with mother Ann, is still described as "farm manager". Richard seems to have been prosperous—he has four children living at home: Eliza (age 19), John (17), Frederick (16) and Richard (7) all described as "scholar".

Richard Humphrey died in 1896.

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The Kilborn farm

The 1841 and 1851 censuses  show Robert Kilborn and his family living on the High Street in Desborough, It's not clear whether  the 109 acre farm was at this location.

In 1841 the farm was supporting Robert, his wife Catherine, sons James, Thomas and Joseph (age 12, 10 and 5 respectively), and daughters Jane, Mary Ann and Charlotte (age 14, 9 and 7).

By 1851 Robert was employing three outdoor labourers. James and Joseph were also working on the farm, whilst Thomas was a butcher. All of the children, except Jane, were still living at home.

There is a death record for a Robert Kilborn in 1854. I've found no later identifiable record of the farm.

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Liner: Desborough Lodge, Pipewell Road

Charles Liner didn't appear in the directories as a farmer until 1890, but census records show him farming as early as 1861.

He was born in Rothwell, in about 1831, but moved to Desborough between 1857 and 1859. In 1861 he, his wife Ann and two children, were living in the High Street, and he was farming 55 acres, employing one man and one boy.

By 1871 the family, now numbering seven, had moved to Gold Street. Charles was still farming 55 acres, but employing two men and a boy.

By 1881 their fortunes seem to have taken an upturn. They were living at Desborough Lodge in Pipewell Road, with a farm of 170 acres which gave employment to five men and three boys. They had four sons living at home, the eldest, William, working on the farm. The neighbouring residence was the 250 acre Grange Farm.

The 1890 directory lists Charles as a farmer, though the '91 census gives his occupation as brick manufacturer. The family was now living in Springfield House, Harrington Road. The neighbouring property on one side was a farm house (Cheneys Lodge), occupied by farm manager James Smith and his family. On the other side was Barlows Lodge, Braybrooke Road, occupied by farm manager John Issett, his wife, son, and two lodgers. It's possible that one of these was working for Charles Liner.

Charles died before 1901; his widow Ann carried on the brickmaking business.

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Mitchell: Braybrook Road

Richard Mitchell's farm appeared to have been in Braybrook Road (1861 census), but his home was in Gold Street (1851, 1871 and 1881). He was born about 1813 in Cranford and never married.

In 1851 Richard was farming 170 acres, with seven labourers. George and Jane Loake and Mary Ann Bates were living in the Gold Street residence as servants.

1861 is the census that records him in Braybrook Road as "farmer occupier". By this time the farm had grown to 195 acres and he was employing seven labourers and three boys on the farm, with two indoor servants, a housekeeper and a carter.

He was back in Gold Street in 1871 and 1881, still with two indoor servants. 1881 is the only time another member of his family is included in his household: his niece Harriet Mitchell, aged 31, unmarried, born in the City of London.

Richard died at the age of 74 in 1887.

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Sumner: Buckle/Buckwell Street

The Sumner farm was run by three generations of Sumners between 1841 and 1901.

In 1841 the farmer was George Sumner, aged 68. Also present were his wife Ann, aged 48, and son James, aged 20.

George died before 1851. He was succeeded by his son James who was farming 100 acres with one indoor and two outdoor labourers. James' mother Ann, and nephew Sumner Harris, aged 8, were living with him. (in 1881 Sumner Harris was living in High Street with his widowed mother. She was an annuitant and Sumner was a farm manager).

By 1861 the farm had grown to 140 acres and James, now married to Elizabeth Ann, was employing three men and three boys. James and Elizabeth had a son, George Ward, age 7. The household was completed by two servants, a house servant and a carter.

James died, aged 49, in 1870. His widow Elizabeth took over the running of the farm, no doubt assisted by son George. By 1871 the farm had grown to 170 acres and four men and three boys were employed on it. The census also records three visitors: George King (aged 38, born Marylebone, London), his wife Ann (aged 39, born in Fazeley, Staffordshire), and a six-year old Edward Snead (born in Tamworth, Staffordshire). George was described as an Evangelist, and Ann as a "Bible Woman".

By 1881 twenty-seven year old George was the farming the slightly smaller area of 150 acres. He employed five men on the farm, but a further two in his second business as a dealer in horses. He was married to Emma, and they had two young children: Elizabeth Ann (aged 4) and George Ward (age 1). The family had one servant, sixteen-year old Rose Page. George's mother, Elizabeth, was living alone about a dozen households away, along Buckle Street.

The 1891 census was the first to confirm that the residence in Buckwell (formerly "Buckle") Street was a farm house. He was still working as both farmer and horse dealer. George and Emma's daughter Elizabeth (now 14) was at a "ladies school" in Leamington. There were three sons at home: George, James W (9) and Frederick A (7). The family's one servant was Alice Wilkinson, aged 19.

George's mother Elizabeth died in 1893 at the age of 71.

The whole family were at the farm house (26 Buckwell Street) at the time of the 1901 census, though the enumerator appears to have made a mistake with daughter Elizabeth's name, entering her as "Charlotte A"—I've not found a birth record for Charlotte, and the age (24) is right for Elizabeth. George is still a "farmer and dealer in horses".

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The Tailby farm

The Tailby family combined farming with other occupations for at least 40 years.

The first mention of a farm was in 1851 when Rebecca Tailby was the "farmer of 50 acres, employing one man and one boy" and publican of the Swan Inn, on the High Street, Desborough. I've not found any trace of husband, John, or son William (aged 25) in the 1851 census, but in 1841 both were butchers: John, living with Rebecca, four sons and four daughters on the High Street, and William, living at the Woolpack in Cranford, about 12 miles away. The Post Office directory of 1854 listed John Tailby as the publican of the Swan and William Tailby as a butcher (in Desborough).

By 1861 Rebecca was a widow. She was still living at the Swan, and gave her occupation as "victualler and farmer". The farm was now 250 acres, giving employment to two men and a boy. Her son William Woodfield Tailby, butcher, and two of her daughters, Emily and Rosella, were living with her.

Rebecca was still the "Inn Keeper" at the age of 72, in 1871. William, now aged 42, was still a butcher, and living with his mother, but by 1876 he was butcher, publican and farmer.

The 1881 census confirms that William Woodfield Tailby was living at the Swan Inn as the head of the household and working as butcher, publican and farmer. His widowed sister Emily Clarke was acting as his housekeeper. There were also two youngsters: a niece, Emily Tailby, age 9, born in London, and a nephew, Walter George Guilford, age 4, born in Rothwell. The farm was smaller, now only 100 acres, but giving employment to five men.

William was still at the Swan in 1891, age 65, and still working as farmer, butcher and publican, with Emily as his housekeeper. He retired some time before 1901, when he was living with his niece Florence Goode and her family in Station Road. He died in 1903.

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