In 1816, when the war with France had ended, food was scarce and riots broke out in the west of the county. The Norfolk Chronicle reported the first machine-breaking case in May of that year at Hockham when four labourers were indicted for having riotously assembled with 100 other persons’. Farm workers also participated in the riots and machine breaking of the 1820s and 1830s. Mustard farming has become identified with Norfolk through Colman’s Mustard Company, one of the country’s oldest existing food brands. Now owned by Unilever, it was founded in 1814 by Jeremiah Colman, a flour miller, who began making mustard at Bawburgh before moving to Stoke Holy Cross in 1823. Its subsequent owner, Jeremiah James Colman, moved the firm to Carrow on the edge of Norwich in the late 1850s, where it was well served by road, rail and river, and from where the firm still operates today. By 1880, the day of the great Norfolk estates, supported by the rents of tenant farmers, had arrived.
Today, Norfolk is still a strongly agricultural area, combining traditional crops and livestock, with new twists and variations on those from the past. For example, Heacham in west Norfolk is the home of a world famous lavender farm at Caley Mill, where 150 varieties of lavender are cultivated and an annual lavender festival is held each July. Suffolk is famous for its horses, with the oldest breed of heavy horse in the world being the Suffolk Punch, which originated in at least the fifteenth century. Known for its docile temperament, it is still in use on farms today. Crops traditionally grown in the county have been wheat, oats, beans, peas, turnips, carrots, cabbage and potatoes. Rabbits, geese and turkeys have been reared on an extensive scale. Hops and hemp have been cultivated on a small scale over the centuries, and sheep, bred for their wool, have formed a large percentage of farming stock within the county.
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Ipswich Cattle Market in the 1920s. Within the last century Suffolk has adapted to circumstances, for example by being at the forefront of the sugar beet industry. However, although Suffolk still has around four-fifths of its land devoted to agriculture, only a small percentage of the population works in the agricultural sector. 3.2 Finding out More Many official records do not give a true reflection of female occupations. The census, for instance, was designed to include information in relation to the head of the household’, usually a man. Therefore, many women, especially the married, were recorded without any occupation even though their work was an integral part of the day-to-day running of farms, smallholdings and other businesses.
The same is true for some children in a family, who may simply be recorded as a scholar’ despite being in employment. Nevertheless, there are still countless sources which tell us more about the working life of all our ancestors either directly or indirectly. What follows is a general flavour of those sources of use in highlighting your ancestors’ agricultural past. Details of tenancies and sales of farms, farm land, and mills and other buildings can be found among estate records, deeds and manorial records. Local authority records also include relevant information about land and property ownership and tenancy. Sales particulars from local estate agents, such as those of Bidwell and Son, held at Cambridge Record Office, physically describe farms, mills and allotments, including their acreage, types of produce and so on. An example from the large collection at Norfolk Record Office from Savills Estate Agents is the one for a dairy farm known as Holly Lodge Farm in Bergh Apton.