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You are here: Information & History | Occupations - Agriculture

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Occupations - Agriculture

In 1851, 30% of the male employed population worked directly in agriculture with more men and women, engaged in farming than in textiles and mining put together. By 1901 however, the population of male workers employed in farming had dropped by half to 14%. There was a corresponding decline in rural population, as both men and women were lured to the towns where many new jobs were created through industrialisation. The drudgery of the field and the dairy came to be regarded as ‘unwomanly’. The drift to the towns reduced the number of farm-hands in the labour market; in consequence farmers were compelled to increase wages and provide better conditions.

Improvements in agricultural methods, changes in crop rotation and extensive drainage helped the farming industry to develop. Our farming land is predominantly clay based but was greatly enriched with the opening of the Glasgow rail link, when the contents of the Glasgow ‘middens’ were transported to the fields to be scattered and ploughed into the soil. In 1881, at 40 Camnethan Street, there resided a gentleman by the name of William ‘Soddon’, who had the appropriate occupation of field drainer.

The introduction of an Agricultural policy in the 18th century led to longer leases to tenants, encouraging agricultural improvements to holdings. Whilst Stonehouse had become more than self sufficient, selling meal to Glasgow and Paisley; there were poor harvests between 1770-80 with the wheat crop failing in 1790. Cattle too had suffered due to lack of root crops. As a result local landlords assisted by subsidising foreign grain and dairy feed imports. Corn and grass were commonly grown throughout the parish in the early 18th century, as were potatoes, lint and flax; which slowly disappeared towards the end of the century. Turnips however were not grown until the following century.

The 19th century brought change in ‘enclosures’, with stone dykes and hedges enclosing fields. It was said that there were no enclosers in the parish at all in the late 17th century. Advances in technology, crop rotations and extensive drainage works improved harvests and brought stability to the farming industry. Oats, potatoes, turnip, beans and barley were cultivated. Hay was sold in large quantities while wheat was not produced as extensive as before. Cheese was produced in quantity until the mid 19th century, but with improvements to the railway network, milk was easier to transport and cheese was produced elsewhere.

In 1895 corn and hay were cut by horse drawn machines, later to be replaced by threshing machines, such as that owned by Mr. Riddell of Lockhart Street. Travelling from farm to farm to thresh the corn, these machines were large and steam driven with a top speed of only 3mph. By law, a man carrying a red flag had to walk in front of the machine to warn people and horses of its approach and noise. After threshing the grain was taken to Cander Mill to be ground, coarsely or finely, according to the farmers requirements.

There are approximately 50 farms in the parish now, nearly all the land is arable of which all the farms are dairy concerns.

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