Thursday, November 1, 2012

Farming as Fashion (Part Three)


Farming as Fashion

The sheep breeding industry found a new use for sheep, food. As Britain’s population grew, they looked for other dishes to suit their ever-increasing palate. Mutton became popular in the early nineteenth century, which created another form of sheep. Robert Bakewell bred sheep with large flat bodies, and small heads. Getting the most meat from each animal created a physically different form of beast.[1] Bakewell had been very proud that he performed this service for his countryman, this was obvious by the painting that he had commissioned.
Eighteenth century cattle breeding created the beef, dairy and oxen categories. Bakewell also bred cattle, of which he was better known. He advertised thorough out England for sales of his cattle. He also advertised for breeding purposes.  These advertisements listed genealogy of his best beef, but only listed “working oxen” for animals that were not of his own breed.[2] Every breeder boasted of his animal’s appearance, no matter if his quality or sales price had warranted it, or whether there was no reason whatever.
Just as in sheep, beef cattle were bred with small heads, large bodies, and short feet. Again, the fatter the meat, the better. Milk cows bred by local dairyman supplied most of the population of England. Pastures promoted fattening livestock and also dairying.[3] The more popular byproduct of the dairy cow industry was cheese. Cheese making became a main concern in many areas. Areas of specialization of cheese also became fashionable. Some of these areas, such as Stilton, were so proud of their product that they named their cheese after their town. Apparently this cheese became so popular that it made the town famous. [4]
The famous President, George Washington, loved his mules so much that he boasted of their qualities with alacrity. Washington received some great stock of mules from the King of Spain of which he bred with his horses to receive, in his opinion, some of the best riding animals around.  One of these animals from Spain he thought “very fine” indeed.[5] He was so enamored of them that he bragged that he would rather they drove his phaeton, than his horses. Cheaper than horses, and because these had been the first mules bred in America, Washington had been very proud of them. He even had the offspring of his “royal asses” tour the United States. The Democratic Party symbol became the mule because of these grand tours.[6]
Symbols of being a gentlemen included breeding hunting dogs. Washington, among others, bred foxhunting hounds. These men also bred dogs that were partial to hedge and water foul. Washington, in fact, built up an entire pack of hounds that began succeeding his interest in his horses.[7] Hunting dogs dominated the entire breeding industry throughout Britain for a long period of time. Men paid large sums for hounds in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, which continued into the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
The Georgians held the height of horse breeding. Horses began being bred for racing centuries earlier. It was a gentleman’s honor that had been at stake if his horse won, or worse, if it did not win, any given race. Horseflesh became even more important in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Horses were then being bred for the purpose of pulling carriages as gentlemen were always on show. Bakewell bred working horses that “improved the local breed of black working horse by crossing it with Continental stock from Holland and Germany” which had later become known as the Shire Horse.[8] Besides racing, working, and buggy horses, hunting horses were also bred. These became some of the most profitable horses due to their ability to run and jump agilely, all the while having to run along side baying hounds. After all, the Georgian elite’s primary interest in the countryside was the sport of foxhunting.[9]
Ornamental Improvements

            Georgians of the eighteenth century found that they could reclaim even more wasteland than their ancestors, not only for the betterment of agriculture, but also for social standing within their society. The Romantics loved “natural” tree lines, as long as they had been cultivated. Capability Brown destroyed what he and his followers considered as unsightly. The copses and formal gardens changed into romantic natural-esque parks for the elite. “Where a manor house lacked a park, it often gained one” for the enjoying the scenery by gentle society folk.[10]
            Many times the park was not just a scene of tranquil grass, but was also the home of animals that turned the environment from grassland to a display that equaled that of a Romantic panoramic painting. Deer parks became a fashion for the Georgian estates. They not only created beauty, but also instilled an easy target for the fashionable hunter, as well as the lower-class poacher. The grassing down of shires increased the gulf between the landed gentry and the lower classes, for who could afford such luxuries as their own deer herd?[11]
The first lines of Alexander Pope’s poem would certainly have been muttered by many a farmer as he looked upon the large plantations of the elite, “At Timon’s villa let us pass a day, Where all cry out, What sums are thrown away!”[12] Deer parks used up huge sums of money throughout Great Britain and her colonies. Washington loved his deer park “on the hill on which the mansion stands... contained 100 acres… with Virginia deer” then later held English Fallow Deer.[13] Apparently they did not interbreed, but they all constantly got into the garden eating the shrubs and plants for which the gardener complained, and Washington said that he hardly knew “whether to give up the shrubs or the deer.”[14]
           Huge sums of money had been spent on even more ornamental causes. Clumps and perimeter tree lines had been grown for the sole purpose of cover for the sport of pheasants.[15] Oriental pheasants had been imported into England and America for their beauty, as well as for sport.[16] Ornamental “improvements” to the estates had been the main focus here, and not the effects of the birds on the grain output. Englishmen tested their manliness and prepared for war by hunting animals. The sport allowed the man that shot the most game to carry boasting rights that the lesser shots could not claim. [17] This had also been the beginning of the elite’s interest in game animals.[18]
            Interest in game animals, along with the grassing of shires and parking of avenues, brought the idea of foxhunting to the foreground of the elite. Thousands of acres in England and her colonies had been deforested for this sport. In America, the sport was the gray fox which had been the only indigenous fox to Virginia. This was true at least until the great winter 1779-80, when the red fox migrated south for better temperature and became the preferred animal of the chase. Fox hunting had been such an expansive pastime that Lord Fairfax traveled for days and stayed at inns for the sheer joy of foxhunting. Events lasted anywhere from three to seven hours for a single chase. [19]
            Lord Fairfax was not the only foxhunter in Britain that enjoyed refined, dignified hunting. Colonel Mason had an estate of 10,000 acres, called Guston Hall, that allowed for this gentlemanly sport. Coverts had been built on farms so that the fox would have a place to hide and populate. [20]  These copses held shrubbery and artificially felled trees, as well as intentionally hollowed trees for the fox to climb and hide within. [21] Finding the quarry at the end of the hunt had always been assured when the estate had such a location.
            Grand estates had ornamental hedges planted for the purpose of hunting and beauty. Hedges as enclosure containment changed from the earlier fruit trees to those that had no fodder purpose whatever. Hedges were great for foxhunts. It added one more element to the chase! Horses and dogs that were now being bred for the hunt easily leapt these man-made articles. Washington, along with many of his peers, bred horses for racing, as well as hunting. He, and others, had also bred entire packs of dogs for his enjoyment of the sport. [22]
            Copses were similar to hedges and coverts, but not exactly the same of which small groups of trees were planted for the benefit of hunting. These copses had been beneficial for grouse, rabbits, and other small game. Grouse especially loved these areas and were considered quite a delicacy. This was truer, of course, if the bird had been shot on the estate where it was being served as dinner. [23] Ornamental groves also lent a sort of wilderness allure to the great lawns of the plantations.
            Great plantations also held areas for rabbits, another great sporting animal. Rabbit warrens had been built so that these little creatures could procreate in peace. The great thing about rabbits was that they did reproduce quickly, which gave even the poorest aristocrat a sporting day’s worth of fun. Great men invited friends to accompany them on their jaunts of shooting hares. [24] Dogs had not been bred for this sport, but they surely had an innate ability to hunt these animals, or perhaps the men simply went out with their guns on foot for their own chase of glee. Entertainment of hunting had been the enjoyment of men, typically. The ladies, however, usually did not enjoy this sport. There had been a few women that took to foxhunting, but not many did so until the nineteenth century, and none have been noted enjoying hunting rabbits.
Ladies not enjoying hunting did not stop the farmsteads of the elite from having a beautiful yard. Great areas of space had been set aside for outdoors living. Georgians enjoyed their outdoors more than either their ancestors, or their progeny. [25] “Englishmen: they are fond of English manners [and] fashions”, and entertaining on the lawn was a fashionable way of showing neighbors how refined their manners actually were. [26] Refined manners on the lawn had been displayed by games such as badminton and croquet. [27] Luncheon was another sport of refinement played upon the greenery of the grand estates. [28] Aristocrats, as well as the middle class farmers, made sure to prepare feasts and entertainment to impress peers and superiors. Many a business deal of leasing more farmland, and/or sales of produce, most probably had been concluded on the lawns rather than inside the manor during this time in history.
            Leading to the beautiful lawns were great expanses of greenery. Tilled farmland had been seeded into grassland, preceded by ornamental pastures. Drives had become as important as the rest of the farm, and in the case of the grand country estates, they were even more important than those in town. Jane Austen’s character, Elizabeth Bennett, felt the full draw of the character of the great estate of Pemberly starting with the drive. She, in fact acknowledge that she fell in love with Mr. Darcy when first “seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley”, with her ecstasy actually beginning as she arrived on the drive of the manor. [29]
            The awe inspiring drive led to the front of the estate manor. This was where the man’s worth in society shined. Here was where the gentleman farmer had the highest and best bragging rights. Haworth wrote of Washington that “He was the owner of all this great estate, he was proud of it; it was his home”, speaking, of course, of the great estate of Mount Vernon, which included at least five full capacity running farms. [30] Properties had “a certain kind of social or communal psychology of ownership: The property not of his family but of his family-within-the community”, meant that social factors prevailed in context of how the property (both land and buildings) rested within the social structure of the man’s peers and his surrounding vicinity. [31] The owner presented his sense of beauty to the world by using the fa├žade of his manse as a personal statement of wealth and class.
            Fashion plating of the aristocratic farm combined personal and cultural ideals of beauty along with the idea that they had to create a place to live out of the environment that they either inherited or personally acquired. Beauty was considered a value… it was an emotion, and an appreciation of nature. For an object to have been beautiful if had to give pleasure to someone.[32] Therefore, the Georgian wanted to make sure that his estate was pleasing not only to him, but also to the rest of those within his social sphere. “With his ability to devise cultural devices to facilitate his adaptation to environment, man can be freed from dependence on physiological or genetic adaptation, and can move into and shape new environments: he can create his own shields against physical environment.” The gentleman literally improved his home with his singular idea of personal and cultural beauty.[33] When these two ideas were combined, the man, especially the Georgian gentleman, was able to enhance his manor house to not only provide shelter, to sustain a personal idealism, and to also provide his peers with something to envy, as well as emulate.
            The “universal spirit of improvement” went further than just the house. [34] Barns had been improved for the betterment of cattle. Even their facades had changed in many gentlemen farmer’s fields, not for any purpose of the protection of the animals, but also for the aesthetic appeal of the viewer. Dog kennels had changed for the same effect. The stables and kennels at the Royal Pavilion were built to emulate the oriental style of the rest of the palace. [35] True, this was a palace, and not a farm, but this does show that men felt attachment to their estates as well as their animals. Washington built a sixteen-sided circular barn that became famous simply for the size and shape of the building.[36]
            It wasn’t just the buildings where people and animals lived that were important to the Georgian gentleman farmer. Thousands of pounds had been spent on ornamental buildings in landscape gardens. Follies had no purpose whatever, save ornamentation and providing cover for viewing the landscape that they sat upon.[37] They were faux temples, or even faux ruins. These buildings produced a sense of physical contact with the past that the Georgians found intoxicating.[38] Elegant furniture had been produced specifically for these ornamental buildings.[39] Many times they were placed in the midst of deer parks, foxhunt grounds, and even within pastures for the delight of the viewer. Created by the Georgian elite, these buildings found enthusiasts in America, the Continent, and also in Russia. These buildings represented wealth and status, and had nothing to do with the functionality of the farm.[40]
            Farming has occurred in the world for over 7,000 years, and since that time there have been times of high profit, and times of low. Men have found that high social status has come with the accumulation of more and more land. Initially, the better farmers found higher income and larger status than those that were unable to reap as much product. New and remarkable farming techniques and technology began to formulate higher output in the eighteenth century. Reclamation included draining of wasteland and deforestation of forests to produce more arable land. Enclosure had began after depopulation, but had increased dramatically in Georgian England. Enclosure allowed the four-field system to increase better produce, including the fattening of animals. The most important part of Enclosure was that it visibly indicated to all that the area that lay within the walls was owned and controlled by an individual. Many gains did occur within the timeline of the agricultural revolution. Even with all of these advances, the gentlemen farmers had really been more interested in bragging rights of their successes, than the actual changing of techniques. Georgian husbandmen pursued improvements on their farms simply because it was the fashion to do so.

Originally Written for class at American Military University.

[1] “New Dishley Society, The.” Centre for English Local History at the University of Leicester.  (Leicester: University of Leicester, n.d.). (accessed September 27, 2012).
[2] Ibid.
[3] Williamson, 40.
[4] Ibid, 41.
[5] Haworth, 2603.
[6] Ibid, 1328.
[7] Ibid, 2408.
[8] “New Dishley Society, The.”
[9] Manor House.
[10] Ibid, 45.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Alexander Pope. “From of the use of Riches.” (1793.) The Penguin Book of Eighteenth-Century English Verse. Ed. Dennis Davison. (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, Ltd., 1973.), 66.
[13] Haworth, 2486.
[14] George Washington in Ibid.
[15] Williamson, 45.
[16] Lawrence James, The Rise and Fall of the British Empire. (New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1994.), 290.
[17] Haworth.
[18] Williamson, 45.
[19] Haworth, 2385.
[20] Williamson, 46.
[21] Haworth, 2402.
[22] Ibid, 2350, 2408.
[23] Williamson, 45.
[24] Williamson, 79.
[25] Manor House.
[26] James, 101.
[27] Manor House.  
[28] Jane Austen. Sense and Sensibility. 1811. in The Works of Jane Austen. (Ann Arbor, MI: Borders Group, 2004.), 30.
[29] Jane Austen.. Pride and Prejudice. 1813. in The Works of Jane Austen. (Ann Arbor, MI: Borders Group, 2004.), 353.
[30] Haworth, 2675.
[31] Butlin, 32.
[32] Mary Ellen Roach and Joanne Eicher. The Visible Self: Perspectives on Dress. (England Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1973.), 77.
[33] Ibid, 57.
[34] Butlin, 7.
[35] “Royal Pavilion, Museums & Libraries.” Brighton & Hove City council. N.d. (accessed January 2, 2012).
[36] Haworth, 615-618.
[37] Sarah Rutherford and Jonathan Lovie. Georgian Garden Buildings. (Long Island City, NY: Shire Publications, 2012.), 5.
[38] Ibid, 8.
[39] Ibid, 9.
[40] Ibid, 4-5.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Great T-Shirts and More!

See other gifts available on Zazzle.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...