Agricultural wages and tied cottages

During the Second World War, government intervention pulled agriculture away from the severe depression it had suffered in the 1920s It was a hard physical working life. They say hard work never hurt anyone - just crippled you for the rest of your life... and 1930s and, in return for government guaranteed prices, farmers provided maximum levels of home-grown food. After the war the Agriculture Act of 1947 was drawn up with farmers to ensure stability by guaranteeing minimum prices for key products. The aim was to ensure adequate pay and living conditions for farmers and their workers and to encourage investment in equipment. Until the Agricultural Holdings Act of 1948 a worker’s home was often tied to his job. As George Thompson puts it: The majority of village people worked in the village, like any village, you either lived in an Estate cottage or a farm cottage and if you lost your job you lost your house.

When Bob Cassell’s father needed to retire at seventy he could only stay in his home, The Elms in Hulverstone, if his son took over his job as carter at Hulverstone Farm. The greater sense of security provided by these Acts of Parliament encouraged the movement towards more owner-occupied farms. Compared to other types of work, agricultural wages remained low however. David Stephens was working at Chessell in 1960 when a rise from seven pounds a week to seven guineas a week was given to farm workers. This compared with nineteen pounds a week take-home pay as a builder. As he says: often a family man couldn’t afford the luxury of choosing to do a job he liked over providing for his family.

Before he moved into the building trade, Bill Ballard from Brook Green walked to Compton early in the morning to feed the horses, then walked home for his breakfast before going back again to start his day’s work. George Thompson remembers when he started work he couldn’t afford a bicycle to get from Calbourne to Dunsbury and back each day and that his father’s words were, ‘Well you’ve got a pair of legs.’