Finding a ‘solution’ for the seemingly intractable problem of unemployment in post-Napoleonic rural England was the Holy Grail for many vestries. Yet, whilst we know much about the depth and consequences of unemployment, parish-driven schemes to set the poor to work have been subjected to remarkably little in the way of systematic study. This paper focuses on one such policy that remains entirely obscure: parish farms, the hiring of pre-existing farms or fields by the parish on which to employ those out of work. Bearing a ‘family resemblance’ to allotments and other land-based attempts to alleviate poverty, parish farms were unique in that they were managed in all regards by the parish and were an employment strategy as opposed to a scheme to supplement the incomes of the poor. Whilst the archive of parish farms is often frustratingly opaque, it is shown that before they were effectively outlawed by the passing of the New Poor Law, many southern parishes, especially in the Weald of Kent and Sussex, adopted the scheme, occasionally with great success.
|Journal||Agricultural History Review|
|Publication status||Published - 2011|