Journal entry – John Grey – 4 Jul 1833

Document Type: Journal entry
Date: 4 Jul 1833
Correspondent: John Grey
Archive Source: TNA ADM 80 18
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Thursday 4th July 1833

	This being the day of the Fair, I had at an early hour, interviews with several of the Tenants from different quarters – Mr Howdon with a plan of the new buildings to be made upon the farm he has entered to, at Haydon town, which he is now desirous to begin – After discussing the Plan etc & ascertaining the prices per yard, at which he would undertake the work, which I consider reasonable, with the understanding that it should be subject to the inspection of any workman that I may appoint; I fixed to go up on Saturday first to decide upon it – I also fixed with the tenant of Lipwood to examine on the same day, some boundary fences, of which he complains. I paid to Mr Hunter of Whittonstall, £50, towards the expence of the new roads in his township, deducting £36 due by him for arrear of Rent.- I had a long conversation with Fewster of Newlands about the new House & Offices which he expects to have built, and his circumstances generally. He clings to the Hope of having his arrears remitted, in consideration of leading to the Buildings, whereas if he were to give up the farm, he fears he would have them to pay and have nothing left. He, poor man, is in difficult circumstances, & I am at a loss to decide whether it would be better to give him up a part of the Arrear to be quit of him, or to allow him the sum for leading, & venture upon him still as a tenant – If the adjoining Farm held by Robert Hunter should be given up, I am confident that a great saving in buildings might be effected by laying the two together, or by giving the bulk of it to Fewsters Farm & a part to the Mill Farm, to which it is contiguous – I told Fewster that is was now too far advanced in the Season to commence so large a building, with only his strength in loading – that I should look at the place & endeavour to make it habitable for the winter, & by next Spring something should be decided upon. – Fewster again urged upon me the dangerous state of the Wooden Bridge over the Derwent, which I had examined when there – It is as bad as can be, to stand, & such as I would not like to walk along – The inhabitants are too poor and too uncertain of continuing on their farms to rebuild it, but by a grant of a few coarse Trees from the Hospital, would probably secure its standing for a while. This, I think, to avoid their risk of drowning, ought to be granted – It would have been very desirable if a Stone Arch could have been thrown over at this point in connection with the new Road which it is in contemplation to make, leading from the Suspension Bridge over the Tyne, into that part of the Country – If this Road should ever be accomplished, it will prove a great advantage to the district, for following the course of the river, instead of climbing over a high hill, one horse would take with equal ease, the load that now requires two, & if a branch, with a Bridge at this place, crossing over to the Newlands side, could be connected with it, it would be an object well worthy of the assistance of the Hospital. I then rode to the Fair, to try to buy a Hackney, where I was surrounded by the tenants with various applications – I also saw Mr Bainbridge, the owner of an estate adjoining Thornbrough, who most readily met my views for making a suitable boundary fence in the way I proposed.

Appendix to my Journal to this date July 4th 1833

Having now seen all the Hospital estates excepting those at Alston, Scremerston & Spindlestone, to which several of the remarks, I shall have to make are not likely to apply. I trust I shall not be considered to be obtruding my opinions offensively to the Commissioners, if I venture to convey to them such observations as have forced themselves upon me in the course of my inspection.

It is no part of my duty, nor have I the slightest wish to attach blame to any one, in respect of the past management of the property, but taking things as I find them, if it should appear that work has been inefficiently done, or money in some instances inadvisably expended, it would be folly to refuse benefit by past experience.

	With regard to the cultivation of the farms I have little to add to the remarks already made in my journal. The principal areas in that respect, is the perseverance in a system of hard cropping, without the renovation of intermediate pasture, now that the land is exhausted by it, & the inducement to grow corn in preference to mutton & wool, does not exist -  Some of the Tenants seem to hold by the idea that to pay a certain rent, they must have so many acres in corn, not considering that by better management, they might obtain an equal produce from a smaller surface, thus effecting a clear saving in both seed & labor, & having the extra produce of the pasturage besides. But many I fear, continue to adhere to the system from necessity, as the land would not take readily to grass without some additional expense in liming & working it, & a greater capital is required to stock land with sheep & oxen, than to plough, & sow it with corn, the produce of which is available so soon as the crop is <secured>. It forms however an additional objection to the system, that it gives encouragement to tenants of inadequate capital – As the same principles of management, & the same rotation of crops, cannot be applicable to estates so extensive & so varying in soil & situation. I should consider it necessary, that each farm, as it comes to be let, should be minutely examined for the purpose of fixing the terms of its management, deciding upon such fields as it would be proper to continue in permanent grass, or to have laid down for that purpose, & also what rotation would be best adopted to different portions of it, according to their varying quality & circumstances. If any deviation from a general rule should be found advisable in the course of the lease, it might be granted by a permission in writing to that effect. The course which I should consider the best, except upon land of the first rate quality, & where it is very acceptable to manure, would be the five course, i.e. 1st & 2nd years grass, 3rd corn, 4th fallow or turnips & 5th corn, sown again with grass seeds – And upon the thinner & poorer soils, the six course, i.e. with 3 years of grass instead of 2 – And in making this change at the commencement of a lease, I feel confident that a tenant with sufficient capital, would find his advantage as is now apparent in Scotts farm at Thornbrough – But as to enforce such a regulation at once might have the effect of deterring tenants who are prejudiced against all change, or who are not very capable of complying with it, from bidding for the farms, It might be wise to introduce it by degree, allowing  some portion of the land to go in the 4 course & some in the 5 or 6, changing alternately, according to the quality of soil till all would derive some measure of benefit. This alternation of the courses, the tenants of Fourstones are now adopting from a conviction of its advantage.

      I believe advantages may in some respects attend the present mode of letting farms to the highest bidder, & however agreeable it may be to Agents in relieving them from responsibility & suspicion of partiality, it has its disadvantages too, & those are very apparent & have been, I suspect, very costly to the Hospital – A good & industrious tenant who has a perfect knowledge of the powers of his land, & the management the most suitable for it, happens to be outbid by one possessing none of these qualifications who after deteriorating the property, leaves it, probably in debt. But the very knowledge of the circumstance, prevents one, who is ever so good a tenant at the beginning, continuing so to the end of his lease & his object being to do as little for the land as possible, and to take out of it all that he can, previous to the time when his interest in it ceases, & if he have any wish to take it again, to make it look as bad as possible, to keep down competition.

      But there seems in general a greater disposition to go to a new farm, than to continue in the old one. Except Watson of Allerwash & the Woodmans of Whitechapel, I have not found a man who has spent his life on the same farm. They move about at every letting, like men on a chess board, and the reason is obvious, a tenant entering upon the lease of a farm, the fences & buildings of which have been left by his predecessor in utter disrepair looks naturally to the Landlord to put them in tenantable condition, whereas were he to continue on his own, the dilapidations being chargeable to him, he would not meet with equal indulgence. The custom of allowing the tenants to quit without regard to the state of the fences & buildings, has led to an immense outlay by the Hospital. Nothing is done to them for some years preceding the end of the lease and many, which by timely care, might have been kept in a state of tolerable preservation, are found to have become so bad as to be condemned & replaced by new ones.  This remark especially applies to the roofing, very much of which throughout the property is past mending. This evil however is not consequent upon the mode of letting by proposal, and may be remedied by a simple clause introduced into the lease, stating (not in a common way) that the tenant is bound to maintain all things in repair (except walls & main timbers) which is regarded by them as a dead letter, no penalty being attached to the breach of it; but at the end of or sooner termination of a lease, all dilapidations in buildings & fences, shall be examined by persons neutrally appointed by the Commissioners & tenant, who shall make an estimate of the expense necessary to put them into such repair as may fit them to be transferred to the succeeding tenant, & that such sum be charged as rent against the awaygoing tenant & be recoverable in like manner.

      The exception of Walls & Main timbers would secure the tenant against being saddled with the repair of old buildings that are falling into decay, but he would find it his interest when a slate was blown off, to have it replaced instead of letting it fall now, continue till one goes after another & half the house is laid bare to the destruction of timber, floors, & every thing. Many Stables upon the estates are more dependent upon the Haylofts  & the hay itself for preserving the horses from rain, than upon the roofs. I am of opinion that the existence of such a clause, with the assurance of its being acted upon, would do much to preserve fences & buildings in tolerable repair, & save the Hospital a heavy outlay.

      The Hospital had expended capital to a considerable amount in erecting Thrashing Machines upon their estates for the use of the tenants & though it seems kind to afford them such assistance & encouragement, I fear the custom is one of very questionable policy. Upon the smallest farms it is improvident to build machines at all, because at the present price of labor it is cheaper to thrash a small crop by flail than by a machine, where the cost of erecting one is taken into account, but if the tenant finds one made to his hand, of course he prefers to use it. But on farms where the use of the machines is quite justifiable, if they belong to the tenant, all due care is taken to preserve them from accident & decay, & if repairs are needful, they are done in time, & with economy not so when they are the property of the Landlord, complaints may be made of their want of repair, which are not attended to – they go on as long as they will hang together, & when at length an examination takes place & the millwright gets his hand in, it is not uncommon for him to discover an absolute necessity for an entirely new machine, or something very near it.

	In visiting the Farms, except in those where the buildings are quite new, where the machines belong to the Hospital, I have found the most flagrant negligence of them. The horse wheels commonly without any roof & exposed to all the weather. If you ask why it is so, you are told that it is the Hospital’s & therefore they ought to protect it. In cases where the tenants have been long in occupation, they may fairly be made to incur the expense of repair, but where a tenant has newly entered & found matters so, it is only reasonable that they should be done for him.

	The cost to the Hospital which I have been stating, would perhaps be best obviated by covenanting with every tenant on entering to a farm, to purchase the machine by the valuation of persons mutually chosen with the undertaking that he should be paid for it on leaving the farm by a similar valuation. A tenant would thus have an inducement to keep his machine in good order, & as machinery adapted to one situation is seldom suited to another, he would be secured against the necessity of removing it to one where it might be of little value to him. Such a regulation would soon become a matter of immediate transfer from the awaygoing to the entering tenant, each appointing his own valuation & the Hospital would have no need to interfere at all except perhaps in the case of a delinquent tenant whose machine might be appropriated with his other effects. If it is asserted that to find a tenant to purchase a machine is depriving him of so much capital, I would say, that on the same principle, you might supply him with carts, ploughs & every other implement, & even with labor itself, for which the thrashing machine is only a substitute – And also, that it is dangerous policy to encourage a man of insufficient capital to compete on equal terms with one whose capital is ample. Such men are always willing adventurers, from whom, lots of rent & injury to the property are to be apprehended.

	To treat of the Buildings lately erected on the Hospital property is a subject on which it is difficult the most difficult to exercise forbearance. The points which one would naturally consult in buildings are, to accommodate them to the size & value of the farms, & to use such materials and in such a manner as to ensure their being substantial & lasting, which is the true economy in building. Both these points have been I fear little attended to. It not infrequently happens that while the dwelling house upon one farm is scarcely habitable, that upon the adjoining one is unnecessarily large & could have spared enough to have made the other comfortable. In many instances the tenants complain of the houses being a present incumbrance from their great size, & having been very oppressive to them in leading the materials, when building.

	I was particularly struck by the absurdity of two houses upon the farms of Gairshield & Bagraw, both miserable places in respect of land & situation. The rent of the latter is £95, wh[ich] however is not paid, & I should think ought to be about £65 or £70. The building of the house occupied the then tenant with all his small establishment, during the whole summer in leading, his fallows were unwrought & his farm neglected, he failed in the course of the following year & has lived in poverty ever since, partly I believe on parochial relief.

	I do not say that the work has in all instances been badly executed, because in some places I find good walls, but too generally the state of the buildings even of recent date , bear strong testimony to the superficial manner of their execution – American wood, has in many cases been used for outside work, the windows both in dwelling houses & granaries, are found quite rotten within 20 years, & the framework in which they stand incapable of holding them – The walls are often found ill filled & so open that I have seen the smoke issuing through the gables & much mischief done to the ceilings & floors by the rain beating in – But the roofing is the thing most to be complained of, & in which the greatest advantage seems to have been taken by the workmen.

	I do not speak of those roofs merely which consist of grey slates, especially those from the Slaley quarry, which more resemble flags for flooring than Slates, which no ordinary wood can support, & which are so porous that the laths soon go to decay, but of those cases where good blue slate has been used, & of roofs which ought to have been quite as good as new, that are nevertheless in such a condition as to require to be entirely taken down.

	Of this description, I noticed in my journal, some at Hartburn grange that had been done about 20 years ago, but I think I omitted to remark upon one division of that very expensive & fine looking set of offices at Throckley South farm, which was only built about 8 years ago, that the slates are shifting & blowing in all directions & must ere long, I fear, be removed and laid on again. On examining the cause of this, I found it to be, that they had been fixed by one nail at the top, instead of one at each side, & that they had, as is often the case when the contractor provides the slates much too little overlap. The other parts of the building have been done differently & the slates continue firm.

      Besides the preceding circumstance of paying money for work so inadequately performed, any deficiency in the roof is sure to cause the decay of the entire building.

	Such is the present state of the buildings & the important question connected with it is, how such abuses have originated & what are the best means of preventing their recurrence. There is no mode so easy for an agent, as to receive a plan & estimate & to agree with a contractor & leave the work to his execution. All this he can do without leaving his arm chair, & he gets a building that looks pretty enough at first, but is soon found to be defective in almost every point. The contractor has used inferior timber, he has employed too little of it, as well as of slates for the roof & lime for the walls & in a few years the nice looking building is pervious in all points to wind and rain.

	The remedy for this which I would suggest for the consideration of the Board, though its adoption would be attended with great additional labour to the Receiver, may I think be deserving of the experiment. I would propose then, that all building materials should be provided by the Hospital & not by the Contractors, thus depriving them of the inducement to use inferior timber where the best is necessary, & of laying on the Slates too far asunder. I would bargain with Masons, Carpenters, Slaters & Plasterers, to do their respective kinds of work by measurement, at such prices as should be agreed upon, and according to stipulated dimension, but leaving each independent of the other, & only responsible for the execution of his own department. The Hospital estates afford abundance of wood which does not sell to good account, that might do for the crossings in roofs, the Sleepers in floors & for various purposes, even in large buildings, & which might be used almost exclusively in ordinary erection & roofs of a low pitch. In new dwelling houses, it would be proper use Better timber for all the strong work, and American or Home wood only for closet & inside doors & such work as should be kept painted.

	Timber Merchants charge great profits, reasonably so, on account of the many bad debts they contract, but are always willing to allow large discounts for ready money. So that the Hospital could go to market on the best terms, & if a large quantity were at any time wanted, it would be easy to freight a Vessel at once & lay it in some safe & convenient yard at Newcastle, to be taken away as required. The same might be done with blue Slates (for I would strongly recommend never to use gray slates upon a new building, but to lay by all that are worth preserving when taken down, for the purpose of patching old roofs). When building some years ago on my own property, I freighted a Vessel with slates of the best kind from Lancashire & found great advantage in doing so.

	For the quantity of building which I fear all circumstances & certainly at the present time, will be necessary on the Hospital’s estate, I am of the opinion that it would answer a good purpose to employ a man, who ought to be a practical Mason, and independent of any connection with workmen in this part of the country, to go from place to place, wherever Masons, Slaters, Plasterers or builders of stone fences were employed, to examine their work, to see that it was properly executed, to report to the Receiver of their progress, & any fault he might find with their performances. To see that the articles wanted, such as wood, slates & lime be supplied in due time that they be not wasted in using & that any which might be left over be taken care of. He ought to measure the work, but have nothing to do with payments, & render a weekly account to the Receiver of the places he had visited & the matters he had attended to. Such a man would probably be satisfied to receive regular wages of a guinea per week, & an allowance for expense for being a good deal from home. Say in all 65 or 70 £ a year, & if he did his duty, his service would be cheaply purchased. I am persuaded that had such a system of inspection been established & honestly executed long ago, many buildings of the Hospital that are now in very bad condition, would have been still perfect, & that the stone walls on Grindon common & elsewhere needed not to have been in ruins. I should of course contemplate his having a cottage at no great distance from the Receivers residence, so as to be under his immediate control.

	I fear I may have extended these remarks to a tedious length, but in taking the liberty of offering the suggestions I have now made, to the consideration of the Commissioners, whether they may concur in my views or not, I trust that I shall stand acquitted of being actuated by any other motive than an earnest desire to promote the interests of the Property, & in cases where expenditure is unavoidable, to secure the funds of the Hospital against abuse & misapplication.

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The Dukesfield Smelters and Carriers Project aimed to celebrate and discover the heritage of the Dukesfield Arches & lead carriers' routes between Blaydon and the lead mines of Allendale and Weardale. A two year community project, it was led by the Friends of the North Pennines in partnership with Hexhamshire and Slaley Parish Councils and the active support of Allendale Estates. It was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the generous support of other sponsors. Friends of the North Pennines: Charity No:1137467