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Data on the start of Horticulture in the Vale of Evesham

The follow publication contained a table giving information on acreages, in various parts of the Vale of Evesham, which were used for agricultural and horticultural crops in the period 1876 to 1896:  A century of agricultural statistics, Great Britain 1866-1966 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland.

This included details of the acreage of various types of cropping in Badsey and Aldington, but the figures were combined with those for Offenham.  There was no information in this publication for Wickhamford, but other areas dealt with were Evesham, Pershore, Fladbury & Cropthorne and Defford & Eckington.

Changes in land use

Badsey, Aldington and Offenham

The area in these parishes where corn crops were grown declined from 1,456 acres in 1876 to 687 acres in 1896, a reduction of over 50%.  The permanent grass acreage, for grazing livestock and the production on hay, remained stable at a little over 700 acres.  What was described as ‘Rotational Crops’ , such as clover and sainfoin, declined over the twenty years from 222 acres to 138 acres. The area used for the growing of ‘Green crops’, vegetables, including potatoes and other root vegetables, increased from 275 acres to 964 acres, more than three times as much.  A bigger increase was in the section recorded as ‘Market Gardens’.  Here, 106 acres in 1876 rose by ten times to 1,132 acres in 1896.  Small fruit, such as strawberries, were not grown in 1876 or 1886, but 165 acres was in production by 1896.  Orchards, which would have been mainly of plums and apples, only covered 106 acres in 1876 but this rose considerably to 258 acres by 1896.

A new enterprise in the area was the growing of hops.  The acreage was not great, but increased from only six to 38 in the twenty years.

There is also a figure in the table for ‘Numbers of persons who occupy land’.  This went up from 123 to 287 in the twenty-year period.

Evesham parishes

This category included the two town parishes plus the more rural Bengeworth and Great and Little Hampton. There were similar trends here in the reduction of corn and rotational crops, but the area of permanent grass increased.  The different groups of horticultural crops all showed an increase in acreage, but the number of people occupying the land remained about the same in period covered.

Pershore parishes, including Pensham

The story here was very similar to the Evesham parishes, with a decline in corn and rotational crops, but not grassland. Market gardens were the only category to show a significant increase between 1876 and 1896, with the acreage more than doubling, but the number of people working the land was very similar over the period.

Fladbury and Cropthorne 

These two parishes grew hops in the period covered but the acreage remained about the same, unlike the increase in Badsey/Offenham. The horticultural acreage rose, as did the number of people working the land.  Corn growing declined, as did rotational crops, but grassland increased slightly. There was a rise in the acreage of orchards.

Defford and Eckington

These two parishes had the least change over the twenty years, with a smaller shift to horticultural crops and no change to the numbers working the land.

Heads of households working in horticulture in Badsey and Wickhamford 1861-1891

Another way of looking at the switch from agriculture to horticulture is to examine the census data.  In Badsey and Aldington in 1861, there were 129 households and none of the heads of these were market gardeners.  By 1871, the households had increased very slightly to 131 and nine of the heads were recorded as market gardeners (1.3%).  In 1881, of the 126 households, 36 heads were market gardeners (28.6%).  This percentage increased again by 1891, where there were 148 households and 88 heads were market gardeners (59.5%).

The situation in Wickhamford was similar, but the increase in market gardening as an occupation of the heads of households was slower to materialise. In 1861, there were no market gardeners and only one in 1871, out of 28 households (3.6%).  This had not changed by 1881, but risen a little by 1891.  Then, there were then 6 heads market gardening in 27 households (22.2%), less than half the Badsey percentage.  (In Wickhamford the percentages continued to rise at subsequent censuses, to nearly 40% in 1901 and 63% in 1911.) 

Tom Locke, January 2023