Global Battcock Family Tree

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Charles Battcock (1737-1793), feudal farming in Ford, Sussex

Charles Battcock was born in Ford in 1737.  In 1762, Charles married Mary Shoosmith Ellman.  They had at least four children: Amelia, Daniel, Ann Marie and John Chatfield.  Thomas Battcock was born in 1763 and grew up in Ford and was probably their oldest child.  Mary Shoosmith Battcock died in 1774 and Charles in 1793.

Ford is a small village in Sussex near Littlehampton, now famous for its prison.  Ford had never been a large village but by 1608 the village was virtually deserted. In 1724 there were only 5 families[i].

It is remarkable how little had changed in Ford over the centuries when Charles was born in 1737.  The land ownership and farming systems in Ford were feudal and medieval.  Much of the farm land in Ford was still described as “Demesne” land owned by the Lord of the Manor.  Most of this land was leased out as one farm, although there were a few “copyhold tenants”.  The privileges granted to each of these “copyhold tenants”, and the exact services they had to render in return for these privledges, were described in a book and a copy was given to the tenant. In 1608 eleven copyholders had between 10 and 30 acres each.  The main crops in Ford were wheat, barley, oats, beans, peas, tares, vetches, and hemp and cattle, sheep and pigs were reared.  In 1631, the large farm in Ford had 29 cattle, 221 sheep, 34 pigs, and at least 88 acres of crops.  There were also still a number of commonly owned “open fields”.  These open fields had not changed much since the middle ages. 

Charles would have being growing up in a rapidly changing world.  There were more changes in farming in Ford in Charles’ lifetime than the previous 500 years.  The first major change was that the common land was “enclosed”.  Unlike most of the rest of England, in Sussex the “enclosing” of these open fields and dividing up the land did not start until the 18th century.  Adam Smith described this process as “sensibly dividing the country between opulent men”. 

The richer villagers who managed to set up large farms did very well out of the enclosures and were able to improve and innovate.  However the small farms were not so viable.  With the enclosures many other common rights were taken away such as the right to collect firewood from or graze cattle on commonly owned waste lands.  The campaigning journalist Arthur Young wrote of the small farmers: “they fare extremely hard, work without intermission like a horse… and practice every lesson of diligence and frugality without being able to soften their present lot”.  Many small farmers sold up and by the end of the century three quarters of the land was farmed by tenant farmers.  The tenant farmers did not do much better.  The Rev John Howlatt wrote “He works harder and fares harder than the common labourer and yet with all his labour and with all his fatiguing incessant exertions, seldom can he improve his condition or even with any degree of regularity pay his rent and preserve his present situations”.  Many moved out of the villages.  Most did not go very far, usually to the nearest town or city.  It was the younger and braver that moved to London.

By the middle of 18th century most if not all of the copyholds had been subsumed into two farms of 211 acres and 108 acres.  These were probably Ford Place and Newhouse farm.

Two of Charles and Ann’s children moved away from Ford.  Thomas went to London and John to Brighton. 

[i] From: ‘Ford’, A History of the County of Sussex: Volume 5 Part 1: Arundel Rape: south-western part, including Arundel (1997)


January 5, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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