Also Dry Stone Walling
Before the Norman Conquest, when the Saxons settled in
Rishton, there is evidence of a little agriculture, especially in names
the Saxons gave to districts. Cowhill
was the hill on which the village cows were grazed for example.
During the first 6 centuries after the Norman Conquest,
there was unlimited scope for land reclamation schemes in North East
Lancashire and Rishton was no exception to the general practice.
“In 1284 Adam, son of Rishton De Cowhill
complained that Gilbert De Rishton disposed him
of his common pasture at Cowhill”.
Agriculture in medieval Rishton seems to have been
mostly confined to the Holt area. The arable or ploughed land was divided
into strips as in Saxon days, and some of the few freemen who lived on the
estate had five strips, others more.
During the early Eighteenth century most of the
original oak woods were cleared, and most covered soil was turned to
cultivation. A typical farm stock of this period consisted of: -
8 twinters (cows of 2 years)
It was the early farming community that formed the
nucleus from which Rishton developed. The conditions that faced farmers
were hard, but not as harsh as those of the farmers on the surrounding
moorlands. Never the less soils are thin and acidic, there is a short
growing season, frequent frosts and low temperatures with little sunshine.
The 17th Century was a golden age for the small working
farmer, they received encouragement to use new ideas introduced from
abroad, and wool was required in great quantities in Halifax, Leeds, and
Huddersfield, and it was common at this time to se a thousand horse packs
of such goods from this side of the county. Village yeomen were prosperous
during this century, and led to a more ambitious style of living for them.
During the month a considerable quantity of food
stocks had been condemned, it was reported on the 13th March 1952. An outbreak of swine fever had been
reported from a local farm, and a total of 20 pigs had been slaughtered,
11 on the farm and 9 at the Blackburn Abattoirs. An inspection of
the pigs slaughtered locally revealed that the offal was unfit for
consumption, but the carcases were sound.
Agriculture in 1966
The landowners in Rishton were the
estate and all the farms were tenant farmed. Some of the smaller farm
tenants have been given the opportunity of buying the farms, but the price
was to high.
The farms vary in size from 20 acres to 120 acres and
there was no arable farming. The boulder clay content of the soil makes
ploughing unprofitable. During the
Second World War, the Rishton farmers were compelled to plough their
land, and they grew mainly oats, a little wheat, Swedes and turnips.
The growing season is short and there are frequent
frosts, but more important is the acidic nature of the soil that makes
constant liming necessary. There is also considerable atmospheric
pollution from the
power station at Whitebirk.
All the farms have a dairy bias, the greatest
percentage held of the herds are Frisians with some Ayrshire’s, though one
farmer had a jersey herd. According to the size of the farm, the number of
milking cows varies from 6 to 30. All the milk in Rishton is now
Tuberculin tested. None of the farmers make silage, and they feed their
cows from their own hay, buying concentrates and other foodstuffs from
large concerns. They find this more economical than growing their own
animal feeding stuffs. Most of the milk is collected by the milk marketing
board lorries and taken to the dairies at Blackburn. However, all the
farmers bottle by machine a certain percentage of their milk for retail in
Rishton. Only two farmers deliver their milk by horse and float, the rest
have land rovers and trailers.
Two farmers keep pigs – large whites, which are long
lean pigs. Poultry consists of Black and white leghorns crossed with Rhode
Island reds or white leghorn and is not restricted to farms. Many small
allotment holders also keep poultry.
A few sheep are kept on the dual slopes of
Top O’ th’
Heights and Cowhill. They are half-breeds, the dominant strains being
Wensleydale, Suffolk, and Swaledale. They are sold mainly for meat at the
Haslingden market and in June each year a certain amount of clip is sent
to the Bradford wool auction and bought by the Scottish – English wool
All the farms are mechanised and are family concerns
employing perhaps one regular farm labourer and hiring about two temporary
helps at hay making time.
A North East Lancashire Cotton Town - Marian Sleigh.