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Welsh Cattle Drovers in the Nineteenth Century - 1

Richard Colyer National Library of Wales journal. 1972, Winter Volume XVII/4

Extracted onto the pages of GENUKI with the kind permission of the National Library of Wales

This is a complete extract of Part 1 of this article (Gareth Hicks April 2003)

See also Part 2 & Part 3


THE export of store cattle from Wales to the rich pasturelands of England has always played a vital part in the Welsh economy. Recent research has indicated the existence of a flourishing cattle trade since the mid-thirteenth century, and there seems little reason to doubt that the origins of the trade go back far into antiquity. By the mid-seventeenth century store cattle exports were one of the primary sources of Welsh revenue. Thus we find Archbishop John Williams of Bangor imploring Prince Rupert to permit the passage of the Welsh drovers into England during the Civil War, '... for they are the Spanish fleet of Wales which brings us what little gold and silver we have'. 1 In spite of the Archbishop's plea the Civil War disrupted the cattle trade to the extent that the drovers were eventually paid a subsidy of 3,000 as compensation for loss of revenue during hostilities. The industrial developments of the late eighteenth century and the growth of urban populations stimulated an increased demand for beef from the grazing lands of the Midlands and the mixed farming regions of Eastern England. In spite of the growing importance of the Scots cattle trade, the early years of the nineteenth century witnessed the arrival of thousands of Welsh store cattle into England, for subsequent pasture and stall fattening. The extent of the demand for Welsh cattle may be judged from the fact that it is difficult to find a Midland grazier's account book which does not refer to the purchase of Welsh cattle at some time of the year. It is virtually impossible to estimate the volume of the trade during the nineteenth century due to the lack of statistical evidence. A few toll gate returns provide a fleeting glimpse of cattle movements but these, of course, do not take into account the fact that many drovers avoided the Turnpike roads, preferring the more hazardous but less expensive journey across open mountain and unmade road. Nevertheless the several accounts of journeys through Wales made by such astute observers as Walter Davies and George Kay, leave one with little doubt that the volume of exports was considerable. Kay 2 maintained that in 1794, 10,000 cattle were exported from Anglesey while Davies 3 noted that by 1810 some 14,000 'Welsh runts' were being sent annually to the Midlands from Anglesey and the Lleyn Peninsula alone. Aikin's lyrical description of the droves of black cattle swimming the Menai Straights is well known, 4 perhaps rather more so than Richard Llwyd's lines written on Porthaethwy Fair. While this poem can hardly be described as the work of a genius, it does succeed in conveying the sense of confusion which accompanied the ferrying of large numbers of beasts across the stormy waters of the Straights:

'These are the features of the ferrying fair,
And those that dote on discord may go there
The tides, contending with the toiling boats,
The horny forest that on Menai floats
The brutes inferior, but by the windy storm,
The living beach where bellowing droves depart,
And the last low, that rends the suffering heart'.

In 1797 Warner's progress along the Abergavenny - Crickhowell road, '... was frequently impeded by numerous droves of black cattle from Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire, travelling towards the passage to be transported across the Severn ...'. 5 In addition to the North Wales 'runts', the larger Pembrokeshire cattle which were widely distributed throughout Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire and South Cardiganshire were found in abundance on the fattening lands of Norfolk, Essex, Kent and Surrey.

The majority of the cattle were purchased by dealers and drovers at local fairs, many of which were on a vast scale. When the Rev. Evans visited Cilgerran Fair near Cardigan in 1804, he noted that all the fields within three miles of the village were full of cattle, and that, '... the number of cattle, though this was considered a small fair, we were informed exceeded 20,000'. 6 By the close of the 19th century, the summer and autumn fairs of Cilgerran were inundated with drovers intent upon purchasing cattle for the English market. One resident vividly remembers cattle lining the streets from the Rectory to the Station. She remembers also the inconvenience of having to vacate her room in her parent's public house in the village in order that the drovers could be accommodated for the duration of the fair. 7 Although the local fair continued to remain an important feature of 19th century rural life in Wales, it is apparent that many drovers and cattle dealers favoured direct purchase of cattle from farmers rather than through the medium of the fair. 7 Although the local fair continued to remain an important feature of 19th century rural life in Wales, it is apparent that many drovers and cattle dealers favoured direct purchase of cattle from farmers rather than through the medium of the fair. Thus, in 1809 at Beddgelert Fair, '... the show of animals was in general but trifling as the drovers have for many years been accustomed to go about from house to house in order to make their private bargains with the farmers'. 8 Furthermore, intending purchasers would often travel considerable distances to meet the drovers of cattle en route for a local fair in the hope of securing bargains with the drovers before the fair began. In the Llanfair Caereinion area it was common practice for a farmer to ride as far west as Dolymaen to meet the Cardiganshire drovers and make purchases before the commencement of the fair at Llanfair. 9

The activities of the Welsh drovers in the pre-nineteenth century period had helped to form an economic and cultural link with England which was beneficial to both countries. In addition to their straight-.................

............................ forward trading function, the drovers had often been responsible for the execution of financial commissions, such as the collection of the Denbighshire Ship Money on behalf of the Government. Private gentlemen also employed them as carriers both of money and news. On many occasions Sir W. W. Wynne entrusted his chief drover, David Lloyd with considerable sums of money which Lloyd took to London to pay his master's bills. 10 In the exchange of correspondence between the Rev. Thomas Jones of Creaton in Northamptonshire and the Rev. Thomas Charles of Bala, we find the former requesting that Thomas Charles send him books and pamphlets by way of the Welsh drovers. There are numerous examples of drovers making significant contributions to Welsh civic life, pioneering the establishment of banks in West Wales, and in the case of the celebrated David Jones of Caeo, augmenting the richness of the Welsh musical tradition with his splendid hymns. Judging from the account books which they kept, it is clear that the more substantial drovers and dealers were capable of accurately recording details of transactions and also of bargaining with their clients in the English language. his splendid hymns. Judging from the account books which they kept, it is clear that the more substantial drovers and dealers were capable of accurately recording details of transactions and also of bargaining with their clients in the English language. The capacity to speak good English was of course, a major asset. There are at least two cases of drovers making use of their fluency in English in order to establish themselves as schoolmasters. Thus in 1845 a school was opened in Pumpsaint by young man of twenty who had previously been employed as a London drover, while William Harries, schoolmaster of Ffaldybrenin from 1871-78 had spent his early years driving cattle to the Metropolis. 11 The importance of the drover in this regard was emphasised by John Johnes of Dolau Cothi. Referring to the hundred of Caio in his evidence to the notorious 1847 Commission of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales, he maintained, 'That there are a great many cattle dealers in this parish who travel to England and practically learn the value of education'. In spite of his valuable role in the economy of rural Wales, the nineteenth century Welsh drover was treated with considerable scorn by re are a great many cattle dealers in this parish who travel to England and practically learn the value of education'. In spite of his valuable role in the economy of rural Wales, the nineteenth century Welsh drover was treated with considerable scorn by contemporary writers, being regarded as fundamentally dishonest and unscrupulous. It seems that a great deal of the distrust of the drovers arose from their habit of buying on credit. Although this practise was by no means universal, many of the smaller drovers and dealers would arrange to pay for cattle purchased from the Welsh farmers on their return from the English fairs. If, as was often the case, shortage of keep reduced the demand for Welsh cattle in England, the drover was forced to sell at a loss and was accordingly unable to meet his obligations on his return to Wales. Thus as Hyde-Hall pointed out, 'The speculation does not always succeed and the bankruptcy of the drover leaves his creditors with but a very small dividend.' 12 In spite of a statute of Queen Anne which forbade a drover to free himself from obligations undertaken, there .............

............. are frequent references to bankrupt drovers in the contemporary literature. One writer, discussing stock improvement in Caernarvonshire, felt that the introduction of English bulls would so improve Welsh stock that, '... this would be a great inducement to many drovers to come into the country with ready cash instead of credit, which is at present the practise whereby many an honest farmer is duped out of his property in whole or in part.' 13 In spite of his observation that '. . the drovers are distinguished persons in the history of this country's economy'. 14 Edmund Hyde Hall echoed a widely held view when he drew attention to the frequently used epitaph, 'Not only a drover, but a rogue'. Although the epitaph could not be universally applied, there is little doubt that many drovers were untroubled by the pangs of conscience. There were many ways by which the dishonest drover could dupe the English grazier. The graziers were always interested in purchasing spayed (i.e. ovariectomised) store heifers which readily settled down to grass and proceeded to the pangs of conscience. There were many ways by which the dishonest drover could dupe the English grazier. The graziers were always interested in purchasing spayed (i.e. ovariectomised) store heifers which readily settled down to grass and proceeded to fatten thriftily and economically. Such animals commanded a price which was superior to that of a normal heifer. It is not difficult, therefore, to imagine the ire of the grazier when his 'spayed' heifer produced a calf ! John Bannister had been deceived fatten thriftily and economically. Such animals commanded a price which was superior to that of a normal heifer. It is not difficult, therefore, to imagine the ire of the grazier when his 'spayed' heifer produced a calf ! John Bannister had been deceived in this manner and consequently held little affection for the Welsh drovers ; '... for amongst these itinerant Cambrians there are many individuals not less deeply versed in the art of deception than the 'horse-jockeys'. 15 It was for this reason that John Lawrence, in 1805, warned the inexperienced buyer never to purchase cattle at a fair unless accompanied by a more experienced man, '... for the drovers are troubled in general with as few scruples as any man living, no offence intended to the noble fraternity of horse dealers.' 16 Several interesting legal documents and newspaper reports provide further information on the rather doubtful integrity of some of the Welsh drovers and dealers. In the Caernarvonshire Great Sessions of 1809 we find Hugh Owen suing the drover Richard Cadwallader for debt. Apparently Owen had advanced Cadwallader money for the purchase of cattle, '... which he hath hitherto altogether refused and still doth refuse to pay, wherefore the said Hugh said he is injured and hath sustained damage to the hard Cadwallader for debt. Apparently Owen had advanced Cadwallader money for the purchase of cattle, '... which he hath hitherto altogether refused and still doth refuse to pay, wherefore the said Hugh said he is injured and hath sustained damage to the value of 200.' Again, in 1814, Cardiganshire Quarter Sessions dealt with the case of Thomas Lloyd versus David Evans and David Davies. Evans and Davies, two drovers, had been commissioned by Lloyd, a farmer, to purchase cattle on his behalf. For this purpose Lloyd had advanced a sum of money. However, the two drovers had 'craftily and subtly' deceived Lloyd by not delivering the purchased cattle which they disposed of on their own account. 17 A similar case is reported in the 'Cambrian News' of 1879 in which Albert Lewis Jones, cattle dealer, formerly of the Prince Albert public house, Aberystwyth was charged.................

................... by Edward Morgan, farmer, of obtaining cattle worth 200 under false pretences. Rather less frequently, cases appear in which the drover himself is the plaintiff. Thus in 1800, the Sheriff of Caernarvon issued a writ against Griffiths Richards, a local farmer. The writ instructed bailiffs to make good by seizure of goods and chattels a debt of 20 which Hugh Hughes, drover, had claimed at the Great Sessions. 18 The account books of David Johnathon reveal that this dealer encountered great difficulty in receiving payment from some of the English graziers with whom he dealt. In January 1860, a Surrey farmer, George Hawkins wrote to Johnathon, explaining 18 The account books of David Johnathon reveal that this dealer encountered great difficulty in receiving payment from some of the English graziers with whom he dealt. In January 1860, a Surrey farmer, George Hawkins wrote to Johnathon, explaining that he was '... exceedingly sorry but I shall not be able to meet your last bill ... I will pay the 55 in the course of a fortnight'. As things turned out, a great deal more than a fortnight elapsed before the debt was discharged. A year before, John Read of Middlesex explained to Johnathon, '... that I have not been able to spare the money for the last lot, nor can I say exactly when I can ...'. 19 Where a drover met with such unwillingness or inability to pay up, it is not surprising that he found difficulty in discharging his debts on returning to Wales.

The Welsh drovers who took cattle to London were regarded by the towns-people with suspicion and often with awe. A delightful, if slightly exaggerated, account of Barnet Fair appeared in the Farmers Magazine in 1856. This account, written by an Englishman, refers in a rather uncomplimentary fashion to the Welsh drovers and provides an interesting example of the disdain in which the unfortunate drovers were held. It is worth quoting at length; 'Imagine some hundreds of bullocks like an immense forest of horns, propelled hurriedly towards you amid the hideous and uproarious shouting of a set of semi-barbarous drovers who value a restive bullock far beyond the life of a human being, driving their mad and noisy herds over every person they meet if not fortunate enough to get out of their way; closely followed by a drove of unbroken wild Welsh ponies, fresh from their native hills all of them loose and unrestrained as the oxen that preceded them; kicking, rearing and biting each other amid the unintelligible anathemas of their human attendants ... the noisy 'hurrahs' of lots of 'un-English speaking' Welshmen who may have just sold some of their native bovine stock whilst they are to be seen throwing up their long-worn, shapeless hats high in the air, as a type of Taffy's delight, uttering at the same time a trade(sic) of gibberish which no-one can understand but themselves.' 20

While the majority of the Welsh cattle not sold in the Midlands were disposed of at the great London fairs, other beasts were driven deep into Kent, Sussex, and Surrey. Jenkin Williams, the dealer of Dewi Garon, 21 regularly took cattle as far as Blackwater in Kent, while David Johnathon of Dihewyd travelled and traded throughout the Midlands...............

.................................. and sold cattle at the fairs of Romford, Brentwood, East Grinstead, Horsham and Kingston. Davies of Tregaron, who died in the 1850's at the age of 96 and who worked for the dealer Dafydd Griffiths of Lampeter, bought

.................................. and sold cattle at the fairs of Romford, Brentwood, East Grinstead, Horsham and Kingston. Davies of Tregaron, who died in the 1850's at the age of 96 and who worked for the dealer Dafydd Griffiths of Lampeter, bought cattle in the Lampeter and Carmarthen area. These were sent by rail to London and subsequently driven to the fairs of Barnet, Horsham, Reigate, Kingston, Blackwater and Harley Row. 22 Throughout the pre-railway era these epic journeys necessitated considerable feats of physical endurance on the part of the drovers. The fact that many drovers survived to very great ages suggests that continued exposure to the elements together with countless nights of sleeping in the open air had no permanently adverse effects upon their health. It has often been contended, in the more romantic and emotionally charged accounts, that the drovers were a breed of supermen who scorned the use of an overcoat and cheerfully faced wind and storm with gay abandon. Sadly, the various drovers' and dealers' account books do not support this assertion. Indeed, it seems that many drovers expected their employers to provide them with some form of protective clothing before they embarked upon a journey. Thus in 1822 we find a Trawsfynydd dealer paying 5-5-0 for clothes and 1-9-6 for 'a trunk and shoes' for his drover before the latter set off to Northampton with a drove of cattle. 23

The actual size of a drove of cattle varied according to the time of year and the demand for store cattle from the English graziers. However, most accounts suggest that the droves ranged in size from one to four hundred cattle which were attended by 4-8 drovers and their dogs. The huge Rhys Morgan of Tregaron, styled 'King of Northampton', who was still trading in cattle and horses at the turn of the present century, normally employed a dozen men to handle a drove of 300 beasts. 24 Once the drove was assembled, the cattle would normally be felled and shod prior to undertaking the long trek to England. Although cattle shoeing has been ably described elsewhere, 25 it is perhaps worthwhile to note that Mr. Ben Morgan of Farmers recollects local tales of the personnel involved in the shoeing process in his village. In the 1860's cattle were shed at Farmers in Llwyncelyn bach by Evan Richards the smith from 25 it is perhaps worthwhile to note that Mr. Ben Morgan of Farmers recollects local tales of the personnel involved in the shoeing process in his village. In the 1860's cattle were shed at Farmers in Llwyncelyn bach by Evan Richards the smith from Ffaldybrenin. Richards would arrive at Farmers with the cattle shoes, in the company of Rhys the Nailer of Pant-un-nos who would bring with him a bag of nails which were protected from rust by being smeared with butter. A third man, one David Morgan (renowned for his tendency to over-indulge in alcohol) would eventually arrive and assist with felling of the cattle. 26 'Ciwing forges' are widespread throughout Wales and provide useful clues as to the location of cattle drove routes. The remains of the most westerly forge at which cattle were shod before setting off for England are reputed to lay in the orchard of Carmenau Fawr, Clynderwen, Pembrokeshire. The shoes.................

....................... were made at a small-holding on nearby Bryn Hill, and taken subsequently to Carmenau Fawr where they were nailed to the cattle. 27 In Foel, Montgomeryshire an interesting link with the cattle trade with south eastern England is evidenced by the presence of two small fields of 0.8 acres and 0.6 acres, named respectively 'Kent' and 'Essex' (O.S.6" 1902 nos. 282 and 1812). These fields are located in close proximity to the smithy at Glanyrafon (recently demolished). It appears that cattle destined for Kent or Essex were drafted into the appropriate enclosure when shoeing was completed. 28 & 29 It was often necessary to re-shoe cattle en route, for when shoes were lost lameness would result, and consequently, the value of the beast at the time of sale would be reduced. Many smaller drovers relied upon local blacksmiths for this purpose while the larger droves would often be accompanied by a smith with an ample supply of shoes and nails. 30

It has often been contended that cattle under eighteen months of age were unable to withstand the rigours of the journey to England and consequently were not to be found in the droves. This was by no means the case. Contemporary sources reveal that although bulls did not leave Wales before they were eighteen months old, heifers of as little as one year of age were frequently to be seen in the droves of black cattle. 31 However, the majority of the droves would comprise 3-4 year old store beasts together with a sprinkling of milch cows and the odd bull. Once the chaos which arose from the marking and mixing together of several hundred strange cattle had abated, the drove set off. It normally took 3-4 days for the drove to settle down to a steady 2 miles per hour, a leisurely pace which would give the animals plenty of opportunity to graze by the wayside. By travelling at this pace the drove would cover between the drove set off. It normally took 3-4 days for the drove to settle down to a steady 2 miles per hour, a leisurely pace which would give the animals plenty of opportunity to graze by the wayside. By travelling at this pace the drove would cover between fifteen and twenty miles per day. It was considered vital not to force the cattle, in order to prevent excessive loss of condition and the loss of 'bloom' which results from the accumulation of sweat on the skin. Thus to preserve the condition of his beasts, the experienced drover planned his journey with great care. A particularly long and strenuous day over rough mountain track would, for example, be followed by a shorter day's travelling in order to give the cattle an opportunity to recuperate. 32 In spite of these precautions, however, cattle from North Wales regularly lost up to one hundred-weight en route for the Midland pastures. It was for this reason that some of the more affluent drovers either rented or purchased land in the Midlands upon which they could restore the condition of their cattle before despatching them to the local fairs. To this end the Cardiganshire dealer, David Johnathon took 149 acres of land at Spratton in Northamptonshire at an annual rent of 450.

It has often been assumed that the drovers avoided Turnpike roads...................

...................... and thus the burdensome tolls which were extracted at each gate along the road. Whilst this may have been so in many cases, the half dozen drovers' account books examined by the author contain detailed inventories of tolls paid on the Turnpike roads en route for England. Indeed, tolls represented the major source of expense incurred on the journey. Naturally, all drovers attempted to avoid toll where possible --- an objective which was more easily achieved in the routes from southern and mid-Wales than from North Wales. However, it seems that the 19th century Welsh droving fraternity was divided broadly into two camps. On the one hand there were the drovers who were prepared to bear the heavy cost of using the Turnpikes in the interests of speed and directness, only avoiding the Turnpikes when they could do so without too much inconvenience. The other group were rather more 'cost-conscious', preferring to follow the ancient and often tortuous routes across open country thereby avoiding toll. In either case, it is clear that the drovers were no great lovers of toll gates. We read, for instance, in the Hereford Journal of 1859, of '... the great abhorrance of the Radnorshire men for a tollgate ... and (the keeper) cannot and dare not interfere with them'. The schedules of drover's expenses which appear below illustrate clearly the considerable financial burden imposed by the presence of the toll gates. The first account of 1838 refers to a journey made by Roderick Roderick from Lampeter to Kent. 33

September 10th 1838

                                                   s. d.

                                             s. d.

Lampeter gate                                4

Cash to D. Williams            2  6

Cwmann gate                                 10

Cash to D. Davies                    9

Beer at Porth-y-rhyd                  2  0

Hollybush gate                     2  10

Llanfair-ar-y-bryn gate              5  5

Bridge gate                           2  10

Shoes and nails                          2  0

Tewkesbury gate                  2  10

Grass at Talgarth                     11  6

Doddington gate                   2  10

Beer and lodgings                      1  6

Shoes and nails                     1  0

Allowance                                 1  0

Lent at Croydon                    2  9

Beer                                           2  0

Expense paid                        4  0

Grass at Pugh's                        16  0

Grass at Staplehurst              4  3

Beer and lodgings                     1  6

Gate at Staplehurst                2  0

Allowance                                    9

Cranbrook gate                      2  10

Keep for mare                          4  6

Cranbrook grass                    8  9

Rhydyspence gate                     2  9

Beer and lodgings                 2  6

Willersley gate                         2  9

Hire man                               2  9

Hadmore gate                           2  11

Beer for man                             6

Grass                                      16   0

Fair and field                        1  4

Beer and lodgings                     2  9

Fair gate                                    7

Shoe the mare                           1  0

Grass at Sandway                 3  0

Brockhall gate                          2  11

Beer and Lodging                     10

Shoes and nails                        2   0

Gate                                           7  1/2

Grass at Hereford                   16  0

                               --------------------------

Beer and logings                       2  9

                                       8 - 1 1 - 1 0 1/2

Hereford gate                           2  11

                               --------------------------

Tarrington gate                         4  2

Ledbury gate                             4  2

Beer                                          1  0

Allowance at Folly                       9

It is unlikely that this inventory is entirely accurate for it gives the impression that the dealer, his drovers, and cattle, incurred no expenses between Gloucestershire and Kent. Furthermore, later entries in the account book indicate that once in the south east the cattle were taken to the fairs of Uxbridge, Maidstone, Duntongreen, Seal, Mereworth and Aylesford at which additional expenses must have been met. Nevertheless the account clearly illustrates the importance of tolls and grazing costs as components of the drover's expenses in the pre-railway era.   34

The second inventory, abstracted from the account books of David Johnathon   35 provides evidence of the substantial cost incurred by the dealer as a result of the activities of his drovers en route for Essex:

October 1839

                                                       s. d.  

                                                     s. d.

Cwmdulas House                           5  0

Daventry grass                           14  6

Abergwesyn Tavern                     15  0

Daventry tavern                            3  7

Boy drive the beast                        2  0

Daventry gate                               5  0

Newbridge Tavern                            6

Northampton tavern                   18  0

Llandrindod grass                       13  6

Northampton gate                        2  6

Smith, tavern                                     6

Wellingboro' gate                        2  6

Smith, grass                                17   0

Wellingboro' gate                        2  6

Maesyfed gate                               1  6

Wellingboro' tavern                  13  6

Pay John for shoeing                 1  1   0

William Wells tavern                 8  6

Kington gate                                  3   0

?    gate                                       2  6

Kington grass                              18  0

Elstow tavern                        1  19  0

Half-the-road gate                         3  0

Elstow tavern                        1  10  6

Llanllern gate                                2  6

Man mind beasts                         1  6

Westinton grass                         1  0  0

Egin tavern                               16  6

Westinton grass                             5  9

Egin gate                                     1 6

Westinton gate                               3  0

Hertford tavern                           2  6

Bromyard gate                               3  6

Hertford gate                              2  6

Bontwillt gate                                2  3

Stansted tavern                         13  3

Bontwillt tavern                          17  3

Ongar grass                            1  2  0

Worcester gate                              5  0

Ongar tavern                              5  0

Worcester tavern                               6

Chelmsford                            1  0  0

Worcester                                      2  6

Other expenses at fair 
and return home                      2  0  4

Wilbercastle tavern                     18  0

 

Wilbercastle gate                          2  9

                                         --------------

Stratford grass                             14  6

                                         24 -

                                         24 - 11 - 5

Stratford tavern                              3  0

                                         --------------

Stratford gate                                 2  6

 

Warwick tavern                           18  3

 

Southam tavern                            18  0

 

Warwick gate                                2  6

 

Windmill tavern                           18  0

 

Windmill gate                                2  0

 

The final inventory is taken from the Johnathon accounts of November 1856. This is of particular interest as it illustrates that Johnathon was quick to take advantage of the extension of the railway from Nuneaton to Shrewsbury in 1856, thereby enabling him to truck his cattle directly to the Midlands from Shrewsbury, and subsequently to drive them to the markets and fairs of the Midlands and Home Counties. Unfortunately the accounts of this particular year do not provide information as to the number of personnel involved in the various journeys to London. Nevertheless, the inventory leaves little doubt as to the escalation of costs since 1839. It refers to expenses incurred on the sale of some 300 beasts.

 

      s.     d. 

 

 

       s.      d.

Aberystwyth gate + Machynlleth tavern

3      6      6 

 

Myself

-         8       6

 

 

 

Romford toll

-         2       0

Machynlleth gate 6-6 and  boy to mind beast

-       8      0

 

My expenses and train fare  from Chelmsford to London and back to Romford

1         3       6

Cemmaes gate 3-6 and Dinas gate 2-0

-      5      6

 

Chelmsford hay

3       19      0

Mallwyd gate 3-9 and Cann Office gate 3-9

-      7      6

 

Men at Chelmsford 

-          8      6

 

 

 

Romford hay

1         1       0

Cann Office tavern

2      3     6

 

 David Lewis' son 

4         8       0

Llanfair tavern

2      7     0

 

David Capel

3       16       0

Llanfair and Welshpool gates

-     14     0

 

 John? 

-        12       0

Welshpool tavern

 2     8     0

 

Thos. Ellias

4        11      0

3 gates from Welshpool to  Shrewsbury

-     12     0

 

John Smith, Driver 

3        10      0

 

 

 

John Evans

1         7       0

Halfway House

1     17    6

 

My expenses in London

-          9       6

Shrewsbury Tavern

3     15    0

 

Romford toll

-          2       0

Shrewsbury Train

6     12    6

 

Myself 

-        13       0

Man to drive from W'Pool to Shrewsbury 

-       7     0

 

Brentwood gate 

-          1      10

 

 

 

Chelmsford, hay + myself

1        10       0

Feazley tavern and gate

4      2     6

 

Men to keep the beast

-           3       0

3 gates to Three Potes

1    12     6

 

My expense back home

1        10       0

Three Potes Tavern

3      5     6

 

 

-----------------

 

 

 

 

102   10      5

2 gates to Rugby

1      1     0

 

 

-------------------

Rugby Tavern

6    11     0

 

 

 

Men at Rugby Fair

-      3      6

 

 

 

2 gates to Northampton

-    16      6

 

 

 

Northampton tavern

1     8      0

 

 

 

2 gates to Turvey

-    16      6

 

 

 

Turvey Tavern

2    10     0 

 

 

 

2 gates to Clophill

-     13     6

 

 

 

Clophill Tavern

3      6      0

 

 

 

Starneck (?) Tavern

4      3      0

 

 

 

2 gates at Stanstead

-       5     6

 

 

 

Stansted hay for one lot

5     15    0

 

 

 

Harlow fair

-       9     0

 

 

 

Norton Inn grass

1     12    6

 

 

 

Ongar hay

4       1    0 

 

 

 

Daniel Evans

3       0    0

 

 

 

Ingatestone Fair

1       5    0

 

 

 

Men at fair

-        6    9

 

 

 

Although these inventories provide an interesting picture of the cost structure of the 19th century cattle trade, they yield little information as to the details of the daily life of the average drover. Such information may only be gained by a search of contemporary literature and by jogging the memories of elderly people whose ancestors have been in some way connected with the trade. It was apparently normal practice for the foreman drover, or the dealer himself, to ride ahead of the drove in order to arrange accommodation for both men and animals. Accommodation was provided either at local farms or inns, many of which possessed adjoining paddocks where cattle could be held overnight. The frequent occurence of 'Drover's Arms' as a public house name, illustrates the likely presence of a nearby drove route, as do certain field and farm names. A good example of the latter is to be found in the village of Caio, where the Cardiganshire drovers passed their first night en route for Barnet Fair. The farm at llustrates the likely presence of a nearby drove route, as do certain field and farm names. A good example of the latter is to be found in the village of Caio, where the Cardiganshire drovers passed their first night en route for Barnet Fair. The farm at which they stayed was known as Llundain fechan, while the stream running through the farmyard was christened 'River Thames'. 36  Mrs. Alice Bowen of Shrewsbury has drawn my attention to the fact that drovers in Welshpool were accommodated................

..................either at the Dragon Inn or the Common Lodging House, for which they would be charged the sum of 6d per night.   37  The evidence available suggests that the charge for a night's bed and board varied little throughout the century, being around 4d per head during the summer months and 6d throughout the winter. In London, during the 1870's, the Tregaron drovers usually stayed in Shepherd's Bush for the remarkably small nightly payment of 3d plus an additional 3d if breakfast was taken. 38 Their brothers from the Llancrwys / Farmers / Ffaldybrenin area were accommodated by Mr. Robertson, Landlord of 'The Lock and Key' in Smithfield. While the senior drovers would normally spend the night in a farmhouse or tavern, it was frequently the practice for the juniors to sleep alongside the cattle and to ensure that their charges were adequately fed and watered. 39

In addition to being able to control the animals in his charge, the drover had to be capable of administering rough and ready veterinary treatment from time to time. Thus several drovers' pocket books contain veterinary 'recipes', often of an extremely bizarre nature, by which common cattle ailments could be treated. In order to deal with cases of 'bloat' which regularly occurred when cattle strayed overnight into nearby cornfields, most drovers carried a crude form of trocar and canula, while lactating cows which succumbed to mastitis were treated by the simple expedient of cutting off the affected teat with a sharp knife ! When foot-and-mouth disease broke out in a drove, movement was immediately halted. Much to the annoyance of his employer, the drover Davies of Tregaron was immobilised in Warwickshire with his cattle for 6 weeks until the disease had taken its course. On reaching their destination in the Midlands or Home Counties, the drovers would attempt to sell off all their stock at one or other of the local fairs, and as the expense accounts suggest, it was often necessary to travel to many fairs before the full complement of cattle was sold. Once selling was completed, the long homeward journey began. In the early years of the century, the dealer or head drover would return to Wales by coach, ensuring that he was dressed in an inconspicuous fashion in order not to advertise the fact that he was carrying several thousand pounds in golden sovereigns in the long leather pockets of his greatcoat. Although this dealer would travel home by rail in later years, his drovers usually made the return journey on foot. Expenses for the journey back to Wales were met by the dealer, in addition to which the drovers received a daily wage. At the turn of the Although this dealer would travel home by rail in later years, his drovers usually made the return journey on foot. Expenses for the journey back to Wales were met by the dealer, in addition to which the drovers received a daily wage. At the turn of the 18th century drovers of cattle from Haverfordwest to Ashford in Kent received 3/- per day, plus a bonus of 6/- when all the cattle were sold, 40 while in the 1830's Roderick Roderick was paying his drover John Edwards a daily wage of 2/-. In order to supplement this rather meagre income the drovers often sold milk in ....................

....................the villages through which they passed en route for England. 41  An anonymous account book from Dolgellau mentions 1 /- as being the daily rate of payment for cattle drovers during the 1830's. It is possible that this was the sum paid to 'casual' drovers who joined the drove for short periods of time to help the regular drovers over difficult parts of the route. By the 1870's most cattle from Wales arrived in London by rail. Davies of Tregaron had a free railway pass to travel with his cattle, while he received from the dealer Dafydd Griffiths, the sum help the regular drovers over difficult parts of the route. By the 1870's most cattle from Wales arrived in London by rail. Davies of Tregaron had a free railway pass to travel with his cattle, while he received from the dealer Dafydd Griffiths, the sum of 1 to cover his expenses in London, his journey home and his salary.

Many of the Welsh dealers who took cattle to the markets and fairs of England handled very substantial sums of money. In 1806, David Roberts and Griffith Jones sold cattle to the value of 6,053 at the fairs in Kent, 42  while later in the century we find Evan Roberts of Caersws spending up to 2,000 monthly on cattle for sale in England. The actual profitability of the cattle trade was largely determined by the supply of Welsh cattle and the demand for these cattle in England, the latter component reflecting the availability of herbage on the fattening pastures. The paucity of statistical evidence bedevils any detailed discussion of this aspect of the cattle trade. However, it can be quite confidently asserted that the dealer's margin fluctuated considerably from year to year. Hyde Hall mentions one particular dealer who expended 1,200 on the purchase of cattle in 1809, '... a capital so great, and so frequently turned ought to afford large profits, but erted that the dealer's margin fluctuated considerably from year to year. Hyde Hall mentions one particular dealer who expended 1,200 on the purchase of cattle in 1809, '... a capital so great, and so frequently turned ought to afford large profits, but the instability of the markets occasion but too frequently a repetition of loss'. In 1859 the Llancrwys dealer, John Walters died in Hyde, Middlesex, on his return from Barnet Fair, leaving a modest fortune of some 1,500.   43  Inspection of other dealer's wills will no doubt permit an estimate of the standard of living which a dealer could reasonably expect at different stages of the century. Profitability of individual transactions, however, may only be assessed from the rather limited number of extant dealers' account books. The Trawsfynydd account book of 1822 records in detail two transactions. 44  In the first transaction a loss of 10. 14. 6 on 37 beasts was sustained, while a second group of 67 animals yielded a profit of 28. 14. 0. The details of prices and expenses involved in this second transaction are as follows:

PURCHASES

By J. Jarrett at Llanegrin

 

By William Lewis

 

 

       s.      d

 

       s.      d.

4 Mrs. Williams

31    7       6

6 John Hughes   

41      0       0

5 Mr. Jones

31   17      6

11 Mr. Williams

93     10      0

6 Mr. Williams

55     0      0

3 John Hughes

22      6       0

2 Morris

14   18      0

2    ?       ?  

13     13      0

6 Mr. John Lloyd

56     0      0

4 Richard Hughes 

28      10      0

3 Roberts

20     7      6

5 Runts

34      13      0

3 Mr. Jones

22     9      0

 

----------------

5 Thomas

37     5      0

31

233    17    0

 

---------------

Charges by Lewis

      2      1    4

34

269   4     6

 

-----------------

 

----------------

 

235     18    4

 

 

Will

               5    0

 

 

 

------------------

 

 

 

236      3     4

 

 

 

------------------

 

SALES (At Market Harborough)

 

Charges for Harborough April 29th 1822

 

 

          s.    d.

 

      s.       d.

10 Mr. Marsters

104     17   0

By W. Lewis

1      16      6

12 Mr. Irons

107       0   0  

Voelas

-        2       6

6 Mr. Lovell

50       10   0 

My charges

1       1       0

3 Mr. Calls

26       17   0 

At four Crosses

2       1       0

10 Mr. Watson

69        0    0

Paid at Widmarsh

2       6       6

6 Mr. Bee

47       10   0

At Lutterworth

2       11      6

10 Mr. Bramley

79       10   0

John Newbutt, wages

2        2       0

10 Mr. Aston

99        9    0

Paid J. Rowlatt

12      16     0

 

----------------

Paid Will       

2       10      0

 

586    16    0

Gate to Harborough

-         2       6

 

----------------

Fair Field

-        12      0

 

 

 Men

-         l0      6

 

 

Paid Old Will

 2       5       0

 

 

Charges at Harborough 

-         2       6

 

 

At Lubenham 

5        8       0

 

 

Shoing mare

-         2       6

 

 

To meet beast

-         8       0

 

 

 Paid Will

2       12      6

 

 

 

----------------

 

 

 

39      0       6

 

 

 

----------------

                                                

It is interesting to compare this dealer's profit of some 8/6 per head of beasts sold with the returns calculated from the Johnathon accounts of 1862-65 which are outlined in the table below. The figures refer to cattle sold in the fairs of Leicester,

It is interesting to compare this dealer's profit of some 8/6 per head of beasts sold with the returns calculated from the Johnathon accounts of 1862-65 which are outlined in the table below. The figures refer to cattle sold in the fairs of Leicester, Lutterworth, Market Harborough, Northampton, Rugby, Chelmsford, Kingston, Horsham and East Grinstead.

MONTHLY PROFIT AND LOSS ACCOUNT 1862-65 

[only sales for which full records are available are included]  

                                   Number of        Average                Average                 Average Recorded            Average Profit
             Period          Purchases      Purchase Price      Sale Price               Expenses per head            or loss per head

The figures for 1863, 1864 & 1865 have not been extracted.

The ancient tradition of droving across the hills of Wales, deep into the heart of England, ended with the extension of the railway from Nuneaton to Shrewsbury in 1856. The droves which had previously converged on Hereford, Kington and Ludlow and thence to the Midlands and South East of England, now headed for Shrewsbury where they were unceremoniously loaded into railway trucks for the remainder of the journey. The knell finally tolled for the traditional Welsh drover when the railway extended to Pembroke, Holyhead and Aberystwyth in the 1860's, and droving became a simple matter of taking cattle from the local fair to the nearest railway station. 45  However, traditions die hard, and many elderly Welsh people still relate tales of the drovers and the romance of the road into England. It is hoped to record some of these tales together with details of the drovers' routes in subsequent articles.

RICHARD COLYER

Aberystwyth

 

Notes;

1 A. H. Dodd A History of Caernarvonshire 1284-1900.

2 Kay General View of the Agriculture of Caernarvonshire 1794.

3 Davies General View of the Agriculture of North Wales 1810.

4 Aikin Journal of a tour through North Wales 1797.

5 Warner A walk through Wales in August 1797.

6 Evans 'Letters written through South Wales 1804.

7 For this information I am indebted to Mrs. M. Thomas, Cilgerran.

8 Hyde Hall A description of Caernarvonshire 1809-11.

9 For this information I am indebted to Mr. Thomas Bebb, Y Gelli, Llanfair Caereinion.

10 Frazer Wales Vol. 1 (1952).

11 Timothy Richards ' Reminiscences of Ffaldybrenin'.

12 Hyde Hall, op. cit.

13 Kay op. cit.

14 Hyde Hall op. cit.

15 Bannister ' A synopsis of husbandry' 1797.

16 Lawrence ' A general treatise on cattle' 1805.

17 NLW. Evans (Aberglasney) MS. 18/741.

18 U.C.N.W. Porth yr Aur MS. 33281.

19 NLW. MSS. 9600-9614.

20 'Farmers Magazine' October 1856.

21 On his return to Tregaron from England via Abergwesyn, Williams could see Tregaron from Cwmberwyn. The view inspired him to pen the following lines:

'Mae Tregaron fach yn mwgu
 Nid oes fater ta hi'n llosgi
 Os bydd newydd drwg ar gerdded
 Yn Nhregaron cewch ei glywed'.

[See D. L. Rees Tregaron, Historical and Antiquarian. Llandyssul 1936]

22   For this information I am indebted to Mrs. Jane Davies, Tregaron. Evan John Williams ('Ianto Sion Evans') shod cattle at Abergwesyn near Tregaron. The late Mr. John Hope of Abergwesyn recited this ditty about Williams, written by a travelling Bard named Shelby:

'Mae Ianto Sion Evans
A globen o siop
Y ddaear yn waelod
At wybren yn dop
Mae'n anferth o led
Ac anferth o hyd
Mae'nt yn dod iddi hi
O bob chwarter o'r byd'.
23  NLW. M.S. 17927A.

24 For this information I am indebted to Mr. Billy Jones, Dealer, of Tregaron.

25 For accounts of cattle shoeing see:

C. S. Skeel: Trans. Roy. Hist. Soc. IX 1926.
Hugh Evans: The Gorse Glen, Brython Press 1948.
J. E. Jones: Card. Ant. Soc. Trans. VIII 1930-33.

26 For this information I am indebted to Mr. Ben Morgan of Farmers.

27 For this information I am indebted to Mrs. R. Lewis, Carmenau Fawr.

28 For this information I am indebted to Mr. Davies, retired blacksmith, Foel.

29 It is the intention of the author to assemble as much information as possible on the location of 'ciwing forges. To this end he would be particularly interested to bear from any reader who may know of the location of such forges.

30 NLW. MS. 6733.

31 Bannister op. cit.

32 Mrs. Davies, Tregaron, remembers her father mentioning that he began his droving life at the age of 12, making 4 journeys to Warwickshire from Tregaron each Spring. With a drove of cattle, he and his associates took 16-17 days to complete the journey.

33, 34  NLW. MS. 11706A.

35 NLW. MSS. 9600-9614. For a full discussion of these account books, see J. Llefelys Davies, 'The Livestock trade in West Wales in the 19th century.' Aberystwyth Studies.

36 NLW. Brigstocke MS. 18.

37 Mrs. Bowen also points out '. . . These drovers carried a long stout hazel stick with which they beat the animals mercilessly should they stray from the herd. They were struck across the face and blood would ooze from the nostrils; also their language was unrepeatable.'

38 For this information I am indebted to Mrs. Jane Davies, Tregaron.

39 The ready availability of water on the drove routes was of paramount importance. Mr. Edward Roberts of Clatter, relates a story of his great-grandfather, John Roberts, who frequently took cattle from Montgomeryshire to Kent. During a particularly dry summer in the mid 1850's Roberts payed a Gloucestershire farmer 5 for the privelege of watering 150 head of cattle in this farmer's pond. Apparently Roberts' cattle succeeded in emptying the pond, much to the annoyance of the farmer who was forced to purchase water for his own stock for the remainder of the summer.

40 Skeel, op. cit.

41 Mr. Henry Shepherd of Daventry tells me that the Welsh drovers frequently stopped at the farm of Mr. Hughes of Priors Hardwick on the 'Welsh Road'. The drovers would borrow a pail from Haynes, milk their cows and return both pail and milk to the farmer. The calves did not walk at the feet of their dams, but were slung in sacks across the back of the unfortunate cow.

42 U.C.N.W. MS. 33281.

43 The executors of his will were David Davies, Llancrwys, William Preston, a London solicitor, and Mr. Robertson, Landlord of 'The Lock and Key'.

44 That dealing could be a lucrative business is evidenced by the fact that Richard Jarrett, a drover for the Trawsfynydd dealer, set up as a dealer with a capital of 13. He operated from Corwen in partnership with his cousin Richard Roberts. He eventually retired to Plas-y-faeder in the 1860's having amassed a considerable fortune (NLW MS. 1733).

45 The driving of cattle on Sundays were very much frowned upon. In the Gloucester Journal of 4th August 1897, two Welsh drovers were convicted for '... profanation of the Sabbath in driving cattle through the village of Mordiford in Herefordshire'. It was hoped that '... such legal interference will tend to check a practice which has of late been too general and must have proved truly painful to the Christian observer'.
As late as 1896 the Anglesey dealer John Evans was worried about starting his journey to London on a Sunday. He wrote to his wife '... I could not tell [my children] that I was going to London on the Sabbath day, it would have grieved their hearts. It will do no good to tell your mother. It will only fret her to think how unfortunate you have been in being yoked to such an ungodly husband'. [NLW. Broadhead Evans MS. 102].


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