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Things to Do and See at Chiltern Open Air Museum This April

We’re welcoming visitors everyday throughout the Easter school holidays. Join us for a special selection of seasonal treats this April at Chiltern Open Air Museum!

Follow Our Easter Bird Trail

Discover the British birds that live at the museum by following our trail. Find the giant nests around the site and listen to the bird’s songs. The Easter trail will be available for all visitors to enjoy during the Easter school holidays.

Visit Our Traditional Lambing Fold

Sheep surrounding a shepherds living vat at Chiltern Open Air Museum

The first lamb of the season was born on 27th March – a boy we’ve called Lamborghini. Visit our lambing fold to learn about traditional farming in the Chilterns and see the new-born lambs.

See Our New Willow Sculptures

Come and see our specially commissioned willow sculptures by artist Tina Cunningham of Ecolistic Artworks. A life-size stag and deer can be found near Arborfield Barn, our sheepdog Bang is rounding up the Oxford Down sheep near Henton Mission Room, and more artworks inspired by the wildlife at the museum will be joining them over the next few weeks.

Try Being a Wildlife Artist

A painting of a mouse by Iain Chara Kane

During the Easter holidays we’ll be joined by Wildlife Artist Iain Chara Kane. On 1st, 4th, 6th and 11th April he’ll be painting some of the wildlife that we help to conserve in and around the managed woodlands, meadows, hedgerows and farmland on site. Iain will have a selection of paintings and cards available to buy. Do say hello and maybe have a go sketching some of the wildlife yourself!

Have a Terrific Tuesday

2nd April will see the return of our famous Terrific Tuesdays. This one will have an Easter theme and there will be Easter bonnet making, storytelling and clay modelling. 9th April is another Terrific Tuesday and this one will have a Earth Day theme. There will be Earth themed family games, bookmark making, and clay modelling.

Terrific Tuesdays Event Details

Enjoy the Spring Flowers & Meet Our Gardeners

A close up of blossom on an Aylesbury Prune Tree.

With the arrival of April our gardens are coming into bloom. At the beginning of the month daffodils surround Astleham Manor Cottage, the trees in the orchard start to blossom and snakes-head fritillaries appear through the grass.

You can meet our gardening team and find out more about our gardens on 4th & 11th April.

Celebrate St George and the Dragon

St George and the Dragon

The legend of the English patron saint will be brought to life at the museum on 20th & 21st April. A team of knights will mount their steeds and demonstrate target training on a quintain – a wooden target with a rotating arm. As they approach, they must strike the quintain with a lance, aiming for a particularly small target on the rotating arm, which will test the knights’ accuracy and agility. After perfecting their quintain training, they will advance to jousting training where two knights will duel with lances in hand once again. The dragon will then be summoned and a fierce battle between the knight and the beast will begin.

St George & the Dragon Event Details

Come on a Woodland Walk

On 26th April join us for a guided walk through the Museums woodland – enjoying a special connection with nature. Yes, you will learn about the woods, the flora and fauna. But we will also be natures detectives; exploring and using our senses to identify the trees and plants, looking at the shapes of leaves, feeling the bark (tree hugging optional) and smelling them too, and perhaps a little foraging!

Woodland Walk Details


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Top 10 Things to Do in March 2024 at Chiltern Open Air Museum

Welcome Sign at Chiltern Open Air Museum with Spring Flowers

We’re so happy to be back open Fridays to Mondays from Saturday 9th March. The team have been busy getting the site ready for visitors and creating lots of new experiences for this season. So what are the top things to enjoy this March at COAM?

1. Follow Our Unmissable Objects Guide

Let our brand new Unmissable Objects guide show you around the museum and explore the stories behind our most fascinating objects. Follow the guide online, download a pdf or buy a printed copy at the ticket office as a reminder of the day

2. See Our 3D Images Exhibition

See the museum in a new way through our 3D image exhibition in the High Wycombe Furniture Factory. This temporary exhibition from professional photographer Ethel Davies will feature different images throughout the 2024 season.

3. Listen to Heritage Stories

On Sunday 24th March, a special Campfire Heritage Stories event is taking place. You will have the chance to hear from community representatives about how they have come to be in Buckinghamshire and how their communities have become firmly established as part of the beautiful county. 

Find out more about the Heritage Stories Event.

4. Follow our Brass Rubbing Trail

Brass Rubbing Plaque

See if you can find the eight new brass rubbing plaques around the museum site.

5. Discover Traditional Crafts

This month we’ll be experiencing spoon carving, chair making and flint knapping as our traditional craft demonstrations return to the museum.

6. Listen to a Talk About Local Herbalist Maude Grieve

Come and join us on Friday 22nd March for a talk by garden historianClaire de Carle MA, on local herbalist, Maud Grieve. Talks on different subjects will be held on the last Friday of every month throughout the season including the History of Photography,

7. Join Us for Easter Weekend Family Fun

A huge straw nest with chickens in front

Immerse yourself in our willow sculptures that are arriving this Easter. Have fun finding the nests hidden around the site in our birdwatching inspired Easter trail. Bring out your creative side with some family crafts and make unforgettable memories. For a small additional charge, you can even experience the thrill of pony-riding. 

8. Bring Mum for a Day Out

A yummy cake in Skippings Barn

We’re open on Mothering Sunday so why not treat mum to a day out discovering our historic buildings, exploring our 45 acre grounds and having tea & cake in Skippings Barn.

9. Meet New-born Lambs

Oxford Down Lambs

Lambing season will start at the end of March so visit our lambing fold to find out about traditional farming and meet our new-born lambs over the Easter holidays.

10. See Our Gardens Start to Bloom

As spring unfolds, visit our traditional gardens to see the spring flowers start to bloom. Find out about the arts and crafts planting designs of Gertrude Jekyll in the Astleham Manor garden or the herbs used in the Iron Age next to our replica roundhouse.


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Gertrude Jekyll and Astleham Garden: Inspiring Arts & Crafts Design

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“I hold that the best purpose of a garden is to give delight and to give refreshment of mind, to soothe, to refine, and to lift up the heart in a spirit of praise and thankfulness.” Gertrude Jekyll

The formal garden of Astleham Manor Cottage was inspired by the designs of Gertrude Jekyll, who was influential in shaping garden design during the early 20th Century. The geometric layout of the garden is softened by the planting style reminiscent of old English cottage gardens. Gertrude Jekyll pioneered this approach to garden design and it came to characterise many Arts and Crafts gardens.

Gertrude Jekyll and Astleham Garden have been intricately linked by our team of volunteer gardeners, through both the layout and the plants used. The garden has heritage varieties used by Jekyll such as Iris Germanica, Lavandula Angustifolia ‘Munstead’ and Rosa ‘The Garland’.

The planting plan of Astleham Manor Cottage at Chiltern Open Air Museum.

“I rejoice when I see any one, and especially children, inquiring about flowers, and wanting gardens of their own, and carefully working in them.” Gertrude Jekyll

The garden contains plaques with quotes from Jekyll and is a perfect place to relax on a summer’s day.

Being a dedicated flower garden, it was based on Gertrude Jekyll’s principles of providing somewhere that is just a beautiful place to be, somewhere to be aware of beauty, scent and calm.  It was designed and developed in 2008/9 by Conway Rowland, the previous Estate Manager at COAM who took considerable care to adhere to Jekyll’s ideas. Typical Jekyll features include the use of low walls, rope swags and some of her favourite plants such as bergenia (elephant’s ears) and roses. 

Historic buildings Astleham Manor Cottage garden during building works at Chiltern Open Air Museum

The formal garden at Astleham Cottage is accompanied by an orchard garden containing heritage apple varieties surrounded by roses, ferns and hydrangeas.

A plan of the planting in the Astleham Orchard at Chiltern Open Air Museum
A list of the plants in the heritage garden of Astleham Manor Cottage at Chiltern Open Air Museum

Find out more about Gertrude Jekyll

Explore the other gardens at the museum.


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Wassailing Through History: A Gift to Bring Good Harvests

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Apples growing on a tree in the orchard at Chiltern Open Air Museum. Wassailing encourages good apple harvests.

The Romans brought apples to the UK and they have been growing here ever since. You can see their importance in ancient traditions, like wassailing.

What is wassailing?

Wassailing is an Anglo-Saxon tradition. On January 5th, the Twelfth Night, people would gather to take part. The landowner greeted the guests with the toast waes hael, meaning be well. He then passed around the wassail drink for everyone to have some.

Should you wassail on 5th January or 17th January?

If you want to be really traditional, wassailing should take place on ‘Old Twelvey’, also known as the 17th January. This is because the date of Twelfth Night changed with the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1752. We still use the Gregorian calendar now!

What is the wassail drink made of?

The wassail drink was made of warmed ale, wine or cider. People mixed in spices and honey. Sometimes it even included an egg!

How did people wassail?

The group gathered round the biggest tree in the orchard. They hung a piece of wassail soaked toast in the branches. This was a gift to the tree spirits to make sure there was a good harvest that year.

The group would then move onto the next orchard. The journey was a loud one! They would shout, sing and make as much noise as possible to waken all the tree spirits. The noise was also to scare away any demons. People thought they stopped the apples from growing.

Cider and the Victorians

The tradition of wassailing carried on through to the Victorians. Cider and cider making was an important part of Victorian life. Farm owners often paid their workers with cider instead of money! In fact, farms without cider often found it difficult to attract workers.

Wassailing today

Many groups across Britain have revived the tradition of wassailing. At the museum we will be giving our own gift to the trees in our orchards, using our homegrown apple juice instead of cider!

We’ll see the results of the wassail at our harvest festival in September, when we’ll be doing traditional apple pressing with the fruits of our labours.


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A Victorian Christmas: How Did They Celebrate the Festive Season?

Christmas in the Victorian era. Our Haddenham Croft Cottage decorated for Christmas.

Christmas in the Victorian era started to become a time for family celebrations rather than the large gatherings enjoyed during the Georgian era. The giving of gifts now took place later in the festive season, on Christmas Eve, rather than St Nicholas Day on Dec 6th.

In 1871 Boxing Day became a national holiday (in England),enabling the servants of the wealthy to visit their families, since they would have had to serve their masters on Christmas Day.

What did Victorians eat at Christmas?

The tradition of roast meat continued, and most families that could afford it, had roast goose. The wealthier families ate beef, venison and turkey served with chestnut or veal forcemeat stuffing.

Vegetables had become fashionable with the upper classes, rather than seen as something that was eaten by the lower classes. In addition to the familiar potatoes, parsnips and sprouts that we continue to serve with our dinners today, serving unseasonal vegetables like asparagus and tomatoes was a way of demonstrating the skills of your garden staff.

The Victorians enjoyed a range of sweet treats as part of their Christmas fare. These included a traditional Twelfth Night cake, Christmas pudding and mince pies, as well as gingerbread, figgy pudding and sugar plums, all washed down with a wassail punch, warm brandy and mulled wine.

Try our figgy pudding recipe.

How did Victorians decorate their houses for Christmas?

By 1860, Christmas trees were very popular with the middle classes. Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their family were pictured around their Christmas Tree which encouraged others to do the same. Many Victorians would have had a Christmas tree in their parlour or hall, covered with candles, sweets, fruit, homemade decorations and small gifts.

By the 1870s greeting cards were a familiar sight as they were now mass produced for the British market.


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Christmas in the 1940s: How Did Wartime Families Celebrate the Festive Season?

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How people celebrated Christmas in the 1940s - homemade decorations and gifts.

How people celebrated Christmas in the 1940s.

For the first few Christmases of the 1940s, families were divided by war. Even for those left at home, Christmas may have been spent in air raid shelters, rather than in their own homes. The Christmas break was cut short for those vital to the war effort, with some shop and factory workers returning to work on Boxing Day. With the ships of the Merchant Navy under attack from German U-Boats at sea, supplies were becoming scarce and food rationing was introduced in January 1940.  Despite the many challenges faced by families Christmas was still an important celebration.

What did people eat at Christmas in the 1940s?

Turkey was not on the menu in the war years; those lucky enough would have eaten goose, lamb or pork or even rabbit or a home-raised chicken, accompanied by home-grown vegetables. Ingredients were hoarded weeks and even months in advance.

As the war progressed and food became more difficult to come by, creative alternatives were developed such as ‘mock’ goose (a form of potato casserole), and dried fruit in Christmas puddings and cakes replaced with breadcrumbs and grated carrot. 

How did people decorate their home for Christmas in the 1940s?

Homes were still enthusiastically decorated for the festive season, even if the blackouts meant there were no Christmas lights in the streets.

Cut-up strips of old newspaper were turned into paper chains, and holly and other garden greenery adorned the pictures on the walls.

What Christmas gifts were given in the 1940s?

Presents were often homemade. Scarves, hats and gloves might be hand-knitted using wool unravelled from old jumpers and homemade preserves were welcome presents.

Find out what it was like growing up in a prefab at Christmas or discover the history of the 1940s prefab at the museum.


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Help Restore the Victorian Toll House at Chiltern Open Air Museum

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Donate towards the restoration of our Victorian Toll House

This Giving Tuesday we hope you will continue to support our vital conservation work by making a donation, no matter how small or large, towards the restoration of our Victorian Toll House that originally stood in High Wycombe.  Why not take a look around the Toll House.

Each year 50,000 buildings are demolished in the UK. Many of these are of great historic and cultural importance to their communities.

Chiltern Open Air Museum is a charity that rescues historic buildings from your community that would otherwise be demolished to make way for new developments. They are rebuilt at the Museum to secure their future and preserve them for the enjoyment of all.

Every building in our unique collection was once the home or workplace of ordinary people – a history rarely preserved.  

As a self-funding Museum, we receive no regular government or council grants. Instead, we rely on donations and admission fees to fund the maintenance of our historic buildings and continue our vital conservation work.

Giving Tuesday Logo

Created in 2012, Giving Tuesday was a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Over the last decade, it has grown into a global movement that inspires millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

Every penny counts so do please consider donating.

Giving Tuesday Nov 28, 2023

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Suffragists or Suffragettes

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Statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, London.
Statue of suffragette Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, London.

Women’s suffrage societies which campaigned for the right to vote began to appear in Britain in the middle of 19th century and their members called Suffragists believed in peaceful, constitutional ways to promote votes for women. In 1866, a group of women organised a petition that demanded that women should have the same voting rights as men and gathered over 1500 signatures in support of the cause. They took their petition to Henry Fawcett and John Stuart Mill, two MPs who supported universal suffrage. Mill drafted an amendment to the Second Reform Bill that would give women the same voting rights as men and presented it to Parliament in 1867. The amendment was defeated, however, by 196 votes to 73.

In the wake of this defeat, the London Society for Women’s Suffrage was formed and similar women’s suffrage groups were founded all over Britain. In 1897, 17 of these individual groups joined together to form the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), led by Millicent Fawcett.

The NUWSS adopted a peaceful and non-confrontational approach. Members believed that success could be gained by argument and education. The organisation tried to raise its profile peacefully – and legally – with petitions, posters, etc. and public meetings. By 1914 the NUWSS had grown to approximately 54,000 members. Almost all of its leaders and most of its members were middle or upper class, and largely they campaigned for the vote for middle-class, property-owning women. However, working-class women did join the NUWSS and some members recognised that they needed the support of all women.

In Manchester in 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) with her daughters Christabel and Sylvia. Christabel Pankhurst said, “the vote question must be settled. Mine was the third generation of women to claim the vote and the vote must now be obtained. To go on helplessly pleading was undignified. Strong and urgent demand was needed. Success must be hastened.” The organisation grew to include branches all over Britain and involved more working-class women.

Today “marketing” to encourage support for a political or social view is normal, but it was first used politically by the W.S.P.U, who created their campaign as a brand. There were well-designed logos, stylish exhibitions, spectacular processions and meetings in London and the major cities. Special colours represented the movement, purple, white and green for freedom, purity, and hope respectively. Supporters wore the colours and they were used on badges, bicycles, chocolate bars, cakes, jewellery and even a motor-car. The label of suffragette was actually first used in an article by Daily Mail journalist Charles E Hands. The intention of the “ette” suffix was “to belittle and to show that they were less than the proper kind of suffrage worker”, says Elizabeth Crawford, a researcher and author on the women’s suffrage movement. “But they took up the name and were very proud of it.”

The WSPU adopted militant, direct action tactics. They chained themselves to railings, disrupted public meetings and damaged public property. In 1913, Emily Davison stepped out in front of the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby. Her purpose remains unclear, but she was hit and later died from her injuries.

Suffragettes were arrested and imprisoned, but continued their protest in prison by hunger strikes. Although initially they were fed by force, in 1913 the Prisoners Temporary Discharge for Ill-Health Act was passed in parliament. Commonly known as the Cat and Mouse Act it allowed prison authorities to release hunger-striking women prisoners when they became too weak, and re-arrest them when they had recovered. Emmeline Pankhurst was jailed and released on 11 occasions. Newland Park, the large house next to COAM, was used as a refuge for Suffragettes.

The gardens at Newland Park - image copyright Simon Dawson with thanks to Amersham Museum
The gardens at Newland Park – image copyright Simon Dawson with thanks to Amersham Museum

You can read more about this connection with Newland Park on the Amersham Museum website or come to their presentation at COAM on Friday 13th October at 12.30pm.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, the suffragettes and suffragists stopped their campaign and after the war in 1918 some women were given voting rights.

Sources:

www.bl.uk/votes-for-women/articles/the-campaign-for-womens-suffrage-an-introduction

www.bl.uk/votes-for-women/articles/suffragists-and-suffragettes

amershammuseum.org/history/people/20th-century/the-harbens-and-newland-park/

www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/suffragettes-on-file

Rise Up Women! by Dr Diane Atkinson 


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The life of country children

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Country life for working families before the early 20th century was not at all as some popular paintings portray – roses round a cottage door, happy and healthy children playing in a well-cared for garden. Many families with three or more children would live in cottages with only two rooms. Parents would do the best they could, but very low incomes meant that living conditions were often horrible. Bedclothes, for example, could well be beyond the finances of the poor and so they would make do with sacking and rags, frequently filled with vermin. At Steeple Claydon in Buckinghamshire a loan society was set up by the local gentry to loan blankets to poor families in the winter and such societies could be found all over the country into the early 20th century.

An 1858 painting by George Washington Brownlow entitled 'Straw Plaiting School in Essex'
An 1858 painting by George Washington Brownlow entitled ‘Straw Plaiting School in Essex’


It was not until the 19th century that a law was passed that required children to go to school. This did not mean, of course, that schools did not exist. For the children of the middle classes and the aristocracy there had always been options available, but they were few and, by and large, cost money. As far back as 1553, Archbishop Cranmer proposed a new code of Church law that would require the clerk of each parish church to teach children the alphabet as well as the catechism. This was never adopted however, but there still remained strong practical reasons for parents wishing to have their children at least able to read.


The United Kingdom Census in 1861 shows that out of 4.3 million children of primary school age in England & Wales, 1 million were in purely voluntary (church) schools and 1.3 million were in state aided voluntary schools, but 2 million had no schooling. The 1876 Royal Commission on the Factory Acts recommended that education be made compulsory in order to stop child labour and in 1880 a further Education Act finally made school attendance compulsory for children between the ages of five and ten, though by the early 1890s attendance within this age group was falling short at 82%
Schools at the time emphasised the learning of facts and required that the children memorise these facts. A few examples from The Rev Dr Brewer’s My First Book of Geography give the flavour of what the children had to commit to memory.


Teacher: How may the number of counties in England and Wales be remembered?
Pupil: It is the same as the number of weeks in the year.
Teacher: Who divided England into counties?
Pupil: Alfred the Great.
Teacher: For what purposes?
Pupil: That persons might more easily refer to places, and that order might be more easily preserved.
Teacher: What is the climate of England?
Pupil: Moist, but healthy.
Teacher: What is the character of the English people?
Pupil: Brave, intelligent and very persevering.

Poorer families were often tempted to send their children to work if the opportunity to earn an extra income was available. In rural communities, the help of children at harvest time was vital. Also plait schools and lacemaking schools could be very tempting as a way of enabling children to help with the family income. Moreover, plait schools and lace schools had long thrived before the 1880 Education Act was passed and so the loss of income would be keenly felt. Attendance officers often visited the homes of children who failed to attend school, but they frequently proved ineffective.

Children would be expected to help with harvesting, bird scaring, rat catching and the many other tasks linked to country life, which meant that such schooling as there was had to be missed at certain times. P.H.J.H. Gosden’s book “How they were taught” refers to school log books of the time mentioning hay harvesting as the cause of absenteeism in Ivinghoe in 1875 and Cublington in 1891. The poem below illustrates the tasks that children might do.


The sheep get up and make their many tracks
And bear a load of snow upon their backs,
And gnaw the frozen turnip to the ground
With sharp, quick bite, and then go noising round
The boy that pecks the turnips all the day
And knocks his hands to keep the cold away
And laps his legs in straw to keep them warm
And hides behind the hedges from the storm.
“Sheep in Winter” by John Clare – 1793-1864


In 1857, the Bishop of Oxford received a complaint from Radclive-cum-Chackmore in North Buckinghamshire that few children over eight or nine attended school because the boys were taken for work and the girls for lacemaking. (There is a blog on our website about lacemaking.) In 1867, the Royal Commission on the Employment of Children, Young Persons and Women noted that in the Buckinghamshire and Berkshire lacemaking industry, farm labourers treated it as normal that their daughters would be sent to lace schools from the age of four or five and as a result gaining little or no formal education. Towards the end of the 19th century, changes in fashion and machine-made lace led to a decline in lace schools.


The other “cottage industry” prevalent in the Chilterns was straw plaiting. Once again children as young as four would be sent to a plait school where they would spend many hours in the charge of a teacher who might teach them a little reading, but mostly concentrated on proficiency and speed of plaiting. The most popular teachers were the ones who got the most work out of the children. The children would have to finish uncompleted work at home and it was not unusual to see them plaiting as they walked home and in the street as they talked with friends. About thirty yards of plait was considered to be a day’s work. Ivinghoe in Buckinghamshire was seen as a plaiting centre and there, as in many towns and villages, this interfered with such education as was available towards the end of the 19th century. The practice of plait schools was so common and the money earned so important for the poor labourer households that police or Factory Inspectors could make little difference. Only the collapse of the plait trade brought an end to the plait schools.


Multiple other excuses however were found to keep children away from school. Girls could be kept at home for the weekly washing day; when the cowslips bloomed boys and girls would be taken by their mothers to collect the flowers for cowslip wine and cowslip pudding. Some might be kept at home on traditional festivals such as St Valentine’s Day, Plough Monday and for local village or church events.


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Swing Riots

The Labourers’ Revolt, commonly known as Swing Riots was mainly rooted in the poor living standards and impoverishment of agricultural workers for more than fifty years. A wave of more than 3000 acts of revolt swept across England for over 2 years. The system of farmland imposed by Parliament in the previous century had removed the right for the poorest to feed their animals on what was previously common lands. The common land was then divided between the largest local landowners. Until the early 19th century the main employment of farm labourers in the Autumn and Winter was to thresh corn. The advent of threshing machines driven by horses or by water power, able to perform the jobs of several men in less time further impoverished the already poor labourers. Landowners, seeing the economic advantage for them, quickly set about using threshing machines on their farms, putting workers out of work in their thousands. This all coincided with two years of poor harvests and rising prices and cuts to poor relief.

Threshing Machine at COAM

The threshing machine in action at Chiltern Open Air Museum

The riots finally broke out in the late summer of 1830 as jobs became increasingly scarce, wages were reduced and the future of employment became increasingly bleak. The first destruction of a threshing machine by farm labourers was on 28 August 1830 at Lower Hardres, near Canterbury in Kent. The destruction of machinery became the characteristic feature of this labourers’ movement. In October of the same year, a hundred threshing machines were vandalised and burnt in the eastern part of Kent. The uprising quickly spread westward to Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire and Middlesex and acts of arson increased.

The riots further spread north into the Midlands, the Home Counties and even up to East Anglia, and eventually reached Lincolnshire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire, making it one of the biggest popular uprisings since the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. The rioters burnt crops, destroyed threshing machines, slaughtered cattle and stole corn from warehouses.

Threatening letters that were sent to magistrates, large landowners, parish clerics and local Poor Law enforcement officials contained the demands of the rioters to raise wages, stop using machinery and cut tithes. These letters were signed by “Captain Swing” or “Swing”. (The name Swing may be a reference to the flails which the labourers used to thresh corn and which needed to be swung with some force in order to thresh the crop.) If the demands were not met, large groups of labourers would threaten landowners and if their demands were not met they would destroy machinery and other things associated with the landowners. While the attacks occasionally led to authorities responding to the demands, many farm owners reneged on the agreements and unrest spread to neighbouring areas. Local magistrates responded leniently, but the government intervened with harsher punishments.

Not all landowners were unsympathetic. Sir Harry Verney at Claydon was unperturbed, seeing no local threat to his own property, somewhat to his surprise.
“Some of the poor are living very miserably. Able-bodied young men having families receive in some cases 3s 6d a week (17½p). A pittance which ensures thieving and poaching. We should alter the game laws… increase the workhouses… have a legalised labour rate … The new beer shops have added to the number of places of rendezvous for the idle and dissolute.”

However, numerous arrests took place and the trials resulted in 19 hangings, 644 imprisonments and 481 transportations to penal colonies in Australia. Rioters were not only farm workers but also rural artisans, shoemakers, carpenters, wheelwrights, blacksmiths and cobblers. On January 10th 1831 a special Commission in Aylesbury tried 160 men for breaking farm machinery and rioting of whom 32 were sentenced to 7 years Transportation to Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania. The 160 men involved were accused of committing their offences in Waddesdon, Stone, Little Brickhill, Iver, Long Crendon and Upper Winchendon and Chepping Wycombe (the spelling of the village at that time, now High Wycombe). In all, 1,976 men from 34 counties were arrested of whom 800 were acquitted, 644 jailed and 481 transported.

The link below provides examples of Captain Swing letters www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/what-caused-the-swing-riots-in-the-1830s/

Written by COAM Volunteer, Roger Coode


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