Great Ryburgh and Agricultural Contracting in the last quarter of the 19th C.

Rectory Farm Little Chesterford 1874.

A collection of interesting papers recently came my way through a well known online auction business and included the following items that tell a story farming in East Anglia. This was at a time when agriculture was undergoing a period of depression and which wasn't helped by a series of bad harvests and extreme weather in the 1870's. We can set the scene with the valuation for Rectory Farm which was part of the Chesterford Estate owned by the Hervey Family and drawn up for Mr Charles Burleigh of Manor Farm, Little Chesterford:



According to sale particulars of 1916 “it embraces an area of about  209.223 acres at that date with a rental value of £215-13/-6d per annum.

The inventory valued it as follows:

An affidavit included with the papers is transcribed below:



Rectory Farm (Little Chesterford Essex)


It is to be understood, between myself and my Brother Alfred, that we hire the above Farm in our joint names, the Valuation to be made out in our joint names, but the Farm is to be Alfred’s, he is to have the entire control and responsibility of it. My desire for having my name in it is, that in the event of Alfred at any time leaving the Farm I should be able, without any further application or trouble, to retain possesssion of it.


Charles Burleigh


Witness - J Burleigh (their father)

Nov 23. 1874


Alfred, was the youngest son of James Burleigh a farmer and maltster.  He had been apprenticed as a miller in his teens but, interpreting the above affidavit, he was encouraged to take on a farm (that was twice the size of his father’s) by his brother Charles, 10 years his senior, and already farming the slightly larger Manor Farm, also in Lt Chesterford.

By the Census of 1881, Alfred had left Rectory Farm and his remaining working life was spent away from agriculture,  in Camberwell, Lambeth and Tottenham according to successive Censuses. 

Whilst he was at the farm Alfred seems to have tried to embrace the latest farming technology and done his best to make farming work for him in the circumstances. In doing so, he made a connection to Great Ryburgh and Percival Everitt. From the correspondance between them, one can deduce that Everitt's appearance at agricultural shows around the region had made an impression and from Percy's point of view no doubt justified the time and expense of doing so.



However before looking at the details of Arthur Burleigh's contract with Everitt, a look at his accounts and letters from William Foster of the Wellington Foundry in Lincoln suggests that farming life was not easy for him. It would apear from Foster’s replies that Alfred took out a lease on a 10 Horse Power Portable Engine and a 4’6” Finishing Threshing Machine.


This image of 1888 courtesy of Graces Guide


Being a “stranger “to the firm, his requested reference was taken up and his first payment  of £100 was receipted on August 24 1877, the machinery having been “forwarded” by the GNR to Chesterford Station 3 days earlier.



The full price including insurance  was £398-12/-7d. He kept up his payments through 1878 but was in arrears by December 1879 when Foster’s were much obliged for the overdue hire payment  “glad to hear that we may soon expect to receive more” adding “We can quite understand that you find money comes in slowly. It certainly does in this district” .

The final firm but polite letter of the collection dated April 20 1880 finds Foster’s agreeing to wait for another harvest but expecting to be paid in full and reminding Alfred that interest would be charged at £10 % per annum.




It was in July 1880 that  Percy Everitt replies to an enquiry from Alfred, made either in remembrance of machinery seen at an agricultural show or quite possibly from press advertising such as Everitt had used quite frequently a couple of year's earlier: 





                                                                                            July 10 1880


Dear Sir,


Yours of the 8th inst to hand

for which I am obliged -

I presume you wish to hire the set of Roundabout

Tackle I have at W Cooks to work with your

own portable engine - after finding all necessary

men - I have not a cultivator by me suitable

for the tackle. but I could soon obtain one.

Will you be good enough to inform me whether you

would do the 100 acres you mention once or twice

over, and at what depth - please also say what

kind of land yours is and when you would like 

the tackle - “after harvest I presume” I have a 

splendid set I could sell you if you contemplated

purchasing - or would sell you the set at W Cooks

Alfred Burleigh Esq              Yours obediently

Little Chesterford                  Percival Everitt





To : Alfred Burleigh Esq.                            July 13 1880


Dear Sir I am much obliged by your letter - I will let you the tackle for a month for £25. you being responsible for breakages through carelessness &c. If these terms suit you - I will have a short memo of agreement made out

Yours faithfully

Percival Everitt



Alfred Burleigh Esq                           July 17 1880

Dear Sir,

Yours of the 15th to hand

for which I thank you but regret to say I cannot

accept your offer of £20 - for 5 weeks work - It would

not pay me at all, as I shall have to hire a suitable

cultivator - I note your remarks about uncertainty

of weather and in order to meet you as far as possible

will alter my terms to the following - viz: That I will let

you on hire the set of Steam Tackle at W Cooks for one month

from date of removal to date of return for the sum of

£25-0/- nett cash - and in the event of the weather being

unfavourable so that you have to leave off working the

tackle for seven days either separately or consecutively

during the month - then the time shall be prolonged

from one month to five weeks after the expiration


Page 2


of the month or five weeks as the case may a

rental of £5- per week will be charged for the

tackle until the same is returned in good

condition to the place where it was taken from

unless in the mean time some other agreement

is come to regarding the same-

I feel sure you will agree with me that these

terms are very liberal and will leave me a very small

margin for profit. If you contemplated doing

a quantity of ploughing after harvest I would try 

and come to some special terms with you if

you decide to hire the tackle on the terms proposed

Kindly let me know at once so that I can get

a cultivator. I would endeavour to spend a day

with you on starting the tackle

To save time in correspondance I would say that the 

terms herein contained are (my erased) the lowest I can accept.


Yours faithfully


Percival Everitt


Alfred Burleigh Esq                        July 20 1880                                                                        


              Dear Sir,

                                In reply to your favor of y-day

my last letter will mean your having the tackle 5-

weeks for the £25 - if wet so stated. Any breakages arising

from the carelessness of your men will of course be made

good at your expense - you can get the tackle on to your 

land as early as you please I am endeavouring to get

a cultivator down this week - I will also send a driving hand-

please let me know which side the engine your fly wheel

is on looking from the firebox to chimney - Regarding the 

penalty of £5 per week - this of course will only apply

in case you should continue using the tackle. I will

draft out a rough memo of agreement. but I shall hope 

to have the pleasure of making your acquaintance shortly


            Yours truly

                Percival Everitt


Memo  To Alfred Burleigh Esq.                                                 July 21 1880



Dear Sir - The cultivator leaves for Chesterford

Station tomorrow - Please pay the carriage on same

and I will refund amt. when we settle.


Yours truly

P Everitt




There is no further information to be gleaned from these papers regarding the outcome of Alfred's farming experience and Percy Everitt's inventive genius by this time was beginning to diversify into non-agricultural projects 

 copyright November 2020

Page last updated: Wednesday 2nd March 2022 4:39 PM
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