3 Pages

Glossary of harvest terms

The introduction of the mechanical reaper and binder transformed the harvest situation to the advantage of the regular farm servant. As regards the ordinary staff of the farm no labour was dispensed with, but for the unattached labourer - and for all those villagers who had been accustomed to take up field labour at harvest time - it was quite otherwise. Casual labour, whether specialist or local, was no longer wanted; there was no longer a need for a migrant labour force, or for the village population at harvest time to take to the fields. Farmers were able to put the opportunity of extra harvest earnings in the way of their regular employees, and the labour books begin to record special payments against their names instead of against those of outsiders.116 Overtime payments took the place of piece-rate jobs. Regular farm servants were now used in all stages of the harvest. Family labour was dispensed with. The farm labour force became more fixed. The independent villager’s position was undermined. There was more regular employment, but it went with a growing dependence on the farmer all the year round, with the spread of the ‘tied’ cottage, and with the disappearance from the countryside of independent men. As a Britwell Salome villager put it at the turn of the century: ‘You didn’t dare say a word as big as a clover seed or you might lose your job. There was always someone else waiting for it.’ 117 This was as much an expression of a new social grievance as an old economic one.