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William Cobbett

 


William Cobbett (1763 - 1835) was a radical pamphleteer, politician and defender of the poor, especially the rural poor.

From 1802 till his death he published the Political Register, a weekly newspaper.  After a trip into the deepest countryside he would add an article "Rural Rides".  The collection of 'Rural Rides was published as a book after Cobbett's death.

This month's article is a precis of one that appeared in the Register on Sept. 14th 1834 after Cobbett had returned from a trip to Holyhead. 

 

 

"Of ‘Welsh Cattle’ I have seen, in my time, hundreds of thousands.  They now go over Normandy Common1 in droves of a thousand or more, on their way to the fairs in Kent and Sussex...They are great favourites, and if kept to a proper age they make very fine oxen and very good milch cows, whole dairies of which are to be seen in those counties and in the weald of Surrey.


"I have now seen the beginnings of these cattle.  These mountains have, generally, little plots or strips of earth on their bases, or in the narrow valleys that wind themselves amongst the endless heaps of ugly rock.  These plots grow grass and the grass is excellent.  On one of these you see a little stone house...with a window about as wide as your hat.  [Nearby] you see a haystack...and...a little black cow or two and one or more weaning calves, about the size of a Newfoundland dog.



"These... are sold to the drovers or jobbers at one, two or three years old.  As they increase in age, they move on towards England and towards that food that is not to be had at their homes.  And thus they come off at last: two, three or four years old, to work, to be fatted, to give milk and fat calves in the South of England, where they cannot be raised with profit.  Hence the herds of...oxen with which I have seen the rich marshes in Kent & Sussex covered over; and hence the fine teams of oxen which plough & harrow & roll no small part of the lands at the foot of the South Downs.

 

"If one of those...Welsh women who raised these cattle could see one of her diminutive calves become a fat ox in Pevensey Level; or if she should see six or eight of them in the wealds, drawing a timber carriage with ten tons weight upon it, what would be her surprise?"




1 Just north of The Hog's Back, Surrey 


William Cobbett image 1
William Cobbett
William Cobbett image 2
Welsh Blacks at Work