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What was the relative social status of a “grazier” in Victorian England?

What was the relative social status of a “grazier” in Victorian England?



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I'm looking at census returns for the village of Eversholt, Bedfordshire, in the Victorian period. Farming was the biggest employer. This is post-enclosure, 1851 to 1901. Enclosure happened in 1806.

Under "Occupation", farmers (as opposed to farm labourers) are always listed asFarmer… of 132 acres employing 3 men 2 boys. They were clearly understood to have quite a status, and sometimes the households included a servant.

Another occupation listed isGrazier. A grazier raises animals, as opposed to crops. Graziers could be well off: one of the quotations from the OED for Grazier is

1839 Dickens Nicholas Nickleby xxxv. 338 Broad-brimmed white hat, such as a wealthy grazier might wear.

Yet the census return never gives an acreage for a grazier, nor suggests they are employers, and I have yet to find a servant in a grazier's household.

I'm trying to understand what the relative social status of a "grazier" was.

  • Could someone listed as a "Farmer" raise both animals and crops?
  • Does "Farmer" in the census always imply direct control and management of the land, as opposed to someone who sublets a field for his sheep?
  • Was "Grazier" just a way of saying "Farm Labourer who tends animals"?
  • Would someone running an entire farm which raised only livestock be listed as a "Farmer", not "Grazier"? Was this just a rule of completing the census return?

Thanks!


By all definitions I can find, a "grazier" owns their own livestock. So the word refers to what we here in Oklahoma would call a "rancher" or sometimes formally "stockman".

I'm not an expert myself, but my grandfather was a farmer and a rancher*, so I did grow up sort of ranch-adjacent. I understand that livestock such as cattle can make good use of hilly rocky country that is unsuitable for farming. They can also be grazed on agricultural land that is being allowed to lie fallow (iow: rotate in grasses for a season, as is good practice if you are engaging in sensible crop rotation), and their copious manure production helps the process as well.

So if it was standard practice on the census to label the acerage of agricultural land in use, and it isn't being done for the ranchers, I'd assume one of two things is likely going on here:

  1. The "enclosures" only covered good crop land, and the graziers are using unenclosed open-range areas unsuitable for crops.
  2. The graziers in question are making some kind of arrangement with other farmers to graze their herds on land that currently is lying fallow (has grass rotated in).

It is quite likely that farmer/ranchers like my grandfather were listed as "farmers" (since they probably can only pick one profession on the forms), but of course that doesn't address the mystery of those landless "grazier" entries.

* -… and a Cowboy, and an Indian.


A farmer in England would have been someone with the exclusive right to graze or cultivate an area of land. They would either own the farm themselves or be the tenant of the landowner. Nobles and the church owning much of the land in England. On the other hand there was also common land where all members of the community had the right to graze livestock. You will still find commons in English villages today, though now they are generally used for recreation. A grazier would have been someone who kept livestock and grazed it on the common land rather than renting or owning land.


Well I have a very successful grazier on my family tree He made a lot of money buying a Manor House for £4,500 in 1855. He was widowed, no children, had a house keeper. He developed his cattle on the rich grazing of Leicestershire. Sold his animals to the London meat market. From his letters To other members of the family he mentions his 'Durham' bull and how successful he has been!


Acerage would be for arable: croppable land.

English in the 19th century (as in other centuries) has a horrible habit of conflating methods of making money with owning methods of making money. Farmers can be people who own farms, or people who conduct farming labour. Secretaries can run companies, or be run by companies.

In an enclosed (ie: arable) district people who run cattle or sheep are going to be poor. Compare to the sheep evictions in Scotland attested in Marx. And even here, the Graziers are going to be in employ, contract, headmen, of the actual owner. Much like arable farmers often ran 20 year leases off actual owners, so too will the Graziers be headmen given a run of cattle in actual grazing country.

But as you're dealing with an arable district the graziers will be poor: they will be running cattle on command for a farmer who actually owns side blow not worth "improving" or over seeding even under corn law as substandard arable. Remember that until the corn law ends loads of non-arable was corned due to the imposts on foreign corn.


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