Appendix L : The Channel Islands -- The Sicily Islands
The text is taken from my copy of FIELDS, FACTORIES AND WORKSHOPS: or Industry Combined
with Agriculture and Brain Work with Manual Work, Thomas Nelson & Sons, London, Edinburgh, Dublin and New York, 1912.
L. THE CHANNEL ISLANDS--THE SCILLY ISLANDS . .435
The excellent state of agriculture in Jersey and Guernsey has often been mentioned in the agricultural and general literature of this country, so I need only refer to the works of Mr. W. E. Bear (Journal of the Agricultural Society, 1888; Quarterly Review, 1888; British Farmer, etc.) and to the exhaustive work of D. H. Ansted and R. G. Latham, The Channel Islands, third edition, revised by E. Toulmin Nicolle, London (Allen), 1893.
Many English writers certainly not those just named are inclined to explain the successes obtained in Jersey by the wonderful climate of the islands and the fertility of the soil. As to climate, it is certainly true that the yearly record of sunshine in Jersey is greater than in any English station. It reaches from 1,842 hours a year (1890) to 2,300 (1893), and thus exceeds the highest aggregate sunshine recorded in any English station by from 168 to 336 hours (exclusively high maximum in 1894) a year; May and August seeming to be the best favored months.* (* Ten Years of Sunshine in the British Isles, 1881-1890). But, to quote from the just mentioned work of Ansted and Latham:-
There is, doubtless, in all the islands, and especially in Guernsey, an absence of sun heat and of the direct action of the suns rays in summer, which must have its effect, and a remarkable prevalence of cold, dry, east wind in late spring, retarding vegetation (p. 407). Everyone who has spent, be it only two or three weeks in late spring in Jersey, must know by experience how true this remark is. Moreover, there are the well-known Guernsey, fogs, and owing also to rain and damp the trees suffer from mildew and blight, as well as from various aphides. The same authors remark that the nectarine does not succeed in Jersey in the open air owing to the absence of autumn heat; that the wet autumns and cold summers do not agree with the apricot; and so on.
If Jersey potatoes are, on the average, three weeks in advance of those grown in Cornwall, the fact is fully explained by the continual improvements made in Jersey in view of obtaining, be it ever so small, quantities of potatoes a few days in advance, either by special care taken to plant them out as soon as possible, protecting them from the cold winds, or by choosing tiny pieces of land naturally protected or better exposed. The difference in price between the earliest and the later potatoes being immense, the greatest efforts are made to obtain an early crop.
The decline of prices per ton is best seen from the following prices in 1910:-
Week ending Quantities exported. Prices.
Tons. £ s. d.
April 2-30 . . . . . . . . . . 210 30 11 0
May 7 . . . . . . . . . . 600 18 12 8
14 . . . . . . . . . . 1,250 15 12 0
21 . . . . . . . . . . 2,000 13 0 0
28 . . . . . . . . . . 5,500 10 3 8
June 4 . . . . . . . . . . 7,825 8 13 4
11 . . . . . . . . . . 9,200 6 5 8
18 . . . . . . . . . . 13,000 4 17 6
25 . . . . . . . . . . 9,650 4 8 10
July 2 . . . . . . . . . . 6,600 3 13 8
9 . . . . . . . . . . 1,900 2 18 6
16 . . . . . . . . . . 145 3 9 4
23 . . . . . . . . . . 10 3 18 0
Total . . . . . . . . . . 57,890 £381,373
The quantities of early potatoes exported varied during the years 1901 to 1910 from 47,530 tons to 77,800 tons, and their value from £233,289 to £475,889.
As to the fertility of the soil, it is still worse advocacy, because there is no area in the United Kingdom of equal size which would be manured to such an extent as the area of Jersey and Guernsey is by means of artificial manure. In the seventeenth century, as may be seen from the first edition of Falles Jersey, published in 1694, the island did not produce that quantity as is necessary for the use of the inhabitants, who must be supplied from England in time of peace, or from Dantzic in Poland. In The Groans of the Inhabitants of Jersey, published in London in 1709, we find the same complaint. And Quayle, who wrote in 1812 and quoted the two works just mentioned, in his turn complained in these terms: The quantity at this day raised is quite inadequate to their sustenance, apart from the garrison (General View of the Agriculture and the Present State of the Islands on the Coast of Normandy, London, 1815, p. 77.) And he added: After making all allowance, the truth must be told; the grain crops are here foul, in some instances execrably so. And when we consult the modern writer, Ansted, Latham, and Nicolle, we learn that the soil is by no means rich. It is decomposed granite, and easily cultivable, but it contains no organic matter besides what man has put into it.
This is certainly the opinion anyone will come to if he only visits thoroughly the island and looks attentively to its soil to say nothing of the Quenvais where, in Quayles time, there was, an Arabian desert of sands and hillocks covering about seventy acres (p. 24), with a little better but still very poor soil in the north and west of it. The Fertility of the soil has entirely been made, first, by the vraic (sea-weeds), upon which the inhabitants have maintained communal rights; later on, by considerable shipments of manure, in addition to the manure of the very considerable living stock which is kept in the island; and finally, by an admirably good cultivation of the soil.
Much more than sunshine and good soil, it was the conditions of land-tenure and the low taxation which contributed to the remarkable development of agriculture in Jersey. First of all, the people of the Isles know but little of the tax-collector. While the English pay, in taxes, an average of 50s. per head of population; while the French peasant is over-burdened with taxes of all imaginable descriptions; and the Milanese peasant has to give to the Treasury full 30 per cent. Of his income all taxes paid in the Channel Islands amount to but 10s. per head in the town parishes and to much less than that in the country parishes. Besides, of indirect taxes, none are known but the 2s. 6d. paid for each gallon of the imported spirits and 9d. per gallon of imported wine.
As to the conditions of land-tenure, the inhabitants have happily escaped the action of Roman Law, and they continue to live under the coutumier de Normandie (the old Norman common law). Accordingly, more than one-half of the territory is owned by those who themselves till the soil; there is no landlord to watch the crops and to raise the rent before the farmer has ripened the fruit of his improvements; there is nobody to charge so much for each cart-load of sea-weeds or sand taken to the fields; everyone takes the amount he likes, provided he cuts the weeds at a certain season of the year, and digs out the sand at a distance of sixty yards from the high-water mark. Those who buy land for cultivation can do so without becoming enslaved to the money-lender. One-fourth part only of the permanent rent which the purchaser undertakes to pay is capitalized and has to be paid down on purchase (often less than that), the remainder being a perpetual rent in wheat which is valued in Jersey at fifty to fifty-four sous de France per cabot. To seize properly for debt is accompanied with such difficulties that is seldom resorted to (Quayles General View, pp. 41-46). Conveyances of land are simply acknowledged by both parties on oath, and cost nearly nothing. And the laws of inheritance are such as to preserve the homestead, notwithstanding the debts that the father may have run into (ibid., pp. 35-41).
After having shown how small are the farms in the islands (from twenty to five acres, and very many less than that) there being less than 100 farms in either island that exceed twenty-five acres; and of these only about half a dozen in Jersey exceed fifty acres Messrs. Ansted, Latham, and Nicolle remark:-
In no place do we find so happy and so contented a country as in the Channel Islands . . . . The system of land-tenure has also contributed in no small degree to their prosperity . . . . The purchaser becomes the absolute owner of the property, and his position cannot be touched so long as the interest of these [wheat] rents be paid. He cannot be compelled, as in the case of mortgage, to refund the principal. The advantages of such a system are too patent to need any further allusion. (The Channel Islands, third edition, revised by E. Toulmin Nicolle, p. 401; see also p. 443.)
The following will better show how the cultivable area is utilized in Jersey (The Evening Post Royal Almanac):-
Corn Crops . . . . . Wheat . . . . . . 1,709 656
Barley and bere . 113 125
Oats and rye. . . 499 1,213
Beans and peas. . 16 34
Green crops . . . . Potatoes . . . . 7,007 8,911
Turnips and swedes 111 61
Mangolds . . . . 232 137
Other green crops 447 176
Clover, sainfoin and
grasses under rotation
For hay . . . . . 2,842 2,720
Not for hay . . . 2,208 1,731
Permanent pasture or grass
For hay . . . . . 1,117 944
Not for hay . . . 3,057 2,522
Baer fallow . . . --- 53
Fruit . . . . . . . Small fruit . . . --- 99
small fruit . . --- 1,151
Other crops . . . --- 240
Horses used solely for agriculture . . 2,252 2,188
Unbroken horses . . . . . . . . . . . . 83 69
Mares solely for breeding . . . . . . . 16 ---
Horses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,351 2,257
Cows and heifers in milk or in calf . . 6,709 6,710
Other cattle:- Two years or more . . 864
One year to two years 2,252 }5,321
Less than one year . 2,549
Total cattle . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12,374 12,031
Sheep, all ages . . . . . . . . . . . . 332 186
Pigs, including sows for breeding . . . 6,021 4,639
1887. 1888. 1889.
Bulls . . . . . . . . . 102 100 92
Cows and heifers . . . . 1,395 1,639 1,629
Average. Tons. £
1887-1890 . . . . . . . . . . 54,502 308,713
1891-1894 . . . . . . . . . . 62,885 413,609
1901-1905 . . . . . . . . . . 66,731 455,773
1906 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51,932 308,229
1907 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77,800 377,259
1908 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53,100 356,305
1909 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62,690 332,404
1910 . . . . . . . . . . . . . 57,890 381,373
The export value per acre varied in different years from £27, 6s. in 1893 to £66, 1s. in 1894, and even £95, 18s. in 1904.
As regards greenhouse culture, a friend of mine, who has worked as a gardener in Jersey, has collected for me various information relative to the productivity of culture under glass. Out of it the following may be taken as a perfectly reliable illustration, in addition to those given in the text:-
Mr. B.s greenhouse has a length of 300 feet and a width of 18 feet, which makes 5,400 square feet, out of which 900 square feet are under the passage in the middle. The cultivable are is thus 4,500 square feet. There are no brick walls, but brick pillars and boards are used for front walls. Hot-water heating is provided, but is only used occasionally, to keep off the frosts in winter the crops being early potatoes (which require no heating), followed by tomatoes. The latter are Mr. B.s specialty. Catch crops of radishes, etc., are taken. The cost of the greenhouse, without the heating apparatus, is 10s. per running foot of greenhouse, which makes £150 for one-eighth of an acre under glass, or a little less than 7d. per glass-roofed square foot.
The crops are: potatoes, four cabots per perch that is, three-quarters of a ton of early potatoes from the greenhouse; and tomatoes, in the culture of which Mr. B. attains extraordinary results. He puts in only 1,000 plants thus giving to his plants more room than is usually given; and he cultivates a corrugated variety which gives very heavy crops but does not fetch the same prices as the smooth varieties. In 1896 his crop was four tons of tomatoes, and so it would have been in 1897 each plant giving an average of twenty pounds of fruit, while the usual crop is from eight to twelve pounds per plant.
The total crop was thus four and three-quarter tons of vegetables, to which the cach crops must be added thus corresponding to 85,000 lb. per acres (over 90,000 lb. with the catch crops). I again omit the money returns, and only mention that the expenditure for fuel and manure was about £10 a year, and that the Jersey average is three men, each working fifty-five hours a week (ten hours a day), for every acre under glass.
The Scilly Islands. These islands also give a beautiful illustration of what may be obtained from the soil by an intensive cultivation. When shipping and supplying pilots became a decaying source of income, the Scillonians took to the growing of potatoes. For many years, we are told by Mr. J. G. Uren (Scilly and the Scillonians, Plymouth, 1907), this was a very profitable industry. The crop was ready at least a month in advance of any other source of supply on the mainland. Every year about 1,000 tons of potatoes were exported. In its palmy days the potato harvest in Scilly was the great event of the year. Gangs of diggers were brought across from the mainland, and the prices went occasionally up to £28 a ton for the earliest potatoes. Gradually, however, the export of potatoes was reduced to less than one-half of what it was formerly. Then the inhabitants of the islands went for fishing, and later on they began to grow flowers. Frost and snow being practically unknown in the islands, this new industry succeeded very well. The arable are of the islands is about 4,000 acres, which are divided into small farms, less than from fifteen to twenty acres, and these farms are transmitted, according to the local custom, from father to son.
It is not long ago that they began to grow wild narcissuses, to which they soon added daffodils (a hundred varieties), and lilies, especially arum-lilies, for Church decoration. All these are grown in narrow strips, sheltered from the winds by dwarf hedges. Movable glass-houses are resorted to shelter the flowers for a certain time, and in this way the gardeners have a succession of crops, beginning soon after Christmas, and lasting until April or May.
The flowers are shipped to Penzance, and thence carried by rail in special carriages. At the top of the season thirty to forty tons are shipped in a single day. The total exports, which were only 100 tons in 1887, have now reached 1,000 in 1907.
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