[This material comes from Chapter 9, "Tools and Rural Industries," in Gertrude Jekyll's Old West Surrey: Some Notes and Memories (1904). One of her interesting observations in this introduction to her subject: very sophisticated argricultural technology, though constructed of iron, utilized horses. In other words, the mechanization of agriculture preceeded the steam engine and the gasoline engine. GPL]

THE greater number of the hand-tools in use in country places have gone on, without appreciable change of form or method of using, for hundreds of years. These tools have come by their forms simply from necessity, and when they have arrived at what is most convenient for an unchanging kind of use, there they remain. The form and size and weight have become fixed for certain classes of work. There may be slight local distinctions, and the tool may be in two or three sizes, but that is all.

It is only when whole ranges of conditions of life change, and certain industries cannot be carried on in the old ways, that the tools must alter to fit the newer needs.

Nearly the whole of the change from hand labour to machine work in agriculture has taken place within my recollection [Jekyll was born in 1843 — GPL]. In the old days hay was mown with the scythe, and made with the fork and rake. All the tools wanted hung in a small space in the labourer's back-kitchen or outhouse. Sometimes there was a large three-pronged wooden fork — a tool of great antiquity, but later used only for barley; and the farmer had a wide drag-rake with iron teeth. But for the actual needs of hay-making there were but three tools — scythe, fork, and wooden rake.

Now, to be fully equipped for hay-making, there are a number of horse implements, the larger ones requiring a pair of horses. First, there is the mower, then a choice of varieties of horse-drawn machines for throwing up and turning the hay — kickers, tedders, swathe-turners, and finally the horse-rake. The rakes are of fairly simple construction, but the other implements are of complicated mechanism, and all of them require housing, repairing, painting, and lubricating. The old hand-tools might all be hung upon one nail or peg; the modern horse machines must have a considerable range of shedding [i.e., sheds or buildings to house them]. And all these cumbersome things, involving so much housing and care, are for use within perhaps four weeks of the year! [181-82]

References

"Agricultural Labourers." The Cornhill Magazine, Vol. 29 (1874): 686-697]

Jekyll, Gertrude Old West Surrey: Some Notes and Memories. London: Longmans, Green, & Co, 1904.


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1 February 2009