Twitch Burning in the  Fens

Twitch Burning in the Fens Robert Walker Macbeth, R.A. (1848-1910) Source: “The Great Fen” in the 1885 English Illustrated Magazine. Hathi Trust online version of a copy in the The Pennsylvania State University). Click on image to enlarge it.

Commentary by Samuel H. Summers

Towns and villages could be reared on the higher ground only, and so it was ; and here we may remark that there are no villages even now where the peat land prevails. A suitable foundation cannot be found in the peat, and farmsteads can be built only on some firmer spots, hence the farm lands are often at a considerable distance from the homesteads; and from this cause may have arisen the custom of “ganging.” It has been the general practice for the “ gangs ” of women and children to meet at the farmyard in early morning to be drafted off under the direction of the “ gangers." The law has put this system of ganging under certain restrictions in recent times, and the general enforcement of school attendance has checked it considerably. It is not our purpose to describe the daily work of the gangs, but one special work at certain seasons is to pull up the twitch (or couch-grass, Triiicum repens, which grows abundantly in the Fens), and to collect it in heaps for burning. [811]

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Miller, Samuel H. “The Great Fen.” English Illustrated Magazine. 2 (September 1885): 805-17. Hathi Trust online version of a copy in the Getty Institute. Web. 1 February 2021.

Last modified 1 February 2021