Page 14 - Moreton Village Only Book
P. 14

14 Moreton Village Only

                                                             Wars and Progress

                             HE DAWN OF THE 20TH CENTURY was no doubt welcomed by the community
                             in Moreton, as in other towns and villages up and down the country. Queen Victoria
                        T was still on the throne, the country’s power and prestige were still at a formidable
                        level and the great inventions of the second half of the previous century promised much to
                        ease and enrich the lives of all the people. One blemish on this otherwise rosy picture was the
                        Boer War but this was far away in South Africa, being fought by a professional army.

                           Despite this, the average farm labourer in Moreton at the turn of the century might
                        be forgiven for thinking that the “glories of empire”, and the reputation his country
                        enjoyed throughout the world for the quality and reliability of its manufactured goods,
                        meant little to him. He worked hardand raised his family on comparatively meagre
                        wages. The majority of the dwellings were cottages, occupied by farm labourers and often
                        several generations of each family, who were faced with the problems of scarce
                        food and clothing. There was always an opportunity for practising the hand-me-down
                        principle for outgrown clothes, as families at that time were much larger than today.
                        Family sizes were controlled by nature alone, as family planning was almost unheard of.

                                                                 While life for the farm worker and his
                                                              family was undoubtedly very hard, things
                                                              were not exactly easy for the farmers
                                                              themselves. “Landlord and tenant” was very
                                                              much the social order of the day, with only a
                                                              minority of farm holdings in the hands of
                                                              owner occupiers.

                                                                 The tenant farmers were beholden to
                                                              the landed owners, who were, in the case
                                                              of Moreton, the Wenmans and the Berties.
                                                              Tenants had to be clean-living and respected
                                                              members of the community who paid their
                                                              rent on time and kept the land in good order.
                                                              It was essential that hedges and ditches were
                                                              well looked after and buildings kept tidy and
                        Mr. & Mrs. Michael Bond – circa 1880.  well maintained, since the gentry were very
                                                              keen to impress the outside world with the
                                                              condition of their estates. There was very
                                                              little in the way of “security of tenure”, and
                                                              erring tenants were shown very little mercy.

                                                                 The precarious position of the tenant
                                                              farmer is amply illustrated by the treatment
                                                              of Mr. and Mrs. Michael Bond and their
                                                              family, who at the turn of the century were
                                                              tenants of the Thame Park Estate. Apparently,
                                                              they rented two farms, Moreton Field Farm
                                                              and Black Ditch Farm (outside Thame on
                                                              the road to Chinnor). In 1900 their 18-
                                                              year old son Fred was caught poaching
                                                              pheasants by the Thame Park gamekeeper,
                                                              whereupon the family were summarily
                        Moreton Field Farm.                   evicted from both farms. Overcome with
                        remorse, Fred signed up for the army and was at once posted to South Africa, where he
                        was killed in the Boer War.

                           For many, employment on the farms was the obvious choice in country districts,
                        though even in 1900 there was perhaps an alternative. Indeed, it is recorded that in
                        the latter years of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, there was a
                        brickworks on the north side of Rycote Lane opposite the turning to Moreton, on the
                        site now occupied by a large transport depot and the Rovacabin works. The business was
                        initially known as “The Christmas Hill Brickworks”. Its precise origins are unknown
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