Employment in Willen

An agricultural labourer's life

The Whitings prided themselves on being thoroughly professional farmers. They liked to see everything in good order and felt they treated their farm workers well. Despite that, life as a farm labourer was very hard. The hours were very long and the pay was very low; the average labourer on a Whiting farm earned about 70p a week. With that they had to feed and clothe a large family, and may also have had to pay some rents for their farm cottages too.

This, much valued, labourer on a Whiting farm shows signs of his hard life. His face and hands are twisted and lined with years of hard labour, outside in all weathers. His clothes are of poor quality and very dirty and worn.

Farm labourers like the Goodmans and the Clares had very little spare time for hobbies.

They used most their spare time to grow vegetables and fruit, and to raise chickens and a pig in their gardens. They would go fishing or even do a little poaching for rabbits etc. All of this helped to feed the family. The photo shows 'Cowpers Garden' in Olney. A farmworker's garden would not have been quite this big, but it would have been full of fruit & vegetables.

Willen school was opened in 1847. After this date the children of the farm labourers learned how to read write and do sums. However, children of farm workers were expected to get a job and start earning some money as soon as they left school at 11.