Ralph Basford farmed in and around the Crewe and Nantwich area
in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He was the son of
Thomas Basford (b. 1733) and the elder brother of William Basford
(b. 1771). He is therefore not a direct ancestor of mine but
he is highly interesting, primarily because of the amount we
know about him and the light this sheds on his lifestyle and
those who came before him.
The large amount we know about Ralph Basford's life is due
to the fact that he kept a farm account book, which he also
used as a day book. He inherited this book from his father,
who used the book from 1789 onwards to record small retail sales.
Ralph, however, used the book much more regularly. After Ralph's
death, the book continued to be used by a third party (probably
his son) and a fourth person with diminishing regularity until
By the 1930s the book had eventually found its way into the
hands of Samuel Jackson of Wistaston, Ralph's great-grandson,
who had the book analysed by WB Mercer, who wrote for the Rease
Heath Review,a farming review publication produced by the local
Mercer wrote an in-depth analysis of Ralph's accounts as a
study of how a farmer would run his operations in the early
19th century. Ralph, who as well as being a farmer, was also
a constable and a church warden, operated two farms during his
lifetime - Stowford Farm at Weston and Church Farm at Barthomley.
Both of these farms were rented from John (later Lord) Crewe's
estate so if any land was ever owned by the Basford family,
it is likely that it passed into the hands of Thomas Basford's
elder brother (also called Ralph).
Ralph Basford first moved into Stowford Farm on November 4th
1799. The farm covered 120 acres, for which Ralph paid an annual
rent of £110, 2s 6d. He also had to deliver a cheese to his
landlord each year and do two days of teamwork. On his land,
Ralph typically grew 15-20 acres of wheat, 20-25 acres of oats
and barley, 15-20 acres of hay and left 10-15 acres as fallow.
The remaining 35-40 acres were grazed by his herd of 20 cows,
from whose milk he produced Cheshire cheese and, in the early
days, butter and cream. Ralph also kept pigs and sheep but his
main livestock was cattle.
Ralph's cheese was sold to factors in two large consignments
each year. These consignments were designated seasons make,
typically 300-400 cheeses and lattermade, usually about 130
cheeses. Stowford Farm had a staff of 2 women, 2 youths and
a man, all living in.
In 1804 Ralph moved to Church Farm, Barthomley, which he took
on a 21 year lease at an annual rent of £210. The exact acreage
of the farm is unknown but, judging by the rent, is likely to
have been in the region of 210 acres. At Church Farm Ralph increased
the size of his herd to 25 cows and also began growing turnips.
In addition, he purchased a horse threshing machine (1812) and
began threshing wheat and oats for other farmers.
Ralph certainly did very well in his early life at Stowford
Farm, which made a profit margin of 30%. Church Farm was less
profitable, only making a 10% margin, but it was enough to make
him comfortable. Indeed, he did well enough to be able to buy
a house and land at Hassall for £2500 in 1812.