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The Basford Family of Nantwich

Ralph Basford 1769-1818

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Ralph Basford 1769-1818

 

Basford Family Lineage
The Basford Family of Nantwich



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 1835.

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 agricultural college.

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.