eyes of Thomas Francis, who lived and farmed in
Martham all his adult life from around 1770 until his
death in 1837, Peter Dawson introduced us to local
farming during a period of agricultural change. Real
local history that brought things to life.
Ingham in 1743, Thomas married Elizabeth Proctor on
13th April 1769 at St Mary’s, Martham. Her father was
the largest landowner in Martham at the time and lived
at Martham Hall on Hall Road. Thomas’s son married
into the Rising Family whilst other family marriages
meant that Thomas became “well connected to all the
great and good of Martham of those days”.
neither peasant nor gentry, remained a yeoman farmer
who was very closely connected to the soil. Records
and tithe maps show that he owned about 90 acres of
land in and around his home, West End Cottage, which
later was altered and became Grange Farm, at Cess.
He did however have the red brick barns built
next to the house in 1797. He also laid claim to some
freehold land in the manor of Scratby and may have
rented more as his harvest yields of 1800 show that he
had at least 137 acres in crop. He probably employed
10 to15 men and perhaps some boys.
rapidly growing population forced farmers into greater
efficiency and innovation. Thomas was amongst the
leaders in increasing yields in the Flegg. He
even invented his own sort of plough suited to
the light, shallow soils. Fields were no longer
left fallow and new rotations were adopted.
Thomas’ rotation was turnips (which could grow in
the winter and be fed to livestock); barley;
clover (which fixed nitrogen from the air into the
soil); wheat; and peas (another nitrogen fixer).
He fattened bullocks, some Norfolk breeds and
some brought by drovers from Scotland. Lots of muck
from the beef cattle, and more from the farm horse
population, was deposited daily in the yard, carted to
the fields, spread and turned in by the men and boys,
and later ploughed in. Fertile soil, but long hours.
was the life of a yeoman farmer from Martham in around
1800 and one that appears to have been very
successful, but seems, sadly, little remembered as,
Peter showed us, the tomb where Thomas and Elizabeth
now lie is somewhat overgrown.