England Occupations Animal Husbandry, Gamekeepers, Poachers (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades and English: Occupations-Military & Services  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Animal Husbandry[edit | edit source]

There are a number of Shire books on old breeds of farm animals and birds, for example poultry and domestic ducks and geese (Hams), raising doves (Hansell’s Dovecotes), British cattle and pigs (Porter’s British Cattle and British Pigs), working oxen (Watts), old British livestock (Vince), rare breeds (Alderson ), British sheep (Henson’s British Sheep Breeds), harness horses (Hart) and horse brasses (Vince), old farm dogs and old working dogs (Hancock).

A related occupation is that of the drover who brought animals to market on the hoof typically from the Celtic far reaches of the British Isles to south-eastern England for fattening on the lusher pastures and a ready market. The appearance of typically Welsh, Scottish or northern names in southern or eastern England, particularly along the major routes, may indicate the presence of a drover. Thus in Dunstable, Bedfordshire we see Elizabeth daughter of Ellis ap Rice in 1571, Philip ap Powell, and Elizabeth wife of Thomas ap Ryce in 1574.

Dairying was always the farmwife’s domain; Filbee (Cottage Industries. David and Charles, Newton Abbot, Devon, 1982) suggests that this was because only they had the high standard of cleanliness, patience and attention to detail necessary for making butter, cheese etc. She describes these processes and illustrates the equipment. Ingram has more details about dairying equipment. Farmer’s wives depended on the extra source of income resulting from the sale of dairy products to purchase items such as materials, cotton, needles and pins needed for household sewing— literally their pin money.

Gamekeeping and Poaching[edit | edit source]

The gamekeeper was one of the elite of the village hierarchy, with a status below that of the squire and rector, but above the doctor and schoolmaster (Jones, Old Occupations: The Victorian Head Gamekeeper. Family Tree Magazine. Vol 12 #3, page 11-12. 1996). Maurin’s 1995 article (Old Occupations: The Gamekeeper. Family Tree Magazine. Vol 11 #10, page 3-4) is valuable and the story of Britain’s greatest gamekeeping family over two centuries, the Grass’s, has been recounted by Jones, who has recently published a history of this occupation.

From 1710 until the mid-20th century all gamekeepers were supposed to be registered with the Clerk of the Peace, and thus noted in the Quarter Sessions records and reported in local newspapers, as are poaching trials which give evidence presented by keepers. The Quarter Sessions records called gamekeepers deputations give the name of the lord of the manor and on what date he deputed the killing of his game to the named keeper. Many are filmed and the chart below shows an example with my ancestor James Jupp.


Deputations of Gamekeepers from Sussex Quarter Sessions 1837-38

18 Sep 1837 Sir Charles Merrick BURRELL, Baronet of Knapp Castle in the parish of Shipley, Sussex, for the Manor of Clothalls, Sussex, deputed John BRISTOW of Swallows Farm in the Parish of West Grinstead, Sussex.

17 Oct 1837 William John CAMPION Esq. Lord of the manors of Hurstpierpoint, Wickham and Clayton and proprietor of Keymer Park Farm, Keymer, Sussex deputes James JUPP of Hurstpierpoint, Sussex.

10 Feb 1838 The Right Honorable Henry THOMAS, Earl of Chichester, Lord of the respective manors of Stanmer and Falmer, Sussex deputes Thomas DIGGENS of Stanmer, Sussex, servant.

Gamekeepers can also be found in private estate records, landowners’ biographies and wills, estate histories and local directories. The Gamekeeper magazine from 1897 included biographies, and Clarke runs an index of gamekeepers.

A warrener was a special gamekeeper employed from the 12th century to develop warrens (or conigers) for raising coneys (later called rabbits) for the table. He had to guard against foxes, weasels and stoats as well as poachers who could not afford other meats for their families. Goddard (Rabbits, Conigers and Warrens. Family Tree Magazine. Part I in Vol 10 #6, page 4-5; Part II in Vol 10 #7, page 8-9, 1994) has presented a good outline of their work. Rabbit killers carried out another job, being engaged to kill off surplus wild rabbits that had become a nuisance; they was usually not paid but kept part of the kill which were sold for meat and fur.

Ingram (Trapping and Poaching. Shire Publications, 1994) writes on and illustrates trapping and poaching history and techniques for deer; rabbits and hares; pheasants and partridges; songbirds; eels, pike, trout and salmon; and vermin (including poachers!) The trials of poachers, if caught, can be found in court registers and reported in the local newspapers.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online courses English: Occupation Records-Professions and Trades and English: Occupations-Military and Services offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

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