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Account Books

Here are the first two pages from Roderick Roderick’s account book of 1838, now in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

Things to note:
  • The toll-payments (see ‘gate’) vary hugely.  The cost of taking an ox through a turnpike was a universal charge of one halfpenny, i.e. 24 beasts to the shilling.  At Llanfair-ar-y-bryn (third entry) Roderick paid 6s 2d (148 beasts); at Rhydspence (just above the tear in the page) he paid only 3s 5d, for 82 beasts.  So stock was continually being bought and sold during the journey.
  • ‘Cuse & nailes’, meaning cow-shoes (see Background History - Expenses).  A stock of these were kept, because plates would fall off during the journey.  They were wrapped in bacon fat to stop the rust, and a blacksmith was hired - it wasn't a DIY job.
  • The amount of beer consumed may seem alarming, but we are talking of 'sea-beer' (as given to sailors), only one and a half percent alcohol.   This was cheaper than drinkable water.
  • The high cost of grass, considering the owner of the field benefited from the manure.
  • The route: Rhydspence Inn (shoeing station near Hay-on-Wye, just above the tear in the page) - Hereford - Ledbury - Moreton-in-Marsh ("Morton") - Buckingham - Leighton Buzzard ("Lighton") - Watford - Billericay.  There he received £5 from a Mrs B. Davis and paid off the boys and himself.

A few things to puzzle over:
  • Payment for overnight grass is mentioned 9 times.  Add one more for the tear on page one and we have 10 nights with a day at each end.  To walk from beyond Pencarreg to Billericay in 12 days was quite a feat, especially as Welshmen usually rested on the sabbath.  So there must have been about five nights without an inn.
  • The last stretch from Leighton Buzzard to Watford is over 25 miles, far more than he could do in a day.  To Billericay it was even further.  
  • The usual payment to a boy was 2/= a day.  Roderick seems to have got off lightly.
  • RR should have made £500 - £800 from the cattle sale, so presumably the beasts had been paid for in advance, to a third party even.  As a paid drover, RR should receive 3/= a day, about £1 a week.  His £5 fee implies about a month on the road.
  • I suspect these accounts were written retrospectively, because there aren't the variations in writing you would normally expect.  (Look at the 9's in the pence column.)
  • Were they written by RR himself, or did he hire an Englishman?  RR's name at the bottom of the first page looks confident.  I think the writing is his.  
Account Books image 1
Roderick Page 1
Account Books image 2
Roderick Page 2