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Rodericks in Kent, 1839

Having decided there was little more information I could find on drovers in Kent, I opened a few jottings and discovered I was wrong.

First, I came across a note in Richard Moore-Colyer’s invaluable Welsh Cattle Drovers: in 1753-4, when rinderpest first hit the country, three-quarters of the compensation certificates issued by the authorities in Kent were to drovers from North Wales.  The county was swarming with Welsh cattle – or they were better at getting compensation.

Secondly, M-C quotes John Bannister (A Synopsis of Husbandry, 1799), who wrote that cattle remaining after Barnet Fair were driven into the Southern Counties “… particularly Kent and Essex… where there are fed a greater number of Welsh cattle than in any other part of the kingdom, the graziers giving their preference to this breed.

 Lastly, I opened a computer file on the Roderick brothers.  A single account book survives showing the dealings of the Rodericks (David & Roderick Roderick from Porthyrhyd, near Llandovery) from 1838-9.  This diary of expenses incurred by David on a small cattle drove in Kent during Sept/Oct. 1839 is a list of unexpected meanderings.

The stopping-places mentioned on the September pages (apart from Maidstone) are highlighted in red on #1: Yalding (1), Sandway (2), Staplehurst (3), Cranbrook (4) and – most surprisingly – Fairfield (5).  F. is surprising because almost all that exists there now is a beautiful church amidst empty fields (see article on Romney Marsh); otherwise, one house and a narrow lane.  Yet it seems to have had a turnpike gate in 1839 where R. paid 7d – presumably for 14 beasts. (See #2)

The Rodericks were busy buying as well as selling.  The righthand page of #2 is hard to read because both brothers have scrawled their signatures across the top half with “The sum of Thirty pounds” then the word “Book” twice.  They seem to have started with 58 beasts, bought eight more (indecipherables) then 6 horses described as brown, old, filly & mare.  Maybe they had completed their selling at Maidstone Fair in the autumn of 1839 and were hoovering up the best cattle & horses before returning to Wales via the London markets.

The LH page on #3 is a continuation of the LH of #2 and appears to be a record of yo-yoing between Maidstone & Yalding without much business.  (Though one beast has been lost or sold before Yalding because the toll fee went down by a halfpenny.)  The purchase of 2d of lard is puzzling: was it used to cover the spare ciws (to avoid rust), to rub on to clothes for waterproofing, or just for cooking with?  Droving & cookery don’t fit, somehow.

#4 shows the Rodericks were still in Kent in October, selling beasts (heifers) at between £5 & £7 a head.  The indecipherable purchases in #2 had cost them between roughly £3.5 & £4.5, but a lot of expenses had been incurred.  It’s hard to make out from the disadvantage-point of nearly 200 years later whether that was a good profit or scratching a living.  The villages mentioned in North Kent in #4: Dunt[on] Green, Seal & Mereworth. 

#5 (LH) shows Maidstone, as usual; also Fairfied & for the first time Charing, north-west of Ashford.  These men moved around!  On the RH a special customer or supplier, a Colonel Wood of Me[o]phambank is mentioned.  Nowhere near Meopham, the farm was/still is at TQ 559475; it had 3 large ponds and a spring, so we wondered whether the kind colonel had offered the Rodericks grazing for their animals.  Perhaps he appreciated the manure their beasts left behind?

David R. writes at the bottom that he’s been at work 24 days and claims 2/= a day in wages plus 7/= to cover the expenses of his return to Wales. And here we have a problem: from Sept 10th to Oct. 22nd is considerably more than 24 days, even discounting Sundays.  Two droves from Wales were not involved inside that space of time - impossible - and the colonel didn't put them up, I should imagine.  Bit of a mystery.

Wish I could come to more definite conclusions.  Some of the pages seem to indicate a rather desperate search for buyers/sellers, but I think they were good businessmen: how else could they have improved on the price so well without having had time to add value by grazing?

And at least £60 went into the bank…

Rodericks in Kent, 1839 image 1
The Stops