Jour. Royal Agricultural Society of England, 4:267-269 (1843)

II.—On Burning Clay.

perch=rod=5.5 yards

BURNING land is much practised in the Roothings, containing nine parishes, and adjacent parishes, High and Good Easter, Roxwell, Mashbury, Pleshey, over a country about 10 miles from south to north, and from 5 to 6 miles from east to west. The expense of burning land is from 20s. to 25s. per acre, according to the previous state of the land and the present price of labour. The fuel generally used is a good wagon-load of haulm per acre; some give a small quantity of brush. wood which is trimmed from the brows of hedges, or a portion of bean-straw in addition. Some burn the heaps at 4 perches square, 40 per acre, and each heap is expected to contain 3 yards of ashes. Some burn the heaps at 8 yards square, 75 1/2 per acre, and each heap is expected to contain 2 yards of ashes. The 8-yard fires cost 2s. to 3s. per acre more than the 4-perch fires. The whole of the ashes are spread, and the land fallowed in the usual way. It is repeated every four to six years, as may suit the rotation of crops. It is an excellent preparation for all kinds of corn; on the thin skin land white turnips are grown well after burning; it absorbs the water, the land dries earlier, can be worked and sown sooner in the spring. The improvement on the crop amply pays for the outlay, as well as having the land much better for the following crops. Burning is a fertiliser to the soil, and the oftener it is burned the more it improves the staple and quality of the land. So far from destroying the soil, it acts greatly to its improvement, and is highly conducive to the growth of the cultivated crops; the effects may be seen more particularly in the clover. It is too early in the season to send some ashes, or clay which has been burnt.

Mr. F. Mathews, of High Easter Land, owner and occupier to a considerable extent, burns all he can, and allows his tenants to break up old pasture, provided they burn.

III.—On Burning Clay.

To T. W. Bramston, Esq.

MY DEAR SIR,It is thirty years since I began the system of burning earth for manure, on a very small scale, in an imperfect and very expensive manner; but in a few years afterwards I reduced it to a regular course of farming, commencing by sowing from 10 to 12 lbs. of the best trefoil seed, and from 4 to 6 pecks of rye-grass per acre, on the exhausting wheat crop, early in the spring, having it harrowed and rolled in, the expense of which is amply repaid by the autumn and spring feed it produces, enabling a much larger flock of sheep to be kept. There is a twofold advantage in being liberal in the quantity of seed sown-that is, in the quantity of feed and in the increase of herbage, which materially assist the burning, and much improve the quality of the ashes.

It is highly necessary to have the land well under-drained before it is burnt. I drained nearly all the Bury Farm about 4 yards apart (some only 3 yards, which paid the best) before I burnt it. I have now made up my mind to have them only 6 or 7 feet apart, and from 16 to 18 inches deep, with the mole-plough and 16 horses. I have proved it positively by experience that the mole-plough on the clay lands is far superior to the spade, independent of the comparative small expense of the former. If you observe as the mole of the plough moves on, you will see the earth heave up near a yard wide each side of the plough, and it loosens the subsoil much more effectually, in my opinion, than any other plough made for that purpose, and prevents the possibility of any stagnant water remaining on the land. It might then always be sown on the flat or Kentish mode, instead of the old-fashioned Roothing ridges, or high-back stetches—that is, if it is followed up by effectual burning about once in six or eight years, with an intermediate coat of yard manure or folding, and would double the returns of much of the Roothing land, both as to stock and crops; and (what seems to be so much overlooked by most of the landed proprietors, but what I consider, in these times in particular, of infinite importance) it would enable the farmer to employ double the number of labourers to advantage, and eventually increase the value of the land full 25 per cent. I believe I was the first who introduced the system on the clay lands; and although it cost me, for several years, 1000l. per annum for labour, on little more than 500 acres, I am perfectly satisfied with the result as to myself, and I know the farm is let for more than 30 per cent. more to the present tenant. I state this, sir, to satisfy you of the permanency of the improvement. I give your bailiff, Eli Turvill, much credit for the business-like manner in which he has stated the particularsóresulting, as they must, from an observing and inquiring mind; and I think what I have stated here, from practical experience, fully bears him out. If you follow this system out, it will, from the number of labourers necessary, require the vigilant eye of the master to do justice to it.

I could say much more in favour of burning were I to go more into detail as to the results from my burning for the last twenty years, but I fear I have already troubled you too long.

I am, &c.
Bois Hall, 27th March, 1843.