A General View of the Agriculture of the County of Leicester (1794)

John Monk


Under-draining is in high repute the methods pursued depending on the nature of the land to be improved. Bogs are drained by deep cuts, and hollow drains of brick or stone. Some wet lands also are drained with pebbles, and some with brush-wood, thorns, &c. with which they can only look for an advantage of a few years continuance. A great deal is done with turf, to carry off the surface-water, and land-springs, which arise in wet seasons only. Some very capital improvements have been made by the first method, and many also by turf-draining. Moles are great enemies to this latter mode, by working down to, and often filling up, the channels in the summer.

The most capital improvements have been made under the direction of a Mr. Elkington, who is supposed to be the first in that line in the world. After forming the drains by beginning at the fall, and working upwards, he makes use of a borer to find the spring, with which he generally succeeds, which has a wonderful effect in draining the land. It is said that he has a very quick and certain method of finding where the springs lie, peculiar to himself.

By the use of the borer, Mr. Astley had a piece of land drained, without going into it, by the following circumstance. Mr. Elkington was employed in draining a piece of land belonging to Mr. Richard Astley, which was separated from his brother's by a small river or deep rivulet. Mr. Elkington, finding the spring at about sixteen feet from the surface (under the bed of the river) completely drained both pieces. I was informed, that some time since Mr. Eikington was engaged in draining a piece of land near Lutterworth; and soon after he had found (some call it tapping the spring) the spring, the inhabitants, to their very great surprize, found their wells all dry. After investigating the cause, it was found that Mr. Elkington had been the means of it, by cutting off the spring which supplied the town with water. I mention the above two instances merely to shew what a wonderful effect the borer has, and what a very capital instrument it is for draining. The borer is of the same kind as the instrument made use of for boring in search of pit-coal, &c. the lower part is in the shape of a large auger, from 2 1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. It is made in different lengths, and screws one on to the other to any length you choose. It is worked by two men, who, after they have bored down one piece into the ground, screw on another length, and so on till the spring is found, or as deep as they think proper. The borer above the auger part is about an inch square; and the men have each of them an iron bar, one end of which is fitted to the square part of the borer which serves as a handle to assist in boring. I do not mean to say that Mr. Elkington is the only person that makes use of the borer; for there is such a very great spirit for this kind of improvement, that there are very few of the best farmers without this instrument.

Mr. Elkington has so much business, that it is with great difficulty he is to be had when wanted. He is generally paid by the piece; but when by the day, one guinea and his travelling expences. He has two sons, whom he as bringing up in the same line.

Bricks are made on purpose for this work. When small drains are wanted, the bricks are hollowed out in this manner, and by being placed one upon the other form the drain (or pipe). When larger drains are wanted, the bricks are made in this form, and are placed in this manner, with a stone on the top. The mould pressing on the sides of the bricks keeps them firm in their places. Turf is laid upon the stone, with the grass side downwards, and the drain filled up with the mould, &c. that came out of it. These bricks are about nine inches long, and cost 30s. per thousand. The duty upon bricks is a great hindrance to this kind of improvement. Could it not be taken off?

Johnstone: 1801