Posts Tagged ‘potato’

Earthing up the spuds

April 3, 2014

Potatoes grow the tubers underground but they are shallow rooted and the new potatoes can be very near or even poking out above the surface. If that happens the new tuber turns green and is not good to eat. From the grower and consumer point of view it is important to keep those new and developing spuds in the dark.

The simple way of doing this is to drag earth from the gaps between the rows of plants and pile it up higher close by them. It’s a process called earthing up.

If you are a domestic gardener you probably earth up with something like a draw hoe. It may be a bit small for the job but with only a garden’s worth to do it just isn’t worth investing in a specialist tool.

However, if you are a market gardener, working on a field   scale then you need a proper tool for the job. These days, no doubt, you’d   have something tractor hauled. Back in the 19th century, potato   earthing would have been done by hand with a tool like this.

This long handled tool could be dragged between the rows   and its shape and angle moved earth to the edge, making sure those growing   tubers were well covered.


19th century potato earther

The length of the handle helped to make sure that the   metal blade did not dig deep into the ground and the slightly enlarged bob on   the end of the handle helped to make sure the earther didn’t slide from the user’s hands.

It was hard work. By the time this tool had been dragged   over an acre of land then the user would have walked some five miles or more,   all the time dragging earth.

No wonder frequent stops were needed and drinks taken.

After use the tool would have been carefully cleaned, the   blade would have been oiled and so, too would the handle, although the oil   used was linseed in that case.

You can see this late 19th century tool in the trades room at Market Lavington Museum.

James Lye

April 7, 2010

James Lye is one of the better-known inhabitants of Market Lavington in times past. He earned renown as a gardener at Clyffe Hall where he worked for the Hon Louisa Hay. No doubt at some time we’ll return to the source of his fame, which was fuchsia growing.

James Lye also won an award for a new variety of potato, which he developed. The medal, awarded to celebrate three hundred years of the potato, is now at Market Lavington Museum.

Reverse of medal won by James Lye for his potato variety, 'Clipper'

Obverse of James Lye potato medal in Market Lavington Museum

His potato variety was called ‘Clipper’ and if anybody knows anywhere to obtain any, we’d love to grow them at Market Lavington.

But what about James Lye’s life? He was born in 1830 in Market Lavington and baptised at the village church on 22nd August. His father, Richard was a labourer and he and his wife, Ann, had a large family.

Inevitably, we know nothing of his early life. He may have been a boy servant at Cornbury Mill in 1841 but as a word of warning for family researchers, the 1841 census for Market Lavington and Easterton has not survived.

By 1851 James was married to his wife Maria (née Smith) and a daughter had been born. The young family lived on Northbrook in Market Lavington and James was earning his keep as a gardener.

In 1861 James was listed as ‘Gardener to the Hon Mrs Hay’. The growing family lived on White Street in Market Lavington

In 1871 James was living, no doubt very conveniently, at The Lodge, Clyffe Hall – on the spot for his gardens and greenhouses. He was there for at least the next twenty years but by 1901 James had retired and he and Maria had moved to Oak Lane in Easterton.

Both James and Maria died during the reign of King Edward VII. They are both buried in Market Lavington churchyard.