Monday, September 5, 2011

National Farm Survey

Lower Shaw Farm

If your grandfather was a farmer at the outbreak of the Second World War, there is a resource available, which not only describes the farm but just how competent a farmer he may or may not have been.

With wartime shipping embargos in place it was essential that British farmers achieve the highest level of food production possible. While the Dig for Victory campaign called for everyone to keep an allotment, the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were photographed cultivating their own plot in Windsor Great Park. London parks such as Kensington Gardens were dug up, and even the moat at the Tower of London became a vegetable patch.

Meanwhile the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries began a survey of all the farms in England and Wales over five acres in size to assess how able Britain was at feeding itself during wartime.

Questionnaires were completed on site and maps were drawn up showing the farm boundaries. Details of the conditions of tenure and occupation were recorded and notes made on the general condition of the farm, the state of the buildings, the equipment and the availability of utilities. At the end of the inspection the farm was given an A, B or C classification.

The survey during which 320,000 farms were inspected took over two years to complete and cost £20,000. Market gardeners and poultry keepers were among those inspected while holdings of between 1-5 acres were the subject of a separate survey.

The MAP inspectors were often themselves experienced farmers, which probably accounts for some of the caustic comments they made.

Both Upper and Lower Shaw farms were inspected in late February 1942 by F.E. Price. Upper Shaw proved to be in a slightly better condition overall, although both farms were given a B classification on the grounds of 'personal failings.'

Mr. Price was kinder to the Hook brothers farming 61 acres at Upper Shaw describing them as "rather old fashion in their methods." He was more critical of Angus Webb who had 106 acres at Lower Shaw, claiming he had a "lack of farming knowledge and no inclination for hard work."

Results of the National Farm Survey, dubbed the Second Domesday Book, were released in 1992 after a 50-year closure period and are available for consultation at the National Archives in Kew.

An online search of the TNA catalogue looks more difficult then it actually is. Enter the parish you are researching in the search field word or phrase box and MAF 32 in the department or series code box. The reference number generated will enable you to order the document ready for retrieval when you arrive at Kew. If you are unable to visit it is possible to order a photocopy, Visit for further information.

Upper Shaw Farm

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