THE PRINCE CONSORT AN AGRICULTURIST.
IF an English gentleman of cultivated mind and rural tastes, pos - sessed of ample pecuniary resources, and who also appreciated the economical and social value of agricultural improvement, wished to combine in his pursuits the useful with the agreeable, there could be little doubt what would be the nature of those pursuits. The formation or remodelling and beautifying his mansion, gar- dens, and park, would afford vast personal and family enjoyment, while his consequent outlays would afford employment to the industry of his district. He would fatin largely, adopting the- best methods of management, and the most comprehensive principles of improvement. Nor would he be content with merely farming. He would seek varieties of soil and climate where he could apply and test the different systems of husbandry applicable to different circumstances. He would breed and feed the various kinds of domestic animals most in repute ; and he would subject the whole to the test of careful supervision and strict account keeping, which would render his operations no less useful to others than they had been pleasurable to himself.
Now all this was done by the late Prince Consort with a syste- matic order and completeness entirely his o vn. To the general public, to landed proprietors, and to agriculturists, a record of the acts and operations of the Prince Consort, as a landed proprietor and a farmer, could not fail to be useful and instructive. It is well to know what can be accomplished in land improvement and. agriculture where ample capital and the best practical talent are at command. Such a record we have now before us in a volume, right royal in its getting up, entitled "The Prince Consort's Farms : an Agricultural Memoir, by John Chalmers Morton." No agriculturists, and few others, require to be informed of the high qualifications of Mr. Morton—editor of the " Cydopasdia of Agriculture "—for such a work, and the permission of the Queen, aided by all the information the intelligent managers of the several farms whom the late Prince had engaged in carrying out his views, haa enabled Mr. Morton to produce a work which will form, so to speak, a landmark in the history of English agriculture.
The subject has two main divisions, the estates of Osborne and Balmoral, purchased by the Queen and the Prince Consort from their private resources ; and the farms occupied by the Prince, for the most part as tenant to the Commissioners of Crown Lands and Public Works. Osborne Manor, in the Isle of Wight, on which the now palatial residence, Osborne House, stands, was purchased for the Queen in 1845. Barton Manor, lying to the south of- Osborne Park, was bought in the same year. It comprises a man- sion, which has been rebuilt and improved, and contains apartments for the use of the Royal family, and attendants, and for the resi- dent manager of the property and his family. At the northern
end of the present estate are the Alverstone and Ileathfield farms, also bought in 1845 from two former proprietors. This now com- pact estate occupies the height and eastern side of that promon- tory of land which lies between the Medina River at Cowes and King's Quay, on the north side of the Isle of Wight. It extends over a surface four miles long and nearly two broad. The soil is for the most part gravelly, though some portions of the land are of stiff clay. Small portions only of the estate are naturally
fertile. The extent of the property is 1,810 acres, of which nearly 600 constitute the park round the house, and between that and the sea there are nearly 400 acres of woodland. On the inland or southern side there are 700 acres of arable land. During the past sixteen years great improvements have been made on this property, which, with the exception of one small farm on the northern end, was in the Prince Consort's occupation. Buildings. roads, drainage, and planting have been carried out on the largest scale. Upwards of 400 miles of covered drains have been made, and on the most approved principle, and many miles of open ditches have been cut through the plantations where the rootlets of the trees would soon choke up covered drains. Drives for more than twenty miles have been formed within the boundaries of the estate, which command every variety of coast and woodland scenery. The earth works have been enormous. In many places ravines, having been filled up and made soil to the depth of fifteen feet and upwards, constitute some of the terrace gardens around Osborne House. Rare shrubs and flowering plants abound in every direction, and Mr. Morton says :—" It is a striking illustra- tion at once of the mildness of the winters here and of the im- provement in the inner climate of the soil produced by deep tillage, and thorough drainage, that myrtles and camellias and magnolias blossom most profusely, though kept throughout the year in open borders ; that orange trees bloom and fruit in the open air, receiving shelter only now and then ; and that the Chusan palm, altogether unsheltered, survived the frosts of 1860-61." Amongst the incidents of these improvements we may mention that the acreable cost of drainage has been reasonable, and that the sewage from the house has been utilized by a very simple and effective plan, and made to give great fertility to about fifteen acres of originally poor grass land. This sewage was previously carried to the shore, and created an almost constant nuisance. As a glimpse, and a pleasing one, of the inner life of the Royal family at Osborne, Mr. Morton men- tions that the Prince Consort gave personal directions for all the planting, and with his own hands planted not a few of the shrubs which now ornament thegrounds ; and that each of the Royal children had a special garden-plot, whereon vegetables were grown, which were afterwards cooked at a Swiss cottage adjoining, on the occa- sion of juvenile entertainments. This cottage, upstairs, contained a museum of natural history. "The Crown Princess of Prussia still retains her little garden, and produce from it is sent each summer from Osborne to Berlin." Thus, while the purchase and improvement, from private means, are illustrations of the wise economy on the part of the Royal family, the domestic incidents mentioned show the healthy tone of mind the Prince's plans must have induced amongst their children.
The Barton farm and homestead, with the management of the land and stock of the Prince's Isle of Wight farm, are fully described in Mr. Morton's memoir, and this portion is well worthy of perusal by the practical farmer. Though this is not the place for any technical farming details, we may state the course of cropping, the kinds and management of the live stock, and above all, the large use of steam and other machinery, prove that under the Prince Consort's superintendence, the most advanced and economical system of husbandry was adopted. The hedges and fences are models of neatness and effectiveness. Of course, all this can only be accomplished by the employment of much labour, and accord- ingly we find no less than 1,100/. is expended annnally in manual labour, besides the 2001. for the corn and hay harvest. Of all the expenditure and receipts of the farm, the most complete accounts were kept, giving each under different heads, and a monthly abstract was laid before the Prince, who applied to it a full and firm consideration. Every year a real and stringent valuation was made in the autumn, of which the following are the recent results :—" There were 1,0001. worth of farm horses, 1,200/. of cattle, 1,4001. of sheep, 200/. of pigs ; nearly 3,000/. worth of corn and hay, 1,000/. of implements, and 500/. of root- crops ; and a capital of more than 8,000/. invested on the 800 acres."
The Balmoral estate is a Scotch Highland property also acquired by the Queen and Prince Consort, and lies on the right bank of the Dee, fifty-two miles W. S. W. of Aberdeen. Its position is in a deep narrow valley, under the shadow of the highest mountains in the kingdom, where the winters are so severe that the thermometer not unfrequently falls twelve degrees below zero. On the other hand, the summers are warmer than in the low country, where the heat is tempered by the neighbour- hood of the sea. In 1847 the leasehold interest of the Earl of Aberdeen in the Balmoral estate was bought by the Prince Consort, and in 1852 the fee simple was acquired by purchase from the Fife Trustees, Its area, about 10,000 acres, of which at the time of the purchase only about 200 acres were arable, and 800 acres were under natural wood, chiefly birch and Scotch fir, and the remaining 9,000 consisted of wide tracts of moss and moorland, interspersed with high rocky ridges, bounded on the south by the lofty precipices of Lochnagar. This tract was too limited to form a deer forest, so the adjoining estate of Birkhall, extending to 6,000 acres, was added in 1849. This property was bought for the Prince of Wales. Of the latter estate, 400 acres are arable, 400 acres wood, and the rest moorland. In the same year the intermediate estate of Abergeldie was ob- tained on a forty years lease. Here there are 14,000 additional acres, of which 500 are arable, and 1,200 woodland. The three estates form a triangular area of 30,000 acres, constituting the Balmoral deer forest. Here the residence was built, the grounds improved, plantations made, the homesteads of the tenants and cottages of the labourers improved, with the same discriminating adaptation of means to ends, and attention to local circumstances and feelings, as were aisplayed by the Prince in his operations at Osborne ; and in order to encourage tradesmen—the blacksmith, carpenter, shoemaker, tailor, and general shopkeeper, to settle on the estate, houses and gardens, with a croft for keeping a cow, were provided at very moderate rents.
So far we have seen the Prince chiefly as a landowner. Next we find the memoirs deal with him as a farmer. The Prince Con- sort's farms about Windsor consisted of, the Home or Dairy and Shaw farms, which are wholly pasture land. Here a herd of pure- bred short-horns Is kept. The extent of the two farms is nearly 900 acres, and there are two sets of farm buildings, erected by the Prince at the cost of 6,000/. The rent paid is 1,000/. per annum. 2, the Flemish farm; 3,the Norfolkfarm. These two farms were occupied by the late King George Ill., and were then managed with a view to illustrate the Flemish and Norfolk systems of farming. Hence the names of the farms. They have been improved and managed by the Prince Consort on the most approved modern systems. 4, the Ba.gshot and Repley farms, consisting of poor sandy soil, and kept mainly as a game preserve. At the Flemish Farm, which consists of strong clay land, a fine herd of Hereford cattle is kept; while on the Norfolk farm there is a capital herd of Devons. At the Bagshot and Repley farms Galloways and Kyloes, bought for the purpose, are fattened. At the Shaw farm there is a large stock of Berkshire pigs, and on the Home farm the pigs kept are of the Prince's well-known white Windsor breed. On these farms there is, perhaps, the finest cow-house, with the most complete dairy house, in the world. On the Norfolk farm the old wooden and thatch buildings of George the Third's time remain, but on the others farms new sets of buildings have been built. We cannot here involve the reader in agricultural details, but as a sample of the progress of English agriculture during the last twenty years, that part of Mr. Morton's memoir which relates to the four farms near Windsor, should be read by all who take an interest in agricultural improvement. Here, too, the Prince established the same system of monthly accounts and yearly valuations as we have referred to in connection with the Isle of Wight farm. And here, as elsewhere, the comfort, well-being, and elevation.of the farming labourers always engaged his most anxious attention. It was the Prince Consort's wish that every labouring man should be comfortably housed within a mile of his work. Acting on this view, he not only built excellent cottages on all the properties, whether owned or occupied only by himself, but also stimulated the Commissioners, in whose charge Windsor Great Park is, to follow his good example. "Accordingly, groups of cottages have been erected on the outskirts of the park, where provision for comfort by good-sized living rooms, with an adequate number of bed-rooms, has been united with extremely picturesque elevations and exteriors." Under the Prince's influence the Commissioners of Woods have steadily prosecuted the improve- ment of the Great Park by drainage and other works, so "that the greater part of Windsor Park, which only lately was an un- drained swampy or rushy pasture, is now as well grazed as any land in the country." And Mr. Morton adds this just comment, that "the change is a striking illustration of those means of cultivation adapted to the grasses to which the generally poor condition of our pastures is now directing so much atten- tion." Briefly as we have been able to deal with the infor- mation afforded by the "Agricultural Memoir," we have stated enouih to show that the late Prince Consort was amongst the first, if not the first, of England's agriculturists and land improvers.