• richardfree

THE MODEL FARM - The Super Yacht of the C18th?

So you have made some money - a lot of money, and you want to impress your friends and show high society you have 'made it'. You've got the cars, the houses, private jet, maybe even a football club, but to really make a statement you need a super yacht and the more expensive the better. In the C18th to C19th you needed a Model Farm.

Historically land was given by the King to his loyal lords. Sometimes it was taken away and given to someone else for political favours. Land provided an income from rents and the more land you had the power and influence you held. There were approximately 600 families within this aristocracy and the only way in was to have a lot of money and to marry into it. This took about three generations before becoming completely accepted so it was a long term game where only your heirs would progress.

The political stability created after the Civil War enabled Britain to become the principal trading nation in the world and made many of the merchants and adventurers very rich. As with most newly acquired wealth it was spent as it always is on the latest bling: clothes, fast horses and the current architecture. Despite the newly acquired disposable wealth land was always the real indicator of wealth and position and the farm was at the heart of this generator of income. As a nouveau riche wishing to progress yourself buying an estate was the way forward.

During the enlightenment in the mid to late C18th farming became an intellectual subject - how to improve yields through better use of the land and the development of buildings. Estate owners used this opportunity to flaunt the latest ideas by their farm layouts and buildings. This demonstrated that they were a) land owners b) wealthy c) enlightened. On a large estate of say 5000 acres there would be upwards of twenty tenant farms paying rent. The buildings would be efficient but no excess money was wasted on them, whereas the principal farm closest to the house - the 'Home Farm' which was used as the 'show farm' to demonstrate the owners wealth, knowledge, and prowess. He was happy to spend more money here on detail and innovative design, whereas the tenant farms were purely there to make money.

After the 1832 Reform Act there was less emphasis on the absolute status of the aristocracy however many of the wealthy industrialists newly minted still aspired to the ancient heirachy or wanted to demonstrate that their industrial techniques were better and could advance agriculture. No expense was spared on example farms - or Model Farms where the design, materials, and detail oozed ME ME ME. Now what shall we spend our money on next ?

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