The Farmers of Old England

Sussex Traditions Education visited North Lancing School recently to deliver a full day of workshops leading to a performance for families and friends. There were songs, dances, games and a mummers play, all brought together to tell stories of local history, myths and legends.

While researching threads connected to the Swing Riots, our traditional arts animateurs, Gail Duff and Bing Lyle, discovered a song called ‘The Farmers of Old England‘, in the Sussex Traditions database (asset number SXT2806). According to records, the song was collected by Francis Collinson from a Mr. Booker, at Warnham in May 1950.

The children at North Lancing School sang the song in their performance and it could well be the first public airing of The Farmers of Old England in many a long year.

This ‘database of cultural heritage for future generations’ idea would appear to be working!



The farmers of old England, they’re at their tricks again
To beat the labourers’ wages down they’re trying might and main
Here down in Kent and Sussex too, lock-outs they will engage,
For fifteen thousand working men to rob them of their wage.

I need not tell you all, labourers’ wages are but small,
For a drop of eighteen pence a week, the farmers now do call.
The farmers drink their wine, their wives and daughters shine,
But the men who earn their wealth for them in poverty do pine.

Now a man must have a tidy cheek, to want his men to work
For nine or ten shillings a week, when they will never shirk,
For that is all there’s left you know, when rent and firings paid,
And that’s the way that labouring men by farmers is betrayed.

Now if the weather’s very wet, they cannot work at all,
Their wages then on Saturday are brought down very small.
Here, down in Kent and Sussex too, deny it if you can,
The farmer’s pigs are better fed than many-a labouring man.

Thousands in this country scarcely would believe
The cruel, starving wages that poor men do receive.
They’ll work themselves to skin and bone while they are still alive.
To the Union and the pauper’s grave the worn-out men they will drive.

Gentlemen, to take the air, from London oft-times go,
They say the country’s beautiful, and so it is, we know.
But if they had to plough and sow and keep a family too,
They’d say that it was slavery, and I’m sure it would be true.