The Verwood and District Potteries Trust


Area index

The need for secondary employment

The 1887 Agricultural Commission found that on the heathland, reclamation often consisted of letting

a large piece of land to a laborer on a lease for lives, with permission to build upon it. The result has been the erection of a large number of miserable cottages, occupied by these life owners, and never repaired. (Verwood's cottages are described later in the report as 'very bad'). The population exceeds the wants of the district, and a large number of the men work on the farms only in the summer, and go to the woods or do any sort of work that they can get for a living in the winter.

William Chafin noted the dependance on woodland and coppicing in the late eighteenth century. he drew a sentimental and condescending picture of

the industrious peasant who hath acquired a small pittance, sufficient to enable him to purchase a few spar gads for employment in the long winter evenings ... and while the master of the cottage is attentive to his work, and his good dame busy in her household concerns, the children are employed in picking up the chips and shreds of the gads, and with a few handfuls at a time feed the lingering fire underneath the little crock, containing a few potatoes or other vegetables, the produce of their small garden plot ... and the little blaze from each handful adds a temporary lustre to the dimness of their farthing candle. (He was making spars from hazel for thatching).

The Verwood area was always attractive to those trying to set up in farming because the land was cheap, but the poor land often defeated the settlers. Ralf Wightman recalled the area between the wars, when virtually every landholder was

a stranger who was tempted by the relative cheapness of the land and the nearness of Bournemouth into thinking that he could grow market-garden crops. Most of the little holdings have a sad history of continual change of occupants.