The phenomenon of economic migrants is not a new one. Researching my family tree has highlighted the mobility of my ancestors during the 18th and 19th centuries. One such example is that of Thomas and Ann Hartley, one time residents at Park Hall, Mapperley and later of Rose Cottage, Orchard Farm, High Lane West, West Hallam.
Thomas was born in 1847 in the Hertfordshire village of Sandridge, near St Albans. The son of a farm labourer, he too worked on the farms in the Sandridge area. In 1869 he married a widow, Ann King. Ann was the daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Hart, who owned Beastneys Farm in Tyttenhanger, a village also near St Albans. Thomas and Ann’s first child, Frederick Thomas was born later in 1869 in Sandridge.
A survey of wages for farm workers in Hertfordshire in 1867 showed that they were somewhat below the national average for farming and considerably below those of other trades. A farm labourer would expect to earn between 11s. (55p.) and 14s. (70p.) per week. With piece work and Sunday work this would increase by a further 2s. (10p.) to 3s. (15p.) per week. From this would be deducted the rent for their cottages. This varied between 1s. (5p.) and 3s. 6d. (17.5p.) per week.
Perhaps not surprisingly dissatisfaction at such low wage rates lead to the formation of the National Agricultural Labourers Union in 1872. By March 1873 a branch of the union was established in Hertfordshire and the farmers in the Sandridge area were served with a circular asking for an increase in wages of 2s. (10p.) per week. This was rejected by the farmers as was a request for a meeting to discuss the issue. As a consequence some 80 labourers went on strike, each receiving 9s. per week in strike pay. As the strike continued attitudes hardened with the farmers agreeing amongst themselves to sack those on strike and not to re-employer any strikers on penalty of £5 per person taken back.
The union began to run short on funds and the farm labourers sought alternatives. Some chose to emigrate whereas others chose to move within the UK. Thomas and Ann chose the latter option.
Advertisements placed in the Hertfordshire Advertiser by the union offered a “Free Pass” for any farm labourer wishing to move to Yorkshire, Durham, Cumberland and Derbyshire. Here wages were of the order of 20s. (£1.00) to 30s. (£1.50) per week. As a consequence, Thomas, Ann, Frederick and Ann’s son from her previous marriage, Edward King, moved to Derbyshire along with Thomas’ younger brother, William and several other families including the Mansells and the Males. Although most of the families settled in Ilkeston, Thomas and Ann moved to Park Hall, Mapperley. Here in May 1874 Ann gave birth to twins, Sarah Ann and Mary Elizabeth. Sadly Mary Elizabeth was to die of meningitis later that year. They were still living at 17 Park Lane, Mapperley at the time of the 1881 census.
Thomas worked on various local farms as did Frederick. Edward became a coal miner and then a gardener. By 1891 the Hartley’s had moved to Rose Cottage on the High Lane in West Hallam, where they were to remain. Thomas died in 1922 and Ann in 1932. They are buried in the graveyard of Holy Trinity, Mapperley. Of the children, Sarah Ann married David Wood of Stanley Common, Frederick married Sarah Martin and, upon her death, Annie Elizabeth Martin, the daughters of Thomas Martin the blacksmith and Edward married Hannah Doare of Sandiacre before moving to Sheffield to become head gardener at Kenwood House.