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Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908

Power and duties of providing small holdings – A county council may if they are of opinion that there is such a demand for small holdings in their county as justifies them in putting into operation this Part of this Act, and shall if so required by a scheme under this Act, provide small holdings for persons who desire to buy or lease and will themselves cultivate the holdings…

Power to acquire land for small holdings (1) A county council may, for the purpose of providing small holdings for persons who desire to buy or lease and will themselves cultivate the holdings, by agreement purchase or take on lease land, whether situate within or without their county. (2) If a county council are unable to acquire by agreement and on reasonable terms suitable land for the purpose of providing small holdings for persons who desire to lease small holdings, they may for that purpose acquire land compulsorily in accordance with the provisions of this Act relating to compulsory acquisition of land.

On Monday 17th August 1908 a sale by auction of Pusey Estate Land and Buildings, in various parishes including Charney Bassett, was held at the Lion Hotel in Abingdon by ‘Farebrother, Ellis, Egerton, Breach & Co. Much was bought by Berkshire County Council and subsequently let to tenants as smallholdings.

Reading Standard – Wednesday 17 March 1909

NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that the Small Holdings and Allotments Committee have acquired part of the Pusey Estates, more particularly described below, which they propose to divide up and let in Small Holdings of various sizes, available for occupation at Michaelmas next:—
This land is close to Charney Bassett Village, which is situate about three miles from Challow Station, G.W.R.
Persons desiring Small Holdings in this locality, who have not already applied, are requested to communicate at once with THE COUNTY LAND STEWARD. The Assize Courts, Reading, from whom further particulars can be had on application. Dated the 9th March, 1909.


The original tenant for this smallholding was Richard Rickards (see also entry for Manor Farm).  Two years later it transferred to George Bungay, 5th October 1911 and was valued at £122 0s 9d. [From Ruth Gerring]

Valuation and transfer to George Bungay
Valuation and transfer to George Bungay

St Mary’s Longworth Parish Magazine

November 1909

We shall miss the presence among us of so many of our old parishioners, who are leaving us to go into other parishes in consequence of the changes connected with the working of the Small Holding Act. We shall especially miss Mr and Mrs Craddock, who have always been such good friends to Charney. May we remember one another in our prayers.

January 1910

The workmen are still very busy with the repair of the houses and cottages in the New Road and other parts of the village. It seems likely that it will be some time before the new comers to Charney will be comfortably settled in their new homes. We hope that the experiment of Small Holding will prove a real success.

The Rev. G. C. Binyon (late Curate) and the Rev. T. H Trott, have kindly contributed toward the Fund that is being generously raised by Mr. and Mrs. Bouverie-Pusey, Sir William and the Misses Anson, Mrs. and Miss Fletcher, Mr. Strauss, M.P. and others, to assist some of the older inhabitants of the village to pay their increased rents.

Smallholding Rent

Smallholding rent bill receipt to Basil Sharpus 30th November 1945. £49 6s 6d being the rent due to the Berkshire County Council at Michaelmas 1945 for Holding 19(a) & 20 + allotments 5 & 6. [From Ruth Gerring]

Smallholding bill - Basil Sharpus
Smallholding bill – Basil Sharpus

Faringdon Advertiser and Vale of the White Horse Gazette – Saturday 18 September 1909 Small Holdings

The following letters from Sir William Anson, Bart., M.P., and Mr E. A. Strauss, M.P., are copied from the Times.”
Sir,—l have read with some surprise the letter of Sir William Anson in the issue of your paper for 30th ulto., with regard to the operation of the Small Holdings Act in Berkshire, in which he seeks deliver an attack on the small holdings movement generally, giving some particulars as how the Act may operate in the village of Charney in the Abingdon Division of Berkshire.
May I, the member representing the Abingdon Division in Parliament, and as one who has followed this particular matter with the closest attention, be allowed the courtesy of your columns in order to offer a reply on the points raised?
I feel sure that if Sir William Anson were fully acquainted with the circumstances of the purchase of the land in question by the County Council, and its subsequent letting to the applicants for small holdings, he would not, on those facts, come to the unfavourable conclusion which he has with regard to the subject.
The land at Charney was bought by the County Council a public auction without any element of compulsion entering into the transaction. The County Council having come into possession were naturally desirous not burden the ratepayers in any way, and therefore were wishful to secure the best possible return for their outlay. At the same time, l am bound to think that if the County Council had had some longer experience of the administration of the Act they would have been able devise a plan whereby inconvenience would be reduced to a minimum. The two farmers who will be dispossessed might, I believe, have been left undisturbed, because certainly one, if not both, were farming other land than that purchased by the County Council; and a sufficient amount of land could have been obtained from those farmers to satisfy the demand for small holdings in that locality without causing any of the dislocation which will take place.
With regard to the cottagers who will have to leave, most of those will, I trust, be able to find accommodation, provided the County Council will extend the time of the notice which has been given to them. But, of course, the question of housing accommodation is not less acute in North Berkshire than in other agricultural districts; and the real difficulty is the inability of the labourers to pay a fair rent for cottages. Up to the present an indulgent landlord at Charney has not been asking the full economic rent, with the result that the cottagers who have to leave are naturally experiencing a difficulty in finding other accommodation at such very low rent as they have hitherto been paying.
Sir William Anson’s statement that the Small- Holdings Act is being taken advantage of only by “the retired shopkeeper, the publican, and the small tradesman” is hardly correct. A list I have before me shows that quite a large number of the applicants in the neighbourhood in question are genuine agricultural labourers and others connected with the same industry.
But, surely, is it be expected that a great movement such as the small holdings movement can come into operation without the start creating some unsettlement? It must be remembered that the Act has to be administered by the County Council; and, while l am prepared admit that some of the members have endeavoured to make the Act work smoothly, there is no doubt that there are many County Councillors in no way sympathetic towards the movement. It certainly was not the intention of Parliament that the Act should be so administered as to deprive a farmer wholly of his farm; and a more sympathetic handling ol the problem in this case would have obviated what inconvenience has already arisen.
In conclusion, may I recall that the Small Holdings Act, which Sir William Anson now seeks to condemn, was on the second and third readings in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords carried without a division? Under the circumstances, if this class of legislation deserves the severe condemnation which Sir William Anson directs against it, one may fairly ask why it was not opposed at the critical stages by the Conservative Party in the House of Commons and later thrown-out by the House of Lords.
Yours faithfully,
House of Commons, Sept. 2nd.

Sir, – Mr Strauss has read my letter on this subject “with some surprise.”
I confess to having read his rejoinder, with good deal of surprise. First, I must assure him that I am well acquainted with the circumstances of the sale of Charney village and the adjacent farms, and that I do not blame any of the parties to the transaction.
A landowner sold some of his property by Auction; even at Limehouse this might pass without reproach. A County Council bought it for the purposes of the Small Holdings Act; and, having regard to the action of Radical members in urging the Board of Agriculture to hurry the Councils, or to supersede them, in the administration of the Act, the purchase was not unreasonable.
The result – the dispossession of farmers, labourers, and old people past work – is not denied. Mr Strauss thinks that most of them will be able to find accommodation elsewhere, and that agricultural labourers will take up the land for small holdings. On the first point I think that he is unduly sanguine; the second I am extremely sceptical.
But some remarkable pleas are put forward in extenuation of the Act and its effects.
First, the landlord had let the cottages “at less than the economic rent.” The County Council, if the small holders leave any cottages spare, most ask the full economic rent, and this the cottagers cannot pay. It is gratifying learn that the rural landowner is not always the grasping tyrant described on the Radical platform; but his kindliness is inconvenient when a County Council takes his place, and raises the rents. Is this blackmail? I do not call it so.
Next we are told that the Act has be administered by County Councils; that these are inexperienced; that they are in some cases unsympathetic, and unwilling make the Act work smoothly. Hence the Charney troubles.
If inexperience is set up in extenuation it seems a pity that members for neighbouring county divisions have boon persistent in urging the Board of Agriculture to hurry the County Councils into prompt action. Want of sympathy involves graver charge. Mr Strauss seems to suggest that members of his County Council have deliberately brought about the Charney evictions, and the consequent distress, in order to discredit an Act, which they dislike. I cannot accept this view.
Lastly, Mr Strauss in one part of his letter assumes that I am opposed to small holdings generally; and in another part argues that because the Opposition did not divide the House certain stages of the Bill they are responsible for all its shortcomings.
Now believe that the Opposition, in the words of Lord Lansdowne, “ungrudgingly accepted the policy of extending small holdings”; but it is really too much to contend that are therefore responsible for miscarriages in the ill considered machinery of a Bill driven through a Standing Committee almost without alteration, drastically guillotined at the report stage, and sent up to the Lords in the last days a long and tiring Session.
Mr Strauss distributes the responsibility for the troubles Charney between the too indulgent landlord, the unsympathetic County Council, and his own leaders, who, on his own showing, have forced through both Houses a measure liable to be administered way which “certainly was not the intention Parliament.” I am disposed to hold Government responsible for the defects its own legislation.
I am, Sir, yours faithfully,
September 7th.

Sir, Sir William Anson’s further letter on the question of the administration of the Small Holdings Act in North Berkshire would seem to show that he is chiefly concerned to discredit the Small Holdings Act of the present Government by quoting as evidence the temporary state of un-settlement at Charney.
As Sir William Anson pointed out in his first letter, the object of the Act is to bring the people back to the land, and this, when matters have settled down, will be the result Charney, because there will be many more people directly associated with and working on the land than was the case before the purchase took place. By exercising a spirit accommodation the amount of inconvenience will reduced to minimum; and if Sir William Anson will make further inquiries I think he will find that the number of families likely to have seek work and housing accommodation elsewhere will be about seven and not about 26, as stated by him in his letter.
As to the low rents that have hitherto been asked for the cottages at Charney, I have never suggested that the rural landlord is always grasping tyrant, and therefore Sir William Anson’s reference in this connection is wholly irrelevant. On the contrary, l am pleased to acknowledge the kindness of the late indulgent landlord at Charney, more particularly as he happens to be one of my most prominent supporters, being president the North Berks Liberal Association.
Sir William Anson, says that he is extremely sceptical as to the land being taken by agricultural labourers. Of course I have no knowledge as to class of tenant that the County Council themselves are bringing on to the land purchased at Charney, but I can speak with certainty as to the applicants on whose behalf the North Berkshire Small Holdings Society are seeking to obtain land at Charney and other places in North Berkshire. They are mainly those who have been, and are, working on the land, and who, by becoming directly interested in its development, will do much to arrest the depopulation of the rural districts.
It is quite easy to be wise after the event; but Sir William Anson and his party cannot get rid of the fact that the Act which he now seeks to criticize was not opposed by them during its important stages in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords.
Up to the present; over 40,000 acres for small holdings have been acquired under the Small Holdings Act in response to the demand in different parts of the country, and this fact alone is ample justification for the passing the measure by the present Government. But if Sir William Anson, during the passing of the Act, was so certain of the disastrous results that would follow from such legislation, it was clearly his duty to oppose the measure and to induce his friends in the Lords to make up their minds to reject it.
Yours faithfully,
House of Commons, Sept. 8th.

Oxfordshire Weekly News – Wednesday 08 September 1909 Smallholdings
Oxfordshire Weekly News – Wednesday 08 September 1909 Smallholdings

Oxfordshire Weekly News – Wednesday 08 September 1909 Smallholdings

Writing to the “Times,” Sir William Anson says – The object of the Small Holdings Act. 1907, was I believe. to bring the people back to the land. Some of its actual results are illustrated by a case which may well enlist the sympathy of your readers. The village of Charney, in the Abingdon division of Berkshire, has been purchased, almost in its entirety. together with two adjoining farms by the County Council for purposes of the Act. The tenants of the two farms are dispossessed; their tenancies end at Michaelmas. One of them, an excellent farmer with a holding of 500 acres, was the principal employer of labour in Charney; and the substitution of the smallholder for the farmer throws a number of labourers out of work. But the loss of work to the able-bodied is not the only misfortune which has befallen the inhabitants.The Acquisition of the village by the County Council deprives them of their homes. The County Council has no power to deal with the purchase otherwise than for small holdings: and, as far as one can see, on September 29th some 26 families with their worldly goods will be turned on to the roadside. Their former employer, dispossessed of land which he had held for 25 years, is able to take one or two families with him to a farm to which he has moved an adjoining county. A few can get employment on neighbouring farms; but even these will be homeless from September 29th until October 11th, for the hirings in these parts begin on old Michaelmas Day, and those whose places they take will retain their cottages until the later date.
But far worse is the case of the old people, some past work, some able to do a little work, who with a cottage at a low with rent, and i several cases with an old-age pension, had hoped to to end their days in the homes where their lives had been passed. The County Council cannot allow them to remain where they are; there are no other cottages for them to go to, and on September 28th they will be homeless.Truly this is a strange way of bringing the people back to the land. The farmer, the agricultural labourer with his family, the aged poor are turned off the country side in order that the retired shopkeeper, the publican, the small tradesman may try their hands at agriculture. The Small Holdings Act, like the undeveloped land tax, is but an illustration of the belief of this Government and its followers that by drastic legislation they can mould the dealings with land so as to accord with their notions of what is good for the community. lt is a belief which may cost us dear before it is exploded.

We quote the following from an article in the London “Standard” on Tuesday:- The rustic population are in a ferment. It appears that the Berkshire County Council a year ago received several applications from fairly well-to-do people in different parts of the shire asking them to conform to the requirements of the Small Holdings. Act. These requests were backed up by a considerable pressure from the Board of Agriculture. Had the council responded to these intimations by purchasing small plots of land in the various localities where such were needed. keeping in mind the idea that, according to increased demand, so they could extend their purchases, all would now be well. But, for some reason or other, it was decided to form a “central colony.” The site selected was Charney, the situation of which is peculiarly adapted to make it the most unsuitable spot in the county for the successful development of this venture. The nearest railway station is from four to five miles distant, a great drawback to small holders with an eye to the London market. Further, the “colony” is at the other end of the county from London, while some of the 1,400 acres acquired would have been gladly let by their tenant farmers for 2s. 6d. an acre. Fortunately for the council, they happened to select as excellent year for their experiment. A rainy season – strange as it may appear – is the most profitable. An ordinary summer sees acres of corn land in these parts so parched that the crops garnered are comparatively valueless. Even so, the ultimate success of the venture has been further militated against through the farmers, in response to a suggestion from the county owners, having refrained from sowing the usual turnip-seed in some of the fields, which departarted from custom will cause the land to be less fertile when taken over by the small holders. The reason given by the council for spending the ratepayers’ mouney in this unpromising vicinity is that no other land was in the market at that period. But it is rightly contended in the village that there was no necessity for such an extensive outlay in one place at one place at one time. It has been also urged that the land was cheaply acquired. For Charney Farm itself, with its 370 acres, £6,400 was paid. Goosey Wick, near by, with 395 acres, was obtained for £5,400. Both these were rented by Mr. T. W. Craddock. who, employing about 30 or 40 hands, has farmed at Charney for the last 24 years. Now he has been told to quit, and leaves for another county at the end of September. Eastfield and Coldharbour Farms, in the adjoining parishes of Hatford and Stanford-in-the-Vale, farmed by Mr. Brooks, covering 447 acres, were bought in at £4,700, and sold afterwards to the council by private treaty. But it must be remembered that something like £100 yearly is due from each of these three investments for tithes and taxes. Then Ploughley, two and a half miles away, has also been acquired. Its 56 acres were bought for £2,150. By an unfortunate coincidence this farm was rented by Mr. Craddock, a son of Mr. Craddock, of Charney, who, like his father, will also be dispossessed, and, like the other farmers, will have to seek “fresh woods and pastures new.” Even this number of acres did not satiate the desire of the Berkshire County Council to indulge their “land-grabbing” proclivities. They must needs purchase for £950, 30 acres now rented, in plots of an eighth and a quarter acres, by the labourers of Charney; and for another £1,150 some 36 acres at East Hanney, two and a half miles away. …

A “Daily News” special correspondent, writing from Charney, says:-
In view of the misdescription of the new tenants given by Sir William Anson and his supporters and the attack on the County Council, it may be well to point out that this body is almost exclusively Tory. Moreover, some of the applicants for small holdings have been treated in such a way by members of the council that they have disisted in their applications. In other cases the council have forced men to walk twelve miles to meet the steward and councillors at 10a.m., and, as the bulk of the applicants are agricultural labourers, this has aroused the hostility of the farmers. Nevertheless, in the Abingdon division alone, where Charney is situate, applications amounting to some 2,000 acres were passed, and, despite the onerous conditions imposed by the council, have been taken up. I cannot obtain the figures for Newbury and Maidenhead divisions, but I believe they were equally numerous, and from the town of Reading least twelve experienced agriculturists made application. One of them has since taken a situation in charge of a hundred-acre farm in the county. I see it is stated that some of the tenant farmers would have gladly let the land acquired by the councils at 2s. 6d. per acre. An official of the Reading Allotments Association to whom I showed this said it was news, and I am informed on unimpeachable authority that but for the Act not one would have, secured a single pole of land. So keen is the competition for holdings that when recently a 24-acre farm was in the market, there were 160 applicants for it. At its last public meeting the County Council reported the receipt of 20 applications for small holdings, 15 of which were approved. On inquiry of the agents who conducted the sale. Messrs. Farebrother, Ellis and Co., I learn that there is still a farm of about 240 acres for disposal situate at Longworth on the Pusey , Estate, and also others of about 100 acres as well as some cottages at Hatford. As regards the callings of the applicants, those who have secured small holdings are mainly agricultural labourers, and in every case the council have been at pains to go almost to the length of total discouragement, if the reports one hears are correct. In each case also the council have made sure of the rents being paid. Proof, including the production of bank books, being demanded. In Abingdon, for instance, they insisted on a guarantee from an insurance corporation involving extra Cost to the tenants, who will of course, have to pay the premium in addition to their rests. I can, however find no trace of any of the new tenants alleged to have been coming from all parts of the kingdom to take up holdings. The total acreage of Charney is 1,209 acres—less than meets the requirements of local applicants alone. As regards the displacement of labour, I may point out that the statement published as to fifty able-bodied labourers being thrown out of work is obviously incorrect. The total population of the parish, including the inhabitants of two inns, the Manor House, and six houses absolutely unaffected, is only 163. Of these a large proportion are children. I have only been able to learn of some twenty who are thrown out of employment, and of these three or four are old-age pensioners. For the rest, I have found no burning wish expressed to end their days in Charney. Not even Sir William Anion’s gardener has applied to any of the authorities under the Housing Acts. though he has had a year in which to do so. Moreover, as I have already pointed out, the same result must have happened, no matter who the purchaser was, as the cottage rents would have had to be raised to pay interest on the outlay, and £10 a year cannot be paid by men earning 11. weekly. There can be no suspicion of fancy prices, since land and cottages were bought through an agent, and it was not known until after the sale had been completed who the purchasers were.

Reading Mercury – Saturday 23 December 1939 Fred Belcher

Reading Mercury – Saturday 23 December 1939
Death of Mr. F. Belcher. —Mr. Fred Belcher, of Church View, Charney Bassett, near Wantage, well-known local farmer, died at his home on Monday, at the age of 59. Mr. Belcher had farmed at Charney Bassett for over 30 years. For 17 years he took an active interest in public affairs, representing Charney Bassett on the Faringdon Rural District Council, relinquishing the position about four or five years ago. He also served on the Berkshire County Council’s Smallholders’ Sub-Committee, and was a member of the Faringdon branch of the N.F.U.

Reading Mercury – Saturday 10 February 1917 Small Holdings

Reading Mercury – Saturday 10 February 1917
Charney.—With a view to improving their respective holdings, certain suggestions put forward the tenants of holdings Nos. 22 and 28, Charney Bassett, have been under consideration, and the committee have concurred in an agreement arrived at by the tenants for the exchange acres of six acres of arable land on the former holding for a small paddock on the latter holding.
Charney Bassett, Stanford-in-the-Vale, etc.—A detailed specification of several repairs necessary on the council’s property at Charney, Stanford-in-the-Vale, etc was prepared by the land steward, and tenders invited for carrying out the work from five builders, but, owing to the conditions brought about by the war, not one of them has submitted an estimate.

Oxford Times – Saturday 04 September 1909
THE CHARNEY SMALL HOLDINGS CASE. The present Liberal Government, in their strenuous effort to court popularity amongst the more gullible of the masses, are constantly harping upon the possibilities of the Small Holdings Act. This Act in the opinion of the theorists will re-open the golden pathway to the land and solve to a great measure the problem of unemployment. Unfortunately for the Radical party, their inexperience in practical legislation for the labouring classes betrays itself at every turn, and is often as not the trouble created by their legislation leaves the condition of the masses as bad as, if not worse than, that resulting from the evil they have promised to remedy. The Small Holdings Act is by means the herald of an earthly paradise, and sooner our Radical-Socialist legislators lift their heads from the sand, the better for themselves and the masses for whom they pretend an eternal friendship. We have objection to the providing of small holdings for those who really want them, but we do object to some of the provisions of the Small Holdings Act, which nothing to encourage the increase of peasant proprietors; indeed, in many instances they tend to displace the farmer and the agricultural labourer and put in their stead tenants far less capable of getting the best out of the ground at their disposal.

Oxford Times – Saturday 04 September 1909