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Gamkeepers & Poachers
By Peter Kingsford

North Mymms was not a static community, although change was slow by modern standards. The background was a long and deep depression in agriculture, caused by cheaper food imports from New Zealand and America.

The effect locally was probably that the number of agricultural labourers fell from 106 to 86 during the 1880s. On the other hand, there were incomers. 20 labourers moved into the parish to replace those who had left, so there was a good deal of mobility. Similarly for the farmers, though to a less extent.

At least two farmers, Crawford and Sinclair, both Scots, took over from Englishmen. Other incomers were carpenters, bakers and blacksmiths who probably replaced others who had moved on.

Gamekeepers

Gamekeepers were always incomers, since they were never recruited from local people. There were ten of them by 1891. This is hardly surprising, for ever since the Game Laws began, poaching had been regarded as an inalienable, if illegal right by the country workers.

The most recent Gaming Act, of Gladstoneís Ministry in 1880, gave tenant farmers the right to shoot hares and rabbits eating their crops. But the landowners made agreements with farmers to reserve the right for themselves and this gave rise to an increase in gamekeepers. The following example of such an agreement between R.W. Gaussen and the tenant of Parsonage Farm throws a light on this:

"Tenants to have the right of destroying rabbits in conjunction with the landlordís gamekeepers, by ferreting, but not by trapping, shooting or by dogs. Such ferreting may be carried on in November, December, January and March on condition that all rabbit holes are properly stopped afterwards".

Poachers

Records of poaching in North Mymms go back to 1836. The traditional pursuit forms a link between the 19th and 20th centuries, and in the late 19th century, William Knott, the gamekeeper at Potterells, used to send his grandson all round Bradmore Fields, "to drive the pheasants back and report if any poachers were about."

In 1907. Geoge Beech of Roestock, was fined five shillings for poaching on the evidence of Noah Mingay, gamekeeper to Mr Walter Burns.

Fifty years later on, in 1958, poachers in north Mymms Park were still being prosecuted, and under the old Night Poaching Act of 1828, the penalty could be transportation.

By Peter Kingsford


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