At the beginning of the 18th Century,
The Runrig system
The fields were divided into numerous narrow strips, each consisting of ridges of cultivated land - rigs - around 30 feet wide, separated from one another by ditches that were supposed to be drains, but were usually choked with reeds, briars, nettles, stones and marsh plants.
The land was rented from the local landowner and usually paid for in kind, including an obligation to work – harvesting or planting - for the landowner as and when required. It was re-allocated each year, by lot or by auction. Each alternate rig had a different tenant - most would rent a number of rigs but it was unusual for a farmer to have two or more rigs alongside each other. These strips were curved into a sort of S shape because of the need for turning space for the teams of oxen pulling the heavy, wooden old Scots Plough. Because of the shortness of the lease, there was no incentive for a farmer to improve the strip of land he rented in any one year.
It was said that, with such an inefficient system, when the crop
failed in a bad season, the people would be “in destitution and despair. This
helplessness fostered in them a sense of awe and a dependence on
Fundamental to the new approach to agriculture was the division of
the landscape into enclosed fields. Where stones were plentiful, dry stone
dykes were built; elsewhere hedges were grown to create barriers that stopped
livestock straying. Among the advantages this presented was the fact that
crops could be grown and animals reared in close proximity to one another. A
wider range of crops was grown and land periodically allowed to rest in order
to recover fertility. The new farms were organised around a farmhouse with
buildings to accommodate animals and store harvested crops. These farms were leased
to tenant farmers with farm servants whom they employed. Fewer people were
now needed to farm the land. This process of change in rural society had
started to take place in
Some Implications of the Agricultural Revolution
The increased movements of fertiliser, machinery and harvested crops
meant that the road system had to be improved dramatically. Before the improvements
there were very few roads, only poor tracks. As the demand for roads grew, many
of the new landless labourers found employment building and maintaining new
roads. A number of Scots made their fame and fortune from this endeavour, two
notable examples being Thomas Telford and John MacAdam.
The increased interest in the land also resulted in a rush of new inventions
to increase productivity, such as lighter ploughs, reapers and threshers.
With lighter ploughs came another change - oxen were replaced by sturdy
horses, which were easier to handle and required fewer men to form a plough
team. As a result, demand for manpower in the countryside fell. Families
began to migrate to the developing manufacturing industries of the nearby
towns and cities. In the countryside, mobile, unmarried labourers were able
to undercut the going rate for employment at the expense of married men. As
it became more economical for farmers to employ unmarried servants who lived
in farm outbuildings, so the traditional cottar families and their dwellings
started to disappear. In some areas, where fewer tenants were needed to run
larger farms, entire villages disappeared. By the end of the century, land
values had more than doubled as a result of the revolution: land near
In many places, including Kinnoull parish, leases were deliberately kept short so that rents might be more readily raised; tenants could also be more easily removed if they failed to improve the farm in the way the landowner desired.