Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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12                 Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
the following interesting account (on the authority of his
friend, Col. Davies), of the introduction of potatoes into
" William Warnett, of Horstead Keynes, yeoman, who is turned of 90, but in full possession of his faculties, says that before the year 1765, when he was seven years old, potatoes had never been heard of in this neigh­bourhood ; that in that year the late Lord Sheffield, who had recently pur­chased the Sheffield estate, brought some, as it was reported, from Ireland, and that his father received a few from his lordship's gardener. He adds, that no one knew how to plant them, but that they got a man who worked on the road, and who came from some distant County, to plant them, which he continued to do regularly on old Lady Day for many years, and it was very long before they began to plant them in the fields. They used in those times to leave their potatoes in the ground all the winter, covering the ground with brakes, and taking them up as they wanted them for use. Before potatoes came into use, pease pudding was usually part of the dinner. So strong was the prejudice against them, that, at the elections which took place at Lewes about this period, it shared with Popery the indignation of the people, and ' No Popery, no potatoes !' was the popular cry."
In France the cultivation of the potato by the poor was still more tardy than in England ; and, doubtless, our readers will call to mind the graphic account which is given, in MM. Erckmann-Chatrian's " History of a Peasant," of the excitement produced at Phalsbourg, in 1785, when the first crop of potatoes ever raised in Alsace made its appearance in the garden of the blacksmith, Maitre Jacques—the ridicule which attended the planting of the peelings, which had been brought from Germany—the curiosity excited by the first appearance of the green sprouts above the ground, and the triumph with which the wonderful roots were dug up and the gusto with which they were eaten. It marked an era in the life of the French peasant.
The introduction of the potato and other vegetables and fruits, and their greater use by all classes, contributed not a little, doubtless, to check the prevalence of that "dire dis­order," the scurvy, from which the Rector of Horstead Keynes himself suffered and for which his brother in the Isle of Wight constantly sent him " scurvy water and scurvy grass."
Another mode of curing (?) this and all other diseases was by " letting blood." Such entries as this constantly occur in
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