"There are many estates in Kent held by lessees, under the churches of Canterbury and Rochester; and some under the crown; others under the colleges of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Many are held on three lives, under fines of renewal as they drop; others under twenty-one years, renewable every seven, on paying a fine as may be agreed upon by the parties, and subject to a small annual rent.

The value of these leases varies much, according to local circumstances; but it is generally estimated at about fourteen years purchase.

The leases granted to the occupying tenants are always for years; from seven to eleven, fourteen, and twenty-one: fourteen is the most usual term: the time of entering is generally on the 10th of October. The barns, and farm-yard for foddering cattle, are always reserved to the outgoing tenents until May-day following.

The usual covenants are for the landlord to repair all buildings, gates, stiles, and bridges; also timber-fences, and the lead of glass windows; and to pay the land-tax, quit-rents, and wall-scots, where there are any. The tenants covenant to find carriage for all materials for repairs, with straw for thatch, and beer for workmen.

In some cases the tenants pay half the workmanship of repairs; and they are general restrained from selling straw, and in some parts of the county, hay, except on the condition of buying for every load of hay sold, a certain quantity of dung; which is an excellent covenant for both parties, because it has a tendency to prevent an estate being injured by carring away its produce without a suitable return. Many of the leases of the present time are mere copies of old ones, that have been handed down through several generations, with covenants very inconsistent with modern improvements. Some farmers are bound to sow wheat after beans, on land not fit to produce beans; to leave a quantity of podware gratten* for a wheat tilth on farms, where some sorts of podware are the worst tilth known to sow wheat upon; and on dry upland farms, where turnips and clover are known improvements, there is not the least mention of these articles, not even a covenant to leave an acre of either at the end of the term, nor to destroy wild oats, charlock, or thistles.

For want of a reform in this department of farming business, estates are often much injured, and incoming tenants half ruined in getting their farms in good order. It is the interest of every tenant, having a term of years in his farm, not only to keep it in a good condition, but to improve it till within the last two or three years; and, consequently, not many restrictions are necessary during that period. It is requisite, therefore, only to make it equally his interest to keep the farm in good condition during the remainder of the term; which would be most effectually done, by compelling him or his heirs to allow for damages, as the clergy to do for dilapidations.

Leases of twenty-one years, for all parties concerned, are, in my opinion, preferable to shorter ones: under the security of such a term, the tenant can afford to give more rent for his land; he can spend his money on improvements with confidence of reaping the benefit of them; and, by the consequent increase of the produce of his crops, his profits will be advanced in proportion; considerations in which the landlord, tenant and public are all interested."

General View of the Agriculture of the County of Kent 1805 *a local term for stubble

© T. Machado 2007