Sheep shearing in Leigh before the war SHC ref 7828/2/95/16

Sheep shearing in Leigh before the war
SHC ref 7828/2/95/16

The loss of much farm labour to the armed services and the disruption of imports because of attacks on shipping meant that great efforts were made to boost agricultural production and regulate the production and consumption of food.

A County War Agricultural Committee was established in November 1915, in response to the urging of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, with representatives from the County Council, major landowners and farmers’ organisations. The Committee busied itself across many different areas, including the bringing into production of unexploited land, ensuring the provision of machinery and fertilisers, organising labour, including by soldiers and POWs, training women to take the place of men in the fields, developing horticulture and allotments, encouraging pig and poultry rearing and jam making and fruit bottling. Many of Surrey’s golf courses were ploughed up during the war and in the Committees report of May 1918 it was estimated that 24,000 additional acres of arable land had been brought into cultivation and a further 11,000 acres better exploited (altogether ‘one seventh of the total acreage of arable and grass land in the County, which establishes a record in this respect that has been exceeded by only two counties in Great Britain’).

Local committees were also established in rural districts and some urban districts from 1917. The papers of the combined Chertsey Rural and Chertsey, Egham, Woking and Windlesham Urban Districts War Agricultural Committee have survived at Surrey History Centre (SHC ref 6200/ADD).

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