I have recently enjoyed reading a booklet written by Mr Kees Van Den Bos. It has the title, The Methodist Buildings of Goxhill Lincolnshire. It has pictures maps and an account of the building of the five Chapels a Sunday School and a Day School in the village. It is very well produced and I can recommend it to anyone interested in the village.
I was surprised to see the amount of money that had been given to enable these buildings to be erected. There were no extremely rich benefactors from outside the village so that people who lived here gave the bulk of the money. Religion motivated them but motive is powerless without means.
When the village was enclosed there were many people who received large amounts of land but who lived away from the village. Many of these people rented their land to others that farmed it and in general the owners took away from the village any surplus wealth that farming created. Of the people who lived here only a one or two had more than 100 acres. Many smaller farmers were what we would now call smallholders and they worked as farm labourers or at other trades to make up their income.
Although the enclosed fields gave the opportunity to increase efficiency and yield of crops by careful management there was a very bad period shortly afterwards. In 1782 a volcanic eruption in Iceland caused a vast cloud of ash to be discharged into the sky over the whole of the northern part of the north hemisphere. This blanketed the earth causing low temperatures and little sunlight and it was said that there was no summer. The yield of crops fell disastrously. People with small farms who only grew sufficient for their own needs were short of food. Those who sold the produce of their land received higher prices for what they could sell but the yield was so small that they suffered a big decrease in income. Corn prices rose and remained high so that when normal conditions returned in 1784-1786 the larger farmer’s income stabilised. This was probably the cause of some of the sales of small fields at that time. The size of the farms of the larger farmers began to increase from then on.
It was not long however before another big price rise helped the farming community The war with Napoleon Bonaparte 1799-1815 caused food prices to rise and farm incomes rose as wool and corn which were grown here were in great demand. Money was again available for the purchase of land and for the improvement of buildings and equipment.
In Goxhill agricultural wages in 1757 were 6 pence per day (2.5p). Thirty years later they had risen to 9 pence (3.75p). During the next 10 years the rate had gone up to 1 shilling and 2 pence per day (almost 6p). This probably meant an increase in the standard of living for the ordinary people because although corn prices had risen nationally there was no shortage in the country.
The growth of brick making in the Humber bank brickyards had a significant effect in that it brought new people into the village and caused a big increase in the numbers of people living in the East and West Marsh areas. It also provided regular employment rather than the casual work which farming offered. Transport across the river to Hull market by ferry was cheap and easy and brought new possibilities to dairy farming, butter became important. Later the coming of the railway introduced the morning trip to the station with the milk churns for the milk train.
These changes provided the opportunity for the larger farmers to become wealthy and the smaller farmers also prospered. This prosperity offered similar possibilities to others. Goxhill became a good place to open a shop or from which to do business. There were Corn merchants, Potato merchants, Solicitors, Butchers and Bakers, Millers, Tailors and Drapers, Grocers and General Stores, all thriving in the village at the end of the 18th. Century.
Tradesmen were also kept busy Builders Joiners Blacksmiths etc. all had their workshops in the village. There were several public houses. (Just around the corner in more Generous times says he.) Many of these business premises have gone but some remain and are remembered in the names of the houses into which they have been converted.
Prosperity is not a thing of the past. Goxhill is a thriving village although those who live here but work elsewhere earn much of its income. The Methodist chapel and the Church need money to repair and preserve the buildings that have been handed down from the past. The village has the means but has it the motive?