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The Rising Burgh: 1560 to 1770s

Industry and Technology


By Duncan M Dornan

The Mains of Darnley The traditional system of subsistence agriculture persisted in Scotland for most of this period. The "Agricultural revolution" which transformed the country dramatically only started in earnest towards the end of the 18th century.

Arden -  a farm During the 16th and 17th centuries each decade contained years of crop failure leading to near famine in some counties. The primary cause of this problem was poor weather. Delayed planting in the spring reduced the growing season and prevented crops from ripening. Delayed harvest in the autumn allowed crops to rot in the fields. More often than not, farmers were focussed on the matter of survival rather than refining their husbandry.

Honey Mugs Eventually the improvements in prosperity and transport, which the 18th century brought, encouraged landowners to look towards investment to enhance their prospects. This was particularly the case for those lucky enough to have on their doorstep a ready market for produce such as Glasgow.

Kirkwell Farm The steps taken by those improving their farms had an immense impact on the landscape. The fertility of the often sour Scottish soil was improved by the addition of lime. The practice of growing cereal, grass and root crops in rotation helped to maintain fertility and control weeds. Stone and turf walls were erected and hedges planted to stop wandering livestock from eating crops. The impact of the abundant Scottish water supply on the land was reduced by installing drainage, which could also be used to control the effect of natural springs, thus creating a drier and more suitable soil for cropping. A final change was the construction of modern specialist farm buildings to store and process the products of this improvement.

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