Extract from p59, 62 and 63 of “Rural Life in Victorian England” by G.E.Mingay, Futura Publications 1979. Copyright 1976 Land Humphries publishers Ltd.
[p62/3] “In the nineteenth century only a little over a tenth of the land was in the hands of owner-occupiers”.
[p63] Where farmers owned some land it frequently accounted for only a part of their holding, for they often rented large acreages of additional land. It rarely paid farmers to put spare resources into buying land when the money could be used more profitably in extending the scale of their operations or buying new equipment. The purchase of one’s farm represented a saving in rent of only three or four per cent of the capital required, while farming, … , could be reckoned to produce a good ten per cent or more. The consequence was that most owners farmers were content to be tenants, seeing their capital produce a good return, and feeling perfectly secure under a good landlord. There was little or no tendency towards the purchase of land by farmers, therefore, and the English yeoman, the proud, independent owner-cultivator, was more figure of fiction than of reality.“
[p59] The most common form of tenure, in fact, was the annual agreement or a tenancy at will, i.e. six months notice. Leases were standard practice only for the larger farms, and even there were not universal. There was a fairly general distrust of leases on the part of both landlords and tenants. The severe fluctuations in prices, markets and weather conditions which marked the nineteenth century made both parties wary of fixing a rent for a long period of time. Yet little insecurity resulted. Large farmers capable of stocking and managing extensive acreages were always fairly scarce, and landlords, knowing such men were difficult to replace, did their best to keep them happy ín their tenancies. The large tenant had considerable bargaining power, and could insist on repairs to the farmhouse and buildings, or a low rent to compensate for his own outlays when he took a farm.“