A guest post by Rose, whose encyclopaedic knowledge has graced many a blog.
I’m taking a night off to fill in one of those forms that expect far more than the average stockroom-boy should be capable of. If I get this one I’ll move to a stable five-afternoon/evening week doing less disgusting things. If I don’t, then I will have learned more about how to get the next one.
There is a new category – blogbook. I’ll use this to round up any guest-post blogbook entries and will go back and tag a few of mine. It’ll make it much easier to pull them out when we have enough to go for it. If other bloggers would like to tag their preferred posts in a similar way and then let us know about it, we could get this thing moving pretty quickly.
And so, I leave you with A Brief History of Tobacco, from Rose. I have lightly adjusted the format because scientists are like that. We just can’t leave anything alone.
A History of Tobacco Growing in England
Apparently the first tobacco to arrive in Britain was Nicotiana rustica, brought in by Sir John Hawkins and his crew. (1)
Famed as a powerful medicine, Nicotiana rustica had up to 20 times more nicotine than the tobacco we know today and reportedly when burnt gives off clouds of thick smoke. It was supposed to cure all manner of things.(2)
This exotic new import eventually became a great attraction to the rich, fashionable gentlemen of the Elizabethan court.
They were called the “reeking gallants” and reportedly went around making a general nuisance of themselves, smoking with great ostentation and a variety of stylish equipment, they were lampooned and complained about by those who had to endure it.(3)
This so exasperated the new king, James 1st of England, 6th of Scotland, that in 1604 he was moved to write a ferocious attack on Nicotiana rustica and all who used it in ‘Counterblaste’, assigning smoking to the sin of drunkenness and proclaiming it as an offence against God, summing up with the line.
“A custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse.” (4)
But tobacco was one of the few things the new American colonies produced that could cross the Atlantic in the hold of a ship and arrive in good condition, so instead of banning it, King James raised the tax from the previous two pence to the sum of six shillings and eight pence a pound, so that in theory only the very rich could still afford it.(5)
Unfortunately, the Colonists were still growing the inferior N. rustica, while the Spanish were exporting the much preferred N. tabacum, but eventually they got hold of some of seed from Trinidad and in 1612 John Rolfe raised the first crop of Virginia.(2)
Then the trade from Virginia really took off.
“Indeed, it was largely due to this fact that England kept its hold on North America. In 1616 the first successful shipload of the New Virginian tobacco was sent across the Atlantic”. (3)(6)
James 1 never amended his Counterblaste when the new variety N. tabacum arrived and continued to raise taxes on it unmercifully.(7)
Meanwhile the English farmers had started growing tobacco themselves, apparently it was widely grown in the Cotswolds, the Vale of Tewkesbury and in an area which extended as far south as Wiltshire.
Until in 1619 James 1st banned commercial tobacco growing in the whole of British Isles, in a deal between the Crown and the Virginia Company, who had previously been given the monopoly by Queen Elizabeth 1st, in return for a 1 shilling/lb. duty on Virginia tobacco, just as the first crop of English tobacco was coming to maturity.
Supposedly to give the Colonists employment but possibly so that all the revenue would go through his hands as it came into port.
The English growers resisted and even though it was now illegal, apparently continued to grow tobacco on a large scale and there were repeated disturbances.
As a result of such disturbances a second Act of parliament was passed banning the growing of tobacco in 1652. Which was ignored again until, in 1667, a platoon of Life Guards was sent in to destroy the entire crop and deal severely with anyone who objected.(8)
And that seems to have been the end of tobacco growing in England until in 1910 when the Liberal Government of the day repealed the Act.
As explained in 1922 by Viscount Wolmer.
NEW CLAUSE.—(Excise duties on homegrown tobacco to cease.) 1922
“What we are asking for is the protection of the industry of tobacco growing in this country until such time as it shall be able to establish itself. The reasons upon which this is put forward are, briefly, as follows: Tobacco was once grown on a very large scale in this country. It was once grown in no fewer than 31 different counties. In the year 1660 it was prohibited by Act of Parliament.
In 1910 a Liberal Government made the growing again permissible, but the Government not only did that, but on 1st January, 1911, they granted a protective rebate of 30 per cent. to English-grown tobacco in order to establish the tobacco-growing industry, thereby following out the well-known maxims of Adam Smith and Cobden that an infant industry can be protected consistently with Free Trade principles.”
“It is a complete fallacy to think that tobacco cannot be successfully grown in this country. At the present moment it is grown in my constituency. I have cigarettes here which were grown in my constituency, which I shall be delighted to offer to any hon. Member. The tobacco is very much like Rhodesian tobacco of a light sort.”
Q -” What do you call the cigarettes?”
A – “Hampshire cigarettes.”
“Tobacco is grown on the very lightest soils. It is grown on the sands round Aldershot, which will not bear an ordinary crop. For that reason it is grown in parts of Berkshire and Norfolk.
Therefore, if you encourage tobacco growing, you can bring a great acreage of soil under cultivation which you cannot do with any other crop, and that soil, subjected to high manurial treatment, becomes capable of growing oats, barley, and potatoes, and can, therefore, be made a potential food reserve in time of war. It is worth while establishing this industry, which was once flourishing and was destroyed by the action of the State.” (9)
And as reported by the BBC:
Hampshire Tobacco Farming
“Phyl Ralton a member of the Fleet and Crookham Local History Group, contacted the programme with information about research they have been involved in about a surprising crop that was grown in Hampshire between the two world wars – tobacco.
Phyl told Making History that tobacco growing was illegal until 1910 and soon after that, several people started experiments. The leader in this field was Arthur J Brandon who grew up to 35 acres of tobacco plants in Church Crookham, near Fleet in Hampshire from 1911 until his death in 1937.
He harvested up to 800 lbs per acre and demonstrated that it was possible to grow, cure and sell good tobacco products but he could not make a commercial success of the business against cheaper foreign competition and the amount of duty levied on his crop.” (10)
“At Redfields Farm Mr A.J. Brandon commenced to grow tobacco as a commercial crop. This proved to be very successful and within a few years a large staff was employed to cultivate the plants and cure the leaves. The crop was then packed into huge barrels and sent to Salisbury to be blended and made into pipe tobacco or ‘Blue Prior’ cigarettes. Tobacco was last grown on this farm in 1938″ (11)
Which apparently is now a garden centre.
One further but non-commercial, English tobacco crop was grown during WW2, when my Grandfather, along with many others, grew their own tobacco in back gardens and allotments across the country.