The chief characteristic of agriculture in Wold Newton over the last several centuries has been livestock farming, particularly sheep. By and large, the thin soil of the Wolds and the colder and dryer environment, relative to the surrounding flat lands of the Marshes, lend themselves to keeping stock, especially in winter. Many Wold farmers sent stock down to the Marshes to graze for the summer months. A good account of sheep farming is given by Mary Steele in her book "Lincolnshire, Land, Longwools and Legends", the local sheep breed being the Lincoln Longwool. However, mixed farming and arable farming have also been carried out consistently until the disappearance of livestock in the swing to purely arable farming in the last forty years. This is an attempt to record some of the actual farmers, being mostly the tenants of the landlords described in another place.
The earliest recorded 'farmers' as such are Roger Marshall and William Allison, Marshall having a farm where Allison kept sheep, whence John Curtys stole one ewe, value 12 pence in 1386. (Allisons are still in the sheep farming business on the Wolds to this day!) The same Roger Marshall doesn't seem to have had much luck, also being the subject of theft of some barley by an outlawed monk from Ravendale in 1387. In 1397 Richard of Irford is the complainant at court when one of his serfs, John Preston from Wyham, hired to serve as carter and ploughman, is prosecuted for leaving without permission, by night after only a month. Marshall and Irford also appear as jurors at Court Sessions in the period, as also a William North, John South and John of Haint (-on?), John of Irforth (maybe Irford?) and William Ward. Presumably all landholders.
The next snapshot emerges around 1530, in the wills of two farmers in Wold Newton, William Wright (not believed to be related to the later Wright family) and John More, who both leave stock and possessions to their relatives. John More is presumably a tenant farmer, as he does not leave land. He leaves one cow each to his sister Cristine and his nephew John, twenty sheep to his brother William, who also gets all his materials ('pannos'?), two sheep each to his servants Jacob Dowell and Brian Dickinson, and one sheep to John Johnson, several quarters of barley (?'brasij') to the said Christine, Robert More, Richard More, Thomas More senior and junior, and the rest of his goods to his executors including Thomas Goodhand and Richard Kent, William Wright being one of the witnesses.
William Wright appears more substantial, and leaves some land and a croft called Chubsgarth (not a name that has cropped up elsewhere so far) to his son Walter, as well as stock and chattels to family and retainers.
Goodhand is a recurring name through the late Middle Ages, the family appearing in several villages in the area, as their pedigree shows, and built up some standing, as a later Thomas Goodhand is buying up the advowson (the right to appoint the priest to the living) in Hatcliffe. He also falls out with the Wold Newton priest, Thomas Pilkington, leading to angry confrontations in the churchyard.
Pilkington provides a very interesting picture of farming in the village in 1617, when he records the lands held by the church for the Rector's living in the parish, amounting to around 18 acres. He records his parsonage as being between the holdings of Thomas Goodhand to the north and Thomas Harness to the south, and then describes the plots held around the parish in different areas and fields, giving a fascinating insight into the mixed pattern of land-holding typical of most parishes (and still extant in the Epworth area) but which vanished with the enclosures. (Although it is unresolved why a later account of the Church's lands in the 1820's, which draws on Pilkington's account, gives the same pattern of holding when presumably the Enclosures had already taken place, - unless Wold Newton was enclosed later.) However, it shows the Church as being one of the major landowners in the village, and the Rector was a farmer also.
The probate of Elias Petley, Rector, who died in 1661 gives an account of his stock and crops at date of death.
As the Goodhands may have been around the village for three generattions, so may have been the Micklethwaites, who are also recorded in the area, and appear in legal documents such as wills and probates (e.g. George Scrivener of Grange Farm 1721) and mortgages in the Welfitt papers. Thomas Micklethwaite at one one time had Willoughby Farm on a tenancy.
The Welfitt papers begin to record more completely the holdings in the village. William Welfitt first gains a footlhold when he gets Willoughby Farm in 1692, and within 20 years, with his brother Samuel, has also acquired Grange Farm, Home Farm and Click'em Farm, the tenants being George Scrivener at Grange Farm (presumed to be the modern South Farm), Richard Chatterton at Click'em Farm (presumed to be the former yard half way up the lane leading towards the Click'em Inn, the buildings still standing until the 1970's) and Willoughby Farm (possibly in the centre of the village), with Welfitt himself having Home Farm (presumed to be the site for the modern North Farm at the back of the then Manor House now called The Welfitts). There were also five other small holdings recorded in the village.
An inquiry into the state of the cottagers in the counties of Lincoln and Rutland by Mr. Robert Gourlay from Arthur Young's Annals of Agriculture, and other useful arts, Volume 37, page 593.
A report on the employment of children, young persons and women in agriculture by the Hon E Stanhope. Reports from Commissioners, 19th November 1867 to 31st July 1868.
A contribution by Francis Iles to the Journal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, volume 4, 1843