The ‘Farmers Arms’ poem and ‘God Speed the Plough’

While poking around an antique shop near Romsey (Vic) I spotted a large pottery cup and saucer produced by Adams (England) that I just had to buy.  It has a very old poem on it that I think says it all, for farmers, albeit in olde worlde language & punctuation and no mention of the headaches:

In God is our trust – The Farmers Arms

‘Let the Wealthy & Great,

Roll  in Splendor & State,

I envy them not I declare it.

I eat my own Lamb,

My chickens and Ham,

I shear my own Fleece & I wear it

I have Lawns, I have Bow’rs,

I have Fruits, I have Flow’rs,

The Lark is my morning alarmer.

So jolly boys now, Here’s God speed the Plough.

Long Life & Succefs to

the Farmer.’

While the verse doesn’t mention any of the headaches farmers have always had to contend with – the vagaries of the seasons, physically demanding work, increasing costs and decreasing prices – it does sum up very nicely the feeling of independence and satisfying productivity that is at the heart of every farmer.

Apparently dating from the late 1700s up until around the middle of the last century, quite a lot of china and pottery was produced in England with variations of the ‘Farmers Arms’ poem.   The above-mentioned oversized cup and saucer which I bought is transfer ware produced by the Adams family pottery in Staffordshire, England (dating back to the 17thcentury; no longer in existence, but some designs still manufactured by Wedgwood).   Apparently the Adams pottery also produced other crockery with similar designs.

Burgess & Leigh (B & L Ltd; Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent) also produced pottery with the ‘Farmers Arms’ poem on it around a century ago – cups and saucers and plates, and a large punchbowl with a set of mugs to match.  Their work tended to have a brighter red, blue and yellow than the pottery produced by Adams, however they use the same black transfer technique.  Burgess & Leigh apparently also produced a mug with the following verse:

“We plough the fertile meadow

And sow the furrow’d land.

But yet the waving harvest

Depends on God’s on hand

It is his mercy gives us

The sunshine and the rain

That paints in verdant beauty

The mountain and the plain.”

There are also ironstone mugs produced by Burleigh Pottery (also of Staffordshire, England; operating since 1851 and best known for producing blue and white china, eg with the well known ‘calico chintz’ pattern) titled ‘God Speed the Plough’ and  ‘Industry Produceth Wealth’ with the same ‘Farmers Arms’ poem.

Leeds pottery and apparently produced ‘Farmers Arms’ crockery also.  So did Sunderland, producing pearlware (pink lustre and black transfer printed) ‘Farmers Arms’ plaques, mugs etc – some with ‘The Sailors Farewell’ on the reverse side, as did other makers.

Most recently, Wade Potteries (Staffordshire- again) produced a limited edition run of 500 two-handled cider mugs with the ‘Farmers Arms’ verse on them, in 1981, for the Taunton Cider Company.

In addition to mugs, oversized cups and saucers, soup bowls and plates and punch bowl sets there are jugs, often around 17-18cm (7″) high.  One Farmers Arms jug produced is most unusual because it is very much brighter and more expensive in style than the others that were made – with a solid, bright sky blue background and gold leaf edging – much more sophisticated glazing than is usual.  Most Farmers Arms pottery and china is simple in design and muted in colour (usually with the black transfer print being the only decoration, or muted colours surrounded by a black transfer design border), in keeping with the sentiment of the verses printed on them.  Most of this pottery and china is illustrated with farming equipment of the time (winnowers, ploughs, harrows, rakes, pitchforks, shovels, axes, barrels, pails, scales etc) livestock such as horses, cattle, sheep and poultry, and produce such as a wheatcrop and wheat sheaf; decorated with intertwining leaves and scrolls.  Often the farmer’s wife is shown hard at work churning butter while the farmer pours a mug of ale (hopefully to offer to his hardworking wife – but probably not, given the era of production).

Farmers Arms crockery appears for sale every now and then in England and America and to a lesser extent, Australia.  A lot was probably produced, however it will no doubt become much harder to come by before too long.  Ironically some of this ‘Farmers Arms’ pottery and china, particularly the jugs, sells for more than $1,000 AUD these days, which suggests this is already the case.