Cattle, bullocks and steers are not often listed, but oxen (which were castrated bovines) were kept as work animals to till the land. In the 15th century 40.5% of farmers owned ox teams to plough their land. Four oxen were considered to be the minimum number required to pull a plough, but William Perkes of Rashhill (1564) had 11 oxen, the largest holding. Nicholas Saunders (1557) had an ox harrow and yokes for 10 oxen, which may suggest that they farmed on heavy soils as the heavier the soil the greater the number of oxen needed to plough. By the first half of the 17th century the number of people owning oxen had fallen to 11.75%. Four men had teams of 6, and William Bromley (1602) of the Ford had 10 oxen. The improvement of the soil and the breeding of bigger horses led to the decline of the ox as a work animal, and after 1650, John Jewe was the only farmer who had any oxen. The numbers of oxen were very similar in Chaddesley Corbett, but Bewdley by contrast had 26 inventories still listing oxen between 1660 and 1707. In 1553 oxen were valued at £1, and this gradually increased over the century to £2 to £3. In 1576 William Wylde of The Ford had his best ox, which was leased as a heriot, valued at £3 16s.8d, a heriot being a feudal due paid to the lord of the manor at the death of his tenant. By the 1630s the value of oxen had risen to between £4 and £5. They continued as draught animals until eventually displaced by heavy horses which could do the job more quickly.
Next page – Agriculture – Dairying