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Ploughs: Ploughing prepares land for crop-growing. In each pass across a field, the plough cuts out a slice of earth and turns it over.

Horses pulling a plough

This has the effect of burying weeds, aerating the soil and easing the absorption of surface moisture. After a period of weathering, which helps to break down heavy clods into a more crumbly texture, the land can be harrowed to produce an even seed bed. Essential features of the plough have remained the same since medieval times: a horizontal beam to which is attached a ploughshare and knife coulter to cut the furrow slice, and a mouldboard to turn it over. Improvements in design and efficiency evolved over the centuries but quickened in pace from the Victorian period. Regional variations in the type of plough used were once very marked, but gradually faded in the later nineteenth century as manufacture became concentrated upon fewer large firms rather than local craftsmen. As horses were replaced by tractors with specially designed implements, the process of ploughing has progressively speeded up so that it can now be completed much more quickly and with fewer people.

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Ploughs


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The Museum of English Rural Life, University of Reading, UK.
Email: merl@reading.ac.uk Telephone: 0118 378 8660