"Proputty, proputty, proputty": Tennyson's "Northern Farmer, New Style" could hear the word in the rhythm of his horse's hooves as he cantered between his fields. The Dixon family built up their estate in Holton-le-Moor, between Market Rasen and Caistor, from a minor purchase in 1741 to the point where they owned the whole parish, with a fine house, a governess for their daughters, and a phaeton in which to ride out. But despite these marks of status, they remained working farmers well into the Victorian era. Even more remarkably, they created and preserved a comprehensive archive, including farming accounts, diaries and correspondence. Dr Richard Olney has known this archive for nearly fifty years, first uncovering the documentary riches at Holton Hall (where manuscripts from the loft had to be lowered in baskets to the study below) and subsequently cataloguing the entire collection in the Lincolnshire Archives. In this book he creates a vivid portrait of the building up of a farming estate over several generations, revealing the introduction of agricultural improvements, the use of canals and, later, railways to access wider markets, and the place of "the middling sort" in nineteenth-century English rural society.
Richard Olney was an archivist at the Lincolnshire Archives Office from 1969 to 1975, and an Assistant Keeper with the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts from 1976 to 2003. His publications include Lincolnshire Politics 1832-1885 (Oxford 1973) and Rural Society and County Government in Nineteenth-Century Lincolnshire (History of Lincolnshire Committee 1979).