Howard, James (1821-1889) (DNB00)

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HOWARD, JAMES (1821–1889), agriculturist, born on 16 Oct. 1821, was second son of John Howard, agricultural implement maker, of Bedford, and was educated at the commercial school there. As a boy he gained much practical knowledge of agriculture from visiting his grandfather at Priory Farm, near Bedford. A taste for mechanics led him to consider the improvement of the ploughs made by his father. In 1841, with a plough of his own design the first iron-wheel plough of the present type ever exhibited he won the first prize at the Royal Agricultural Society's meeting at Liverpool. In 1842 he was equally successful at the Bristol meeting. His business rapidly expanded, and at every meeting for many years afterwards he brought out ploughs with successive improvements. In 1856 Howard joined Mr. Smith of Woolston in bringing Smith's steam-cultivator before the public. Thenceforward Howard threw his whole energies into steam cultivation, and took a hilly, strong-land farm in the neighbourhood for the purpose of experimenting.

In 1856 Howard and his brother Frederick began to build on the Kempston Road, Bedford, the present Britannia Ironworks, the shops and principal details being all carefully planned by Howard himself. In his time he brought out some sixty or seventy patents for various improvements in agricultural machinery. In 1862 the brothers purchased of the Earl of Ashburnham the Clapham Park estate, near Bedford, and farmed it in a scientific manner. Howard was specially successful in the breeding of large white Yorkshire pigs, shire horses, and shorthorns.

Howard was the first man in Bedfordshire to enrol himself as a volunteer. He formed a company of his own workmen, of which he was long captain. He was elected mayor of Bedford in 1863 and in 1864. He carried out many local improvements, and to him is due the institution of the Bedfordshire middle-class schools. He was also chairman of the Bedford and Northampton Railway. His communications with practical farmers led to the Farmers' Alliance, of which he was long the active president. In 1866 he visited America, and afterwards read a paper upon the agriculture of that country to the Royal Agricultural Society.

From 1868 to 1874 Howard represented Bedford in parliament as a liberal, and Bedfordshire from 1880 to 1885. In the House of Commons he quickly became known as the leading champion of tenant right and an authority on all agricultural questions. He was on the select committee for the Endowed Schools Bill. In 1873, in association with Mr. Clare Sewell Read, he brought forward his Landlord and Tenant Bill, but the measure was dropped in consequence of his illness, at the time for the second reading. He endeavoured, without much success, to amend the Agricultural Holdings Bills of 1875 and of 1883. A tour in 1869 suggested a paper read before the London Farmers' Club on 'Continental Farms and Peasantry,' in which he was one of the first to direct public attention to the beetroot sugar manufacture.

Towards the close of the Franco-German war Howard originated a fund for the relief of French peasant-farmers whose fields had been devastated; 50,000l. was raised and expended principally in seed. The French government passed a vote of thanks to him. In 1878 Howard acted as high sheriff of Bedfordshire, and was made a chevalier of the Legion of Honour in recognition of his services as one of the English commissioners of the Paris Exhibition.

Howard died suddenly in the Midland Hotel, St. Pancras, London, on 25 Jan. 1889, and was buried on the 30th in Clapham churchyard, Bedford. By his marriage on 9 Sept. 1846 with Mahala Wenden (d. 1888), daughter of P. Thompson of St. Osyth and Brook House, Great Bentley, Essex, he had ten children.

Howard was mainly instrumental in the erection in 1861-2 of the Agricultural Hall, London, and was long a director. He was at one time president of the Agricultural Engineers' Association, an active member of the councils of the Royal Agricultural Society and the London Farmers' Club, besides being a corresponding member of several foreign agricultural societies.

To the monthly reviews, the agricultural journals, and the daily newspapers Howard contributed many articles upon agricultural questions. The more important of his writings are: 1. 'Agricultural Machinery and the Royal Agricultural Society,' 1857. 2. 'Labour and Wages and the Effect of Machinery upon them,' 1859. 3. 'Steam Culture, its History and proper application,' 1862. 4. 'A Trip to America, two Lectures,' revised edition, privately printed, 8vo, Bedford, 1867. 5. 'A Visit to Egypt,' 1867. 6. 'A Scheme of National Education for Rural Districts,' 1868. 7. ' Continental Farming and Peasantry,' 8vo, London, 1870. 8. 'Science and Revelation not antagonistic,' 1872. 9. 'Our Villages, their Sanitary Condition,' 1874. 10. 'Our Meat Supply,' 1876. 11. 'Depression in Agriculture,' 1879. 12. 'Agricultural Implement Manufacture, its Rise and Progress,' 1879. 13. 'Laying down Land to Grass,' 1880. 14. 'The English Land Question, Past and Present,' 1881. 15. 'The Physiology of Breeding, and the Management of Pigs,' 1881. 16. 'Landowning as a Business,' 1882. 17. ' Foot and Mouth Disease,' 1883. 18. 'The Farmers and the Tory Party,' 1883. 19. 'Haymaking,' 1886. 20. 'The Science of Trade,' 1887. 21. 'Butterine Legislation,' 1887. 22. 'Gold and Silver Supply, or the Influence of Currency upon the Prices of Farm Produce,' 1888. 23. 'An Estimate of the Annual Amount realized by the Sale of the Farm Products of the United Kingdom … calculated upon the average of the Seasons of 1885, 1886, and 1887,' 1888.

[Private information; Gardener's Chronicle, 23 Dec. 1871 (with portrait); Agricultural Gazette, 28 Jan. and 4 Feb. 1889; Bedfordshire Times, 2 Feb. 1889; Bedford Mercury, 2 Feb. 1889; Bedfordshire Standard, 2 Feb. 1889; Times, 26 Jan. 1889; Daily News, 26 Jan. 1889.]

G. G.