Ellman, John (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


ELLMAN, JOHN (1753–1832), agriculturist, the son of Richard and Elizabeth Ellman, was born at Hartfield, Sussex, 17 Oct. 1753. His father, who was a farmer, removed to Glynde in 1761, and on his death in 1780, Ellman succeeded to his farm, which under his management quickly assumed a position second to none in the county. He turned his attention particularly to improving the breed of Southdown sheep, and by careful selection of animals for breeding purposes obtained such successful results that, in spite of much jealousy and detraction, he fully established the high merits of the Southdown breed, which had before been scarcely recognised. Unlike his rival Robert Bakewell (1725–1795) [q. v.], Ellman was perfectly frank and open about his methods, and was always ready to give advice to any one who cared to ask for it. Consequently, when the success of his breeding became known, his assistance was eagerly sought, and among those who more frequently visited his farm or corresponded with him were the Duke of Bedford, the Earl of Albemarle, Lord Somerville, who introduced him to George III, and Lords Egremont, Sligo, Darnley, Londonderry, Sheffield, and Chichester. In 1786 he founded, together with the Earl of Sheffield, Lewes wool fair, and it was at his suggestion that Lord Egremont formed the Sussex Agricultural Association, for the improvement of cattle and the encouragement of industry and skill among the labouring poor. He also took a leading part in the institution of the Smithfield Cattle Show, and on the death of Richard Astley was made 'father' of the show, an office he held for many years. He was a frequent prize-winner both in London and Sussex, and won with such ease that he presently refrained from exhibiting or withdrew his sheep while the judging was in progress, so that they might not detract from the appearance of the others. He was also successful with his cattle, and in 1819 the board of agriculture awarded him the gold medal for the best cultivated farm in Sussex. In 1800 a silver cup was presented to him by the landowners of Sussex, and five years later the Duke of Bedford gave him a silver vase as a mark of his personal esteem. To the board of agriculture Ellman rendered considerable service, and several contributions by him will be found in their 'Transactions.' He also largely gave assistance to Arthur Young in compiling his voluminous 'Annals of Agriculture,' contributed frequently to the 'Farmers' Journal,' and corresponded with an agricultural association at Rouen, some of his communications to which were published by the Société d'Amélioration des Laines. He wrote the article 'Sheep' in Baxter's 'Library of Agricultural and Horticultural Knowledge,' and revised other papers in the same work. Outside of agriculture Ellman interested himself largely in county affairs. He was a commissioner of taxes, and as expenditor of Lewes and Laughton levels, he carried out a difficult scheme for the improvement of navigation on the Ouse. The reconstruction of Newhaven harbour was also largely due to his energy. In his own village of Glynde he maintained a school for labourers' children at his own expense, and he refused to allow the licencing of any public house there. He strongly insisted, however, on the vital importance of beer to farm labourers, and afforded facilities for home brewing. The unmarried labourers in his employ he lodged in his house, and on their marriage was accustomed to provide them with a plot of grass land for a cow and pig, and a certain amount of arable; but he was opposed to any allotment system on a larger scale. In 1829 Ellman retired from active work, and his celebrated flock was sold by auction. The rest of his life he resided alternately at High Cross, Uckfield, a small estate of his own, and in Albion Street, Lewes, where he died on 22 Nov. 1832. He was twice married on 27 Jan. 1783 to Elizabeth Spencer, by whom he had one son John, also a very successful farmer; secondly to Constantia Davies, daughter of the vicar of Glynde, who had a numerous family, and survived him. Ellman's portrait was painted by Lonsdaile for presentation to his wife on his retirement from the farm, and has been engraved.

[Memoir of Ellman prefixed to vol. ii, of Baxter's Library of Practical Agriculture, 4th edit. 1851; Lower's Sussex Worthies, p. 84; Young's Annals of Agriculture, passim; the paper 'Gleanings on an Excursion to Lewes Fair' in vol. xvii. contains a discription at length of Ellman's improvements in his flock and cattle.]

A. V.