Thomas Batchelor, farmer, poet and inventor
The Bedfordshire Magazine (Vol. 15, No.114) includes a very interesting article by A. Cirket about Thomas Batchelor, a Lidlington farmer, poet, agricultural writer and inventor of a shorthand system,
Thomas Batchelor was born in Marston Moretaine on the 25th September 1775 but the family moved to a farm owned by the Duke of Bedford at Boughton End, Lidlington in 1792.
In 1804 Batchelor published his first book 'Village Scenes: the Progress of Agriculture and other Poems'. An account of the young poet was included in James Dugdale's 'The New British Traveller' published in 1819. He called Batchelor a "rustic poet".
In 1806, Batchelor was employed by the Board of Agriculture to survey the agriculture of Bedfordshire. In the 1808 he published the results as 'General view of the agriculture of the County of Bedford'. This very detailed and well-researched book was republished in 1813. On the strength of this piece of work Batchelor was asked to write a similar report for Dorset although sadly - and to his annoyance - it did not appear under his own name.
In 1809 Batchelor published 'An Orthoepical Analysis of the English Language', and 'An Orthoepical Analysis of the Dialect of Bedfordshire'. Although not particularly regarded in his day, these books have been retrospectively appreciated by modern phonologists (linguists specialising in the sound systems of languages).
Another area of Batchelor's work was the study of shorthand; this was not surprising as his grandmother was the sister of Thomas Gurney, the first person to be appointed shorthand writer to Parliament. Although he did not find time to publish a book on the subject many of his notes still survive.
As well as writing and running a farm, Batchelor also found time to improve and develop agricultural implements. In 1823 two prizes were awarded by the Bedfordshire Agricultural Society to competitors using 'Batchelor's plough'.
Thomas Batchelor died on the 25th February 1838 after some difficulties both with his brothers and his farm management. He was buried in the Church of St. Margaret, Lidlington, which later fell into disuse and was pulled down. The Duke of Bedford awarded 10 a year for a period of five years to his widow after his death to help tide her over financial difficulties.
A copy of Thomas Batchelor's book 'General View of the Agriculture of Bedford' published in 1808 is held in the Heritage Library, Bedford.
- Thomas Batchelor by Alan A. Cirket in Bedfordshire Magazine, Vol. 15, No. 114, Autumn 1975
- Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
Thomas Batchelor, farmer, poet and inventor by Bedfordshire Libraries, 2005
Page last updated: 3rd February 2014