Keys to the Past


Threshing machine; Threshing Barn

Threshing was the separation of the grain of a crop from the unwanted (for humans) material called straw. Originally this was done by hand - but in the Agricultural Revolution was mechanised when the Scot Andrew Meikle of East Linton in 1786AD developed a machine. (There had been others - though these were unreliable). This machinery was housed in a threshing barn taking up most of one end of the building on two floors. The corn was fed in at the first floor level and rollers with grid-like brushes on separated the grain from the straw. The grain passed through the grid - so the straw was picked up by the brushes.

At the ground floor level the grain was bagged up for the millstones, the straw taken to the straw barn. This machinery was powered by water so specific gathering ponds, leats and sluices were built - where the ground allowed, as in the very northwest of Northumberland, as at West Moneylaws, Carham of the 1850s and Low Middleton, Middleton, constructed in the 1860s. Elsewhere, on the flatter and drier Northumbrian coastal plain gin-gangs and stationary steam engines were used, though possible wind seems not to have been used short of experiment and at Chollerton Steading (Northumberland).

Such threshing machines were common by 1797AD, and were in general usuage according to Bailey and Culley (see Agricultural Revolution). The Belford parish registers records in 1790AD that Several threshing machines'have been erected in this and neighbouring parishes'The contrivance is very ingenious, but threatens to hurt the poor; three or four men, or women, in this way being able to thresh as much corn as twelve in the common way. Sometimes these many were deliberately destroyed because they took work away from people - this happened in the Midlands, 1830-1832AD .
By 1840AD such machines were universal - either using water or steam. The use of steam power was popular near the coast, where there were many small seams of coal. The equipment could be employed in other tasks as well, using belts from the main wheels however they were powered.

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