Jethro TULL (1674–1741)
Agriculturist and inventor of the seed drill
19A The Street, Crowmarsh Gifford
Jethro Tull was born in 1674 into a farming family at Basildon in Berkshire. An alumnus of St John’s College, Oxford, he was admitted to Gray’s Inn and called to the Bar in 1699. In that year he married and began farming at Howbery Farm, now identified with 16–19 The Street, Crowmarsh Gifford, and it was here in 1701 that he devised and perfected the horse-drawn seed drill which enabled crops to be sown with precision instead of being cast haphazardly by hand. He drew his inspiration for design from various mechanical instruments known to him, such as the organ.
In 1711 while travelling in France and Italy for reasons of health, he noted the practice of ploughing vineyards instead of using manure and implemented this method with great success on Prosperous Farm near Hungerford to which he had recently moved.
He published The Horse-hoeing Industry or An Essay on the Principles of Tillage and Vegetation in 1733, provoking a hostile reaction from those who contested his theories or accused him of plagiarism. However his work went to several later editions and proved very influential. William Cobbett edited it in 1822 and several translations were published in French, the most prestigious by Duhamel du Monceau, the famous French agriculturist. Voltaire cultivated his land at Ferney according to Tull’s precepts.
Tull died at Prosperous Farm in 1741 and was buried at Basildon.
- Sources: Tull’s own writings; G. E. Fussell, Jethro Tull: his influence on mechanised agriculture; Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
- Pictures: Jethro Tull’s former house
The plaque was unveiled at 19A The Street, Crowmarsh Gifford on 19 September 2002 by David Pedgley.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
Inventor of the
horse-drawn seed drill
Crowmarsh Parish Council