England Changes Under George III’s Reign
In 1762, the year George III and his wife Queen Charlotte gave the English people the first heir born to a ruling monarch since the “Old Pretender,” James II’s son (1688), Britain was on the brink of the Industrial Revolution. What were the changes happening in the country?
Roads: Until the early 19th Century the pack horse ruled the road, or what was supposed to be a road. Even at the turn of the century, only a few major routes could be considered more than ruts, broken stones, and muddy sand. From London to Bath, one had an easy way to go, but the more rural roads often left villages cut off for months during the winter. The development of Tarmac by the Scottish surveyor, John McAdam, resolved some of those issues.
Canal System: This was the most efficient means to move goods. The Duke of Bridgewater, at a cost of £220,000, built the first canal in 1759. Bridgewater brought coal from his mines in Worsley to Manchester and reduced the cost of coal to half. By 1815, the cost of inland transportation was reduced by 75%.
Population: When George IV was born, the combined population of England and Wales was 6.5 million. However, with the development of new medical procedures and agriculture, the population became stable – fewer deaths with childbirth and a longer life expectancy. By the time of George IV’s death in 1831, the combined populations had climbed to 16.5 million. Urban development exploded. In the mid 1700s, only London (750,000) and Bristol (60,000) had large populations.
Trade: During the same time period, imports were £11 million and exports numbered £16 million. England imported wine, spirits, tea, sugar, and coffee. Exports included woolen goods, metal works, pottery, tin, and cured fish. The Atlantic triangle thrived: Merchants transported goods to West Africa, where they picked up slaves for the West Indies and southern colonies. From the “New World,” England received sugar, tobacco, and timber. England capitalized on the Industrial Revolution, especially in the areas of iron, steel, coal, and textiles. The first steam loom appeared in Manchester in 1806, which had a developed transportation model in place.
Agriculture: The agricultural world saw several improvements: Lord Townshend’s four-crop rotation (leaving one field fallow and rotating energy rich legumes with staple crops); use of marl to enrich soils; Jethro Tull’s drill seed. In livestock trade, similar advancements took hold: the development of sheep herds for meat and a shorter fleece being the most prominent improvement.