Daniel Defoe, in A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain ( 1724-6), described his journey across the Pennines to Halifax. He was surprised to find that the hills, despite their steepness, were 'spread with houses, and that very thick; for the land being divided into small enclosures, that is to say, from two acres to six or seven acres each, seldom more; every three or four pieces of land had a house belonging to it.' The explanation was not far to seek: outside most houses was a tenter on which was stretched a piece of cloth. The land alone, Defoe estimated, could support only a fifth of the population. When he visited a master manufacturer, Defoe found 'a house full of lusty fellows, some at the dye-vat, some dressing the cloths, some in the loom, some one thing, some another, all hard at work'. Scattered amongst the houses of the master manufacturers, Defoe found 'an infinite number of cottages or small dwellings, in which dwell the workmen which are employed, the women and children of whom are always busy carding, spinning, etc so that no hands being unemployed, all can gain their bread, even from the youngest to the ancient; hardly any thing above four years old, but its hands are sufficient to itself.'
In this landscape of industrious domestic producers, agriculture was very much an ancillary activity:
as every clothier must keep a horse, perhaps two, to fetch and carry for the use of his manufacture, (viz) to fetch home his wool and his provisions from the market, to carry his yarn to the spinners, his manufacture to the fulling mill, and, when finished, to the markets to be sold, and the like; so every manufacturer generally keeps a cow or two, or more, for his family, and this employs the two, or three, or four pieces of enclosed land about his house, for they scarce sow corn enough for their cocks and hens.
The area could not feed itself, so that 'they must then necessarily have their provisions from other parts of the country'. Grain came from Lincoln, Nottingham, and the East Riding; cattle and horses from the North Riding; butter from