In the early part of the 19th century common land was often handed over to wealthy landowners. The landowners leased out portions of land to tenant farmers. The size of rented land tended to be just a few acres.
William Arnold rented 17 acres at Barton.
Poorly paid with work often only on a seasonal basis. Some farm jobs required extra skills and that could mean a steady income for the family albeit very low. In summer a labourer would work the daylight hours harvesting the crop using a scythe. Families frequently moved from village to village chasing work. As mechanisation increased in the early 19th century so job availability decreased.
Many of the Arnold men spent much of their working life as agricultural labourers.
Since the beginning of the 17th century the area was the home of the straw plait industry. After harvest, straw was dried out, flattened and then braided to produce a woven strip which was sold to hat and basket makers. The braiding or plaiting was carried out by women and children. At its peak in the mid 19th century, a straw plaiter could earn more than an agricultural labourer.
In the 19th century most of the Arnold women and female children earned from straw plaiting.