EVEN with the rolling South Downs around us, it is sometimes easy to forget how much farming goes on in our green county.

Agriculture is still strong here, from vineyards to cattle grazing.

But as farming became more modern, the number of Sussex residents working in the fields dropped dramatically in the 19th and 20th centuries.

These photos from The Keep archive in Falmer show the county’s countryside in transition during the 1930s.

Farming was a popular Sussex pastime from its earliest days.

During the Neolithic period about 12,000 years ago, flint mined from the South Downs was used to chop down trees to make space for crops.

The Argus: Sharpening farm tools on the South Downs in 1937. Photo: East Sussex Record Office/The Keep. ARG/3/1523XSharpening farm tools on the South Downs in 1937. Photo: East Sussex Record Office/The Keep. ARG/3/1523X

By the 18th century agriculture writer Arthur Young remarked the cattle in the Weald were “unquestionably ranked among the best of the kingdom”.

But by 1830 unrest had spread across the Sussex countryside. New developments such as threshing machines were proving more productive than workers, forcing wages down for some and leaving others unemployed.

So protests known as the Swing Riots spread across Sussex and did not quiet down until two years later. Workers banded together and sent threatening letters to farmers demanding the menacing machines to be put out of service.

The riots were quelled by the army and the Sussex Yeomanry by 1832.

But the message had been understood loud and clear by the Government. In 1832 Parliament passed the Great Reform Act, starting the country on its long road to democracy.

The Keep is now able to take orders for reprints of these photographs. Just email thekeep@eastsussex.gov.uk or call 01273 482349, giving the date the photo was in The Argus and the photo reference number.

If you’d like a copy of a photo from a previous issue, give the date of the issue and a description of the photograph.