Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford: Betsy Barker’s Alderney Cow

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

An old lady had an Alderney cow, which she looked upon as a daughter. You could not pay the short quarter of an hour call, without being told of the wonderful milk or wonderful intelligence of this animal. The whole town knew and kindly regarded Miss Betsy Barker’s Alderney…

The British Channel Islands have been known for their cows with creamy and buttery milk since the late 18th Century. Alderney’s actually came from Jersey and are known as Jersey cows this present day. The name confusion occurred because they were shipped from Port Alderney. In an 1851 auction Alderney’s value varied between £7 – £12 (£400 to £702 in today’s money). But remember, at the time a person could live comfortably with only £30 a year (£1,700).

Around the time when Miss Betsy Barker was probably born and grew up, it was very fashionable to have your own cow. You can read a little more about this at AustenOnly. Perhaps her having an Alderney tells us a yearning for being fashionable, even if a little late. She looks at the cow as a daughter so she must be a gentle soul, somewhat lonely, and no doubt fond of animals..

Featured Image © Sarah MacMillan
“Auction of Family Goods prior to emmigrating to New Zealand.” 1066 Geneology . N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2010. <http://www.rootschat.com/history/hastings/content/view/178/46/&gt;.
Wakefield, Julie. “Mrs Martin’s Alderneys « austenonly.” AustenOnly. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2010. <http://austenonly.com/2010/01/20/austen-only-emma-season-mrs-martins-alderneys/&gt;.

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