I think I first heard this song on Shirley Collins’ 1967 LP The Sweet Primeroses, and subsequently learned it from Peter Kennedy’s Folksongs of Britain and Ireland. The version in Kennedy’s book is as sung by John ‘Charger’ Salmons and recorded at the Sutton Windmill, near Stalham, Norfolk in October 1947. The recording was made for the BBC Third Programme by composer E.J. Moeran. You can hear the entire 1947 broadcast on the CD East Anglia Sings, released by the rather wonderfully named Snatch’d from Oblivion label. A Musical Traditions article, E J Moeran: Collecting folk songs in East Norfolk – in his own words gives you all the background, and allows you to listen to the songs which he recorded; you can also buy the East Anglia Sings CD from Musical Traditions.
The song presumably dates from the Napoleonic period, judging by the rich farmers’ daughters who say
Boney alas! There’s a French war to fight and the cows have no grass.
Incidentally the three ballad sheets with the title ‘Rigs of the Time’ which can be found on the Bodleian Library Ballads site deal with a similar theme to this song, but otherwise appear unrelated.
The Rigs of the Time