Monday, September 24, 2012

Victorian England

In writing the history of my great great grandfather Isaac Wardle, I have written a good description of Victoian England
Chapter One: Childhood
“I Did Not Have the Privilege of Going to School Much”

Bah, Bah a black Sheep,
Have you any Wool?
Yes merry have I,
Three Bags full,
One for my master,
One for my Dame,
One for the little Boy
That lives down the lane. (Wikipedia)

    Isaac John Wardle was born to John and Mary Kingston [Kinston] Wardle.  He was the second child to this union, his brother William preceding him.  His mother also had a child from a previous union, Thomas Morton.  To William and Mary were born three more children, in the order of their birth, Joseph, his sister Hannah, and the youngest brother James.  (Family Search)
    The surname Wardle is English.  “English: ...habitational name from places in Cheshire and Greater Manchester (formerly in Lancashire) called Wardle, from Old English weard ‘watch’ + hyll ‘hill’.” (Hanks)  Uncle Norval Wardle, at a William Haston Wardle family reunion, said it may also have come from ward of the well.  (Personal memory)
    Isaac described his early life in this manner:  “Isaac J. Wardle; born June 14, 1835 in the Theune [town] of Raven Stone [Ravenstone,] Lester Shire [Leicestershire, pronounced Lestershire] England; son of John and Mary Wardle.  I had four brothers and one sister.  I did not have the privilege of going to school much as I was put to work at the age of seven years old.”  (Wardle, Isaac 1) Isaac John Wardle was born June 14, 1835 at Ravenstone, Leistershire, England and was the third son of John and Mary Kinston Wardle.  (Wardle, Isaac 2)
    Mary’s first husband, William Morton, died sometime before 1832.  In an email I received from Kathy Taylor a descendant of Thomas Morton she says, referring to William, “I only have an estimated death date of before 1832.  I don't know why it shows just the year and not before.  Since Mary was remarried in 1832, I had the date in my file as a place setter.  This was an old Ancestral File submission.  Beth White has done most of the research on the family.  I got the information from her.”  (Kathy Taylor email)
     I could not find any record of the marriage, or of the death of William Morton.  After his death, Mary would have been expected to grieve for up to a year.  “At the moment of death, clocks would be stopped, curtains drawn over windows, and mirrors covered. Black apparel was quickly donned or if black cloth was not available, the household would quickly dye their clothes to a darker hue.  Widows from all social classes were expected to maintain mourning for a full year, and withdraw as much as possible from Victorian life. For women with no income, or small children to care for, remarriage was 'allowed' after this 12 month period.”  (About Britain)
Mary Kingston Wardle, her first husband and Thomas were born in Snarestone, Leicestershire, England.  (Family Search)  (Another Family Search record puts Mary’s place of birth as well as her parents, at Shackerstone which is also in this same area.  Both Snarestone and Shackerstone are within five miles of Ravenstone.  Family Search indicates Mary’s parents were Mary and Edward Mouton.
Thomas was born December 23, 1830.  His name is also given as Thomas Martin. (Rupp)  I have a photograph of Thomas, from after he came to Utah.  It is inscribed on the back, “Thomas Martin, Grandfather Isaac Wardle’s half-brother.”  I do not know who wrote the inscription. Thomas remained with his mother as indicated in Isaac’s description of his family and census information. (Census 1841, 1851)  He was listed as Thomas Wardle for the census information, but reverted to his birthfather’s name as an adult.  (Coalville Church records)
John Wardle’s parents, Isaac’s grandparents, were born in Ravenstone.  He was the son Thomas and Elizabeth Wardle.  (Family Search)
Family Search shows John Wardle and Mary Kinston Morton marrying in Ravenstone, November 12, 1932.  My brother took a copy of the marriage register from the Family History Library.  John is labeled as a bachelor and Mary as a spinster.  They both made their mark of an X instead of a signature.  (Marriage Certificate)
William was born just two months after the union of his parents, January 26, 1833.  (Family Search) Just over four months after his birth William was christened in Ravenstone.
     Isaac followed William, making him the middle child of the family.  The day after his birth, he also was christened in Ravenstone.  (Family Search)  Ravenstone Church is called St. Michaels of all Angels. (The Free Dictionary)
Isaac was followed two years later by his brother Joseph in Ravenstone, date of birth not given.  Hannah [Mary,] his sister, was born July 22, 1839 in Whitwick, Leicestershire.  Whitwick is a coal mining community about four miles from Ravenstone, on the other side of Coalville.  His youngest brother, James, was born in Ravenstone, October 16, 1841.  The christenings of his younger siblings are not a part of the family search record.
    Isaac indicated he had four brothers and a sister.  (Wardle, Isaac)  Other histories I have mention only three brothers.  (Rupp; Wardle, Orrin)  The census of 1841 includes three brothers, Thomas, William and Joseph.  The census of 1851 includes four brothers adding James who was born in 1841.  These histories also mention that all of Isaac’s brothers came to Utah.  (Rupp; Wardle, Orrin)  However there is no record of Joseph immigrating in the Church History, Mormon Pioneer rosters.  I wonder if Joseph passed away before his family emigrated in 1860.
    Ravenstone is just to the West of Coalville, which is the center of the Leicestershire coal fields.  It is a small community in Northwest Leicestershire.  (Wikipedia)  This community has a seasonal climate.  An early description was included in the Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales in 1870-72 by John Marius Wilson's:

RAVENSTONE, a village in Leicester, and a parish partly also in Derby, but all in the district of Ashby-de-la-Zouch. The village stands 2 miles W of Coalville r.[ail] station, and 4 S E of Ashby-de-la-Zouch; and has a post-office under Ashby-de-la-Zouch. The parish comprises 550 acres in Leicester, and 580 in Derby. Real property, £2, 520. Pop., 248 and 144. Houses, 54 and 55. The property is divided among a few. The manor, with R.[avenstone] Hall, belongs to L. Fosbrooke, Esq. R.[avenstone] House is the residence of the Rev. R. G. Cresswell. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Lichfield. Value, £320; Patron, the Lord Chancellor. The church is early English, in good condition; and has a tower and spire. There are a Wesleyan chapel, a national school, and an alms-house-hospital for 36 women. (Vision of Britain)

    The area was rural, barely over one person per acre.  (Vision of Britain)  About half of the population attended the Church of England.  Many attended the Wesleyan Methodist or the Baptist churches.  Everyone was Christian of some denomination.  The birth rate was also very high, about 185 births per 1000 women between the ages of 20 and 49.  About 30 percent of the people in this area would be considered lower class; about 56 percent middle class and 14 percent upper class. (Vision of Britain) 
This compares favorably to England in general.  During the English Victorian period, 70 percent of the population was considered poor (laborers,) 15 percent middle class (doctors, lawyers and teachers,) and 15 percent wealthy divided between gentry (those who earned their wealth) and aristocracy (those who inherited.) (Damon) During this period, the lives of children varied greatly, depending on the social class of the family.  The children of the wealthy had spacious rooms, tutors and lessons, toys, beds and linens, dances and social gatherings.  The lives of the lower class children were very different:

On the other side of the coin, poverty was a way of life for many Victorian children. There often wasn't the time or energy for play. Food was whatever could be found, scraped together, or stolen. Starvation and cold were facts of life.
Clothing most often came from trash barrels, or was purchased with whatever few coins a person had on hand. Sniffles would be allowed to grow into colds. Ill health was often cured only by death as the poor could not afford medical care.
Although perhaps not played with often, Victorian toys were available for a bit of joy. Boys would use yo-yo's, tin soldiers, and toy drums. Marbles were popular.
Girls would make their own dolls from bits of rags and buttons. These dolls would be loved just as much as the wax dolls available to the wealthier little girls. A hopscotch game could be held at a moment's notice.
If toys couldn't be found, rolling a hoop down the street would use any energy which was left over from a day of work. Games of hide-and-seek and Blindman's Bluff would be enjoyed by groups of children.
Working for a Wage: Children were expected to help supplement the family budget and were sent to work quite young. These weren't gentile jobs, they were manual labour paying extremely low wages.
Factories employed the young to crawl beneath huge machinery - into spaces which adults were too large to enter. Long hours of drudgery would be the order of the day, often starting before dawn and continuing after dark. Conditions were unsafe. Children who crawled beneath working machines were often killed.
Coal mines wanted children to open and close ventilating doors. Until the middle of the 1800's, children as young as five would often work up to 12 hours a day underground, often barefoot.
If not employed in a business, youngsters would roam the streets looking for work. Being a messenger was a 'clean' job, as was selling flowers. Others would polish shoes, sweep front steps, or become chimney sweeps.
Some poorer Victorian children found that criminal activities made their lives easier. Pickpockets were everywhere. Snatching food off food-vendor's carts and quickly running away was often the only method of getting something to eat.  (About Britain)

Rural homes where somewhat less crowded than urban homes.  Living in a Coal community, many of the homes were built by the coal industry, and would have been similar in appearance and very basic.  The diet of the poor was centered around bread and potatoes, with meat on rare occasions.  Other items may have been cheese, sugar, butter and tea as finances allowed.  The food may have been flavored with bacon.  There was no cold storage, so items had to be used within a couple of days from purchase.  This meant frequent trips to the small markets.  (See Damon.)  Bread and drippings were popular.  “Dripping was the fat from roasting meat; household and institutional cooks sold it to dealers.  Used instead of butter, dripping gave bread a tasty meat flavor and supplied some needed fat.” (Mitchell)
Because so much of the day was spent in work, there was very little time for recreation.  Isaac’s father, and older brothers, were likely away from home over fourteen hours every day, and after a day of hard labor would have been too tired to engage in much home life.  As evidenced by their marriage record, Isaac’s parents were illiterate.  Poor lighting from cheap candles, and the illiteracy of the family would have limited any opportunities to read.
Isaac indicated that he was not able to “attend school much.”  (Wardle, Isaac)  However, Isaac did have some schooling.  “As a boy he attended the common school of his toun and Sunday school of the “Church of England.”  (Wardle, Junius) “During my boyhood I attended the Sunday school of the church of England.”  (Wardle, Isaac 2)  The Northwest Leicester area had a higher rate of school attendance than the rest of England. 65 percent of the youth were eligible for voluntary education, and 65 percent of those attended.  That represents over 40 percent of the youth.  Attendance at Sunday school was 75 percent compared to 59 percent throughout England.   (Vision of Britain)  Sunday school was initially established for more than religious instruction.  “Sunday schools, when they were first started, taught reading and writing as well as religious subjects.  They were intended for working children who received no other schooling. (Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia)
During the Victorian industrial period, most English children had some schooling.  “As with society and clothing, schooling for Victorian children was very much divided along financial lines. Although receiving an education was not mandatory until the end of the 1800's, except for the very poor the majority of children had some sort of learning, if only to read and write their name.”  (About Britain)
There was likely little furniture in the Wardle home.  “Furnishings typically were minimal: a table with wooden chairs; a few hooks on the wall and a small tin or wooden trunk (called a box) for keeping clothes; one bed for the parents and one shared by all the children.  The kitchenware—a kettle and two or three pans plus some knives, forks, spoons, and plates—was kept on a shelf over the fireplace.”  (Mitchell)  There would have been a lack of privacy as the home was likely small.  “Sometimes there was a curtain that could be pulled to allow some privacy.” (Mitchell)
(The family likely had attitudes about privacy similar to those of William Haston Wardle, Isaac’s son.  He was living in the Teton Basin in the early 20th century.  Thomas Cheney, who was baptized by William Wardle, tells of the experience of going into the Wardle home after his baptism.  It was the wintertime.  William told him to get his wet clothes off and stand by the fire.  He was hesitant, until admonished again by Grandpa William.  William’s daughter, Delilah was baptized at the same time and also nude, warming herself by the fire.) (Cheney)
An advantage of living in a coal district, and working for the coal industry is that coal would have been readily available for the fire, for heat and for cooking.    In referring to coal miners Sally Mitchell in her book on Victorian England said, “They were well paid in comparison to other workers and often had free housing as well as free coal.  (If coal wasn’t given to them as a perk, their children could easily pick up all that was needed for family use from the scraps overlooked in the slag heaps and along the loading platforms.)” (Mitchell)
Mary (and later Hannah) would have had a difficult time keeping the home clean.  “Cleanliness was important to the respectable working class—and not easy to maintain, what with unpaved streets, horse traffic, and coal fires everywhere.” (Mitchell)
The working class man wore clothes that were practical.  Trousers were popular at this time, and a short coat would likely have been worn.  The working class generally did not wear night clothes, sleeping either in their underwear or in their work clothes. (See Mitchell)  Isaac talks of falling asleep after coming home from work, and presumably slept in his work clothes. (Wardle, Isaac)  Children wore clothing similar to their parents.  Clothing was often purchased second-hand, or handed down.  Girls generally wore the same dress day after day.  They would protect the cleanliness of the dress with layers of under clothing.  Woman also wore hats out of doors.  If shoes were worn, they would likely have been hand-me-down and may not have fit well.  (See Mitchell)
The area not only appeared to be more religious and better educated than England in general; people also lived longer.  The age of the populace was 40 percent under 15 and five percent over 65.  Of England 4.5 percent were over 65.  (Vision of Britain)
Political situations in England at the time contributed to the high rate of poor in the country.  Suffrage did not extend to all citizens.  Initially only property owners could vote or be members of parliament.  The Reform Act of 1832 allowed merchants to also vote, but to be elected you still had to own property.  (Wikipedia)  As a consequence, the laws were written so as to benefit the property owner, the farmer.  An example of these were the British Corn Laws: (which applied to all grains)

The Corn Laws were a series of statutes enacted between 1815 and 1846 which kept corn prices at a high level. This measure was intended to protect English farmers from cheap foreign imports of grain following the end of the Napoleonic Wars… The beneficiaries of the Corn Laws were the nobility and other large landholders who owned the majority of profitable farmland. Landowners had a vested interest in seeing the Corn Laws remain in force. And since the right to vote was not universal, but rather depended on land ownership, voting members of Parliament had no interest in repealing the Corn Laws. The artificially high corn prices encouraged by the Corn Laws meant that the urban working class had to spend the bulk of their income on corn just to survive. Since they had no income left over for other purchases, they could not afford manufactured goods. So manufacturers suffered, and had to lay off workers. These workers had difficulty finding employment, so the economic spiral worsened for everyone involved.  (Britain Express)

Several reformist groups grew out of these laws.  Primary of these was the Chartist Movement.  They fought for suffrage for all (males) as well as repeal of the Corn Laws.  The Corn Laws were repealed in 1846, but many of the other goals of the Chartists were not accomplished until into the 20th century.  (Britain Express)
The poem “Baa, Baa, Blacksheep” may have been a commentary on some of these conditions, particularly taxation.  Although the proportions where not a third, the church and the state each extracted their share of taxes.  (See Wikipidia)
The Wardle home was not one of luxury, but typical of working families during the industrial/Victorian era in England.  They lived in the coal mining district of Leicestershire, Ravenstone, Coalville and Whitwick.  Coal was, for the most part, the family employment.  The children had to work outside the home to make ends meet. (Wardle, Orrin)


  1. Wow, I always heard growing up 'yes sir, yes sir, three balls full.' Not,"Yes merry have I,
    Three Bags full."


  2. there are several versions according to Wikipedia