Life in 19th Century Barford

What was life really like in 19th Century Barford

Hilary Maynard

How village life in the 19th century was depended on your status. There were a few very wealthy families who lived in the big houses with landed estates and who were the main employers.

The next run of the ladder were the professional people like doctors, parish priest, teachers and owners of commercial enterprises.

At the next rung were the working poor who were employed by the previous groups. At the very lowest level were the old, unemployable and disabled who were on Parish relief or in the work house.

The wealthy provided employment for many people on the land as agricultural workers, and gardeners and in their houses as servants.

When boys left school with a minimal education they would start work at menial jobs like crow scaring, stone picking, ditching and general labouring. They would work their way up if they were lucky and showed they could work hard, to become ploughmen, dairymen, gardeners, stable hands,,  grooms and men who oversaw the other workers.

When girls left school most went into domestic service, starting at the bottom as scullery maids and with more experience becoming kitchen maids, general maids, parlour maids, house keepers, cooks and ladies maids.

Some boys also went into domestic service as boot boys and general servants but could, with hard work, become porters, valets and the highest status, a butler.

They were required to live in and worked long hours for meagre wages as their food and accommodation were taken as part of their wages. They were allowed a few hours off on Sunday, after they had been to church, to visit their families. Uniforms were provided so they looked smart, a reflection of the employers kindness.

The agricultural workers may have been provided with small tied cottages to house their families. These were pitifully small and basic and were usually very overcrowded as families were often large. Water was drawn from a communal well and toilet facilities would have been a privy at the end of the garden. If the worker was sacked then the family had to vacate the house and find alternative accommodation.

When a worker became unemployable he would have to be look after by his sons and daughters. If that was not possible, then he or she would have to go into the Workhouse in Warwick where they would live out the rest of their days in a very harsh environment.

Whilst the wealthy would live a life of luxury, waited on hand and foot by the lower orders, the professional classes worked hard in the community, benefiting their fellow man. They also employed a few servants in the house and garden.

The school master taught boys the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic but as they left school at the age of 10 a lot of them were basically illiterate. Girls were also taught sewing.

During harvest time the older children took time off school to help with the harvest. Education was minimal and very few progressed to any further education although some charitable grants were made to those who showed promise and whose parents didn’t require them to leave school to work.

Life was hard for the poor, health care minimal and expensive so if you became very ill you died and were buried in a pauper’s grave. Diseases like cholera, tuberculosis,  scarlet fever, pneumonia, measles and common childhood disease carried off old and young alike so life expectancy was short. Childbirth was a dangerous event for all classes when the mother might be attended by the doctor if you could afford him or by a village woman who was practised in helping women of the lower classes. Many women died from the infection after the births leaving small babies to be cared for by a grieving widower or other siblings.

Barford was lucky as there were shops and services available in the village. These ranged from, food stores, bakers, butchers, haberdashers, undertakers, wheelwrights, post office and several public houses. If you needed something not available, a carter would take you into Warwick or Stratford upon Avon or you would walk there and back.

Life in Barford was very different to today when the strata of society has been evened out so all, through education, have similar opportunities to progress and extreme poverty no longer exists.






This page was added on 30/05/2022.

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