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Employment in Victorian Barwick-in-Elmet

Barwicker No. 6
July 1987

The census returns of the last century give us a record of how our forefathers were employed. In order to get an idea of the sort of place Barwick was I looked at the census returns for 1841 and 1851. I have listed the occupation of villagers on those two occasions. You will note from the table attached to this article that some of the names of occupations are unusual e.g. preceptor. I have used the terms which were used by the census enumerators at the time. The terms alone make interesting reading especially those for people of independent means. I have included apprentices under the trade to which they were apprenticed.

It is interesting how much change there was in the 1840's. This was the period of the repeal of the Corn Laws which had a marked effect on the prosperity of agriculture. You will see from the table how specialised people became during the period. I suspect that many of the jobs being done by specialists in 1851 were 'do-it-yourself' jobs in 1841 e.g. dressmaker and milliner. In other occupations the effect of industrialisation was probably beginning to have an impact e.g. the number of shoemakers halved in the ten years.

If you examine the numbers employed in farming you will see two significant trends which point to the relative decline in agriculture at that time. The number of agricultural labourers fell from 91 to 51 in the ten years. At the same time the number of farmers occupied full-time in farming fell from 29 to 19, two diversified and supplemented their income by becoming maltsters and innkeepers and four retired. You will also see that the number of female servants, who were employed more by farmers than by any other group, halved from 22 to 11.

Another surprise to me on first examining the census returns was that the village was a centre for education. There were several small private boarding schools in the village. The schools had a dozen or so places. They gave employment to 4 to 8 teachers in addition to the Village Schoolmaster,Mr. Beanland. It is not possible to be certain from the census where these schools were, but they seem to have been in Potterton Lane and in the Boyle. Perhaps someone has some more definite knowledge on this.

The village also seems to have had a number of people who were comfortably provided for in their retirement. The 'retired silk merchant' almost certainly lived in Main Street. We can tell from the census that he was not a native of the village. He seems to have moved here to retire. It is also intriguing to see that professional people lived in the village (a surveyor and a civil engineer) yet there can scarcely have been enough work in the village to keep them occupied. I am also mystified to know how the Parish Clerk made his office a full time job.

Overall the village can be seen to be engaged mainly in agriculture supported by tradesmen. In addition it provided a pleasant environment for educating children and housing professionals and retired persons of reasonably independent means.

BARWICK-IN-ELMET (Main village excluding the outlying hamlets and the Workhouse)

Occupations of villagers in 1841 and 1851
Occupation 1841 1851
Agriculture & Related:
Farmer 29 19
Farmer/Maltster 1
Farmer/Innkeeper 1
Farmer (Retired) 4
Agric.Labourer 91 51
Corn Trader 1
Miller 2 4
Gardener 2
Garden Labourer 1
Tradesmen & Services
Carpenter/Joiner 6 3
Wheelwright 7
Blacksmith 2 3
Mason 2 4
Tinner 1
Common Carrier 1
Messenger 1
Packer 1
Sad1er 1
Boot & Shoemaker/
Shoemaker/Cordwainer 9 4
Tailor 3 4
Tailor/Postmaster 1
Dressmaker 7
Milliner 2
Draper 2
Grocer/Draper 1
Grocer 2 2
Butcher 3 3
Brewer/Innkeeper 1 3
Teazle-dealer 2
Midwife 1

Semi -skilled or Unskilled
Lime-merchant/burner 1
Labourer(non-Agric.) 22
Coachman 2
Groom/Coachman 1
Female servant 22 11
Cook 1
Male Servant 2
Labourer - High Road 1
Railway Labourer 1
Laundress 1
Professional/Supervisory/Office Holder
Rector/Curate 2 1
Preceptor/Precress/Teacher- 5 9
Surveyor 1
Civil Engineer 1
Parish Clerk 1
Governess 1
Fund Holder 1
Independent /Retired/ Miscallaneous
Independent 1
Proprietor of houses/Mortgage Income 1
No occupation given 18 8
Retired silk mer-chant 1
Retired 1
'Late' Butcher 1
Retired Nurse 1
Retired Servant 1
Retired Clerk 1
Retired Dyer 1
Former Groom 1
Chelsea Pensioner 2
Parish Relief 8
'Visitors' 2
Total 205 218

H J Smith

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