Work and Status EMPLOYMENT IN VICTORIAN BARWICK Back to the Main Historical Society page
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Work and Status

Barwicker No 28
December 1992

The Society has now acquired copies of the census returns from the village for the years 1841 to 1881. The 1891 census has only just been released for inspection and has not yet been studied in detail. This article is based upon a detailed examination of the census returns completed every ten years from 1841 to 1881. Besides telling us basic details of the number of inhabitants and who lived in the Village, the census returns from 1841 have given details of the jobs of inhabitants or the status of those fortunate enough to have work and those unfortunate not to have a job.

By analysing the occupations and standing of inhabitants, it is possible to consider how prosperous the Village was and the source of its economic standing. Tbe analysis shows clearly tbe dominance of agriculture in the life of the Village. The number of farmers resident within the village as opposed to those living in the fields away from the village declined marginally during the forty years from 18 to about 15.

The farms were small, an average of 70 acres, and were clearly not large enough for the farmers to be prosperous as a number combined farming with other jobs. In one case, in 1881, Yill1am Thompson records that besides being a farmer of 40 acres employing one labourer, he is also a butcher and the Parish Clerk. In a number of cases farmers relied upon members of the family as regular labourers and a few employed more than one or two permanent labouring staff.

A count of the number of agricultural labourers has given a suprising result. In Table A below it can be seen that there is a halving of the number of agricultural labourers between 1841 and 1851. During the decade, employment in agriculture entered a depression from which it never recovered. The number of farms did not decrease so farmers coped without employing staff at the same level. Ye do not as yet know the exact cause of this event, except that this decade saw the repeal of the Corn Laws and the introduction of chemical fertilisers and increased mechanisation. As yet we do not know the extent to which these improvements were introduced in Barwick-in-Elmet. Agricultural production does not appear to have suffered as we see for instance a doubling of the number of millers in the village from two to four during the decade. Clearly there is much more investigation to be done on this topic.

So what happened to those fifty or so agricultural labourers of 18417 From 1851, we have a new occupation listed, 'the labourer', including specialist labourers such as 'highway labourers' and 'colliery labourers'. Of all those listed as non-agricultural labourers in 1851, which we can trace as having an occupation in 1841, all were agricultural labourers in 1841. There appears to have been some form of 'job creation' initiative in the 1840s. There was some diversification out of agriculture into industry. A comparison of the employment in the village shows that the villagers started to be employed in coal mining during the decade and the range of trades and services in the village increased as well.

The continued importance of agriculture throughout the period is demonstrated by a list below (Table B) of those employed in occupations in support of agriculture. Note the increasing range of specialist occupations during the period. For instance, the number of millers declined from four in 1861 to one in 1881 but there was a millwright/mechanic and a miller's carrier in that year. The presence of both a collector and a seller of herbs (both women) in 1861 may reflect the state of the economy at the time rather than a genuine growth in employment opportunities.

Table B shows that employment in this sector grew considerably during the mid-Victorian period,. This provides testimony to the idea that the village continued to be primarily dependent upon agriculture for its livelihood.

On the reasonable assumption that the village's farmers produced more food than could be consumed in the village, farming was a source of income for the village. The census returns show us that there were no other significant indigenous occupations in the village which created exportable wealth. Another creator of income from outside the village was education. Throughout the middle years of the last century there were one or more private schools for young ladies in the village. Whilst having only a dozen or so boarding pupils the schools did provide both employment and demand for local services.

The Village was also home for a number of retired business people from Leeds, and even from London, all of whose wealth was from outside the village. They too would have created demand for local services. In the case of those in professional callings such as clergymen and teachers in the local school their income was from local sources. A list of inhabitants who were either members of a profession or who were of independent means is given below:

The table shows a doubling of the number of inhabitants of such status throughout the period from 1841-1881. Bote particularly the rise in the number of retired people in the last decade. This to some extent reflects the development of modern services based upon the increasing wealth at the time as witnessed by the presence of an insurance collector in the village.

There was a more erratic expansion of opportunities for employment in services in the village (see Table D). The list shows a similar pattern of increased specialisation in occupations over the forty years. The Police Constable, introduced in the period 1861-71, and the Postmaster and Postman, would all have been public servants and consequently paid from funds from outside the village. Most of the other occupations listed in Table D were reliant on internal wealth of the Village for their livelihood.

Note the significant increase in the numbers employed in the trades between 1841 and 1851. The list also includes a number of farmers who became part-time farmers and diversified into other occupations such as brewing, shopkeeping and tailoring. The list also gives some idea of what people did for themselves. There was no baker until after 1861. Note that there are few employed in the building industry in the Village. There were only masons and joiners in the Village and their numbers fluctuated. Conversely the list shows the effect of industrialisation on the trades. The numbers of boot and shoemakers in the village halved; presumably people bought factory-made boots and shoes rather than hand-made ones.

Table E shows the changes in the number of villagers moving from farming into industry in the 1840s. No villager in 1841 was employed in industry. By 1851 the number was 11 and by 1871 the number had doubled due to the opening of mines to the south of the village. Increasingly after 1851 more worked in transport, particularly road transport and road maintenance. There was little opportunity for the railways to offer employment to the villagers, particularly after the failure to attract railways to the village (see 'The Barwicker' No.27). All the income from industrial work came from outside the Village. Therefore when combining the income from investments, savings and pensions with that earned from industry there was a substantial portion of the village's economy which relied upon external conditions by the end of the period.

The remaining category of occupation in the village was domestic service which employed over double the numbers employed in industry and was a valuable source of work for women. The numbers employed are listed in Table F. The numbers employed in domestic work fluctuated markedly and, with the exception of 1871, there was little change in numbers from 1841 to 1881. Jobs became more specific as the period progresses. The Rectors employed between five and eight resident staff as well as unknown numbers of non-resident staff.

In conclusion therefore we can see that during the middle of the 19th. century Barwick-in-Elmet was to all appearances a Village dependent on farming with its 15 to 18 farms in the village itself. There was no industry but there were plenty of services for the inhabitants. Village life must have been sufficiently pleasant, comfortable and convenient to attract the retired middle class and respectable schools for young ladies. ~e have seen that there was sufficient wealth in the village for a substantial proportion of the Village to be employed in domestic service. At the same time there was industry sufficiently close to give further employment opportunities to the village. By the end of the period 1841-1881 the village had been transformed from a virtually self-sufficient community to one which was developing substantial economic ties with the outside world. 'We know from the village of today just how far that process was to go.

Harold Smith

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