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Plaxtol Local History Group - Nov update

Discussion in 'Plaxtol' started by Discuss Ted, Nov 9, 2009. Replies: 0 | Views: 1651

  1. Discuss Ted

    Discuss Ted Member

    Plaxtol Local History Group - Nov update


    Life in the Kentish Victorian Village

    Helen Allinson explained how life in a Victorian village was governed by a strict social hierarchy. At the top were the Squire and then the Vicar. Below them came the farmers, the craftsmen, the farm workers, and at the bottom were tramps, gypsies and hop pickers. As everyone in the village grew up together, went to school together, and worked together, they would all know each other very well. The village would be largely self-sufficient.

    The pay for farm workers was low, and did not rise until the 1880s, when unions were established. Waggoners were paid slightly more, but did longer hours looking after the horses.

    Workers lived in tied accommodation and were sometimes subject to harsh treatment by farmers. For example, after a father was killed in a ploughing
    accident, the family was instantly evicted. Farmers did set up Agricultural Associations, which offered annual prizes for say the best ploughman.
    Workers joined Friendly Societies, which would meet in the local pub, to save money for funerals – to avoid the pauper’s grave. A chest with multiple keys (to stop embezzlement) would be used to save penny contributions. The society feast day became an important day in the village calendar, second only to Xmas.

    Village entertainments would include Mummer plays, performed by men and boys only. Doggerel verses used were passed down aurally. Costumes would be very basic – just a few ribbons. Some villages would have a brass band, or hand-bell ringers.

    A village would have a variety of craftsmen – blacksmiths, wheelwrights, shoemakers, bakers etc. Some of these would be prosperous, owning their houses, and employing apprentices.
    Village sounds would be from these occupations – the modern curse of motor noise was totally absent. Windmills were used for milling, until cheaper corn became available from Canada. By WW1 windmills were falling into disrepair.

    At the top of the social pyramid, life was good, with a lifestyle supported by servants. However, management of the servants could be a challenge. A female servant collapsed while serving at dinner, and gave birth. She was sent to the workhouse a week later. The vicar would be highly educated, and with limited duties, had plenty of time for hobbies. However non conformism was strong and in some villages Methodists has similar congregations to the C of E church.

    Children were seen and not heard. Child mortality until the age of 5 was high. After the 1870 Act, primary school was compulsory, an unpopular move with labourers who needed the help of their children. Teachers were paid by results, based on annual assessment of pupil progress.

    World War 1 brought major change, with all families being affected. Summing up, compared to modern village life, in Victorian times, there was much greater community support, and self entertainment.

    David Gurney set out a display from our archive of photographs & clothing items from Victorian times.

    Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 10th November 2009 at, 8pm when Eric Keys will talk on The Sundridge Workhouse.

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