Home 1851

Home life was not easy in the 1850s. There were no electric lights in Stowupland at thisInterior scene with mother and child  a painting by Henry Spurnon Tozer c1892
Interior scene with mother and child
 Photograph of a painting by Henry Spurnon Tozer
c1892 ©Gressenhall Workhouse Museum
time. Candles had become cheaper in the 1840s when paraffin wax was discovered and cheaper oil for lamps gave better light after dark, although poor families would not have had much money for lighting. Some better off homes in the village had gas lighting that allowed people to stay up later into the evenings.

The homes of the majority of people in Stowupland would have been very basic with few pieces of furniture. There was no central heating and no running water.


Photo of people carrying water
Carrying Water
people would gather water and sell
it in villages that had no water supply
Sanitation in homes was poor compared to today. Many people had to collect their water from nearby streams and use a privy (an outside toilet which was basically a hole in the ground!) in the back garden of their homes. In a report into the employment of women and children in agriculture in 1871 Julian Jeffreys stated that he knew of

“a large parish in Suffolk mainly dependant on ditch water in certain seasons the administations of vermifuge would expel from the bowels of perhaps half the children, worms many inches long.”
Bury and Norwich Post, March 14th 1871

Domesitc Servants

Work involved in keeping a house was backbreaking. Only the better-off could afford some help. There were 10 million servants in Britain in 1851 and 90% were female.

The cook and the butler were the most important household roles in a wealthy household. The cook was the best-paid job for a woman. She was responsible for shopping for food and running the kitchen. The butler answered the front door and waited on the family.

Other jobs included kitchen and scullery maids. These were low-paid jobs which involved lighting fires and washing dishes. Housemaids cleaned the rooms and footmen did the heavy work. Many middle class households could only afford a housemaid or charwoman.

This exhibition is part of a wider sustainability project delivered through the Rural Museums East Partnership. It is funded by Renaissance East of England.

Site designed and built by Ugly Studios