Round up 1851
How Happy Were We in 1851?

Life in 1851 appears to have been very hard looking at it from the twenty-first century. Housing was poor for the majority of those in Stowupland and there were none of the modern amenities that we now take for granted.

People have a tendency to look on the past with rose tinted spectacles – we must remember that things were not easy.

Much Lower Life Expectancy

There were few cures for diseases, lots of children died before the age of five and there were few opportunities to ‘better yourself’. Life expectancy was low just 40.2 years for men and 43.6 years for women. Healthcare was poor, especially amongst the working classes who could not afford doctors fees.

The natural environment around Stowupland was not badly affected by industrial pollutants but there was an increased risk of disease due to lack of sanitation and running water. This is a far cry from the living conditions that we have today.

Resiliant People

Whilst life in the 1850s was difficult the people living in this era would have been used to and experienced in the tasks they needed to do in order to live.

The death of a child would have been as devastating for a family, as it would be now. Many more people attended church and believed in an afterlife which would have been of some comfort to them. They were also surrounded by large extended families and a close-knit community to help support and care for them.

Everyone Knew Their Place

The community at this time was self-sufficient. Everyone knew where they stood in local society - from the landowners, who had a moral duty and responsibility for their tenants, to the poorest labourer who cared for his or her parents and family.

Marking Important Events

The villagers were happy to help each other and to celebrate important events as a whole community. Village life was filled with different events and celebrations from the personal – marriages, births – to the public – harvest, May Day and Christmas.

Most children were not highly educated. The majority could write their name and read due to Sunday school but at this time it was not necessary to be highly educated in order to earn a living.

Limited Social Mobility

This may be one area that people felt unhappy about as even in 1851 being unable to read and write would have limited what you could do. There was a lack of social mobility due to poor education, accepted social norms and limited advantages for the working man.

So were they happy in 1851?
What do you think?


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

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