Community  Life 1851

What opportunities were there for people to meet and share interests in Stowupland in 1851?

Visiting Other Places

The railway had come to the parish of Stowupland in 1846. Travel to nearby towns and further afield was therefore possible but not affordable for all.


The nearby town of Stowmarket acted as a community hub for the surrounding villages including Stowupland. It had numerous clubs and societies, such as the Mechanics Institute, that provided reading rooms and libraries for the working-man.

Market days in Stowmarket would have provided a welcome break from the routine life of a villager and a chance to meet with people from other towns and villages, as would the regular cattle markets held where ASDA is now situated in the town.

The courthouse could also be a source of entertainment especially if the crime was famous in the area or if the person before the court was from Stowupland.

Male Bonding

At this time the village had five public houses or taverns: The Kings Arms, Railway Tavern, The Pickerel Inn, The Wellington Inn and The Crown Inn, where local men could while away their spare time.

Women were not encouraged to use the local inns – it was not seen as a ladylike pastime. The pub was definitely a male domain! Pubs provided a place to meet and an escape from overcrowded homes.

Many men would have their ‘local’ where they were ‘regulars’ and would have known other regular drinkers in that pub. This created a sense of camaraderie.


The majority of people in the village would have worked 6 days a week for 12 or more hours a day. This left very little time for social and leisure activities.

There were no official bank holidays until 1871 but farm workers traditionally had celebrations at certain times of the year such as May Day and harvest time that involved the entire village. These festivals could be raucous with drinking, dancing and music – they were days for the whole village to blow off some steam and have fun.

The Female Community

A patchwork quilt
Women would have created patchwork
quilts to use up leftover fabric,
save money and to occupy
themselves in the evenings
Women would have had little free time. They were encouraged to always keep busy with mending, darning and other activities so they were never seen to be idle.

We tend imagine that women in the home were isolated from society and toiled alone. This was not always necessarily true. Women would help each other with larger chores such as wash day and would have been in and out of each other’s homes looking for their children and sharing a cup of tea.

The Role of the Church

The villagers would have been expected to attend the village church on religious days over periods such as Easter and Christmas. The church provided a focus for the local community and helped to foster a sense of community cohesion.

Often the entire village would celebrate weddings and christenings in the parish church.

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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