Community  Life 1901

In 1901 many aspects of village community life remained the same as in the 1850s. Church events provided a focus for the entire village especially on religious dates, men met in the local pubs and women would help each other in the home. Regular markets were held in Stowmarket which gave people from the local villages a chance to meet and exchange news.

Spare Time

There were some changes as by the end of the Nineteenth Century, a combination of shorter working hours and increased Members of the Ipswich Bicycle club c.1900
Members of the Ipswich Bicycle club c.1900
Stowmarket had its own very popular cycling club.
mechanisation reduced the punishing levels of manual work. This meant that many workers experienced the novelty of ‘spare time’.

Ordinary people could now afford to visit theatres and go on days out to the seaside using the railway network.

The railway could take passengers all the way to London for 1d a mile or 6 shillings 9 pence (34p) return, but as the average wage at this time was about 10 shillings most people could not afford to travel that far.

A local Community

Clubs and societies sprung up all over the county and as Stowupland is so close to the town of Stowmarket all the facilities of a town were available to the villagers.

Stowmarket had 38 inns, taverns or hotels and Stowupland had a further 9, so it can be assumed that they were popular!

There were other pursuits available including the football teams, the Stowupland Falcons & Stowmarket Football Club, the swimming club, the Boys Brigade, the choral society and the book club which was over 100 years old.

The Stowmarket Institute

The organisation that seemed to offer the most to people in Stowmarket and the surrounding areas was the Stowmarket Institute.  The institute had a library, reading rooms and held various events such as plays and concerts throughout the year. All of these activities provided an opportunity for people to meet and share common interests.

The Women’s Guild

The Women’s Co-operative Guild founded in 1894 offered a social and intellectual outlet for many women who since the early 1800s had been confined to domesticity. The guild gave women with common interests a chance to meet in larger numbers.

Play Time

A School Treat in Mendlesham C.1905
A School Treat in Mendlesham C.1905
©MEAL
Children also experienced special days out organised by the local church and Sunday school.

People continued to make their own entertainment but by the beginning of the Twentieth century most families could afford simple board games such as Snakes and Ladders and Ludo.

Personal Transport

Three ladies with bicycles C.1900
Three ladies with bicycles C.1900
©MEAL
Bicycles became more affordable and formal and informal clubs were formed all over the country. The pedal cycle provided the first, affordable means of private transport opening up the country to many working men.

Beyond the railways there was no public transport as we know it today, only coaches that travelled to certain towns at certain times along bumpy roads. The cost of the coach could be more than twice a labourer’s weekly wage.

Victorian Sensibilities

Many of the traditional events of the mid-century were still held but they had been sentimentalised and censored by the Victorians. In many places the harvest celebrations were not as raucous as before and only children took part in the May Day festival. Bank holidays had been introduced during the 1870s to replace the traditional celebratory days although there was no guarantee that every worker would be able to take the day off work.


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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