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Old 09-17-2012, 08:40 PM
ac05 ac05 is offline
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British working class leisure in the 1800s

What was the most common way British working class men, women, and children spent their leisure time, in the 1800s?
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Old 09-17-2012, 08:53 PM
ac05 ac05 is offline
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EDIT: What was the most common way British working class men, women, and children spent their leisure time, in the 1800s? Was there any leisure time activity that men, women, and children could all enjoy? Or was there no activity that included both genders and all ages?
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Old 09-17-2012, 09:17 PM
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*Bump*
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Old 09-17-2012, 09:43 PM
GreasyJack GreasyJack is online now
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I think you're going to have to be more specific. Was there a difference in what people did for fun in 1900 and 1999? Same thing with 1800 and 1899. Maybe even a bigger difference.
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Old 09-17-2012, 10:08 PM
Springtime for Spacers Springtime for Spacers is offline
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They had precious little leisure time.
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Old 09-17-2012, 10:14 PM
Smapti Smapti is offline
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Drinking?
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Old 09-17-2012, 10:25 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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Originally Posted by GreasyJack View Post
I think you're going to have to be more specific. Was there a difference in what people did for fun in 1900 and 1999? Same thing with 1800 and 1899. Maybe even a bigger difference.
For that matter, I would imagine there was a significant difference between, say, Londonders, and those who lived in rural areas, and perhaps between the different regions of Britain.
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Old 09-17-2012, 11:04 PM
dolphinboy dolphinboy is offline
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I think the answer is go to church, have a family afternoon meal and perhaps doing some reading while someone played the piano. Didn't they work every day except Sunday? I would think going on a picnic might be popular during the warmer/dryer months during a public holiday...
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Old 09-18-2012, 04:30 AM
WotNot WotNot is offline
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I think the answer is go to church, have a family afternoon meal and perhaps doing some reading while someone played the piano. Didn't they work every day except Sunday? I would think going on a picnic might be popular during the warmer/dryer months during a public holiday...
That sounds very middle class, if you don't mind me saying. Your average working class family throughout the 19th century would more likely have been living in a single room (sometimes with another family) without either the means to cook a family meal or space to put a piano – in the extremely unlikely circumstance that they could afford one.

They generally weren't much fussed about going to church, either.
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Old 09-18-2012, 04:42 AM
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Drinking, quarreling and fucking.
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Old 09-18-2012, 04:51 AM
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That sounds very middle class, if you don't mind me saying. Your average working class family throughout the 19th century would more likely have been living in a single room (sometimes with another family) without either the means to cook a family meal or space to put a piano – in the extremely unlikely circumstance that they could afford one.

They generally weren't much fussed about going to church, either.
I agree with your first paragraph (well, for the whole working class over the whole century you might be exaggerating the level of poverty a bit - some had houses even), but I think many probably did attend church. If you were dirt poor, church was a welcome relief from your cramped home, and a cheap form of entertainment of a sort. Certainly it functioned that way for the rural poor before the industrial revolution, and it would be surprising if many of them did not carry over those habits to their new urban environment.

I am a bit unclear whether the OP is asking about the whole century, or just its first decade. I believe that on the whole, conditions for many segments of the working class improved a good deal over the course of the century. By the end, a few of them might indeed have been able to afford pianos.

Last edited by njtt; 09-18-2012 at 04:54 AM..
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Old 09-18-2012, 05:42 AM
glaeken glaeken is offline
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My granddad and grandma on my father’s side worked in service during the 1920's and 30's and from what they said they actually got very little time off. It seemed to amount to Sunday and maybe a day a year holiday where you might go on a trip to the sea side.

I don't think they were even guaranteed the whole of the Sunday off. It could just be Sunday morning. Also on their work days I think there was no concept of 9 – 5 type hours. Often their days could be much longer. I think the idea of fixed hours is just not something they really worked to in those types of jobs.

I cannot imagine it was any better in the 1800's.

Ah the good old days eh.
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Old 09-18-2012, 06:07 AM
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Originally Posted by njtt View Post
I agree with your first paragraph (well, for the whole working class over the whole century you might be exaggerating the level of poverty a bit - some had houses even), but I think many probably did attend church. If you were dirt poor, church was a welcome relief from your cramped home, and a cheap form of entertainment of a sort. Certainly it functioned that way for the rural poor before the industrial revolution, and it would be surprising if many of them did not carry over those habits to their new urban environment.

I am a bit unclear whether the OP is asking about the whole century, or just its first decade. I believe that on the whole, conditions for many segments of the working class improved a good deal over the course of the century. By the end, a few of them might indeed have been able to afford pianos.
Oh, God, yeah – I was over-generalising like anything. The situation of the working class certainly changed a great deal over the course of the century, and there were always those who were better off than others (and there were differences between the rural poor and those in cities, and so forth).

I just thought it was important to point out the discrepancy between the cosy image of Sunday lunches and a piano in the parlour, and the desperate, crushing, murderous poverty (in all senses of the word) that millions of people experienced throughout the 19th century and, indeed, into the 20th.

Last edited by WotNot; 09-18-2012 at 06:08 AM..
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Old 09-18-2012, 09:04 AM
hibernicus hibernicus is offline
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In certain model industrial towns such as Saltaire (and the other one that I can't remember the name of - Robert Owen), the industrialist owner provided leisure activities for the workers and their families, such as boating lakes and improving lectures.
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Old 09-18-2012, 09:17 AM
xnylder xnylder is offline
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From my Victorian readings, I'd say that children (at least those who weren't pressed into work) were encouraged to engage in educational activities suitable to their genders. Boys got to do more adventurous stuff like exploring, whittling, and making engineering projects like magic lanterns and model ships (see The Dangerous Book for Boys for an updated version of this). Girls were encouraged to practice crafts such as embroidery and decoupage, but also learned gracious entertainment such as memorizing poetry and playing piano. (This assumes a certain level of family income, of course.) Very young children of both genders might play together doing things such as bowling hoops, but they were segregated soon enough.
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Old 09-18-2012, 09:45 AM
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Old 09-18-2012, 10:23 AM
njtt njtt is offline
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Originally Posted by hibernicus View Post
In certain model industrial towns such as Saltaire (and the other one that I can't remember the name of - Robert Owen), the industrialist owner provided leisure activities for the workers and their families, such as boating lakes and improving lectures.
Owen's original factory and community was at New Lanark in Scotland, I believe. He later, much less successfully, attempted to set up a socialist community in Indiana.
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Old 09-18-2012, 10:27 AM
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From my Victorian readings, I'd say that children (at least those who weren't pressed into work) were encouraged to engage in educational activities suitable to their genders. Boys got to do more adventurous stuff like exploring, whittling, and making engineering projects like magic lanterns and model ships (see The Dangerous Book for Boys for an updated version of this). Girls were encouraged to practice crafts such as embroidery and decoupage, but also learned gracious entertainment such as memorizing poetry and playing piano. (This assumes a certain level of family income, of course.) Very young children of both genders might play together doing things such as bowling hoops, but they were segregated soon enough.
I think much of this is veering fairly far into middle class territory again.
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  #19  
Old 09-18-2012, 01:40 PM
casdave casdave is offline
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Music Halls - these were immensely popular, day to day leisure would generally entail pubs and beerhouses

Occasionally there would be works outings in those new fangled trains,especially to the seaside but for most this was a rare treat, late Victorians might have access to a bicycle - these became very popular to the extent that some cycling clubs were able to build surprisingly substantial clubhouses.

Football began to become more popular both as participation and watching, as did rugby

Local fairs were at least annual events, a walk in the local park became a popular activity, along with listening to the band in the ornate bandstands

During this period you have to consider British society was very sharply delineated, to the extent that trades workers might well live in one area, all the supervisors might live on the same street, and pubs, beer houses and other leisure activities often frequented in a similar stratified way.

During this time previously popular working class sports were banned, such as cock fighting, bull baiting.

Also, the use of smallholdings which became the allotments was not only a leisure activity, it was often a useful food source.
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Old 09-18-2012, 03:06 PM
Mk VII Mk VII is offline
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Drinking, for those who could afford it. And all but the very poorest could find a few pennies for drink, which was cheap and ubiquitous.
Many societies sprang up to encourage the working classes to be clean, sober and religious, but drinking to excess was very widely practised.
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Old 09-18-2012, 04:01 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Boxing, wrestling, pitting animals against one another, almost any kind of competition that could be staged in a small space drew huge crowds. Executions, too, but those trailed off by the end of the century.

Entertainers performed on the street or using carriages that transformed into a stage. (Like the one in Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.) These were of every sort, from singers to dancers to jugglers to puppeteers to commedia dell'arte to bawdy skin-showing. American vaudeville had a thousand acts that we would never imagine that people would sit through and street culture probably had at least as many and with more variety.

For those who weren't dirt poor but had a bit of money, there were many theaters doing these arts on a more formal basis and they sold very cheap, often standing-only or pit tickets, to the masses.

Parades, galas, jubilees, and public celebrations of all kinds took place regularly.

Everybody is right when they say that this encompasses too large a time to be answered well, and the society of the late 1800s was hugely different from the beginning. But as a large-sized generality getting from one place to another in London was always a challenge for the poor. Almost everything had to be walked to and from. That meant that the majority of entertainment had to be found locally. Theater districts were for the swells. The lack of indoor lighting also meant that most entertainment was kept outdoors and during daytime. But that also meant that the streets were always crowded because people were usually outside as much as they could be. Just starting a show would draw attention. It might get you a rotten tomato in the face, too, but that's always the chance. Streets were loud and lively and in-your-face and there was always something worth seeing, even if was another person's misfortune.
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Old 09-18-2012, 04:46 PM
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Occasionally there would be works outings in those new fangled trains,especially to the seaside but for most this was a rare treat
Seaside resorts (such as Blackpool enjoyed a massive upturn in working-class popularity throughout the 19th century - as you say, as a rare treat - a week or long weekend at the seaside would be the annual holiday and highlight of the year for many families.

As I understand it, the wealthier classes were none too pleased that the introduction of train travel allowed working class people to move around and enjoy even limited, infrequent access to the leisure pursuits that had previously been almost exclusive to them.
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Old 09-18-2012, 06:02 PM
Tapioca Dextrin Tapioca Dextrin is offline
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Originally Posted by casdave View Post
day to day leisure would generally entail pubs and beerhouses
In order to make beer, you need hops. In order to pick hops, you need working class people, who would take vacations hop picking.
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Old 09-18-2012, 07:41 PM
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Old 09-18-2012, 08:07 PM
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They generally weren't much fussed about going to church, either.
Cite please? That is interesting.
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Old 09-19-2012, 06:14 AM
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Cite please? That is interesting.
Well now, bear in mind that I was, as I say, over-generalising like a mofo (because summarising the life experience of a broad social class over a century in a pithy message board post is a silly thing to attempt), and that the mental image I had in mind as I was posting was, perhaps, of the most disadvantaged section of the urban poor, based on a lifetime of casual reading and so forth, rather than actual proper research.

Remember also that 19th century England saw a great deal of social and religious change, with the continued break-up of established rural communities as people moved to the cities, and the decline in influence of the Church of England with the rise of non-conformist denominations, so the picture varied quite a bit over that hundred years.

So, not being a scholar myself, I don't happen to have a handy reference that directly supports my casual impression that the 19th century working class were, taken as a whole, pretty lacklustre church-goers, and that this was a trend that increased as the century wore on.

I had a look, though, and while I saw a few websites that broadly support my point (like this one), the best primary source I found was this link to the 1851 Census on Religious Attendance, which shows non-attendance at around 42%, but sadly doesn't beak it down by socio-economic group.
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Old 09-19-2012, 09:46 AM
Simple Linctus Simple Linctus is offline
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Furthermore, a great deal of those who were going to church were essentially going because of pressure from their employers in one form or another.
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Old 09-19-2012, 10:36 AM
Alka Seltzer Alka Seltzer is offline
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Drinking Gin.

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By 1743, the people of England were drinking 2.2 gallons (10 litres) of gin annually per head of population.
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...there was a resurgence of gin consumption during the Victorian era, with numerous 'Gin Palaces' appearing.
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Old 09-19-2012, 11:54 AM
FuzzyOgre FuzzyOgre is offline
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Well now, bear in mind that I was, as I say, over-generalising like a mofo (because summarising the life experience of a broad social class over a century in a pithy message board post is a silly thing to attempt), and that the mental image I had in mind as I was posting was, perhaps, of the most disadvantaged section of the urban poor, based on a lifetime of casual reading and so forth, rather than actual proper research.
Understood. Thanks for the links. It is rather interesting.
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Old 09-19-2012, 12:02 PM
eburacum45 eburacum45 is offline
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Originally Posted by hibernicus View Post
In certain model industrial towns such as Saltaire (and the other one that I can't remember the name of - Robert Owen), the industrialist owner provided leisure activities for the workers and their families, such as boating lakes and improving lectures.
One thing that Titus Salt (the philanthopist mill-owner who built Saltaire with its copious leisure facilties) did not supply was Pubs. Saltaire the town was teetotal.
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Old 09-19-2012, 12:38 PM
Mk VII Mk VII is offline
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Bourneville, built by the Cadbury's, was as well (and remained so until recently under building covenants).
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Old 09-19-2012, 12:54 PM
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Understood. Thanks for the links. It is rather interesting.
It is, isn't it? Are you aware of the Secular movement that started around that time? Organisations like the Leicester Secular Society, and people like Charles Bradlaugh, who IMHO ought to be one of our national heroes.

Sorry, everyone, if this is too far off-topic, but it is interesting.
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Old 09-19-2012, 02:25 PM
FuzzyOgre FuzzyOgre is offline
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It is, isn't it? Are you aware of the Secular movement that started around that time? Organisations like the Leicester Secular Society, and people like Charles Bradlaugh, who IMHO ought to be one of our national heroes.

Sorry, everyone, if this is too far off-topic, but it is interesting.
Thanks for those! I'm reading now.
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Old 09-21-2012, 02:01 AM
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Sports.
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