OPS Shared Endeavour: Employment Q4

A couple of weeks ago, the latest quarter’s Shared Endeavour prompts landed in my inbox. I don’t claim to have got very far through a long list of things I’d like to do with my Cransford study, but answering some of the questions posed (to the best of my knowledge to date, at least) seemed a good theme for my next blog.

So here goes…

Task 1: Extremes

What is the earliest-named occupation in your place that isn’t related to farming?

Ultimately both of my parishes have been – and remain – rural, so the vast majority of roles fit directly and indirectly into agriculture: from the farmers and ag labs to the wheelwrights, blacksmiths and mole catchers that worked beside them. I guess in common with several other studies, the answer to this question is those working in the church – in Cransford, the vicar – although you can tell me if that’s an occupation, a vocation or both!

Who employed the most people? Was this in a mill, on a farm, or elsewhere?

In 1851 at least, this accolade went to Nathaniel Steptoe of Cransford Hall Farm, who employed four labourers on ‘his’ 309 acres (Nathaniel was occupier but not the landowner). Two of them, Isaac Crane and George Spalding, were enumerated in the ‘Hall Farm Outhouse’. Another lived under his roof along with his wife, daughter, and a female servant.

Who employed the greatest number of domestic servants?

George Pooley, the incumbent in 1851, had the distinction of the largest number of servants in his household that year. Three were house servants, women between 18 and 23, and he also had a groom. The curate had another three, while most of the farms had at least one live-in domestic.

Cransford Hall, when remodelled into a magnificent residence, employed more. A sale advert boasted five servants’ bedrooms as late as 1946. It later became a girls’ boarding school and is today a 15-bedroom private mansion. A few of my favourite situations wanted appear below, with a hat tip to the British Newspaper Archive.

Framlingham Weekly News, 24 September 1881
East Anglian Daily Times, 22 August 1891
East Anglian Daily Times, 22 February 1893

Of the people who employed domestic servants, which was the ‘lowliest’ occupation they held?


Who were the youngest and oldest residents of your place in paid employment? What jobs did they perform? Did that change over the period you studied?

In 1841, there were apparently three ag labs over 80 as well as a farmer of a similar vintage. The youngest was an ag lab aged 14. Women were rarely recorded as having an occupation in that census, but the oldest appears to be 55-year-old Mary Masterson, F[emale] S[ervant].

Ten years later, the men over 80 were most often noted as paupers, but James Mouser, aged 74, was still an ag lab. Again, the youngest in employment was 14 – a house servant at Fidlers Hall (sic). As far as women went, those over 80 were either annuitants or paupers. However, there was a 71-year-old housekeeper and a 15-year-old house servant.

Lastly (for the purposes of this post at least), in 1861, James Mouser – who must have been made of strong stuff – was still an agricultural labourer at 82 (slightly at odds with his age in 1851!). Had he remained the oldest man in employment for a decade or more? Some boys as young as eight were included as ag labs in this census. As far as the girls went, the youngest girl in employment recognised by the enumerator was a 12-year-old house servant, closely followed by a 13-year-old nursemaid.

The above similarities mask lots of changes that were taking place somewhere in the middle of the age pyramid.

…as for tasks 2-4, I’ll visit those another time!

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