Category Archives: Historical Household

Candleford, lone women & household headship

Household headship and masculinity have been closely entwined throughout history. In the Victorian period household headship was closely allied with notions of manhood (not surprisingly given the laws of coverture). Yet overlooked by many historians has been the significant incidence … Continue reading

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The origins of fire insurance (& ‘lusty able body’d firemen’)

The Great Fire of London, 1666 by Jan Griffier, the Elder

The Great Fire of London (1666) destroyed more than 13,000 houses and displaced about 100,000 people but it took a couple of decades for its embers to spark the first blaze of the fire insurance business. Nicholas Barbon was probably the first … Continue reading

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A woman’s business. Part 2: To honour thy husband’s debts

The majority of women who married in late eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain did not get to live out the idealized role of the Angel in the House from Coventry Patmore’s 1854 poem. Women of the working class were of … Continue reading

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A woman’s business. Part 1: To marry or not to marry

Contrary to popular stereotype, women could and did run businesses in eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain. True, it was somewhat easier for single or widowed women to flex their dainty entrepreneurial ambitions than married women. However, marriage was surprisingly, given … Continue reading

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When Santa got stuck up the chimney

It’s my son’s nativity play this week and this has put me in a festive mood. He’s been practicing  songs about Santa, bags of toys and chimneys and this got me thinking. Why do I say ‘Father Christmas’ but so … Continue reading

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The wicked & the wretched: Property & the pawnbroker

Property and pawnbrokers shops are intertwined in the Victorian imagination. The exchange is usually an unhappy one, the proprietor being wicked and the customer wretched. In Sketches by Boz Charles Dickens takes us inside just such an establishment on London’s … Continue reading

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Carriages & coverture: Women, property and the law 1790-1860

Dividend Day at the Bank of England by George Elgar Hicks (1859) Across history, women have found themselves vulnerable as economic beings. Their position in relation to ownership of property between 1790-1860 was a often a difficult and dangerous one. … Continue reading

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Serving the house: The cost of Victorian domestic servants

John Sheepshanks at his residence on New Bond Street William Mulready (1786-1863). Oil on panel. England, c.1832-34. ©V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London In the Victorian period there were more domestic servants than at any other time in British history … Continue reading

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