Glossop Heritage Trust
Glossop in the 1880s - A family budget for a man, wife and four children c1888.
This article was originally produced by the Glossop and District Historical Society, which merged with Glossop Heritage Trust in 2013. It is based on the work of a Glossop WEA class of the 1980s which examined the records of the three local Co-operative Societies in order to extract information on the cost of living, and is a summary for the 1880s compiled by J. H. Smith who was the class tutor. Thanks are due to all the class members and to the Co-operative Society officials who made their minute books available when their societies were in process of amalgamation.
Only four generations separate us from the people of Glossop in the 1880s but the changes in our way of life, not least in our domestic comforts, our food and eating habits, make them strangers to us.
This work attempts to reconstruct the weekly budget of an average Glossop family of about 1888 and to assess how well the people of the dale could manage on the wages they earned.
The prices used below are those charged by the Co-operative Societies of Glossopdale, Hadfield and Hollingworth in 1887,1888 and 1889. Where there were different qualities of goods the lowest prices have been used.
The amounts of food given are taken from a national sample of working class rural and industrial families carried out by the Board of Trade in 1904. The figures have been slightly amended to take account of Glossop's economic structure. Clearly the amounts given would vary according to the age of the children but this average probably assumes that the children are consuming close to the adult scale. (est is our estimate of consumption).
|Beef & mutton
||7d to 10d
||7d to 8d
|Bread or flour
||7d per 4lb loaf
||2d to 4d
||10d to 12d per 20lb
||1/4d to 2/8d
||1/- to 1/6d
||    1lb 8 ounces
||2d to 3d
||3d per 2lbs
||6d to 10d
||3d for 2 pints
||1/- for 16
|Total for food
||  16  10
|Lamp oil (or gas) (est)
|Rent and rates
||House (at least)
|Total for food, rent and sundries
This budget gives only an indication of weekly necessities. It includes nothing for alcohol and tobacco or other luxuries. In 1888 tobacco was 9d for 2 ounces, beer was 1½d or 2d a pint: in 1876 the average consumption per head of the population was 34 gallons, falling to 27 gallons by 1914. Nor does the budget include trade union subscriptions, friendly society payments or insurance, school pence for those with children at school or doctor's or druggist's payments for those who had suffered ill health or the costs of lying in. (Doctor's bills were usually met by making weekly payments). There were also recurrent costs needed to maintain the household which it is impossible to estimate, such as clothing, linen, blankets and bed linen, pots, pans, cutlery, china or earthenware, boots, shoes or clogs and repairs.
The Board of Trade figures do not include items given below for which local co-op prices are given.
Fish. The co-ops do not seem to have sold fish in the 1880s but herrings and other cheaper fish were eaten by working class families.
Eggs, which were 16 for one shilling in 1884.
Vegetables do not appear to have been sold by the Co-ops.
Jaffa oranges were 4 for 5d. Apples were 21bs for 5d.
Hartley's Marmalade 3d per lb
Pig's heads were 3d per lb. Potted meat 7d per lb.
Tea biscuits were 4d per lb, seed and currant loaves 5d for 1lb.
Assorted sweets were 4lbs for 1d.
Lemon juice 6d per bottle
Salt was 1/10d per dozen, presumably lbs, or 3d per bag.
Soap cost 8d for 3lbs. Dinting household soap 11d for 3lbs, Tablet soap 2 for 1d, scouring soap a 3lb bar for 6d.
Tallow candles were 5d per lb (sale price). Paraffin candles were 6d per lb.
Coal was under 7d per hundredweight in the summer but over 8d in the winter.
Lamp oil was 3/10d per gallon
Bird seed sold at 3lb for 7d
Rents for Co-op houses were 4/6d per week in Lower Barn in the 1880s and 6 cottages in Padfield, which cost £765 in 1886, were rented out for 4/- a week, 4/2d when beautified. In 1915 4/10d was charged for a house in Wesley Street, Hadfield though this also included a hen run and payment of the Education rate. In 1884 new houses in Charlestown were 3/9d per week, 3 bedroom houses 4/3d. In Oak Street a new house was let at 4/9d in 1883, the society paying the poor rate and the water rate, the tenant paying all other rates. These rents were all for new houses but older small houses were cheaper and some families would live in rooms.
Co-op dividends on purchases varied from year to year and the butchery dividend was always lower than that for grocery and other departments. In the 1880s the grocery and associated dividend ranged between 2/6d and 3/- per pound on purchases and that for butchery between 1/- and 2/4d. In 1905 the average weekly spending per member was 12/5d or something over £32 in the year. Wages and consumption may have been higher in that year than in the 1880s but it is likely that members then spent upwards of £25 each year. On the basis of the budget above this would have given them an annual dividend of at least 9/- in butchery and 40/- in other departments and in the better years 21/- in butchery and 48/- in other departments. For many families these sums paid for some new clothing or shoes and co-ops made special efforts to attract them to the drapery or clothing departments at divi time.
Given all the considerations above it might be reasonable to suggest that a family of six would need a weekly income of at least 25/- per week to buy the basic necessities and annual renewals that would keep them in health. That sum includes nothing for self-indulgence in beer or tobacco, travel or entertainment, books or newspapers and it does not allow any saving.
Couples marrying might expect to start with a modest 'bottom drawer' that would buy some basic furniture, domestic necessities and clothing, the result of saving from their wages while they were still living at home before marriage. Their joint incomes would then provide a modest prosperity but the birth of the first child would at once reduce their income unless the wife carried on working. (In 1851 only about 300 women with children under 13 worked outside the home out of a total of over 2,000 mothers with another 100 helping in their husband's shops or farms).
If the proportion of mothers working was similar in the 1880s most working class couples would go through a long period of complete dependence on the husband's income while their children were being born and brought up. The main employments in the town were, of course, in the cotton industry where by 1888 children were not allowed to start work in the cotton mills until they were ten years old though few children actually started work until they were twelve. Once at work they often stayed on in the family home until they married, usually in the early twenties for women and the mid twenties for men. From the late teens until they left home the children probably moved to paying 'board' to their parents, keeping more of their wages to spend or save against their own marriages. As the children progressively reached the age at which they could start work the family income would increase, the mother herself might return to work as they grew older and the family would enjoy a period of relative prosperity. Once all the children had left home the parents had only themselves to support but increasing age would reduce their earning power until finally the least fortunate would have to depend on the Poor Law. Retirement and Old Age Pensions would not arrive until the twentieth century.
This cycle of relative prosperity and poverty makes it difficult to generalise about the income that our family of six above would have to meet their weekly bill of 25 shillings. Wages in Glossop in the 1880s are difficult to assess but the following wages for employees taken from local Co-operative records, offer some examples.
||Shillings per week
|Office boy, shop boy
||5 to 7
||10 to 18
|Milliners and dress assistants
||18 to 23
|Young men assistants
||10 to 15
|Adult male assistants
||18 to 23
||18 to 32
|Society general manager
In the cotton industry average wages in the Stockport area in 1886 were:
||Shillings per week
|Mule spinners (men)
|Big piecers (young men)
|Little piecers (boys)
|Throstle spinners (women)
|Weavers (men and women)
||15 - 18
Glossop wages may have been a little below the average for the Stockport district but would vary according to the quality of the yarn and cloth made. In 1851 there were about 400 adult male spinners in Glossop and a similar number of big and little piecers with over 1,000 male weavers and 1,400 female weavers. The proportions were probably similar in the 1880s. Children working half-time in the mills earned 2/6d or 3/-.7
There are no local details for wages in calico printing but in other centres, for example at Bury, printers had a standing wage of £2 8s a week in 1886, engravers 32/-, mechanics 26/- and less skilled labour 18/- to 23/-. There is little information about wages in the paper trade but again skilled workers would probably earn upwards of 26/-, perhaps substantially more, and the less skilled men around £1.
There are many uncertainties in this attempt to describe the family economies of working class people in the Glossop of the 1880s but four possible examples might be offered:
||Husband a butcher for the co-op, wife not working and four children under ten years old. His wage 22/- per week. The food bill may be a few shillings lower than the one above but the family is clearly very close to poverty on an income of only 22/-.
||Husband a mule spinner, wife not working, two children working, a boy of 12 as a check boy in the co-op and a boy of 16 a big piecer in the mill. The husband's wage might be 30/-, the older boy 9/- , the younger boy 6/-. The food bill would be as in the budget but the income of 45/- would cover it and the rent and other expenses with something to spare for clothing and household renewals.
||Husband a labourer on perhaps 20/-, his wife a weaver on 15/- and four grown-up children, all tenting or weaving in the mill at 13 to 15 shillings. Their income could be about £5 a week but the children might well keep over half their wages which would reduce it to 72/-and less as they grew older.
||Man and wife left after their children have married and left home. If they consumed on the basis of the budget above their weekly bill for food might be about 6/- a week with another 5/- for rent, fuel and lighting, soap and other sundries. They could probably manage so long as the husband could carry on working, even at a less active job on reduced wages, but when he stopped work there would normally be no income to meet bills forcing the couple to approach the Guardians of the Poor.
It is impossible to guess how poor widows, especially those with children too young to work, managed. In the 1850s they usually worked at the most menial jobs as washerwomen or charwomen and this had probably not changed much by the 1880s.
The most fortunate of the working class were those individuals who worked in skilled trades which included a superannuation element in their union subscriptions. A leading example is the Amalgamated Society of Engineers which had 102 members in Glossop in 1885. In the year ending December 1884 the Glossop branch paid out almost £67 in donation benefits, over £51 in sick benefits and £76 in superannuation benefit for members who could no longer work at their trade. In March 1884 the branch was paying one retired member 7s a week, two 8s and a fourth 10s, the sums presumably reflecting their family commitments. There were also the benevolent payments such as that made in February 1884 to Thomas Booth aged 36, a turner in Glossop, who was granted £3 from the benevolent funds. On the other hand the annual subscription plus a small addition for fines paid to the union by members in work averaged £2 16s each year and there were often calls for additional subscriptions for strikes or lockouts.
We have virtually no evidence for the meals that people actually ate or the domestic lives they lived. The reminiscences of some members of the Housebound Club in 1969 take us back to the 1890s but their memories of their childhood offer only scattered references. Miss Monk, born in 1894, recalled the delight of cups of warm milk on cold days, and also had vivid memories of the gardens at Bankbottom where in the summer she could buy a 2d package of greens, lettuce, radishes, onions and a bit of mint. One day when she was at school she refused to eat her midday dinner of potato hash with toast fingers and was then not allowed her share of the boiled apple pudding with custard that followed. She made up for it by buying a raspberry bun and an iced bun for 2d at Taylor's shop on Station Road on her way back to school. But when she returned home at teatime there was 'a big brown dish of butter beans done in the side oven with new muffins'. For Sunday tea the favourite was pressed cold brisket with salad then fruit and cream or custard and tea, with lump sugar, in the best cups and saucers. At Christmas the Bank Street carol singers started with a meat and potato pie before they went singing then returned to the school for hot coffee. On Christmas morning the children went to the school for coffee with currant cake 'no butter but it tasted good' and at tea time the chapel provided ham and tongue, sandwiches and cakes for about 1/- a head. At the grocer's shop on Hadfield Road, John West salmon was 1/- a tin and the baker provided seed or lemon loaves for Saturday tea. Lodge Farm sold buttermilk for 1d a jug and Miss Monk's mother used it to make pancakes and scones. The family always made a new peg rug for Easter, washing day was the old ritual of set pot, dolly blue and starch and the girls went to school in clogs and thick black home-knitted stockings.
Mrs Stevens, born in 1899, remembered the new dresses or coats for the Sunday School Sermons and, of course, the ritual of wash day. Her mother always baked on Wednesday and at dinner time when the children came home from school there was a potato pie and dough rising in front of the fire. At 4 o'clock they found the pantry filled with a dozen loaves and rows of muffins, currant cakes and brown cakes, some of which were taken round to neighbours.
It might appear that Glossop, overwhelmingly working class in character, would support only a few shops. Bulmer's Directory of 1891 paints a very different picture. In that year a population of 22,414 supported:
1 dealer in alcohol for every 361 people, which suggests 1 pub or inn for every 96 men
1 food seller or corner shopkeeper for every 146 people
1 butcher for every 897 people
1 clothing and household cloth seller for every 241 people
1 shop or personal service for every 47 people
These figures include the Glossopdale and Hadfield Cooperative Societies which had grocery, butchery and other departments and large sales.
25 shops (probably small mixed businesses), 13 general dealers.
5 baby linen and ladies underclothing shops, 6 dressmakers, 10 milliners, 20 tailors and outfitters, 6 hatters, 5 hosiers and haberdashers, 38 drapers and 3 fancy drapers.
23 bakers and confectioners, 25 butchers, 5 fish and poultry dealers, 2 fried fish dealers, 18 fruiterers and greengrocers, 50 grocers and tea dealers, 6 tripe dressers and 3 refreshment rooms.
3 booksellers and stationers
25 boot and shoe makers and dealers and 8 cloggers
6 cabinet makers, 5 furniture dealers, 1 upholsterer, 4 china, glass and earthenware dealers, 1 fancy repository, 2 toy dealers, 7 watchmakers and jewellers.
6 chemists and druggists and 2 herbalists,
7 coal dealers, 6 ironmongers,
2 ale and porter merchants, 2 wine and spirit merchants,
25 beersellers, 32 hoteliers and inn and tavern keepers.
9 insurance agents
It is not known if these figures include the stallholders on market days but it seems unlikely. Glossop did not have a large area from which to draw customers for its shops: perhaps people came in from Charlesworth, Chisworth and Ludworth, perhaps from further south, Hayfield or Chinley, or across the river from Tintwistle and Hollingworth but these might be balanced for luxury purchases by Glossop people taking the train to Manchester. Given that most of the Glossop shops depended upon Glossop customers the town supported a large number and quite wide range of shops. Could this be an indication of rather greater prosperity for working people at that time than we have believed? On the other hand how did the number of licensed premises and the money spent there affect the household economies of families which contained drinkers?
Burnett states that beer consumption in England was 34 gallons per head of the population in 1876 after which it fell to 27 gallons by 1914. If Glossop followed this national trend then the people of the dale probably consumed about 30 gallons per head in 1888. On this basis the consumption of beer in Glossop would be about 672,420 gallons or 5,379,360 pints which would cost £33,621. It might be unwise to assume that all this was drunk by men but, no doubt, most of it was and any beer drinking by women also had to come out of the family income. If we then assume that average family size was five then Glossop had about 4,500 families which, on average, each spent £7.10s each year on beer. This would average out at 2s 10d per week but, of course, there were families where consumption was far more modest and, with non-conformity and Methodism strong in the town, there were many families where alcohol was anathema. For every family that did not drink there would have to be a family that drank more; for every teetotal man others had to drink his share. If men are estimated at one-quarter of the population then each man drank, on average, 960 pints of beer a year, over 18 a week or over two and half each day. His 18 pints would take 2s 3d out of the family budget and if he also smoked, that personal spending might rise to 3/-. Even this amount would be enough to deprive many families of essential food, fuel or clothing but again this is only an average and any family which contained a heavy drinker whether husband or father, wife or son would quickly plunge into deep poverty. No doubt, gambling too was prevalent but it has left little record apart from a few prosecutions at petty sessions for gaming in public houses or playing pitch and toss in the 1860s and 1870s.
It is difficult to reach any firm conclusions about the standard of living of the people of the town in 1888. It would seem that most working class families went through cycles of relative comfort and poverty as children were born, grew up and left home. Thrifty and prudential families could weather these changes provided they kept their health and the cotton, calico printing and paper trades were buoyant, though old age would rob most of their independence. Less careful families lived on a knife edge and the feckless existed in permanent poverty. Every family would have a different tale to tell: all that this account can do is to record what we know of the facts and throw a little light on the day-to-day lives and domestic concerns of our townspeople of a hundred years ago.
The budget is adapted from the table on p 266 of A history of the cost of living, J Burnett, Harmondsworth, 1969.
Prices are taken from the minute books of the Glossopdale, Hadfield and Hollingworth Co-operative Societies.
Wages are taken from co-op records and G H Wood, History of wages in the cotton trade, London, 1910.
ASE benefits are taken from the monthly and annual reports of the union for 1884.
The analysis of shops is based on Bulmer's Derbyshire Directory, 1895.
The personal recollections were inspired and collected by the late Mrs Jean Curtis from members of the Glossop Housebound Club.
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