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LIFE IN THE 18TH CENTURY- THINGS WHICH AFFECTED THE
RESIDENTS OF CANTERBURY

 

At the beginning of the century, the nine years war against France was still going on. Canterbury benefited by the influx of Huguenots to its population bringing their silk - weaving skills.

In May 1795 the roof of a stable at the barracks in Watling Street, in which there were 62 horses belonging to the 11th light dragoons fell down. Neither the men inside the building nor any of the horses were injured.

The 1775/1776 winter had been hard in Canterbury with lots of snow. At the beginning of February a big thaw set in with serious consequences in many places. The snow began to melt on a Monday evening. Bridges were broken down and quite of the streets were impassable. By Wednesday the river broke its banks and many houses in Stour Street and adjoining streets were flooded to a depth of several feet. Families either took to the upper floors or away from the area until the waters subsided.

Workhouses were springing up everywhere and even children as young as three worked long and arduous hours.

The riot act was introduced at the beginning of the century whereby if more than 12 persons gathered together, they were guilty of a felony and could be hung, branded or transported. There were many riots of the working class during the middle of the century.
Crime was booming and it became the age of the highway men.

This was a great period of prostitution.

Sugar became available and an essential part of the working class diet.

Canterbury dwindled to being a quiet market town.

An act of parliament formed a body of men with power to pave, clean and light the streets.
Towards the latter end of the century, the gates of Canterbury (except Westgate) were demolished because they interfered with the flow of coach traffic.

The first city newspaper was founded.

Well into the 18th century, childhood didn’t exist for the working classes – the children were expected to work alongside their parents as soon as they were able.
A woman’s status was well below that of a man and the gap between the rich and the poor was huge.

By the end of the century, convicts began to be transported to Australia (the first transport left in 1787) – most of these weren’t violent criminals but starving poor who stole to stay alive. (Bear in mind that Captain Cook had only just discovered New South Wales ten years before) However, the first convicts mainly all came from London. In the next century, one of the members of the family tree, Edwin Abbott, was transported to Australia.

At this time in history, the people, particularly the poor, were a lot shorter and scrawnier than the average person of today – the average man’s height was about 5’ 3” (160cm)
Married women in this era, had approximately 5 or 6 children. You would think that in these days before birth control that they would have had many more. However, in these days many women died in childbirth and a lot of children didn’t survive the birth process either. Also couples tended to marry later.

This century saw the beginning of the industrial revolution. Machines began to replace hand spinning and weaving. Little by little and imperceptibly, people began to learn new skills and forget age old ones.

For the first half of the century, gin drinking was popular. It was cheap and sold everywhere and many ruined their health by drinking too much of it. In the latter half of the century there was a tax imposed on it and the situation improved.

There was an agricultural revolution which brought about big changes to farming.
At the latter end of the century Britain lost its control over the 13 colonies in the New World.
At the very closing of the century the Industrial revolution begins and gas light is invented.