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LIFE IN THE 19TH CENTURY

Half way through this century, my direct ancestor, Robert Holford Abbott left Canterbury and after a certain amount of travelling in the midlands and west of the country, settled on the Isle of Wight in Hampshire.

A time of the industrial revolution. So many factories were springing up that children and women both began to work punishing hours. In 1860 a 10 hour day was common although it had been much higher in previous years.

If children were late for work they would either be beaten, fined or both. Sometimes, if they ran away, they were imprisoned.

The industrial revolution wasn’t popular to begin with and there were often instances where machines were smashed by those who were frightened that the new machines would change their way of life and take away their means of earning a living. It was not only the Luddites who destroyed automatic looms but it also occurred in the fields where agricultural machines were destroyed. The automatic thresher meant that hundreds of men were no longer required at harvest time.

As workers crowded into towns to make the most of the available work, houses sprang up everywhere. The population expanded with the increase of Irish who came to England to escape the potato famine in the 1840s. There were no building regulations and so houses were crammed together in small cramped conditions (often in one room) and the sanitary arrangements were atrocious. By the end of the century the two up, two down arrangement was common which must have felt like luxury compared to the previous ways.
By the middle of the century the factory system generated the need for trade unions although they didn’t gain much momentum until the end of the century.

As more and more items were mass produced in the factories, they became cheaper and available to the poorer classes. Canals, ships and the new railway systems brought imported goods far inland and the general diet improved.

The railway reached Canterbury in 1830

There were many poor in this century and it saw the emergence of the workhouses. The workhouse was feared and the treatment of the inmates was often inhumane. The workhouse on the Isle of Wight was known as the House of Industry and was situated in Newport. You can click here to view the contents of the catalogue of the House of Industry.

Gas lighting was invented at the beginning of the century but it wasn’t until the end of the century that it became more common in the homes of the poorer classes.

Music halls were popular

Everyone wore hats.

Medicine was only just developing. At the beginning of the century there were terrible outbreaks of cholera. Infant mortality was high.

Middle class Victorians flocked to the seashores and the Isle of Wight was particularly popular due to the Queen's influence.

In 1847 the electric telegraph cable from Portsmouth was laid underwater to the Isle of Wight.

1870 it was reported “There is a legend in the Isle of Wight, of a custom-house officer who, having made himself very obnoxious to the smugglers, was carried off by them, blindfolded, and suspended over what he was told was a precipice, with a rope in his hands. He clung to the rope till his sinews cracked and he had suffered the agonies of death: then letting go, he found that he had been all the time hanging six inches from the ground”.

The accent of the Isle of Wight was a stronger version of the Hampshire accent. There was the dropping of certain consonents such as the h's and certain vowls were elongated. This accent would have been common to the younger Abbotts.