Monday, January 24, 2011

Class

Alfred Blott, the Station Master at Wolverton, got married at Willesden in 1843. He invited George Weight, incumbent at Wolverton to conduct the ceremony. Blott, a farmer's son, styles himself as "gentleman" on the marriage certificate. Alfred Blott had arrived!

Class and status are sometimes difficult things to unravel. Wolverton was in many ways a more homogeneous community than most in that the bulk of its new population were working men and their families. They were much better paid than their agricultural counterparts, but for all that they were still what we would later recognize as "working class". Wolverton then and subsequently had a large working class population and a small middle class. It had no upper class.

Those in middle class occupations had status within the community and this status can probably be measured by income.

In the late 1840s we can probably assess status from incomes:

J E McConnell     £850 pa. rising to £1200 pa.
Brabazon Stafford, Chief Accountant £350
 George Weight, Vicar of St. George's £250
John Bedford, Superintendent of Police for the line, £250 
Various works Foremen between £150 and £300 
 Alfred Blott, Station Master £200
William Pousette, Clerk £200
Archibald Laing, Schoolmaster £100
 James Hibbert, Booking Clerk and second to Alfred Blott,  £100
Almost from the beginning the railway distinguished between weekly wage staff and salaried staff - the latter more likely to fall into a middle class status. Such status was not always a matter of income. An engine driver such as Barnabas Panter, who lived on Creed Street opposite the schoolmaster, probably earned as much, if not more than Laing, but he would not be accorded the same status. Engine Drivers were paid at a daily rate of 7/2d, which, if they worked 6 days a week could realize a weekly income of £2 3s. However, it was hard and dangerous work. Interestingly, Barnabas's son William eventually bridged that divide. He started work as an apprentice, worked his way up to foreman and the assistant superintendent at Wolverton. He was promoted to salaried staff in 1877 at £250 p. a. and at this point moved into one of the villas. In 1885 he was appointed Superintendent for the Carriage Works of the London and South Western Railway at the new town of Eastleigh, moved into a nearby mansion, and became Eastleigh's most prominent citizen. He started life in a working class household and ended it entrenched in the middle class. He even has a street named after him in Eastleigh.

The Inspector of policemen, Martin Deacon, earned £1 15s a week, or about £90, certainly equivalent or better than some salaried clerical staff, but as a weekly wage earner would find himself in a working class category Policeman who were quite numerous in the 1840s before the creation of signal boxes and remote switching of points, were paid 19s a week. The ticket collector at the station, William Hazelgrove, was paid £1 3s. a week and the foreman porter, £1 10s a week.

Wolverton was then, and remained, an unusual social mix. There were no "upper class" people living in Wolverton. There was a tiny middle-class and a large (even dominant) working class population of skilled artisans earning wages well above the agricultural median. There were virtually no poor people, other than those unfortunates who had been incapacitated by injury or widows.

There is an analysis of the social mix in 1851 here.

4 comments:

Beccy said...

Barnabas Panter was my great great great Grandfather and William was my great great uncle fanastinating reading

Bryan Dunleavy said...

It's an encouraging story and shows how a bright young man could make his way in the Victorian world. I am told that he became one of Eastliegh's most respected citizens. More detail in my book.

Beccy said...

I am going to buy your book as a surprise present for my Dad and I am hoping to be able to visit Wolverton and Castle Thorpe where our family origns start do you list the road that was named after William in your book?

Bryan Dunleavy said...

Yes these details are in the book. There is also a photo of the Creed Street terrace where Barnabas Panter lived with his family after moving from Castlethorpe.
See the publications page for options about ordering the book.