Children in Victorian Britain

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Children in Victorian Britain

Introduction

“May I have some more?” The classic line from Oliver twist that everybody seems to know. It gives us an insight on what many Victorian children had to go through. But what else was there other than the well-known fact that children were sent to work at the measly age of 4? Other than children were better of seen than heard. In this I will describe to you the typical childhood that most children rich or poor lead from birth to school.

Lets start with three little facts about children from the Victorian times:

1. There were big differences at homes of both the upper and the lower class, these include having no television, no computers, no cars, no hating and many more.

2. Children who were poor rarely went to school. Instead they worked to bring home money for their families.

3. More than 35% of all these children did not live past their fifth birthday.

And if you are still here after all these things said then read on… if you dare.

Surviving the First Few Years

Baby Farmers
Lets face it, at some point or another in our lives we hear a baby crying and think to ourselves, Why are babies so smelly, noisy and expensive. 140 years ago some parents thought the same thing, and they decided to deal with it by sending their kids to a ‘Baby Farm’. A baby-farmer is a woman who would offer to look after your children for you. For only five to ten pounds and you would never see your children again. Of course now person would raise a child for five pounds, instead the babies were neglected. In fact the more babies that died the more money they would make and save. In fact a written description of one of these babies was that it was “Scarcely a bit of flesh on the bones. It could only be recognized by the hair. It did not cry, being much to weak for that. It was scarcely human; I mean that it looked more like a monkey than a child. It was a shadow.” In the end however many baby farmers were caught then hanged in court.

Nanny in the Nursery
Example of what a nursery would look like
While the poorer kids were left there to rot in the slums, many rich children were raised in a nursery. In every large house, there was always a nursery. Most of the time this was the top floor. In the nursery the family would hire a nanny. The nanny’s job was to look after all the children and act as a parent figure as children rarely saw their parents. Even if they did see their parents they were supposed to be seen and not heard.

Growing Up: Work

Home life for poor children was not easy, with most parents and elder siblings at work for more than half the day; Young children often found themselves looking after one of the newest additions to the family by themselves. “There she sat in the bare squalid room, perched on a sack, erect, motionless expressionless, on duty… left to guard a bay that lay asleep on the bare boards behind her, its head on its arm, the ragged remains of what had been a shawl flung over its legs” - How the Poor live by George R. Sims, 1883

Q: How old was this child?
A: Four.

When you grew older to the age of five however, they would find themselves at a job of:

Nail Making
Nail making was a job given to children due to the fact that their nimble fingers would work easily enough to craft with metal. Most children would expect three to four shillings (currency used at the time) for good quality nails, however if the nails were of bad quality they would have to expect to get a beating.

Chimney Sweeping
This job was given to children due to the fact that children were small and agile. As they needed to be able to fit up skinny chimneys therefore many younger children chose this job. Most children often came out of the chimney with scrapes on their feet and elbows. Why feet? Because to fit up the chimney many had to go without shoes. For those who think that this is one of the easier jobs think again, as if someone was...
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