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May 31st, 2012
13 Snippets About Life in 18th Century England

Thursday Thirteen

This week I’m time traveling back to 18th century England and Georgian life. I’m reading Behind Closed Doors, At Home in Georgian England by Amanda Vickery as research for a historical I’m planning to write.

Thirteen Snippets About 18th Century England Life

1. Locking the house was done with ceremony each night, with boarders, servants etc locked inside. People who loitered out on the streets late at night or early in the morning were looked upon with suspicion.

2. Most people owned a locking box where they kept valuables and other important articles.

3. Poor people tended to carry all their valuable items on their person in pockets and pouches.

4. Keys were the emblems of authority, which is why housekeepers or the women of the house would carry their bunches of keys on their person.

5. A single man in London would eat his meals in taverns, pie shops, coffee houses and chop houses. He’d pay women to do his washing.

6. Young men wanted a housekeeper and, therefore, entered the state of marriage. Young women entered the state of marriage because they wanted to rule their own house.

7. Many families exploited their unmarried womenfolk as unpaid housekeepers, nursery maids, sick-nurses, tutors, chaperons, companions and surrogate mothers.

8. Before 1750 the average age of marriage for a woman was 26. This dropped to 25 in the latter part of the century.

9. A husband’s death restored a woman’s full legal personality under common law. They were more respectable than spinsters and often were welcomed in and enjoyed society.

10. A young widow with children usually remarried quickly while an older widow with many children sometimes inherited large debts and poverty. She fell on the mercies of the parish.

11. In 1675 only 9% of households owned clocks, but by 1725 34% had a clock.

12. Thomas Chippendale was the first to publish a catalogue of furniture designs in 1754. Other London cabinetmakers quickly followed suit.

13. The culture of visiting began in the late 17th century but the introduction of tea took visiting to a new level in the 18th century. Visiting was cheap to stage and became a ritual for women alone or en masse. In May 1767 Lady Mary Coke made eighteen visits a day while in town. (that’s an awful lot of tea and gossip!)

Some interesting things – what do you think of the eighteen visits in a day?

33 comments to “13 Snippets About Life in 18th Century England”

  1. Strange to think of clocks as luxury items. Interesting list. Thanks.

  2. They sure caught on quick though.

  3. I was going to recommend Dr. Johnson’s London, by Liza Picard, as a research reference for this time period, but I see it is no longer in print (and am amazed too to see that my copy sells for over $500!). It’s a good source if you can find it, though.

  4. I have a copy of this book, and some of Ms. Picards other books as well. She makes history really interesting in her books. They’re not dry reading.

  5. I did some research on the 19th century and it amazed me how many cards a woman had to drop off at “visits”.

  6. A visit seemed governed by rituals. It would be quite fun going back in time to experience a visit with all the rituals involved.

  7. Wow interesting facts..Amazing how times have changed and what life was like back then.

  8. I find the era fascinating, Savannah.

  9. Neat glimpse. thanks for the keyhole look in.

  10. Thanks for stopping by, Pearl.

  11. Did women really marry so late? I was under the impression they tended to marry early.

  12. Alice, from my research, this was true of the midling and poorer classes because they had to save money toward setting up house. If a woman came from a wealthy titled family she was more likely to marry at a younger age because she possessed a dowry.

  13. Those are great facts. I’m glad I’m from this time period. lol

  14. LOL I think all the housework plus the visits would do me in!

  15. My my mindset as it is today, I highly doubt I would have survived to marrying age back then. However, being in raised in that time could have caused a different perspective. As a woman, it seemed a bit…bleh.

  16. Different times, different thoughts. That’s true. Of course, not all women gave up control to their husbands or families. Some women took control of their lives, designed houses and traveled. There’s always the exceptions.

  17. Unpaid housekeepers, huh?
    Some things never change. Thanks for the tidbits!

  18. LOL – sometimes housework feels like that!

  19. That’s really some interesting info. Thanks.

    Have a great Thursday!

  20. Thanks for stopping by, Harriet.

  21. Things were very different in Italy, when at that same time it was a country of arranged marriages and women marrying very young. In fact my grandmother married at 15 and was allowed to live with her betrothed at 16. Keats’ poem My Last Duchess is an example of the hells of women who were pawns…regardless of whether they were married or unmarried. It sounds like in England things were more progressive? BUT I find that hard to believe.

    By the way, I tweeted and promoted your blog on my FB pg. You will see it (scroll down) Here. Came via a mutual twitter followers. McCann.

  22. Hi Carole,

    As I said to Alice above it would depend on what class of family the woman came from, and of course, there would always be exceptions.

    This age mentioned was an average, and since the number of titled people was relatively small, their numbers wouldn’t affect the average that much.

    Thanks for the tweets and FB mention. It’s much appreciated.

  23. Eighteen visits a day? That’s at least seventeen too many, IMO. Much as I like spending time with friends, that would be too much time with friends (or acquantances, as the case may be). I need my alone time!

  24. They were big on social visits in this period, and didn’t have the privacy that we’re used to these days.

    I value my alone time too, but I’d love to travel back and experience one day of visits. That would probably be enough for me!

  25. I think we all might be better off without clocks. They didn’t have standardized spelling either.

    I think I would like having that many tea parties.

  26. Clocks and time does seem to rule our lives, don’t they?

  27. How interesting. My next book in the Protector series, the hero is from the 1800s, thanks for these great tidbits!

  28. Hi Hildie. Sounds great. The Regency period is fascinating.

  29. Excellent facts!

  30. Thanks for stopping by, Shannon. :)

  31. If everyone was visiting, when was it their turn to entertain?

  32. I would have thought women married much younger than 25 or 26 back then. Interesting.

  33. Pockets were not sewn in at the time, but usually were bags tied around the waist – reached through a slit. Why? Who knows?