Introduction

We introduce a typical suburban Victorian family in the London of 1890. Who are the people?

Sidney Charles Bush is 40 years old. He lives in a good-sized, end-of-terrace house in a suburb of south London. The house was built just two years ago. He has done well for himself - after starting as a messenger, straight from school, with William Georgson, Importers of the City of London, he has progressed to the position of senior clerk in charge of 50 clerks.

He married Julia Evelyn Beaumont when he was 25. Sidney and Julia have three children; Ethel is four years old, Conrad is 9 and Constance 14. They have a live-in maid of all work (Florence, aged 19), and a nanny (Mary, aged 25) who lives locally.

The London family of 1890 looked in some ways like family of today; most no longer lived with their parents, there were perhaps two or three, maybe four children. The size of the average urban family was 4.5 people for most of 19th century. The father tended to be the main income earner while the mother kept house and looked after the children. However, the family also had links to the family of earlier decades; many had one or more servants, the relations often lived in nearby houses. In less well off homes, the wife and mother would also have had a job, perhaps as a servant in another home, or taking in washing or working in a factory. The extended family would have helped to look after the children and with the household chores.

The most common households were:

  • less well paid professionals
  • lower clerks and shopkeepers
  • lowest-paid clerks and skilled manual workers

Sidney's parents live in a nearby street. Sidney's brother Arthur lives even closer - round the corner. Julia's family live in a village three miles south.