Fred’s money worries, and some tangential pigs

Fred’s money worries, and some tangential pigs

Fred’s accounts give me the impression that he’s a young man in a protected situation that gives him enough disposable income to fund his pursuits. He’s giving roughly half to his elderly mother – Ann Shepherd – for living at home. He has to look presentable for job as a Trade’s Clerk in the Rail Mill office at Brown Bayley & Dixon so spends about a quarter of his income on his appearance:

Fred's accounts 1879
Fred’s description of personal expenditure for 1878

Which leaves the rest for extras, some of which he spends on his education, some he gives away (I don’t know what ‘club’ is yet, could be football) but the largest chunk after this is spent on “Excursions, Enter [entrance to attractions perhaps?], Games, Music etc”.

The National Archives currency converter says that £66 in 1880 would have been worth £3188.46 in 2005. It also says that back in 1880 this amount would buy you “200 x days craftsman wages in building trade” or 6 cows, or 2 horses. Not exactly measures of lifestyle I can easily visualise. So I am finding it tricky to work out either if Fred was being paid a living wage or if living at home, where everyone is making a contribution, he was just able to benefit more from his money than someone who is the head of their household and trying to make ends meet.

There are several places in Fred’s diary where he runs out of ink mid sentence and continues to write in pencil until the end of the week when he switches back to ink again. This looks for all the world like someone who gets the bottom of a bottle of ink and has to wait until payday to buy some more.

Later letters show that both he and his brother Arthur are rearing a pig each, and they have a little contest with each other as to who’s will weigh more upon slaughter. Leaping ahead a bit in this story to December 1881 when Fred is away in Middlesborough, Arthur writes him a very brief letter in which he says “Your pig only weighed 12 stone 2 lbs, Mr Marshall + our Lucy had it between them 6 stone each at 8/- per stone.” 16 shillings. That’s just over half a weeks wages for Fred. Not exactly a money spinner. However, generally the business of rearing pigs was a community activity and families and neighbours took turns in their timings of slaughter so that everyone could benefit. As the youngest lads in the family, it was quite likely it was traditionally Fred and Arthur’s job to feed the family pigs. Jane also mentions in a later letter their pig being slaughtered and that it weighed 19 stone. Probably getting a lot more scraps from the left-overs at a busy pub than poor old Fred’s pig back at home.

I don’t know what level of society in Sheffield in the 1880s where it was economically viable to raise a pig. You’ve got to be able to afford the piglets, and produce enough scraps to feed them. I’m assuming when households get to a certain level of income (and probably more importantly, class) you stop with the bother and the mess of a pig.

Based on all this (but clearly I need to do more research here) I think Fred’s family are not in poverty, probably nearly always have two shillings to rub together but not what anyone would consider well off.

Fred writes up his accounts for 1878 on the 3rd January 1879 and all he writes next to the analysis is “Worked out the result of 1878 expenditure. Great room for improvement especially in No.s 2. 3. 5. 10. 12.” So Fred feels that he could economise in Clothes (2) Excursions (3) Books, papers and music (5) Drink and refreshment (10) and smoking (12). Given that he can list all this, he obviously had a note book somewhere for recording everything he spent. We don’t have any accounts for 1880 to see if he was successful.

Image source: Burpee’s farm annual : garden, farm, and flower seeds, thoroughbred stock 1884 wikimedia commons.


Stop all the clocks…

Stop all the clocks…

In my initial excitement at reading and starting to transcribe the letters and Fred’s diary, I wasn’t really aware of how much this was getting under my skin. So when I came across this entry I froze. And then I found myself full of tears:

Alfred's death Fred's Diary

Transcription: Friday October 4th. My father died on this day. Which threw the gloom over our house, I did not see Janey until Saturday, Octr 12, when she was dressed in black. A delicate mark of sympathy, which I appreciated.

This particular entry is stained and dirty and I can I think you can see from the photograph, starting to crumble. The rest of the diary in comparison is clean and in fairly good condition. It looks like this entry has been turned to and stroked many times. The stains of grief more eloquent than the sparse words written.

It seems ridiculous that a worn piece of paper can reveal someone’s emotional state from 135 years ago but when you look at it, it’s obvious.

Fred’s father (and my 3 x great-grandfather) was Alfred Shepherd. He was born Grenoside, Sheffield in either 1807 or 1808.  The 1861 Census records him as being a ‘Roll Turner’ and married to Ann, with 1 daughter and 5 sons – the youngest of which was Fred who had been born in 1860. The National Burial Index says he was buried on the 8th of October 1878 at Christ Church, Attercliffe, Sheffield (pictured above). Sadly the church was destroyed by bombing in WWII.

It is hard to say how much mourning was observed at this distance but this period is at the height of the Victorian cult of Mourning – which was a particularly heavy financial burden on poor families. However, Fred seems to have observed a week of social isolation and Jane has made ‘a delicate mark of sympathy’. Given that they only met two months earlier I think that a certain amount of mourning customs are being observed. This well researched post on Victorian Mourning and Funerary Practices provides a fascinating glimpse into the social norms of the time (and the rest of site is well worth your time).