in Victorian London was divided into three groups; the aristocracy
and rich gentry, the middleclass and the working classes.
Family life was very different in each of these groups.
Hackney was made up of middleclass families who lived mainly
in the suburbs of Stoke Newington, Homerton, Clapton and
Stamford Hill and working class families who lived around
the canal and close to the City in Shoreditch.
For middleclass families home was where the heart was.
It was the centre of family life and it was the wife's job
to make sure it was a clean and pleasant place. She would
have had at least one or two servants to help her with this,
such as a maid and a nanny or housekeeper. The children
would have gone to school and always have had clean clothes
and toys. For family entertainment there were the new parks
and museums, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum. The
father of the family may well have worked in the City in
a profession such as insurance or banking. If he worked
locally in Hackney he may have owned a shop or small business.
Working class families spent a lot of time out of the house
as their accommodation was often cramped and unpleasant.
They could buy cheap food on the street from stalls or in
taverns. For entertainment they went to the parks too, but
also to music halls and pleasure gardens which had entertainment
such as fireworks, fairgrounds and sports matches.
Many working class children did not go to school. Some
children looked after other younger brothers and sisters,
whilst some worked in factories or as chimney sweeps. There
were lots of jobs for children. Many teenage girls became
servants in the houses of the middleclasses. Women worked
in factories too, or at home doing work for very little
money such as making matchboxes. Sometimes children would
help them. The father of the house often worked doing manual
labour. Many men did not have a permanent job so sometimes
they were in work and sometimes not.
Families were bigger in Victorian times but more children
died because of disease and poor living conditions, especially
working class children who lived in the worst areas and
had the poorest diet.
click here for activity sheet