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Waltham Abbey History

Raymond Sears and Jonathan Foster bring to life the history of Waltham abbey with their wide collection of publications.
Waltham Abbey Publications


Nobody, who has not been in the interior of a family, can say what the difficulties of any individual of that family may be.
Jane Austen
"The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof."
Richard Bach


"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle"
Albert Einstein

It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.
Johann Schiller

In some families, please is described as the magic word. In our house, however, it was sorry.
Margaret Laurence

We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies.
Shirley Abbott

Family History Guide

Victorian Life


I was discussing earlier with my parter about our grandparents and why they never mentioned half the things that you find out only through family research. Its probably the subject that all family historians talk about when tracing their own family. Why did granddad never mention that he had an older brother and who were my cousins and why did I never see them? Its so easy to look at our ancestors through the eyes of how we are and live today, but the views of the people was completely different back then. People were not open about family and social issues like how we are today. For one thing divorce was never really said or heard of unless the family had some kind of wealth. The married couple would just part and lead their seperate lives, however for many people who had an unhappy marriage they just put up with living with eachother for either the sake of their children or because in many cases as the man was the main income the women was dependent on him to survive.

A big issue that wasn't dicussed or blasted in the media as it is today was sex. Sex was not a talked about subject as it is done today, for many people learning about the birds and the bees came at a later stage in life than school. It was down to the parents to tell their children about sex and it was only to be done once they were married. Contraception didn't exist and if you conceived a baby out of wedlock then you were frowned upon by almost everyone and your parents depending on the sort of people they were may of even sent you to an unmarried mothers home. Your child would be a bastard and you and the father of the baby were either forced to marry by your parents or in some cases some families made them give up the child for adoption.

Classes and Culture

Another important factor that we may tend to forget about victorian life was that classes played a big role in society. This included first class which was for the wealthy and rich, the middle class who might be business owners and had a fairly were comfortable lifestyles, working class who had to work to survive and the poor who would be either in the workhouse on the streets. The was a big gap between rich and poor. The rich and middle class society would not be seen to socialise with the poor and in many ways they blamed the poor for being poor. It was also only for the rich and middle class to get good schooling and education to better themselves in life. If you were born into the poor it was very difficult to make your way in the world. Society on a whole put huge amounts of pressure on peoples lives and it was for the poor a fight for survival. If you hadn't a penny to rub between your hands then you and your family didn't eat and this is also another reason why so many children in the bottom two classes were lucky if they made past the age of six. The lack of nutrition and a varied diet made babies, children, the sick and elderly more susceptible to diseases and illness. If they didn't die of starvation when they caught an illness their immune systems were unable to fight the illness therefore many of them died.

Life was Hard

We have today the joys of central heating and a nice warm bathroom which normally situated within our home. Just think many of our ancestors never had central heating and their toliets were situated at the bottom of the garden. Although they had bed warmers which was a pan that normally was hanging on and around the fireplace where it could easily be filled with warm coals before being taken to bed. Washing and cleaning took ages as they never had washing machines and the luxury of a tumble dryer. Washing the clothes involved a wash tub of hot water, a washboard and a dolly stick. The idea of our ancestors washing their clothes often is painted with the image of a ideal washroom which has a clothes line near. But in most cases washing was done within a cramped up kitchen or dark courtyard. Between 1800 and 1900 washing changed in a such soap, starch and other washing aids became were widely used. If your ancestors were of wealth then their washing would of been done by their servants. If you never had much money women and mothers took care of it themselves.

Bed Warmer
Bed Warmer - This would be situated by the fireplace

School Life

Before 1870 there was no law that children had to go to school and school and teaching was only for privileged children. In many cases if you were rich parents would have a governess at home and she would teach the children. In 1870 In 1870 a law was passed saying that children aged between 5 and 10 had to attend weekday school. The leaving age was raised to 11 in 1893. Even so, many children were kept away from school by parents and employers who would rather have them earning money.

School in its self was a dark, grim place to go to. Teachers were strict and many of them feared. If the child mis behaved or was not listening to instructions they got the cain or a ruler. In Scotland a leather strap called a tawse was used in place of the cane. Teaching was often the job of unmarried ladies (that's why you call the teacher Miss), and when you married you stopped teaching. Fewer men taught because pay was poor.

Today we have so many subjects taught at school such as art, photography, drama, languages, sciences etc. But the victorians concentrated on 3Rs Reading wRiting and aRithmetic. Most schools also included the 4th R, religion.


School life








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