History is never easy – but many hands make light work


Brownhills folk didn’t just work in the pits – there were many other occupations. This image from Black Country History shows local man Alf Mole working on the canal with workmates (and a young lad – look carefully) at Catshill Junction, sometime in the 1960s.

Andy Dennis, a long time friend and contributor to the blog has been beavering away in the background lately, not only continuing his research into what exactly Brownhills People did to earn a crust through the years (this time he tackles 1881 – last time 1861, see here) – but Andy has also finally taken the plunge and started his own blog!

It’s a great read, and packed with useful information – particularly for genealogists who’ll find Andy’s tips, views and methodology very helpful indeed. You can check out the new blog here.

Thanks to Andy as ever for wonderful contributions, and I’ll be in touch with him later regarding his technical queries. Time is a bit constrained at the moment as with the weather being decent, I’m cycling a lot!

If you have anything to add, please do – this is fascinating research which I’m proud and honoured to publish. Comment here or mail me: BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com. Cheers.

occ 1881 lichfield rd notes (574x800)

Andy’s research methods are reassuringly traditional! Click for a larger version.

Andy wrote:

Hello Bob

I’ve finally managed to get my blog going. It’s not by any means perfectly formed yet, partly because online advice about adding sidebars tells me to go to dashboard/appearance/edit (which is not available, so I should edit functions.php, which I could not find), when all was needed was the widgets section! [I’ll be in touch on this later! Happy to help! – Bob]

Anyway, what I have been working on is a series on first name frequency and I am hoping that we can cross-fertilize (though I have few followers as yet). I have analysed the change in frequency in first names in my own tree to compare with a larger study to see if my people were the same. I have also done some research from the 1861 and 1881 censuses for Brownhills to see whether the same pattern occurs. 

Oh, I’ve also got the 1881 occupation data ready for Brownhills…

My blog is at https://andrewskindred.wordpress.com/ and the Why is history so difficult? posts are pertinent.

Here is the information from the 1881 census on employment. Once again I have tried to match records to the current Brownhills ward. The sample had grown from 2,191 in 1861 to 4,209, almost double in 20 years.

occ 1881 lichfield rd

Job opportunities – Andy breaks down the sats.

About 35% of people were in an occupation, of whom 64% were colliery-related, so mining remained the dominant occupation among residents.

21% were scholars, up from 14% in 1861. This appears mainly to do with the growth in family size, rather than any increased desire to send children to school, though an Act of 1880 may have had some effect. It appears that in England in 1861 about 95% of those eligible attended school regularly, though I’ve not worked out what the rate for Brownhills was.

The Elementary Education Act of 1880 provided for compulsory education from age 5 to 10, but empowered local school boards to pass by-laws to extend this to age 13. Children older than 10 years who had satisfied the requirements, which varied from board to board, could be exempted, allowing them to work. It would not be until 1918 that education became compulsory between 5 and 14 years, with provision for part time education up to 18 years.

The nearest comparison to 1881 that I have found was in the Lichfield Mercury 12 Sep 1884 when the School Attendance Officer reported that the numbers of scholars on the books were as follows – I have added percentages: –

School attendance 1884 Brownhills

School attendances – little changes, really! Click for a larger version.

There had been several cases of measles which had affected attendance levels. It was decided to send handbills asking parents to send their children more regularly to school. At least they weren’t bunking off to Disney World!


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3 Responses to History is never easy – but many hands make light work

  1. Clive says:

    Nice one Andy.

  2. Pedro says:

    Thanks Andy and good luck with the Blog.

  3. David Evans says:

    Excellent….all the best with your blog
    Kind regards

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