In Childhood Misdemeanours a man named Joseph Chadburn, employed as a miner at Moira’s Bath Pit, was fined three shillings (3s.) for scrumping.
I have now discovered that the Children’s Employment Commission (Mines) of 1842 investigated the pay scales at that very pit, so we can see how the fine related to his pay and household expenses. (Moira Furnace Education Pack.)
An adult miner was paid two shillings and eight pence (2s. 8d.) per day, for twelve hours, six days per week. Therefore, weekly income would be sixteen shillings (16s.).
There is also a breakdown of spending for a family with three young children. Some items include:
- Flour 3s. 6d. This would be mainly for bread-making; they bought no bread. They purchased 1.5 stone at 2s. 4d., which equates to 21 pounds (lb) or 9.5 kilograms (kg). According to well-known cookery writer Delia Smith a standard white 1 lb loaf requires about 550 grams (g) of flour, so this amount of flour could make 17 loaves. That amount of flour would cost about 17.50 GBP at the supermarket I use. The average salary in the district of Walsall, West Midlands, is approximately 360 GBP per week after tax, so the flour would be 6% of income (22% in 1842). On average 17 loaves would cost about 14.52 GBP, less than the cost of flour!
- Meat and bacon 2s. 8 1/2d.
- Other foodstuffs 6s. (including potatoes, butter, oatmeal and 3 gallons of small beer at 3d. = 1/8th penny per pint. This would be low alcohol for drinking instead of the unsafe water supply. I believe the beer at the pub would be more like modern beers, somewhere in the region of 3.5-5.5% ABV.
- Rent: 1s. 6d. About 9% of income. Apparently, today’s average is about 30%.
- Coal: 7 1/2d. About 10% of income. Today a household that spends more than 10% on energy bills is considered to be in fuel poverty. Of couse, in 1842 there was no domestic electricity or gas supply.
Total weekly spend was estimated at 13s. 11 1/2d., leaving 2s 1/2d. (about 13% of income) for other things like clothes, shoes and beer at the pub.
It is perhaps worth noting that there was no income tax, council tax, pension, or health insurance.
So, going back to Mr Chadburn, a three shilling fine would have been a big deal. Unless, he and his wife were quite determined savers it would hit them quite hard, depending on how quickly he had to pay. The fine was the equivalent of two and a quarter weeks’ pay; the equivalent today in Walsall of about 800 GBP.
Coin of the Realm
In the 1960s and ’70s my late father worked for a well-known battery manufacturer and managed the factory payroll. He asked his staff to put to one side old coins so that he could replace them from his own pocket. All of the coins pictured here are from his collection.
The closest date to 1842 was the penny from 1862. The George III shilling from 1817 was in circulation and might have featured in Mr Chadburn’s pay packet. Although the other coins are from later in the Victorian era, they are similar to those in circulation in 1842. Apart from the penny they were all solid silver. Pennies were minted in copper until 1860, but then from bronze. I believe all of the coins pictured were legal tender until 1971 when UK currency was decimalised as a precursor to joining the European Common Market, as it was back then. These are the sort of coins I used as a child, though I don’t remember having many shillings!