Friday, 27 April 2007

Croscombe occupations, 1851

The occupations that people give on censuses often makes interesting reading. Often they are amusing and educational, but when the occupations of a whole census is analysed it gives a good picture of how a community functioned and made a living.

Listed below are all the employed occupations from the Croscombe (Somerset, England) census of 1851. It accounts for 310 people, or 46% of the population. I have omitted all the scholars, paupers, housewives etc and will look at these in later postings.

Agriculture and textiles are the major occupations, though I think we should be careful before assuming that all these people were employed in the village, especially amongst the textile workers who may have worked in nearby Shepton Mallet. In compiling this list I found a few surprises. The first was the total absence of quarry workers, an industry which in later decades accounts for considerable employment in Croscombe. There is however a considerable leather industry, but a noticeable abscence of any tanners. There are four inn keepers, and it would be nice to know where these establishments were, but unfortunately no addresses have been recorded on this census.

Agriculture (89)

The census shows 61 agricultural labourers, 5 more who work on the family farm and 2 girls aged 12 and 15 working as dairy servants. There are 13 farmers, and of those who state their acreage, the average is 84 acres. One person has a 'Small income from land" and three others declare themselves as landed proprietors. There is also a miller and a millers servant. Six people find employment as gardeners.

Textiles (76)

The textile industry seems to be the largest source of employment, with no less that 76 people working in the industry. The wool trade is still alive and there is 1 fuller and 8 woolcombers, who no doubt supplied the raw material for the 7 worsted workers.

Silk manufacture provided employment for 41 people. Samuel Peters, silk throwster, and originally from Derbyshire, employed 8 boys and 22 girls. The average age of workers in this industry was 18, the youngest being just 5, and they give their occupation as either silk winders or silk workers. 75% of the silk workers were female, but of the 10 males, five are under 12 years old, a much higher proportion of youngsters than the females. Their silk was probably used by the 12 Velvet Weavers living in the village.

John Jerrard described himself as a hosier employing 12 men. Three people describe themselves as stocking knitters, one as a knitter of hose and one just as a knitter. William Obren also gives his occupation as hosier, but mentions no workers, so it is hard to say if he is employed by John Jerrard or not.

Clothing (28)

No less than eleven women work as dress makers, and there are also four seamstresses and a 'plain sewer'. There are two tailors and two hatters. Keeping things clean employs seven washer women and a laundress.

Domestic help (26)

There were ten house servants, five servants, five nurse maids, two governesses, two nurses, a cook and a gents servant.

Trades (25)

The census shows seven masons, five carpenters, four thatchers, a cabinet maker and a sawyer. There are two people working at blacksmithing, a coachmaker, three wheelwrights and a wheeler. I'm not clear on the distinction between those last two. There is also a watchmaker, and one apprentice of unspecified trade.

Merchants (20)

Croscombe in 1851 boasts one shop keeper, a grocers porter, a butcher, a tea dealer, a mealman and no less than five bakers.

Ten men are employed in the coal trade: one merchant, two sellers, three hauliers and four carriers. I wonder if there is any significant distinction between some of these titles? It seems like rather a lot of people, but if they had to haul coal from Shepton Mallet (the nearest railway connection) in small carts, maybe this would account for it.

Leather (17)

Eight people are employed in the leather trades, comprising a fellmonger (a dealer in skins or hides - O.E.D.), skinners, dressers and workers. There are four cordwainers, two shoe makers, two boot and shoe makers, one apprentice to the trade, and one shoe binder. (Although the term cordwainer originally applied to someone working with cordovan leather, the name was later used by trade guilds, companies of shoemakers etc., to include all branches of the trade. - O.E.D.). It seems a little odd to me that there are no tanners.

Labourers (15)

Fifteen people give their occupation as labourer, but are not specific about the type of work they do.

Professions (8)

There is one accountant, one solicitors managing clerk and a Rector. There is one school master, two school mistresses, an English teacher and an assistant infants teacher.

Inns (6)

There were four inn keepers in Croscombe at the time, along with a lodging-house keeper and an ostler.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Carnival of Genealogy, #22

Issue 22 of the Carnival of Genealogy has just been published and Jasia was kind enough to include my post about Google Books. There are lots of other great posts there, so be sure to check it out. The one I particularly like is the one about Surname search, a tool for checking the geographical distribution of a surname in Great Britain. I could probably play with that for days!

Croscombe names, 1851

I have been working on the census for Croscombe in 1851 and doing some analysis with a view to gaining a better insight into life in the village. If this analysis proves useful, I might repeat the exercise for successive decades to see how the village has changed over the years.

There were 159 occupied households, 16 unoccupied and one under construction. The total population was 673, made up of 320 males and 353 females. The average number of people per dwelling was 4.23, but I plan to look in more detail at household structure in a later post. Today I want to take a quick look at some of the names on the census.

Starting with the surnames, there are 137 different surnames, but just 5 family names account for 25% of the population:

48 7% BAKER
36 5% WEBB

This might suggest that these families have been in Croscombe for a long time.

While tabulating the data, I noticed that Mary Ann was cropping up an awful lot as a forename, and although there are 25 people with this name, it is not the most popular by far. Here are the twelve most common names, accounting for 54% of the population:

51 William
40 John
29 George
29 Thomas
28 James
22 Henry
21 Joseph

40 Elizabeth
37 Ann
36 Sarah
35 Mary
25 Mary Ann

In most cases the age range of these popular names seems to be reasonably evenly spread. Henry, William and Mary Ann have perhaps seen a rise in popularity in the previous two decades, while Joseph has declined, but otherwise there are no really discernable spikes such as we might expect if babies were named after a new member of the Royal Family or some such celebrity.

There does seem to be more males than females with these common names, perhaps suggesting that parents are more conservative in naming boys, and more willing to try something different with a girl.

From these numbers it would seem quite likely that there will be more than one person with the same name. And in indeed there are quite a number. If we just look at the BAKER's, we find 4 Charles', 4 Georges and 4 Williams, and many other names repeated two or three times. There are no less than five Ann WEBBs in the village, that's nearly 1% of the population! If we also consider their ages, we see that there is a 4 year old and a 5 year old Charles BAKER; two William BAKERs both 2 years old; two George FOXWELLs both aged 20; and two Ann FOXWELLs aged 58 and 60.

This should serve as a warning that having someone's age, name and place of residence is not always sufficient to identify an ancestor, and that we should be very careful before jumping to any conclusions. We might therefore want to do a more thorough search and eliminate these other possibilities. And just because a name doesn't seem to be very common within our own personal experience (for example, I can't say I have come across any FOXWELLs in my life), it could be that 150 years ago in a small village somewhere in England, that it accounted for 6% of the population.

That's it for today, but do let me know if you find this useful or interesting, and leave any comments you have on this analysis. In the next post in this series I am going to look at occupations in Croscombe in 1851.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

PARKER memorials, Croscombe

On a trip to Croscombe a few years ago I checked out the graveyard at the church. I found none of my family there, but I did record some PARKER stones which may be of use to some one.


Maria, daughter of Thomas and Anna Elizabeth PARKER of Shepton Mallet, died June 5 1861 aged 17 years.
Also of Arthur PARKER who dies March 18, 1862 aged 7 years.
Also of Fanny the beloved wife of T.W.WHITNEY and daughter of the above T+A PARKER who died June 25 1883 at 33 years
Also of Fanny Louise WHITNEY daughter of the above who died September 28 1909 at 18 years.

Erected by William Hodges PARKER in memory of his father Francis Porch PARKER of the Market Place, Shepton Mallet died Jan 12, 1893 at 66 years.
Also Henry Porch PARKER Jan 25 1837 at 50 years and Elizabeth his wife who dies April 8 1865 at 76.
Also Thomas NORRIS died June 8 1865 at 50 years and Honor Perry NORRIS his wife died April 7 1841 at 21 years
Also Henry NORRIS their son, butcher of Shepton Mallet.

Erected by William Hodges PARKER in loving memory of his mother Jane PARKER, wife of Francis Porch PARKER of Shepton Mallet, died June 5 1866 aged 39 years.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Google Books as a research tool

Google Books is a project that scans books, indexes them and makes them available on-line. The amount of material you can read online depends on the status of the book, but most that are out of copyright are fully readable. You can choose to search either 'All Books' or 'Full View Books'.

I tried a search for 'Croscombe'. There are a lot of reports from religious periodicals such as The Baptist Magazine; reports of births, deaths and marriages in The Gentlemans Magazine; and a whole lot more. Reports on Epidemic Cholera cites Croscombe as one of the the 35 locations to have suffered much higher mortality than the average during the epedemic of 1848-1849, while
The Book of English Rivers describes briefly the river that flows through the village.

Leave a comment if you find anything interesting in Google Books.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007


One of the notable institutions of the past was the workhouse. In 1601 the Act for the Relief of the Poor made parishes responsible for looking after their own poor. They continued until 1930 when their responsibilities passed to local authorities at which point many became Public Assistance Institutions and continued to provide accommodation for the elderly, chronic sick, unmarried mothers and vagrants. You can read more about the history of workhouses, and find out much, much more at

I haven't found any of my ancestors in a workhouse, not yet at least, but if I do it will most likely be at Wells or Shepton Mallet.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Dulcote website

Though I haven't yet found any ancestors from Dulcote, I was really impressed by this website, Historical Sketches of Dulcote.

Of particular interest to me was the page on quarrying, as I believe my grandfather worked at Dulcote quarry, though it may possibly have been one of the other quarries nearer Croscombe. I was also fascinated to learn that there were once paper mills at Dulcote.

And if you wondered how people got around in 1910, check the picture of the stage coach.