Feeding the Ironworkers

This is another excerpt from the wonderful At the Works by Lady Bell. She spent a lot of time interviewing families and the book includes a lot of detailed information on their incomes and lifestyles. I have just started a book which claims the industrial revolution was good for many people. Try this diet and see if you agree:

“the allowances for the week for [a family of 3] is

One dish of meat, tolerably full, not piled up, the dish about 10 inches long

7 1/2 quartern loaves, about 15 inches long, 8 in height, 6 wide

2 wedge-shaped pieces of butter 5 inches long

1 piece of lard the same size

A pice of bacon about half the size lengthwise of a large octavo volume

10 teacups full of sugar

2 breakfast-cups full of tea-leaves

4 tumblers of milk

A bag of potatoes 16 inches high and half as broad.

This is about the quantity, if we except the tea and sugar, that would last about 2 days for a family of the same size in similar circumstances. ”

Think about that. The man often had to walk up to a mile to work,  then do long, demanding, dangerous shifts, then walk home often in the freezing cold. The slightest lapse of concentration could seriously injure or kill him and/or his co-workers. Yet he was eating a fraction of what a middle class person consumed. And they had no fruit or vegetables apart from potatoes and an occasional onion or carrot.

This was a well paid family. Imagine what the poor were living on. Terrifying.


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