In places like Middlesborough, where most of the work was for men at the ironworks, women were in a minority and seldom single. There is also an assumption that people lived short lives, the ‘average age’ of 35 often being cited, but they often saw old bones. This is from Lady Bell’s At the Works:
“An elderly woman, the widow of an ironworker, came to a friend to ask her advice about getting married again. she did not know the name of her would-be intended; he was the man who brought round the potato-sack, from which she bought potatoes to retail to other people. She finally decide to marry him, without knowing in the least what his circumstances were or what his family was. He had a grownup daughter who kept house for him and other grown-up children, who objected to the marriage. It did to prove to be a success.
Another case was that of a widow of 79 who had taken in an old man as a lodger. She had supported herself entirely until that age. He had asked her several times to marry him, but as long as she could earn, she would not. At last, when she was 79 and he 81, finding she could support herself no longer and that he was still earning 35s a week, she carrie him, and they lived happily for 2 years, at the end of which he died and she went to lie with a married son, after which she said sadly that she felt for the first time in her life, as if she were in a dependents position.