Clements Hall
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Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe, South Bank and Bishophill areas of York

Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe, South Bank and Bishophill areas of York

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1841 in Dale Street, Swann Street and Dove Street

Catherine Sotheran, Judith Hoyle and Dick Hunter provide the latest update on our poverty research project:
We mined the 1841 census to get images of life nearly two centuries ago. The area developed rapidly from the 1820s including 39 houses in Dove Street between 1827-30, some by Joseph Shouksmith, plumber and glazier, and his wife Hannah. The census shows 391 adults and 263 children (153 boys, and 110 girls) in the three streets.

Poverty project map
Extract from map of York showing the parish of St Mary's Bishophill Junior, OS six inch map Yorkshire 174 surveyed 1846-51; pub. 1853. See

Occupational data is detailed for men, less so for women (and children) with much female employment unrecorded. For men there are a wide range of occupations, notably in manufacturing (24.3%), construction (11.6%), unspecified labour (11.6%) and transport (11%). 16 men work in agriculture, animal handling, and horticulture, including two ostlers, two farmers and a cow keeper. Ten men have no occupation listed while a further ten – of whom nine are over 60 - live on independent means.

The census aimed to distinguish between employers and employees but faced difficulty in doing so. Instructions to census enumerators show a gradual progression through the 19th century from a model of an economy based on the old handicraft distinctions between 'master', 'apprentice' and 'journeyman' (a trained worker in a trade or craft, employed by someone else), to one structured around 'employer' and 'worker'.

Twenty journeymen lived in the three streets; of whom five are joiners. There are two gardeners, and one each of these: bookbinder, brewer, cabinet maker, chairmaker, coachmaker, combmaker, lace weaver, painter, plane maker, printer, silversmith, slater, and whitesmith. There are thirteen apprentices: two cabinet makers, a carrier, two carvers and gilders, a chair maker, a confectioner, a gig maker, two painters, two printers and a whitesmith. Most journeymen and apprentices lived in Swann Street.

Wellcome etching

Men engaged in many trades and professions. Coloured etching. Credit: Wellcome CollectionCC BY

Railway workers total thirteen (clerk, porter, assistant, guards, plate layer, drivers, fitters, cleaner). There are also engineers, some of whom may relate to road or rail. The presence of nine professionals illustrates the range of households, with two school teachers (including the only professional woman), two accountants, two civil engineers, a surveyor, and two ministers of religion.

Only 29 women are recorded as working, almost certainly a gross underestimate. Eight are over 60 and the age range for the rest is between 25 and 55, with seven dressmakers, nine female servants and eight engaged in laundry work. Of the remainder there is a cane worker, a cook, a milliner, a school teacher and a seamstress. 15 women have independent means.

The focus of this project is how these residents made ends meet. Cost of living data illuminates who got by and struggled.  Anybody could succumb to lack of work,  irregular work, insufficient  supplementary earnings by wives or children, illness, or the cost of maintaining large families.   Married labourers with children were habitually in poverty. Craftsmen were at times in poverty.  Families were vulnerable because of death or absence of the chief wage earner.  We will highlight some of those compelled to seek poor law out-relief. 

Go to this link for more detail on those that lived in the streets and their occupations.


1841 Census
Topographical List of Houses Built Between 1800 and 1850: British History Online:
Armstrong, Alan,  Stability and Change in an English Town: A Social Survey of York 1801-51 (Cambridge University Press, 1974).  Chapter 3 - Some social characteristics of early Victorian York - includes cost of living data.
Feinstein, Charles, 'Population, Occupations and Economic Development, 1831-1981' in Feinstein, Charles, York 1831-1981: 150 years of Scientific Endeavour and Social Change (W. Sessions, York, 1981).

October 2019