My great grandmother, Emma Goodwin, before she married my great grandfather Peter Dean (1865 – 1924) lived in Pampisford, just a few kilometers southeast of Stapleford.
She was the daughter of George Goodwin and Hannah Norris. George was born in Saffron Walden, Essex (about 15 km SE of Pampisford) in 1825. Like the Deans, like his father James, and like many, many others in these rural areas, he was an agricultural labourer working on the farms of the wealthy.
Agricultural labourers were part of the lowest class in the British society of the time. They were paid extremely low wages – 7 shillings to 9 shillings per week, the equivalent of $35 – $45 in today’s currency. And as we’ve seen in our family trees, they had very large families.
Most farms and estates were owned by the aristocracy and landed gentry and they employed two kinds of agricultural labourers – those who were employed, often for a lifetime, and lived in rented cottages usually on the estate or farm, and those who lived in nearby villages and contracted out year by year.
Few if any owned their own land. At most they had a small vegetable garden by their rented cottage.
Children as young as ten of the families living on farms were required to work as well (schooling only became mandatory after 1862)
For details on farming and farm labour in Cambridgeshire in the 1800’s, see Craig A. Shelley’s wonderful website, MyAncestry, http://myancestry.org/history/farmlabor.htm and Cambridgeshire Genealogy’s “Agriculture & the Labourer, http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~engcam/aglab.htm. They also included more on the social and political conditions of the times.
Hannah died at the relatively young age of 40 after having given birth to twelve children, only about half of whom survived to adulthood. Her last three children died at birth, and she may have died giving birth to the last George died at the age of 78 living in Pampisford with his oldest surviving daughter Harriet Goodwin Barton, in 1903.