The census allows us to look at the occupations of the Seaton Ross residents. This is a little more complicated than population as people have to be allocated to occupations and rules need to be generated and followed.
The easiest category to identify is farmers – it should be noted that this includes both large farmers with several hundred acres and small farmers with less than ten acres. When small farmers had additional occupations, they are identified by that occupation – nearly always as skilled workers or in transport.
Agricultural workers are harder to identify. If they lived separately from the farm they are identified as Agricultural Labourers – the Ag.Lab. well know to family tree researchers. If they lived on the farm they are identified as Farm Servants. However, the families of farmers identified as Farmers Sons and Farmers Daughters were also agricultural workers. In some censuses these are not identified but were still working and have been included. Further, those aged 16 and under are only treated as half a worker as recommended in some commentaries on interpreting census data. [Note that these younger workers also appear in the domestic and skilled sectors]. Lastly, Farmers Wives are not included here as agricultural workers, as their work also covered domestic and carer roles.
The lives of farm labourers of various types are described here.
Domestic workers are identified as such, which is helpful. Various categories of skilled tradesmen are identified, such as wheelwrights, cordwainers (boot makers) and so forth. Carriers and shopkeepers are included in retail and transport. In Seaton Ross, other labourers are almost entirely from the brickworks or the railway.
In the table above, all non-farming and non-domestic workers are included. The format shows the main worker plus (+) assistants.
In the pie charts below, the groups of workers are shown as proportions of the economically active population – year by year. Click on any chart to see it in more detail and scroll left and right for the others.
The main observation is that all the pie charts look very similar to each other and are dominated by the green of farm workers. To demonstrate this further, the occupations were plotted against time and as proportions against time.
A careful examination of the right hand graph shows that the total number of farm workers (including farmers) stays almost constant as a proportion of the working population – in fact at 64.5 +/- 2.3% – throughout this time period. For a village where agriculture is the main occupation and all other occupations are present solely as a support to the farm workers, this should not be surprising.
“It was generally held that while every twenty-five or thirty acres of arable required a man’s labour, the figure for grass was fifty or sixty acres.” [Extract from p85 of “Rural Life in Victorian England” by G.E.Mingay, Futura Publications 1979. Copyright 1976 Land Humphries publishers Ltd.]
It may also be seen from careful examination of the left hand graph above that the total number of agricultural workers is almost constant for the first four decades and then starts to decline steadily from 1871 – from about 142 to 104 – bringing the numbers of supporting workers along with it (see also below left). It follows from this that the number of acres per farm worker must increase, and that is indeed the case (below right). This must have mirrored increases in mechanisation. Note that the acreage per labourer is low compared to the estimate given in the quote above, but may be due to our inclusion of women and children agricultural labourers.
Finally the data as a table..
The data table helps us to see that over the eighty years, the number of paid domestic workers decreased by half, although not steadily, mostly after 1871. All other categories fluctuated, but with no clear pattern.