The Householders of Norton As Described in the 1881 Census

The Norton Census provides a very detailed description of the village in 1881.

Altogether the census lists a population of 395 inhabitants scattered over 87 households, including Gopsall Hall and its attached farm cottages. The village had eight “private houses” (including the Hall), 72 “cottages”, two shops, a pub and ten uninhabited houses. There was also the Rectory alongside Holy Trinity Church and the Primitive Methodist chapel. Although most of the householder heads gave their birthplace as either in Norton or Bilston, about a third were outsiders, mainly from adjacent parishes.


The Rectory was occupied by a curate, Alfred Allen from Lambeth in Surrey and his wife Harriet, and they employed two live-in domestic servants.

Gopsall Hall was occupied by servants, all fairly young, unmarried women who describe themselves as “domestic housekeepers” or “laundry maids”, the head housekeeper being listed as Jane Williams, born in Wales. Attached to the hall was a Gamekeeper’s cottage, the Gardener’s house, Garden Sheds and Stables. The Gamekeeper’s cottage was occupied by the head gamekeeper, William Peach, and his son, who is also described as a gamekeeper. Robert Williams “employing 11 men”, was the head gardener in the Gardener’s House. Four young men lived in the Garden Sheds. Frederick Collen, the head coachman with two Grooms occupied Gopsall Stables.

The principal landholders, those who could probably be described as gentlemen farmers or yeoman, typically described their dwellings as “Private Houses”. The largest holding was in possession of Thomas Ratcliff, originally from Worthington, who farmed 527 acres and employed eight men and four boys. He had five servants including Selina Kingsey, employed as a cook, Fanny Ridway his housemaid, Thomas Holt, the Groom and William Twigg, who is described as a “Cow Boy”.
His neighbour, John Ratcliff, was very likely related to Thomas Ratcliff. He farmed 270 acres, employing four men and seven boys. One of his servants Annie Amies describes herself as a “governess”.
Samuel Foster with 330 acres employed five men and a boy, three of them  “indoor farm servants”.
James Arnold, born in Market Bosworth, farmed 400 acres and employed ten people, and had two domestic servants and a farm servant living in. Both of his two young daughters are described as “scholars”.
Emilia Barber, 62 years old and originally from Appleby, farmed 120 acres and employed two boys

The Smallholders included John Dean, farming 16 acres who had a young family and a daughter employed as a dressmaker, and George Marshall, farming 30 acres. One of George’s sons was an apprentice blacksmith, the rest were “scholars”.
James Stretton who gave his occupation as a Miller as well as Farmer, was married with four children. He farmed 16 acres and employed one man and the family kept a 16 year old girl as a domestic servant.
Richard Pegg, originally from Orton on the Hill, farmed 54 acres and had four sons. There were other Peggs in the parish, including Charles Pegg aged 65, who describes himself as an “agricultural labourer” yet lists among his household three servants including an Irish “Under butler”, a scullery maid and a domestic “Baker and Brewer”. Presumably Charles Pegg was a retired farmer.

 Farm labourers were the most numerous occupation, accounting for the occupants of about fifty three households. Most farm labourers probably lived in tied cottages, including Richard Hestell, Thomas Larkin, Edward Harris, John Rowel and his son William, William Smalley, James Hodgkinson, John Wain, Samuel Barwell,  John Gilbert, William Jackson (one of his son’s William giving his occupation as a “Groom”), George Summers, Thomas Hancote, William Smith, Thomas Cope, William Booton, John Harrison, Thomas Bradford, William Harding, and George Miller.
Frederick Miller, a farm labourer living in a cottage next door to George, describes himself as a “visitor”, and was probably a visiting relative.
James Miller, Thomas Wilton, Thomas Cope, John Brown, Thomas Harding (his son, Samuel, a “farmer’s boy”), Joseph Wardle, James Bown and his son James, George Satchwell (whose son describes himself as a shoemaker)
William Pegg, Samuel Spare, William Brown, of Ratcliffe Barn cottage
Joseph Holt, his daughter a domestic servant, his 10 year old son, Daniel, who was “deaf and dumb”, described as a “farmers boy”.
Samuel Pegg, John Miller, Richard Hambling, Frederick Bown, Thomas Newmans, William Walton, Edward Taylor, William Harrison, George Smith, Joseph Wilkins, James Bown, Henry Spare, Joseph Harrison, all gave their occupations as “farm labourers”.
The Farm Cottages, next to the Hall were also occupied by labourers including, William Twigg and Sam Sentence at Farm Lodge and James Starkey who describes himself as a shepherd.
The gardeners at Gopsall Hall could also be described as farm labourers.
Law and Order was represented by Thomas Achurch, a police constable, who originally came from Great Glen, He had a wife and seven children, all scholars. Also Charles Hammersley, formerly a police sergeant whose daughter Elizabeth Fisher, living at the same address describes herself as a police constable’s wife

The Medical Profession represented by Samuel Bown, a vetinary surgeon

Widows and Single women householders were comparatively rare.
However, there were some women heads of households, including Ann Ottey, who describes herself as a “housekeeper”. Her sister Mary and her son George living with her are both described as “imbeciles”.
Sarah Croshaw also describes herself as a housekeeper, her son is identified as a “letter carrier”.

Shopkeepers included Robert Pegg, whose wife was evidently the village schoolmistress. The Pegg’s probably ran the village’s only general store.
John Marshall describes himself as both as a Blacksmith and the village Innkeeper, one of his sons was an apprentice smithy

Tradesmen include William Davis, the bricklayer employing two men (his son being described as a bricklayer’s journeyman)
Joseph Ball, was a journeyman blacksmith.
George Cooper and Frank White (79) were both retired blacksmiths (Frank’s son describing himself as a “gardener’s labourer”)
George Yeomans was a saddler. The eldest of his children was a “farmer’s boy”, the other four were scholars, George also had a boarder who describes himself as a shoemaker.
Richard Meakin, was a carpenter, but also the local methodist preacher.
George Starkey, the butcher, came from London
William Smith, describes himself as a “master shoe-maker”. Philip Booton, another householder also identifies himself as a shoemaker.
Sarah Wilkins, Harriett Smith, were both “dressmakers”, Mary Robinson described herself as an “annuitant”, formerly employed as a dressmaker.
Mary Magear (78) was also an annuitant, though no occupation is given.
John Goddard described himself as a “Master Tailor”, one of his son’s was a journeyman tailor, and the other an apprentice tailor.
Thomas Wilkins describes himself as a carrier.
Edwin Bowman, born in Appleby, describes himself as a “cattle dealer”.

Source: 1881 British Census, P.R.O. Ref. RG11-3134 [on CD Rom]
© Alan Roberts, April, 2004

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