Gender, the city and the environs of London: work, family and elite status, 1740-1870
Martin, Mary Clare
Elite (Social sciences) -- England -- London -- History -- 1740-1870 Suburbs -- England -- London -- History Urban women -- England -- History -- 1740-1870 City and town life -- England -- London -- History -- 1740-1870 Ελίτ (Κοινωνικές επιστήμες) -- Αγγλία -- Λονδίνο -- Ιστορία -- 1740-1870 Προάστια -- Αγγλία -- Λονδίνο -- Ιστορία Γυναίκες, Αστές -- Αγγλία -- Ιστορία -- 1740-1870 Πόλεις και κωμοπόλεις, Ζωή στις -- Αγγλία -- Λονδίνο -- Ιστορία -- 1740-1870
Despite the prominence given to debates on “separate spheres” in the period 1780-1850, little work has been done on gender relations in the environs of London during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. This paper will address the issue of women’s status in relation to the move away from central London to part of the London’s “rural hinterland” in the period 1740-1870. The “locus” of this study is the two Essex villages of Walthamstow and Leyton, 6 miles north-east of the City of London, with good communications by rail and stage-coach. These provided a second weekend, retirement or permanent home for a wealthy mercantile elite of bankers, professionals and businessmen, some of whom commuted into the City of London or the docks by stage-coach, on horseback, or from the 1840s, by rail. A wide range of sources will be used, including family memoirs, account books, local histories, school and poor law records and episcopal visitation returns.The paper will be divided into three parts. The first explores the process of removal to the environs of London. Was this gradual or sudden, and what were the implications for women’s work? Had the wives of the mercantile elite ever been involved in their husband’s businesses? Was there any change in household composition, for example, through the exclusion of apprentices and living-in servants? I will argue that, for the most part, there was little change in women’s status vis a vis the workplace.Part two analyses the status of the London mercantile elite within Walthamstow and Leyton. It will show how these two parishes provided a “space” within which members of this social group could develop an enhanced social status and become leaders of their local community. One example is Lady Eleanor Wigram, wife of Sir Robert, shipbuilder and then MP. In 1830 her husband wrote and advised her to remain in Walthamstow after his death, as she enjoyed a status there that she would not have elsewhere. In the third section, I will analyse the nature of the social and cultural links between the inhabitants of Walthamstow and Leyton and Central London. The discussion will include the visits of children to their fathers’ workplaces, and to philanthropic events. To what extent did the local elite spend their social lives in the metropolis, or in the “rural hinterland”, and was this gender-specific?In conclusion, I will analyse whether the experience of this social group confirms or challenges Davidoff and Hall’s recently republished work arguing that significant changes took place in “middle class “ gender relations between 1780-1850, and that this was linked to the separation of home and work.
Paper presented at Seventh International Conference on Urban History: European City in Comparative Perspective, Panteion University, Athens - Piraeus, Greece, 27-30 October 2004, Session: Living in the city: Urban Elites and their residences