The Brunel Engine House - the Miner's Life Exhibition



Kitchen Courtship by George Cruikshank from 'Sketches by Boz' 1834

Henry Mayhew, in the mid 19th century, reports an interview with an old female street pedlar: 'I bought a quartern of wine, which was 4d, and I gave 5d for a bit of tea and sugar, and I gave 2d for coals, a halfpenny rushlight I bought…'

One of Mayhew's other informants, a ham sandwich-seller, reported that he paid 7d for a pound of ham. Fish was cheaper than meat. Working people bought 'block ornaments', the small, dark coloured pieces of meat exposed on the cheap butchers' blocks or counters. Fruit and also meat pies were commonplace. A pint of soup from a cheap cook-shop would cost 2d a pint. Carrots, cabbage, potatoes and onions were the main vegetables available and stews were thickened with dried peas. Working people often ate just bread and dripping or treacle and a cup of cocoa or tea with sugar for a light meal; butter was a luxury. Until the 1870s only a quarter of the food eaten in Britain came from abroad and most people's diet was limited to what could be grown or reared here, so food varied from season to season.

A family required about 12 shillings (60p) a week to live on just to keep starvation at bay and a roof over the families head. Around 8 shillings (40p) a week would be spent on food, the rest on rent. clothing and fuel. The weekly shopping bill of a poor family might be: Bread and Flour 6s 8d. Yeast and Salt 4d. Bacon or other meat 8d. Tea, Sugar and Butter 1s. Soap. starch and blue 2d, Candles 3d. Thread,Thrum and Worsted 3d. Cheese, beer, meat and bacon were only bought when funds allowed.





Email the Museum. Page Last Updated on 20 April 2002. Designed by Kevin Flude of Cultural Heritage Resouces