The Brunel Engine House - the Miner's Life Exhibition

Life & Death


Victorian Interior by George Cruikshank (from 'The Bottle is brought out for the First Time' 1847

But there was an unbridgeable gulf between the social and economic world of the miners and that of the educated Brunels and the other gentlemen. A fine cloth dress coat fit for a 'gentleman' cost more than seven weeks of a miner's wages, and for a cloth dress waistcoat, more than one week's wages.

In the 1840's the average age of death for a gentleman was around 45 years old, but for those involved in the trades it dipped to circa 30. For Factory workers it could dip to as low as 20. However, the figures were so low mainly because of childhood mortality. The grime reaper struck most often in the first 5 years of life. Dickens' Tiny Tim, who appears in the Christmas Carol, was a sad reality of many if not most families - a child not destined to survive.

Early Victorian London was also a cruel place for those who fell on hard times. The Government was determined to encourage self-help by making the life-style available to those who had to resort to the Work house as mean as possible. Dickens satirised this cruel policy in the famous scene in which Oliver Twist asks for 'more'. After 1834, the corpses of those who died in the Workhouse without providing for their funerals could be dissected for scientific research even against their, and relatives, expressed will.





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