12.9. Calculation of Cost of Living

The calculation of the cost of living uses practically the same sources and rules, as for the chapter 1770-1815.

Clothing

“Do not they use fustian for their clothing?” “Yes; they cannot afford to wear their own native wool.”

“But they wear a great deal of fustian, which is cheaper than woollen cloth by half?” “Yes, they do.”

“Do not they wear cotton shirts?” “A great many of them do.”

“Are not those very much cheaper than they were?” “Yes.”

“And the cotton gowns for their wives, are they not much cheaper?” “Yes, they are.”

“What stockings do they wear?” “Woollen or worsted, but chiefly worsted.”

“Are they not cheaper?” “They are; but those things are rather a loss to the labourer, because their wives used to spin the stockings and the shirts, and now, instead of doing that, they are doing nothing.”

“How is it with regard to shoes?” “They are about 6 p. a pair cheaper.”

(Select Committee on Agriculture, 1833, Mr. Robert Merry, landowner, Yorkshire, p. 114) 

“Do you recollect the prices of articles of cotton in 1812?” “I should say it was double then what it is now.”

(House of Commons, Select Committee on Agriculture, 1833, Mr. John Cramp, Farmer, Kent, p. 264)        

“Are you sufficiently aware of the prices of boots and shoes and cloth, such as were used by agricultural labourers in South Wales?” “Yes, the shoes are at less price, the cloth is at a less price, there has been such a great fall in the price of wool. Twenty years ago, Glamorganshire wool would sell at 2 s. 4 d. a pound; for the last five or six years it has not been above 9 d. or 10 d. a pound.”

“What is the price of hats and clothing generally now as compared with former times?” “I think there has been a much less price had for those articles than during the war; the shoes they generally buy at about 8 s. and 9 s. to 9 s. 6 d. a pair, and great numbers not so much, for they wear wooden clogs and wooden soles.”

(House of Commons, Select Committee on Agriculture, 1833, Mr. Adam Murray, Land Agent and Surveyor, p. 14)   

The clothing for the man was adapted to his heavy manual work, and thus was made of special materials. The prices did not decrease so rapidly as for the general run of industrial workers. We can estimate the movement from 1787 and 1795 to the 1830’s and 1840’s from the information of family budgets, given by Davies and Eden, and later Purdy.

 DaviesEdenPurdyPurdyPurdy
 17871795183718461860
     Paupers
Man     
Suit p. a.4    
Stout coat p. a.  13   
Cloth coat p. a.   3.5 
Fustian coat p. a.    3 
Jacket p. a.  99 
Jacket breeches p. a.44   
Trousers  997
Waistcoat 6.5  4
Shirt443.52.52.5
Shoes (heavy)777.5 11 
Stockings pair222.52.51.5

 

 DaviesEdenPurdyPurdyPurdy
 17871795183718461860
     Paupers
Wife     
Gown46.556.54
Undergarment   2.5 
Petticoat 4.54.5 3
Shift33.5  1.5
Strong shoes4455.53
Stockings pair1.53 11
Apron1.51 1.31

We know that linen canvas, which was used for the “smock” of the labourer, decreased in price by 40 % from 1813 to 1833:

Tables of the Revenue, Population, Commerce, &c. of the United Kingdom, compiled from oficial returns, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1834, Part III, p. 395

As a conservative figure for the decrease in prices of farm clothing, we have used 1860 = 70 % x 1770.

The cottage rents have been defined with an increase from 1770 to 1860 of +100 %, as per the table a few pages below from Mr. Caird.

The yearly indices (1770 = 100) for expenses of an agricultural family are thus as follows:

1815150.61841151.7
1816159.11842137.3
1817178.21843126.3
1818178.21844127.9
1819164.61845129.2
1820148.61846136.7
1821131.11847154.0
1822110.51848128.6
1823120.71849117.6
1824135.01850111.0
1825147.11851111.1
1826136.61852112.5
1827132.41853131.5
1828134.5 1854160.0
1829137.61855162.4
1830129.81856157.2
1831140.21857142.0
1832127.41858124.9
1833121.31859126.1
1834115.11860139.3
1835108.3
1836122.1
1837129.1
1838138.9
1839149.3
1840153.9

The quinquiennal figures up to 1834 are very close to those of Clark for agricultural labourers:

TotalTotal
IndexClark
  
1815-1819156.7155.7
1820-1824121.9124.9
1825-1829129.8133.4
1830-1834119.6123.5
1835-1839122.2
1840-1844131.6
1845-1849125.7
1850-1854118.1
1855-1859134.5

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