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28-08-2019, 08:18   #1
hblock21
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Life in 1840's Ireland

The knowledgeable people here might be able to give me an insight.
What would life be like for a widow and her family in the countryside of Tipperary in the 1840-1860's. Living on a 3/4acre plot in a 650ft2 house and just 6foot high being 25+ years old but in good condition . Their plot being within a much larger 80arce plot. The only other building being a pigstye.
It's for a paragraph describing how their life may be in my family history booklet.
Thank you in advance!

Last edited by hblock21; 28-08-2019 at 08:32.
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28-08-2019, 09:38   #2
pinkypinky
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Might be better suited to the history forum. I'll move you over.
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29-08-2019, 15:43   #3
kildarejohn
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If you want to know more about this particular house and its neighbours, then there is lots of information on the Genealogy board about sources such as Valuation Office, Census records, OSI maps etc. See for instance this thread- https://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/show...p?t=2057468424.
If you are more interested in living conditions in Ireland generally then there are a few threads of interest, e.g. https://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/show...php?p=94739201

Your OP mentions height as 6ft, but I would not take this literally. I presume this figure is taken from Valuation Office House Book. I believe what they put down was the approx. height of the walls to the eaves, so assuming it was a pitched thatch roof, the actual internal ceiling height could have been 10ft or more, and possibly there was a loft. 650ft was a relatively large cottage with at least 3 or possibly 4 rooms. A relative of mine lived in such a house up to c. 1980 and it was quite comfortable.
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29-08-2019, 19:25   #4
hblock21
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Your OP mentions height as 6ft, but I would not take this literally. I presume this figure is taken from Valuation Office House Book. I believe what they put down was the approx. height of the walls to the eaves, so assuming it was a pitched thatch roof, the actual internal ceiling height could have been 10ft or more, and possibly there was a loft. 650ft was a relatively large cottage with at least 3 or possibly 4 rooms. A relative of mine lived in such a house up to c. 1980 and it was quite comfortable.
Thanks for that. Of course! - there would not have been a ceiling so plenty of head room. I didn't think of that.
So they were probably living comfortably but would they be able to survive off 3/4 of an acre for food and money? This plot would have been within big estate. Would you say its quite possible they may have laboured in the estate to supplement their income?

I will check out the link to the other thread on living conditions thanks.
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30-08-2019, 09:11   #5
kildarejohn
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So they were probably living comfortably but would they be able to survive off 3/4 of an acre for food and money? This plot would have been within big estate. Would you say its quite possible they may have laboured in the estate to supplement their income?
Yes of course that's a possibility, but there are other possibilities and its unlikely you will be able to find any records to establish how they lived. Depending on the number and ages of children, if the children were old enough to work, and they started off with other resources like hens and a goat (for eggs and milk) then they could have been nearly self sufficient. There was of course no pension or insurance for a widow, so she would have had to do some work, maybe cleaning or sewing or nanny for a wealthier neighbour.
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30-08-2019, 09:43   #6
Peregrinus
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You're very unlikely to find much direct evidence of how this particular family lived, obviously.

But there's plenty of informationa about how the Irish peasantry of the time generally lived - from contemporary commentators and observers, and from historians and economic historians writing at later times.

A few points:

The Irish peasantry (pre-famine, obviously) were generally regarded as suprisingly healthy, well-nourished and tall, given their poverty.

The had an unvarying but highly nutritious diet centred on potatoes, milk, butter, and bacon. They produced most of their food themselves; the major foodstuffs for which they paid cash were tea, sugar and flour.

As well as farming their own plots and grazing sheep on commonage, they mostly worked on a large landowner's property as agricultural labourers. This was partly seasonal work - e.g. they might work a lot at harvest time, but very little at some other times of the year. The cash they earned for this, as well as paying for the aforementioned tea and sugar and any clothing that they couldn't make for themselves, was used to pay rent for the plots they occupied and farmed.

They tended to be very poorly dressed, by comparison with English peasants of the same period. This reflected their poverty.
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30-08-2019, 13:35   #7
hblock21
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Very informative replies thank you both.
So they lived a comfortable happy life bar the daily grind.

And post 1850, their life would have been very different presumably? Less healthy but on the other hand would wages have been higher? Less people to do work = higher wage?
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31-08-2019, 00:24   #8
pedroeibar1
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You are looking at a very wide period (1840 – 1860) during which Ireland changed enormously. In specific terms a huge amount happened, the Tithe War was not long over, the Famine occurred, a rail network developed through Tipp, the ‘Tipperary Bank’failed (a huge event, Sadleirs Bank, 1856, deficit £500k), the Young Ireland movement and its (failed) uprising took place, leading on to the IRB in 1858 and then Fenianism, etc. No part of Tipperary was untouched and some areas were key places in all those events. Despite a huge level of crime and violence against the person (Tipp & Limerick were by far the worst in the country 1840 - 1850) life went on – faction fights took place, race meetings were held (what is now Limerick Junction/Tipperary Racecourse actually commenced during the Famine) and people got on with their lives through extremely turbulent times.

It is impossible to state anything about your ancestors with any degree of certainty. Where they lived in Tipp also is very important – living on good arable land in the Glen of Aherlow is one thing, living near Cashel or Clonmel, or a garrison town like Templemore, or halfway up a mountain or on the edge of a bog, all would have been quite different.

The big ‘niggle’ I have is the size of their house (as also pointed out above) relative to the size of their land. I wonder did they have land rented elsewhere? Could the one-acre plot be a garden? People living on one-acre plots rarely had houses that size. One-acre lots generally had cabins, little better than mud huts. A single-storey cottage generally was 12 – 14 feet deep, so at 650sq.ft. that would mean 50 feet or four rooms long. By the standards of the day that would have been palatial for a labouring family. I’ve researched one family (1850) on the Tipp/Limerick border with 12 acres, some sub-let, and they had a two-roomed cottage. Parents dead, one teenage son and two in their 20's, they had a 30 year lease.

Typically an Irish estate had a pyramidal structure – at the top was the (often absent) landlord whose agent let to a middleman/men who in turn sublet to tenants who in turn sublet to smaller tenants, often relatives. Frequently there could be as many as five levels of tenants and sub-tenants between the landlord and the cottier / labourer. Each of those who sublet did so at a profit which inevitably meant that the poorest were paying the highest rent pro rata. Competition for land resulted in high rents and ever-decreasing farm sizes, thereby squeezing the peasantry to subsistence.

One-acre plot holders generally were ‘tenants at will’ i.e. they did not have paperwork/leases, and depended on a personal relationship with the immediate lessor. Some tenants actually preferred this arrangement.

There are several books available on the era but most are a bit ‘Oirish’ – e.g. ‘The Irish Sketchbook of 1842’ by William Makepeace Thackeray. It doesn’t have Tipp but is good background. Carleton’s ‘Stories of the Irish Peasantry’ is another. Hall’s Tour of Ireland – they went to Tipp in 1840 (?) is also worth looking at.
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01-09-2019, 00:20   #9
Jellybaby1
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Thackeray's book is on Google Books.

https://books.google.ie/books?id=s38...page&q&f=false
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02-09-2019, 09:31   #10
kildarejohn
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Originally Posted by pedroeibar1 View Post
The big ‘niggle’ I have is the size of their house (as also pointed out above) relative to the size of their land. I wonder did they have land rented elsewhere? Could the one-acre plot be a garden? People living on one-acre plots rarely had houses that size.
I wonder could the inconsistency be explained by the fact that the householder was a woman? (a widow per the OP). In the Griffith Valuation records very little land is shown as occupied by women. So, if in this case, the widow as pedroibar suggests rented land elsewhere, that additional land was probably leased in the name of a male relative.
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02-09-2019, 10:38   #11
pedroeibar1
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I wonder could the inconsistency be explained by the fact that the householder was a woman? (a widow per the OP). In the Griffith Valuation records very little land is shown as occupied by women. So, if in this case, the widow as pedroibar suggests rented land elsewhere, that additional land was probably leased in the name of a male relative.
That’s possible, but it would be more usual for males to be the lessees, so fewer females would be found? My third great grandparents were farmers in South Tipp. She, born 1798, became a widow with two sons in March 1827. She appears as ‘The Widow surname’ in the Tithe book for 1828 and 20+/- years later in Griffiths all the different land holdings are in her name. Also per Griffiths her eldest son had taken his own land, the younger was farming the home place.

Other possibilities – if the OP had just looked at Griffiths he might have looked at just one parish – if the farm was on a parish boundary she could have had adjoining land in the adjoining parish, so that would be listed separately. Or, had she or her late husband been working for the landlord it might have been an estate cottage and the family allowed to live in it at a preferential rent. Or, one of the sons was working full-time for the landlord and had regular income/rent off-set. Under normal circumstances a one-acre plot could not produce enough to pay the rent on a house of that size.
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09-09-2019, 09:02   #12
The Dargle Hood
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Originally Posted by hblock21 View Post
The knowledgeable people here might be able to give me an insight.
What would life be like for a widow and her family in the countryside of Tipperary in the 1840-1860's. Living on a 3/4acre plot in a 650ft2 house and just 6foot high being 25+ years old but in good condition . Their plot being within a much larger 80arce plot. The only other building being a pigstye.
It's for a paragraph describing how their life may be in my family history booklet.
Thank you in advance!
You might find the book "A Seat Behind the Coachman: Travellers in Ireland, 1800-1900"
by Diarmuid O Muirthile of some help. It is an anthology of travellers notes from 19th century Ireland. It was one of the first books that I read about this era and I still remember how shocked I was at some of the descriptions.
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