Making a definitive statement about the cost of living in Victorian England is difficult, particularly in the last half of the century, because the economy went through a long period of growth, followed by slumps at the end of the nineteenth century. A worker in 1870 might make 150% what a worker in 1850 made, but because different prices had increased at different rates, the actual buying power of the wages increased only moderately. At the end of the century, prices fell greatly, more rapidly than wages, so that despite a lower wage, the workers buying power actually increased.

The following tables provide a sampling of wage and cost of living information.

Wages

1. According to Porter (176), in the mid-1860s workers in London received the following wages for a 10-hour day and six-day week:

2. These wages reflect weekly pay in the mid- to late '60s (various sources listed below)

3. In better paid positions, particularly the professions, salaries were indicated in annual amounts. Two positions for which information is available are:

Cost of Living for a senior clerk (1844)

Rent
25/0/0
Taxes
5/0/0
Maid
7/0/0
Coal 5 tons
6/5/0
Candles and Wood
2/0/0
Tea
7/16/6
Sugar
6/14/2
Butter & Eggs
9/12/0
Meat
18/6/0
Fish
2/0/0
Vegetables
5/0/0
Beer
6/10/0
Washing woman
soap and her meals
6/13/0
Ironing and mangling
1/0/0
Clothing
23/6/0
Church and charity
3/10/0
Doctor
5/0/0
Misc.
1/8/0
Amusements
1/19/4
Savings
6/0/0
Total 150/0/0
Source: Hayward

Cost of Living for a typical, rising professional man with a 700 annual income (early 1900s)

Rent and Taxes
100
Two maids
42
Food & Cleaning materials For 4 people
104
Washing
26
Coal 1 ton/month
12
Electric Light
18
Wine
10
Office expenses
Trainfair and lunches
30
Insurance
25
Dress x2
80
Savings
50
TOTAL
487
Source: Bowley

Related Materials

References

Bowley, A. L., Wages in the United Kingdom in the 19th Century. Cambridge: University Press, 1900.

Burnett, John, A History of the Cost of Living. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969.

Hayward, Arthur, The Days of Dickens. New York: E. P. Dutton & Company, 1926.

Porter, Dale H. The Thames Embankment: Environment, Technology, and Society in Victorian London. Akron, Ohio: University of Akron Press, 1998.


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Last modified 16 July 2003