To be considered Middle Class you would normally need to have at least one servant, during 1914 the the Middle Class was declining and only about 20% of Britain classed themselves as Middle Class, those who did lived lived very comfortably wearing fashionable clothes, lived in comfortable houses, however by today’s standard’s their home’s would seem over crowded, and the majority of the Middle Class had all the latest mod – con’s of the day.
The Middle Class Home : There would have been expensive and antique furniture, Ornament’s and a abundance of Nick-Nack’s in every room. The Middle Class would have had Gas fire’s as they became common in the 1880’s, Gas cooker’s became popular in the 1890’s. In 1914 most town’s had Electric Street Light, but not all as the first Electric Light’s were very expensive, the really rich would have branched out and had the Electric Light Bulb fitted in their home’s as the light Bulb was invented in 1879 those that couldn’t afford it still lit their home’s Gas lantern’s. By 1914 most Middle Class in Britain usually had bathroom in their home’s, the water was heated by gas.
Middle Class Leisure : In 1914 the Middle Class thought that to do various type’s of sport’s and games was a sign that you were rich and popular in society so they like to do various different leisurely thing’s like Lawn Tennis, Snooker and Bicycling was a popular sport. (The safety bicycle went on sale in 1885), Bicycling clubs became very common. Off course being Middle Class meant that they had to attend the Theater, all dressed up in their finery and around 1910 Cinemas were being built in many town’s although film’s were silent and in black and white the Richer Middle class enjoyed this new past time.
They also loved Board game’s like Snakes and Ladder’s and Ludo and off course the Middle Class like to show just how intelligent they were and they liked nothing better to read a new form of writing was being pioneered by men like H.G Wells. Another popular past time for those who could afford it was Photography, as the first cheap camera was invented in 1888 by George Eastman. Newspapers also became much more common such as The Daily Mail was first published in 1896. The Daily Express was first published in 1900 and The Daily Mirror began publication in 1903.
Middle Class Children in Britain had plenty of toy’s to play with such as Wooden and Porcelain Doll’s and Noah’s Ark with Wooden Animal’s.
For the working class in 1914 life was hard and terrible poverty was common, at the beginning of the 20th century survey’s show that 25% of the population of Britain was living in poverty, the survey’s show that 15% of people were living at subsistence level basically they had just enough money for the very basic’s such as Food, Rent and Fuel. Working Class couldn’t afford “Luxuries” such as newspaper’s and public transport.
The main cause of extreme poverty was the loss of the main Breadwinner, if the husband was dead, ill or unemployed it was a disaster, the Wife might get a job but women were paid much lower wages than men. Surveys also found that poverty tended to go in a cycle, Working class people might live in poverty when they were children but things usually improved when they left home and found a job. Then when they married and had children things would take a turn for the worse, their wages might be enough to support a single man comfortably but not enough to support a wife and children too. Finally when the children grew old enough to work things would improve again only to deteriorate once he was old a worker might find it hard to find work, except the most low paid kind and be driven into poverty again.
Never the less life was improving and certain reforms were introduced around that time, a Liberal government was elected in 1906 and they made some reforms, From 1906 poor children were given free school meals. January 1909 the first old age pensions were paid (Which were only 5 shillings a week and was only paid to people over 70) Also in 1909 the government formed “wages councils” In those days some people worked in the so-called ‘sweated industries’ such as making clothes and they were very poorly paid and had to work extremely long hours just to survive. The wages councils set minimum pay levels for certain industries.
In 1910 the first labor exchanges where jobs advertised were set up. However the economy was stable in the years 1900-1914 and unemployment was fairly low, 1911 the government passed an act establishing sickness benefits for workers.The act also provided unemployment benefit for workers in certain trades such as shipbuilding, where periods of unemployment were common. Meanwhile the workers had formed powerful trade unions which was on the side of the worker’s.
Working Class Homes : In 1914 a typical Working Class family would have lived in a “two-up two-down” which for most of us still live in these houses today, they would have had two bedroom’s which would have had to accommodate all the family which would have consisted of Children, adult children, Parent’s, Grandparent’s and in some cases their Aunt’s and Uncle’s and various other in-law’s. They would have had to share bed’s “top to tail” and they could have been four or five in a single bed.
The downstairs would consist of the large, Front Family Room which would have been reserved for best and would have had all their best furniture and ornament’s in that room, whereas the the back Kitchen was were the family practically lived in and that would have served for kitchen, living room and laundry. Unlike the more richer Middle Class, Working Class families didn’t have the luxury of a indoor working bathroom they had to use an out door lavatory or chamber pot’s.
Working Class Leisure : In the early 1900’s the average working week in Britain was 54 hour’s so there wasn’t a lot of free time for leisurely pursuit’s. Nether the less the Working Class enjoyed various sport’s and Football matches fast becoming a very popular past time as it still is today and many town’s had free libraries so the Working Class could start to enjoy free book’s and newspaper’s that was before then unreachable for them.
Because of the hard life the Working Class had to live by 1914 life expectancy in Britain was about 50 for a man and about 54 for a woman.
Children from poorer families did not have any toys, except for cheap toy’s that was either made for them or passed on to them by sibling’s or neighbor’s such as Rag Doll’s, Wooden Block’s and Home made wooden Cart’s.