Saturday, 2 November 2013

Why our West Midlands ancestors gave up on farming

The 1830s saw traditional rural folk from all over the UK and Ireland leaving behind their traditional agricultural trades and going after the increased wages offered by the building and construction industry:

 "The London to Birmingham railway was the greatest earthwork that had been made. When it was completed, one of the engineers, Peter Lecount, calculated that four hundred million cubic feet of earth had been shifted, and that this put the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Great Wall of China wholly in the shade. His comparison made sense, because every cubic foot of soil moved in building the railway was excavated by men holding picks and shovels."

The People's England - Alan Ereira

The interior of Kilsby tunnel, by J.C.Bourne


Railways in the 1830s had to be almost level with inclines kept to a minimum. Kilsby tunnel on the London to Birmingham railway was typical of most tunnels which had to be dug through rock and earth using just picks and shovels.

Often they started with a shaft in the centre of the hill and worked outwards. Death and injury were just part of the job but the money was better than farm labouring and opportunities becoming much more plentiful.

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