A Simple Comparison of Pay, 1879 and 2015
While rents are increasingly taking up a larger chunk of our take home pay, it can be interesting when you find how much people were paid - and compare that to rent being paid by individuals in the past. I have an interest in genealogy and was studying some old church records, from a year in which the church was restored. At the time the Church hired a cleaner to clean for 4.5 days and the Church accounts recorded that she was paid 4 shillings and sixpence (4/6) for this cleaning job.
Pay in 1879 didn't have to cover modern day trappings, contracts, technology and commuting - once you had the roof over your head you just needed to buy candles, coal and food!
So, how could a cleaning lady from 1879 pay her rent? It should be remembered that this is one charlady's pay, in one location, so not representative of averages at all, simply an interesting snapshot.
The Church documents also yielded the information that to rent one of their cottages would cost £2/year.
In 1879 the UK used a different monetary system. There were 12 pennies to a shilling and 20 shillings to a pound. Pay for 4/6 translates to £0.225 (22.5p). Our cleaning lady, having worked for 4.5 days for 4/6 was earning 1 shilling/day in 1879. That is £0.05, 5p for one day's work.
And rent? If we assume that a cottage is the smallest cottage, possibly even just a single room, the £2/year the Church charged is 800 pennies per year, just over 2 pennies/day.
If we assume out charlady worked for a 5-day week, she'd have earnt £0.25/week - and the rent on a cottage from the Church would have cost her 15 pennies, which is 1 shilling and threepence, or £0.07/week. So a charlady would have paid 28% of her income in rent.
Now, across the country rents are different, so it's important to just look at that particular village and how much rents are today. I used Rightmove, the UK property portal, to give me some figures. I searched for properties up to 1 bedroom, within 1 mile of the village. I found three rooms in shared houses and one converted garage/annexe. The average of these four was approximately £600/month, which is (rounded) £140/week. If we compare that to the current UK National Minimum Wage (NMW) of £6.50/hour (2014-2015), then a charlady might earn £260/week for a full-time cleaning job. In 2015 rent represents 53% of the charlady's income!
- 1879: 28% of income spent on rent
- 2015: 53% of income spent on rent
So, maybe things really WERE better in the olden days as individuals possibly had the potential, while working, to support themselves, save a little and make plans for their life and future.
Clearly this study is not representative of averages, I was simply following a line of interest to its conclusion. I hope you found it entertaining!
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Image Credit » My Photo - St Just in Roseland Church, Cornwall, snapped by me when I visited in 2013.