ESCOMB VILLAGE IN 1881 (based on the 1881 British Census Household Record)
In 1881 there were approximately 124 occupied dwellings in Escomb village. These comprised a number of streets, rows and yards, but for 54 dwellings there was no street name nor house numbers. The only individually named dwellings were the three public houses – The Royal Oak Inn, The Angel Inn and the Bay Horse Inn- and Hawthorne Lodge.
Two dwellings were listed as Escomb Farm, but were occupied by farm labourers and their families. It is likely therefore that these were the farm cottages. The farm itself, though not listed in the Census, was almost certainly occupied by William and Elizabeth Blades whose address is given only as “Escomb”. The Blades are a well-known farming family in the village, with their descendants occupying the farm until about 2003 and still living in the village today.
The population of the village in 1881 totalled approximately 580, and comprised families, servants (very few), lodgers/boarders and visitors. Four dwellings were occupied by single persons, three of whom were elderly widows and one a middle-aged bachelor. For most families the father was listed as the head of the households, but 9 were headed by widows and one by a married woman with no husband present, possibly a serviceman’s wife?
Included in the Census were 281 children under the age of 21 years and a further 42 children of adult age still living in the parental home. An average family comprised two parents with two to three children (average 2.7 children). However 12 families included five or more children, the largest family comprising two parents with 9 children living at home, four of whom were adults and five were minors, their ages ranging from 10 to 14 years.
The majority of men and boys over the age of 14 years (and some as young as 12 years) worked at the George Pit Escomb and at other local collieries. Many others worked at the Ironworks at nearby Witton Park. Occupations listed for these workers included miner, coke-leveller, blacksmith, puddler, foreman engine driver, bricklayer, timekeeper, wagonwayman and deputy.
Other occupations listed for men in Escomb were railwayman (signalman, clerk platelayer) general labourer, quarryman, farm labourer, joiner, policeman, tailor, hosier, woodturner, grocer, butcher, fruiterer, innkeeper, assurance agent, pupil teacher, trainee chemist and shop clerk.
In 1881 very few occupations were listed for married women, most being included in the census as wives, for example “miner’s wife”, blacksmith’s wife etc. A very few women, including unmarried daughters over school-leaving age did have an occupation, for example, dressmaker, milliner and domestic servant. One woman was listed as the Postmistress.
From the listed “birthplace” of the heads of households and their spouse it is found that the majority of parents in Escomb in 1881 were born in the immediate area or within the North East region. However, some were born in other reigns of England, for example Cumbria, Lancashire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire, East Anglia and the South West. A very few were born in Scotland or Wales, however, a large minority were born in the Southern counties of Ireland. Only one man was born abroad; Gustav Petitjean was born in Narnur, Belgium. In 1881 he was living and working as a miner in Escomb with his wife Sarah, born in nearby Hamsterley, and a five year old daughter.
By examining the birthplace of the children of adults who were born outside the NE region one can trace the itinerary which lead to them living in Escomb in 1881. For example, a 47 years old widow, born in Limerick, Ireland had five children the oldest being born in Wales, the next three in Rotherham, Yorkshire and youngest being born in Escomb.