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Kegworth Village
Sunday 25th of February 2018
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Dead Men's Lives 1636-1812

How the people of Kegworth earned their living in past times is difficult to determine - at least for the period before 1840. After that time the birth, marriage and death certificates at Somerset House tell us of the individuals, and the Census returns tell us about every household. However, the Parish Burial Registers give us information about the people buried between 1636 and 1642, in 1761 and after 1799. The list of occupations gives a clue to the sort of life being lived. The total numbers of references may be misleading since the burial of the wife of a rector, his child, and himself, add up to three references to rector, although there was only one rector at the time!

1642 the village was a self-contained agricultural community. The largest number of references are to labourer (10), husbandman (8), yeoman (6) and cottyer (2) (farm servants in tied cottages). Sheep provided a link with the cottage industry, from shepherd (7) through felmonger (dealer in sheep hides and fleece) (2) to webster (5) (weaver). Village trades were those of tanner, blacksmith, miller, carpenter, tailor, cobbler. The social range goes from gentleman and parson to beggar, while the village carrier provided links with the outside world. Oddities are a single scuttlemaker, and a cockar (whatever that may have been).< The 1761 references are too few to be of much help, consisting of labourer (3), shepherd (1), miller (1) and parson (1).

By 1799 the village life had changed. Over the years 1799 - 1803 the largest number of references were again to labourer (10) but only one each to shepherd and yeoman and none at all to husbandman. The only village trades remaining were those of weaver (2), blacksmith (1), tailor (1). A number of new trades had arrived evidenced by references to baker (2), grocer (1), draper (1), glazier (1), bricklayer (1), gravestone-cutter (1), boatman (1), breeches maker (2), forgeman (2), soldier (2). There were also new professionals: surgeon (1), postmaster (1), and schoolmaster (1) (the latter task formerly carried out by the curate).

Some of the changes no doubt reflect national events - the presence of soldiers during the Napoleonic wars, the increasing use of machinery etc. Greater specialisation meant that the tailor was supplemented by the breeches maker, while the village baker began to supplement home baking. Other changes are more localised; the timber-framed house with brick infilling started in the Midlands in the early 18th century. By 1800 the houses were being built all of brick - hence the Kegworth Brickyards and the bricklayer (and in the next period, the brickmaker).

The presence of the newly opened canal no doubt accounts for the boatman. The gravestone cutter was Mr W. Wootton, who was responsible for the finest of the slate headstones in the churchyard, working by hand with Swithland slate. Later headstones were cut mechanically in Welsh slate brought here by canal boats.

An important innovation in the village was the framework knitting machine which had just started to affect Kegworth. In 1799 - 1803 there were five references in the burials register to framework knitter. In the period 1804 - 1812 there were nineteen references. This gives a starting date to the stocking industry in Kegworth.

Other than this the period 1804-1812 shows little change from 1799. To the professions were added a druggist and an Attorney. Among the more humble occupations was a rag-gatherer, since increased transport had made 'shoddy' a worthwhile trade.

By-and-large the village pattern of life had been fixed for the Victorian period to come.

* The great iron forge of Platts and Sons was built about 1790.

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