Types of jobs in the 19th century

Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images

Many of the jobs that were done in the 19th century are not required anymore, such as a lamplighter, whose job it was to light gas lamps every evening. Some jobs which were done in those days are frowned upon now, such as an ivory dealer. Factory workers and miners are still needed in the 21st century, although factory production and mining have changed significantly.

Mill and factory jobs

In the 19th century, Britain’s industrial revolution meant the demand for labour was high. New manufacturing processes led to the birth of more mills and factories, each requiring a large workforce. Factories were often loud, dark, dirty and dangerous places, requiring machine hands to take risks to keep the machines in full flow. Mills largely swept away skilled craftspeople employed in traditional cottage industries, replacing them with such jobs as cotton feeders and winders.

Domestic service

There were many more domestic servants in Britain in the 19th century than there are today. At one point, the increase in the rate of domestic workers was twice as much as the birth rate. This was partly because of the wide gap between rich and poor. Jobs included everything that needed to be done to keep the home running smoothly, such as cleaning, cooking and laundry duties. Many servants lived at the houses they worked in, sleeping in small attic rooms.

Coal mining jobs

Coal fuelled the industrial revolution and by 1880, there were nearly half a million miners. Mining was a dirty and dangerous occupation, requiring physical strength and stamina. A shift of several hours consisted of cutting at the coal face with a pick, often while enduring a cramped position, then shovelling up the heavy lumps of coal into containers. There were about a thousand deaths a year because of mining accidents, according to the UK Parliament website.


According to The 1891 London Census Transcription, other 19th century jobs included: angle iron smith, a person who made angle iron; button hole hand stitcher, who sewed button holes manually; carbonic paper maker, a person who made carbon paper; daguerreotype artist, or early photographer and ealdorman, a shire courts officer and royal deputy.

Most recent