On the up
Ed Dutton’s article on social mobility in the March issue raises an issue that seems to me hugely significant.
My great grandfather James (1827–1909) was trained in the metalbashing work that served Walsall’s dominant saddlery trade. He was a whitesmith and later a buckle-maker, though he also made brief forays into the pub trade. His five sons included a butcher, a carpenter and a “brown saddler”, and his daughters married men of similar status. Among these industrious families, there was almost no sign of breakthrough into middleclass aspiration – until I tracked down James’s grand-daughter Edith (b1871).
Edith’s father had moved his family to Leicester, where she married Thomas Batty, a “printer and lithographer”. The 1911 census shows that Edith and Thomas had established a truly middleclass household. Thomas was now a commercial traveller; son William was a clerk and daughter Florence an “assistant”. Most intriguingly, census day found a visitor in their home, Richard Kelz, a “foreign correspondent” from Vienna: what he was doing in Leicester and what connection he had with the family remain a mystery.
As Ed Dutton notes, there is no guarantee that upward mobility will last. Thomas Batty died in 1933, leaving Edith living alone. David Stokes, Ilkley, West Yorkshire
Editor replies: I’m glad you enjoyed the article David. Did William and Florence continue on the up?
Our social mobility article reminded David Stokes of his own family tree