On the up

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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

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