Middle Class

During the Victorian period the middle class grew in size and importance. It made up about fifteen percent of the population. The middle class was a diverse group that included everyone between the working class and the elite class. The middle class included sucessful industrialists and wealthy bankers. It also included poor clerks that normally earned only half as much as skilled workers such as a printer or a railway engine driver, but a clerk would still be considered middle class, because income was not the defining factor of class, the source was.

The people with the highest social standing were the professionals within the middle class. This part of middle class was often called the upper middle class.This group included Church of England clergymen, military and naval officers, men who were in the higher-status branches of law and medicine, those at the upper levels of governmental services, and university professors. Later on in this period, civil engineers and architectural occupations were added. This sector of the middle class was mostly urban. Their sons were educated at boarding schools and universities.

Another portion of the upper middle class was made of those whose success was a direct result of the Industrial Revolution. Large-scale merchants, manufacturers, and bankers achieved class mobility by also becoming able to send their sons and daughters to school. Before the Industrial Revolution, this would not have been possible.

The lower middle class consisted of small shopkeepers and clerical workers. To work, they needed to be literate, but higher education was not necessary. Their children were kept in school until the age of twelve or fourteen, whereupon they worked in the family shop, or in some other suitable occupation. As London started to become a world center of business and finance, the white collar world grew enormously, now including clerks, middle managers, bookkeepers, and lower-level government workers.

The middle class still maintained a shared set of values and ideas even though they had achieved status and income. They had to keep some type of household and they despised their aristocratic counterparts who remained idle in their work. They valued hard work, sexual morality, and individual responsibility. Their education became increasingly important and sons who were not sent off to elite boarding schools, had the chance to go to local grammar schools, or they went to private schools with set curriculums. The middle classes were predominantl churchgoing and most professional classes attended the Church of England.

The idealization of family life and togetherness were characteristic of the middle class becuae they had the opportunity to be together. The working class sent their children to work at a fairly young age, and upper class children were raised by servants and saw little of their parents. Other virtues included sobriety, thrift, ambition, punctuality, and constructive use of their leisured time. Middle class men did not marry until the age of 27 or 30 because of the importance of being financially stable.

A man's status depended mostly on his occupation and the family he was born into. A married woman's status came from her husband. The clergymen of the Church of England in minor parishes might have had very small incomes, but they were still considered gentlemen because of their education, values ,and community position. 

Mitchell, Sally. Daily Life in Victorian England. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1996. 

The Elite Class

The Working Class

Wuthering Heights home

From http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~scoggins/316british/WutheringHeights/class.html