Thockrington is a rural area, with terrain and a climate that is suitable to pastoral farming, rather than arable. The other notable nineteenth century occupation was opencast mining in the hamlet of Carrycoats. There is also evidence of quarrying, lead mining, a clay pit and a tile works.
Of the 173 inhabitants of Thockrington in 1851, 64 (37%) had a stated occupation. For the purposes of this exercise, I have ignored those described in terms of the head of household, (e.g. ‘farmer’s wife’, ‘farmer’s son’). The overwhelming majority of those in employment were involved in rural trades, farmers, agricultural labourers, shepherds, a gamekeeper and a woodkeeper. 58% of all those in work were employed in this way. There were also a further five labourers and a general servant, who may or may not have been agricultural workers. Holdings ranged from 130 to 1450 acres.
Farm Sizes in Thockrington in 1851
|Farm||Acreage in 1851|
|Bavington Hill Head||350|
There were a handful of tradesmen: a cordwainer, a draper, a tailor and a grocer. There was also a hand weaver, a hawker and two gardeners. In Carrycoats hamlet, we find a mine owner and two coal miners. Only eight of those employed were women, seven house servants and one farmer; one house servant was male.
Fifty years later, in 1901, the population had shrunk to 139, of whom 55 (40%) had a listed occupation. Although there was still a heavy dependence on agriculture, with 44% of all workers employed in farming and related trades, this was a noticeable decline since 1851, especially as the 1851 percentage would be greater than 58% if the general labourers were farm workers. It is interesting that the 1901 enumerator was more specific about the roles of the agricultural workers, so we find a cattleman, a horseman, a stock man and carters, as well as the shepherds.
By 1901, there was a more diverse range of other occupations. For the first time, we have professionals in the area, in the form of a solicitor’s articled clerk and a ship owner. There are also more domestic servants, all of whom were female. No women were employed in any other trades. It should be noted that, in 1851, the ‘big house’ was unoccupied, had the owners been in residence, we may have seen professionals and more servants in 1851 as well.
By 1901, the miners have left, to be replaced by four freestone quarry workers, two of whom specified that they worked above ground. Freestone is defined as a fine-grained stone, usually limestone or sandstone, that can be easily cut and worked in any direction. It is soft enough to be cut easily without shattering or splitting. There is an excellent website that describes the work of quarryman, albeit in Lancashire.
Construction also features in the form of a road contractor and two cartmen on the road. Perhaps this signals that the parish was beginning to form more links with the surrounding area. The declining number of tradesmen is an indication that the community had become less self-sufficient, so improved routes to larger settlements nearby would be important. Interestingly, there were also four navvies, who were born in Bristol, London, Dublin and Edinburgh. Navvy is normally a term associated with railway workers. The nearest railway line from Hexham to Rothbury ran about six miles away from Thockrington and it might be expected that that migrant workers would have lodged nearer to their work. The line, part of the Border Counties Railway Company, was opened in 1859. If they were indeed working on the railway, it would be repairs rather than construction. Alternatively they may have been working on the roads.
In 1901, three individuals had dual occupations but this may just be a reflection of the enumerator’s more detailed approach. So we have a grocer & draper, a shepherd & carter and a gardener & gamekeeper.
Occupations in Thockrington in 1901
|Shepherd and Carter||1|
|Gamekeeper and Gardener||1|
|Cartman on Road||2|
|Freestone Quarry worker||4|
|Draper and Grocer||1|
|Articled Clerk to Solicitor||1|