Education: Expensive In The 18th Century

Education 200 years ago was expensive

Education 200 years ago was expensive

200 years ago, families had to pay a large sum to get their children educated.  This is what documents of 500,000 apprentices from the 18th century reveal.

Dan Jones, of the Ancestry UK website said: “The role was integral to the British way of life for centuries – so important that parents would often pay vast sums to have their child educated by the master seen as the best in his field.” The records can be viewed online on the website since last Wednesday.

Blake, Jenner and Chippendale Mentioned on List

The artist William Blake, Edward Jenner, developer of the smallpox vaccine and Thomas Chippendale, the furniture maker are mentioned on the list, either as a student, taking an apprenticeship or as a tutor.

The records of apprentices in government ledgers between 1710 and 1811, which were made because of taxes on premiums paid to obtain an apprenticeship, reveal that households had to cough up an equivalent of thousands of pounds.

In 1772, Blake got an apprenticeship when he was 14 with the “citizen and stationer of London” James Basire for £53, which would be £7,000 now. Blake was apprenticed for seven years and it is thought that Basire was the man who ordered Blake to make sketches at Westminster Abby, which had a big influence on Blake’s style.

The records mention Thomas Chippendale as a master to Nathaniel Hopson in 1754. Hopson had to pay £31, which would be £5,000 today. Hopson was an apprentice to Chippendale during the latter’s most successful part of his career.

Boys More Likely to Have Apprenticeship Than Girls

Most apprentices were boys, about 97%. Apprenticeships with coopers, tailors and carpenters appear most on the records. Girls often had to pay even more for their apprenticeships. The most common trades for them were tailors, seamstresses and mantua makers (dressmakers).

Only about 50% of the apprenticeships were completed. This was either because the apprentice ran away, or because their master went bust or passed away.

Most of the time masters were friends of the family of an apprentice. In some cases, a master would advertise.

People from the 18th Century did not have the option we have today. If you are interested finding out more about pensions and annuities visit which is the UK’s leading destination for pension information.

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