Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 February 2019
This article uses a quantitative and qualitative methodology to examine the role that women played as property owners in three mid-nineteenth-century English towns. Using data from the previously under-utilized rate books, we argue that women were actively engaged in urban property ownership as part of a complex financial strategy to generate income and invest speculatively. We show that female engagement in the urban land and property markets was widespread, significant and reflective of local economic structures. Crucially, it also was more complex in form than the historiography has previously acknowledged. The article delivers a final piece in the jigsaw puzzle of women's investment activity, demonstrating that women were active investors in the urban land market as well as the managers of landed estates, business owners and shareholders, thereby opening up new questions about how gender intersected with economic change and growth in the rapidly changing world of nineteenth-century England.
3 Barker, H., The Business of Women: Female Enterprise and Urban Development in Northern England, 1760–1830 (Oxford, 2006)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Barker, H. and Hamlett, J., ‘Living above the shop: home, business and family in the English “Industrial Revolution”’, Journal of Family History, 35 (2010), 311–28CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Barker, H., ‘Inheritance and continuity in small family businesses during the early Industrial Revolution’, Business History, 54 (2012), 227–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Phillips, N., Women in Business (Woodbridge, 2006)Google Scholar; Nenadic, S., ‘The social shaping of business behaviour in the nineteenth-century women's garment trades’, Journal of Social History, 31 (1998), 625–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kay, A.C., The Foundations of Female Entrepreneurship: Enterprise, Home and Household in London, c. 1800–1870 (London, 2009)Google Scholar; Aston, J., Female Entrepreneurship in Nineteenth-Century England: Engagement in the Urban Economy (London, 2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
4 See A. Laurence, ‘Women, banks and the securities market in early-eighteenth century England’, M. Freeman, R. Pearson and J. Taylor, ‘Between Madame Bubble and Kitty Lorimer: women investors in British and Irish stock companies’, and Newton, L.A. and Cottrell, P.L., ‘Female investors in the first English and Welsh commercial joint-stock banks’, all in Laurence, A., Maltby, J. and Rutterford, J. (eds.), Women and their Money 1700–1950: Essays on Women and Finance (London and New York, 2009), 46–58, 95–114, 115–32Google Scholar.
5 Froide, A., Silent Partners: Women as Public Investors during Britain's Financial Revolution, 1690–1750 (Oxford, 2017), 3Google Scholar. For the concept of ‘financial revolution’, see Dickson, P.G.M., The Financial Revolution in England: A Study in the Development of Public Credit, 1688–1756 (London, 1967)Google Scholar. See also Petersson, T., ‘The silent partners: women, capital and the development of the financial system in nineteenth-century Sweden’, in Beachy, R., Craig, B. and Owens, A. (eds.), Women, Business and Finance in Nineteenth-Century Europe: Rethinking Separate Spheres (Oxford and New York, 2006), 36–51Google Scholar.
6 Froide, Silent Partners, 2.
7 Laurence, Maltby and Rutterford (eds.), Women and their Money; Green, D.R. and Owens, A., ‘Gentlewomanly capitalism? Spinsters, widows and wealth holding in England and Wales, c. 1800–1860’, Economic History Review, 56 (2003), 510–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Rutterford, J., Green, D.R., Maltby, J. and Owens, A., ‘Who comprised the nation of shareholders? Gender and investment in Great Britain, c. 1870–1935’, Economic History Review, 64 (2011), 157–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
8 Spicksley, J.M. (ed.), The Business and Household Accounts of Joyce Jeffreys, Spinster of Hereford 1638–1648 (Oxford, 2012)Google Scholar; Laurence, A., ‘Women investors, “That Nasty South Sea Affair” and the rage to speculate in early eighteenth-century England’, Accounting, Business and Financial History, 16 (2006), 245–64CrossRefGoogle Scholar; O'Day, R., Cassandra Brydges (1670–1735), First Duchess of Chandos: Life and Letters (Woodbridge, 2007)Google Scholar; Sharpe, P., ‘Dealing with love: the ambiguous independence of the single woman in early modern England’, Gender and History, 11 (1999), 209–32CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed; Malay, J., Anne Clifford's Great Books of Record (Manchester, 2015)Google Scholar.
9 Green and Owens, ‘Gentlewomanly capitalism?’, 510–36; Whittle, J. and Griffiths, E., Consumption and Gender in the Early Seventeenth-Century Household: The World of Alice Le Strange (Oxford, 2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Capern, A.L., ‘The landed woman in early modern England’, Parergon, 19 (2002), 185–214CrossRefGoogle Scholar; McDonagh, B., Elite Women and the Agricultural Landscape, 1700–1830 (Abingdon, 2017)CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
10 Rutterford et al., ‘Who comprised the nation of shareholders?’, 181.
11 See for example Sharpe, ‘Dealing with love’; and Staves, S., ‘Pin money’, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, 14 (1985), 47–74Google Scholar; and idem, Married Women's Separate Property in England, 1660–1833 (Cambridge, MA, 1990), on married women's careful account of their ‘pin money’ and separate estate.
12 Barker, The Business of Women; Hunt, M., ‘Women and the fiscal-imperial state in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century London’, in Wilson, K. (ed.), A New Imperial History: Culture, Identity and Modernity in Britain and the Empire, 1660–1840 (Cambridge, 2004)Google Scholar; Hunt, M., The Middling Sort: Commerce, Gender and the Family in England, 1680–1780 (Berkeley, 1996)Google Scholar.
14 Grieg, H., The Beau Monde: Fashionable Society in Georgian London (Oxford, 2013)Google Scholar; Barker, H., Newspapers, Politics and English Society, 1695–1855 (Harlow, 2000)Google Scholar; Hunt, M., ‘Hawlers, bawlers and mercuries: women and the London press in the early Enlightenment’, in idem, Women and the Enlightenment (New York, 1984)Google Scholar. For the Foundling Hospital, see, for example, Frost, G., ‘“Your mother has never forgotten you”: illegitimacy, motherhood and the London Foundling Hospital’, Annales de Démographie, 127 (2014), 45–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and for Magdalen Homes, see Peace, M., ‘Figuring the London Magdalen House: mercantilist hospital, sentimental asylum or proto-evangelical penitentiary?’, in Lewis, A. and Markman, E. (eds.), Prostitution and Eighteenth Century Culture: Sex, Commerce and Morality (London, 2016), 141–55Google Scholar.
15 C. Wiskin, ‘Urban businesswomen in eighteenth-century England’, and Barker, H. and Harvey, K., ‘Women entrepreneurs and urban expansion’, in Sweet, R. and Lane, P. (eds.), Women and Urban Life in Eighteenth-Century England: ‘On the Town ’ (London, 2003)Google Scholar.
16 C. Wiskin, ‘Accounting for business: financial management in the eighteenth century’, in Laurence, Maltby and Rutherford (eds.), Women and their Money, 73–85; McDonagh, Elite Women, 40–4; and idem, ‘On being “fully and completely mistress of the whole business”: gender, land and estate accounting in Georgian England’, in Capern, A.L., McDonagh, B. and Aston, J. (eds.), Women and the Land, 1500–1900 (Woodbridge, 2019)Google Scholar.
19 For early work in this vein, see Okin, S.M., ‘Patriarchy and married women's property in England: questions on some current views’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, 172 (1984), 121–38Google Scholar; Erickson, A.L., Women and Property in Early Modern England (London, 1993)Google Scholar. See also Finn, M., ‘Women, consumption and coverture in England, c. 1760–1860’, Historical Journal, 39 (1996), 703–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Churches, C., ‘Women and property in early modern England: a case-study’, Social History, 23 (1998), 165–80CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Crawford, P., ‘Women and property: women as property’, Parergon, 19 (2002), 151–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Begiato, J. (Bailey), ‘Favoured or oppressed? Married women, property and “coverture” in England, 1660–1800’, Continuity and Change, 17 (2002), 351–72Google Scholar; Erickson, A.L., ‘Possession – and the other one-tenth of the law: assessing women's ownership and economic roles in early modern England’, Women's History Review, 16 (2007), 369–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For a useful recent overview, see B. McDonagh, A.L. Capern, J. Aston and H. Worthen, ‘Women, property and land’, in Capern, McDonagh and Aston (eds.), Women and the Land.
20 Combs, M.B., ‘They lived and saved: evidence of the bequest motive for saving among small shopkeepers in late nineteenth-century Britain’, in Green, D.R., Maltby, J., Owens, A. and Rutterford, J. (eds.), Men, Women and Money: Perspectives on Gender, Wealth and Investment, 1870–1930 (Oxford, 2011)Google Scholar; Aston, Female Entrepreneurship; Nenadic, S., ‘Gender and the rhetoric of business success: the impact on women entrepreneurs and the “new woman” in late nineteenth-century Edinburgh’, in Goose, N. (ed.) Women's Work in Industrial England: Regional and Local Perspectives (Hatfield, 2007), 269–88Google Scholar.
21 Campbell, B., ‘Population pressure, inheritance and the land market in a fourteenth-century peasant community’, in Smith, R. (ed.), Land, Kinship and Lifecycle (Cambridge, 2002), 87–134Google Scholar; Bennett, J., Women in the Medieval English Countryside: Gender and Household in Brigstock before the Plague (Oxford, 1987), 33Google Scholar; Franklin, P., ‘Peasant widows’ “liberation” and remarriage before the Black Death’, Economic History Review, 2nd ser. 39 (1986), 186–204Google Scholar; Russell, J.C., British Medieval Population (Albuquerque, 1948), 62–4Google Scholar; Titow, J.Z., English Rural Society 1200–1350 (London, 1969), 87Google Scholar; all cited in Whittle, J., ‘Inheritance, marriage, widowhood and remarriage: a comparative perspective on women and landholding in North-East Norfolk, 1440–1580’, Continuity and Change, 13 (1998), 33–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar, especially 36–7; A.L. Capern, ‘Women, land and family in early-modern North Yorkshire’, paper presented at the Economic History Society conference 2006, 4 (available at www.ehs.org.uk/dotAsset/404abd64-cbb1–459c-a2ff-7d7806f9681f.doc, accessed 20 Apr. 2010); Seeliger, S., ‘Hampshire women as landholders: common law mediated by manorial custom’, Rural History, 7 (1996), 1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
22 Moring, B. and Wall, R., Widows in European Economy and Society 1600–1920 (Woodbridge, 2017), 81, 85Google Scholar.
23 McDonagh, Elite Women, 26–32.
25 Colley, L., Britons: Forging the Nation 1707–1837 (New Haven and London, 1992), 240–1Google Scholar.
28 Holmes, R.S., ‘Ownership and migration from a study of rate books’, Area, 5 (1973), 241–51Google Scholar.
30 Holmes, ‘Ownership and migration’, 246.
32 See Holmes, ‘Ownership and migration’, 248, where he briefly mentions women with the same surnames as the original owners inheriting property.
33 Macmahon, K., Beverley (Beverley, 1973)Google Scholar; Green's Complete Handbook to Beverley (Beverley, 1883).
34 Reasons for Extending the Navigation of the River Calder from Wakefield to Halifax (1758); J. Mayhall, The Annals of York, Leeds, Bradford, Halifax, Doncaster, Barnsley, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Huddersfield, Keighley and Other Places in the County of York from the Earliest Period to the Present Time (1860).
35 T. Iwama, ‘The middle class in Halifax, 1780–1850’, University of Leeds Ph.D. thesis, 2003; Smail, J., The Origins of Middle Class Culture: Halifax, Yorkshire, 1660–1780 (Ithaca, NY, 1994)Google Scholar.
38 1881 census occupations, available on visionofbritian.org.uk, accessed 16 Aug. 2017.
39 Holmes, ‘Ownership and migration’, 250.
40 East Riding Archive, BC/IV/10/5, Rate Assessment Book 1848.
41 Township of Halifax Valuation 1852, West Riding Archive Service, OR80.
42 An Assessment for the Relief of the Poor in the Township of Scarborough 1848, North Riding County Record Office, DC/SCB.
43 Within the ‘Mixed’ category were the three sub-categories of ‘Mixed: Commercial & Industrial/Mixed: Domestic & Commercial/Mixed: Domestic & Industrial’.
44 See for example McDonagh, Elite Women, 26, who demonstrates that 10% of land in her sample of 250,000 acres enclosed under parliamentary enclosure acts between the 1750s and 1840s was owned by women and Casson, ‘Women's landownership’, 217, who argues that 12% of plots recorded in the nineteenth-century railway companies books of reference were held by female landowners.
45 Barker, The Business of Women; Aston, Female Entrepreneurship; X. You, ‘The missing half: female employment in Victorian England and Wales’, in L. Shaw-Taylor, A. Cockerill and M. Satchell (eds.), The Online Historical Atlas of Occupational Structure and Population Geography in England and Wales 1600–2011, www.campop.geog.cam.ac.uk/research/occupations/outputs/onlineatlas/femaleemployment.pdf, accessed 16 Aug. 2017.
47 McDonagh, Elite Women, 15–25. On women investing in stocks and government securities, see Green and Owens, ‘Gentlewomanly capitalism?’; Rutterford et al., ‘Who comprised the nation of shareholders?’.
48 Aston, Female Entrepreneurship, 111. See too Holmes, ‘Ownership and migration’, 248, who demonstrates for Ramsgate that a third of all properties were inherited by an owner who shared the surname of the deceased, most of whom were the widows thereof.
49 On this, see McDonagh, Elite Women, 15–25; Aston, Female Entrepreneurship, 139–74.
50 1851 Census: Class: HO107, Piece: 2368, Folio: 240, Page: 34, GSU roll: 87646–9.
51 www.freeBMD.org.uk, accessed 16 Aug. 2017, England & Wales, Scarborough, Yorkshire North Riding, 9d, 259; 1881 Census: Class: RG11; Piece: 4806; Folio: 64; Page: 2; GSU roll: 1342160.
52 Last Will and Testament of Ellen Roberts, proved at York on 27 Aug. 1894.
53 1851 Census: Class: HO107, Piece: 2368, Folio: 229, Page: 12, GSU roll: 87646–9.
55 Last Will and Testament of Ann Walker, The National Archives, Kew, England, Prerogative Court of Canterbury and Related Probate Jurisdictions: Will Registers, Class: PROB 11, Piece: 2192.
56 Susan Margaret Aked, died 7 Jul. 1865, Letters of Administration granted 5 Feb. 1866.
57 Last Will and Testament of Robert Aked, died 18 Jun. 1888, probate granted 23 Jul. 1888.
58 Last Will and Testament of Lucy Aked, died 10 May 1891, probate granted 24 Jun. 1891.
59 On the operation of trusts more generally in nineteenth-century England, see Stebbings, C., The Private Trustee in Victorian England (Cambridge, 2002)Google Scholar.
60 Jane Walker's tombstone in Beverley Minster records her age and 28 Mar. 1854 as date of death.
62 On the countess, see Baird, R., Mistress of the House: Great Ladies and Grand Houses 1670–1830 (London, 2003), 139–46Google Scholar; McDonagh, Elite Women, 23 and 105–6.
63 The Oswaldkirk estate remained with the Henderson family for a further three generations until it was sold by trustees of the estate in 1907.
64 On absences in the rural and urban literature respectively, see McDonagh, Elite Women, 1–14; and Aston, Female Entrepreneurship, 1–21.