Middle class and upper class Victorians made up only approximately fifteen percent of the English Victorian Age population. There was an enormous gap between these two classes and the working and poor classes. Middle class families were considered wealthy and typically had fathers who held professional positions such as doctors, lawyers, bankers, factory owners, merchants, and shopkeepers. The upper class, or aristocracy, was composed of nobility and clergy and comprised only two percent of the population.
Rich Victorians always had servants. Cooks, butlers, gardeners, housemaids, nannies and governesses were employed by this social class. The middle class families did not usually have as many servants as the upper class families. Many of the servants had moved from the country, where many of the farming jobs had been eliminated by the invention of machines. Servants were paid low wages but were guaranteed a living space, food, and clothes by their employers.
Middle and upper class Victorian Age families lived in large, comfortable houses. These houses had ample space for the family, which averaged between four to six children, and the servants. This was a sharp contrast to the overcrowded and unhealthy conditions of the working and poor classes of this time. Victorian houses of wealthy owners had features such as bay windows, stained glass in the windows and doorways, patterned brickwork and slate roofs.
The children of rich Victorians spent the majority of their day with their nanny. The nanny was responsible for the children’s daily activities. Nannies also taught children proper behavior, disciplined the children, and took care of them when they were ill.
For the most part, children of wealthy parents did not attend school outside of the home. Governesses and tutors taught these children in the children’s homes. Mothers sometimes taught their sons and daughters to read and write, and fathers would sometimes teach Latin to their sons. Only sons were sent to boarding schools such as Eton and Rugby.
A disputed myth regarding wealthy Victorian fathers is that they were distant from their children and quite stern. Although this may have been the case for some families, there are indications that many Victorian fathers cherished their children and enjoyed spending time with them.
Helping the Poor
Wealthy Victorian men and women did take an interest in helping the working class and impoverished population. Ragged Schools, which were a type of charity school, were started by upper class Victorians for the education of the lower class children.