Feasting and fasting: eating and drinking habits of miners in the 1860s

In 1862 Philip Vincent, a surgeon to several mines in the Camborne district, gave evidence to the Commission enquiring into the condition of mines. Here’s two of his answers …

Qu 10455: Who lives best; the miner or the agriculturist? – The miner is rather improvident about it; it is rather a feast and a fast with him, one day he will have his beefsteak or his good living, and the next day he will have his porridge, and then live upon broth, as they call it, for some days afterwards, and they only throw in a bone or perhaps a little bit of pork to make the porridge; but the agriculturist generally gets his regular allowance from the farmer, and so it is regulated much better than it is with the miner.

Qu 10459: Whenever he can enjoy it and has some, he will live well, even though at the expense of living badly for the rest of the week? – Yes, I have known many a miner who has gone and sat down and drank his gallon or two of beer in the evening, and then they will not touch it again for the next month perhaps. I have said to them over and over again, ‘If you will only just take your pint of beer a day for your dinner, and be content with that, instead of taking so much on your pay day, you will be a very much better man at the end of ten years than you will if you live as at present.’

The Cornish mining landscape at the end of the 1800s. View from Wheal Grenville east towards Carnkie

2 thoughts on “Feasting and fasting: eating and drinking habits of miners in the 1860s

  1. Great photo! More of these, if possible.

    Fascinating account of the different lives and habits of miners and farmers. There is no doubt that the women and children would have suffered a great deal in households where men primarily spent their payday income on alcohol. That still happens all around the world on a massive scale and is a major contributor to poverty in low-income households.

    I do think though that mining is so incredibly tough a life that part of the drinking described reflects that harshness.

    Like

  2. Loving your posts,so interesting. Since I started to do my Cornish genealogy I find the more I discover raises even more questions!

    Like

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