This book examines the life-cycle of Victorian working-class marriage through a study of the hitherto hidden marital bed. Using coroners’ inquests to gain intimate access to the 9783319603896 (3)working-class home and its inhabitants, this book explores their marital, quasi-marital, and post-marital beds to reveal the material, domestic, and emotional experience of working-class marriage during everyday life and at times of crisis. Drawing on the recent approach of utilising domestic objects to explore interpersonal relationships, the marital bed not only provides a rereading of the experiences of the working-class wife but also brings the much maligned or simply overlooked working-class husband into the picture. Moreover, it also extends our understanding of the various marriage-like arrangements existing throughout this class. Moving through the marital life-cycle, this book provides a greater understanding of marriages from the outset, during childbirth, at times of strife and marital breakdown, and upon the death of a spouse.

The homes of the urban working class and rural laborers were the most hazardous dwellings of the Victorian period, resulting in numerous domestic deaths warranting a coroner’s inquest. This article demonstrates how, through coroners’ meticulous investigations into fatal household accidents and the provincial press’ eagerness in the reporting of such inquests, we are able to open up these homes and explore the domestic practices within. This article reveals how this frequently overlooked source provides unprecedented access to domestic practice in the homes of the Victorian urban working class and the often forgotten homes of the rural laboring class. It will show how these inquests can be used quantitatively to explore trends, patterns, and changes in the spatial organization and domestic practice of these homes, providing minute and detailed descriptions of rooms, in addition to domestic objects, and domestic practices. In summary, this article aims to highlight the potential of coroners’ inquests (either the actual documents or accounts of them in the provincial press) to a wider audience and encourage their further use in the study of past domestic practice.

Journal Articles

Recent research using coroners’ inquests (both the original records and ensuing newspaper reports) has opened the door on the domestic arrangements of the Victorian working classes and the lives of the inhabitants therein, including that of the lodger. It is widely acknowledged that the majority of lodgers in Victorian England’s towns and cities resided in private working-class dwellings and, while the census reveals the types of households that took in lodgers, we know little of these lodgers – beyond their age and occupation – or how they were accommodated. This article begins to address this lacuna by bringing the lodger to the forefront of the household. Drawing upon a number of coroners’ inquest reports, it explores the lodger and the domestic arrangements of lodgers accommodated in working-class dwellings in the town of Ipswich, asking: (1) What were individuals’ reasons for taking up lodgings? (2) What length of time did they spend in lodgings? (3) How and what did they pay for? (4) What was their relationship to those with whom they lodged and what were their daily interactions? and, crucially, (5) How were they accommodated? The findings reveal that the domestic arrangements of lodgers, including where they slept, varied widely. The article demonstrates that we need to reappraise our understanding of the lodger and their place in the home.

  • Penny Death Traps: The Press, the Poor, Parliament, and the “Perilous” Penny Paraffin Lamp’, Victorian Review 40.2 (2014), 125-142.


Government intrusion into the homes of the working- classes gained momentum through the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. One hitherto unexamined piece of legislation that sought to regulate behaviour was a clause in the Children Act 1908 pertaining to the use of domestic fireguards. This transpired because of the outcry of coroners who conducted inquests into the death s of children fatally burned in their homes, supposedly a safe refuge, a space constructed as a maternal responsibility. Coroners increasingly believed such accidents were a result of either maternal carelessness or negligence, especially those involving unguarded fires and absent mothers. Yet, limited by inadequate laws and unwilling juries, the coroner could do little but admonish the mother. However, growing Government concern over the abilities of working-class mothers and the health of the nation finally brought the issue of absent fireguards and burnt children to Parliamentary debate, culminating in a provision which appeared to have been aimed more at prevention than punishment.

PhD Thesis

Conference/Seminar Papers

(To be updated)

Public Papers

‘Sleeping with the Victorians’ , Friday, 23 September 2016, 18:30, University of Suffolk, a lecture held in partnership with the Friends of Suffolk Record Office.

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