The Nineteenth Century -
All Change!

Until the middle of the 1800's, most of the travelling to and from Pentney would have been by boat, from Kings Lynn on the River Nar.  This was navigable up to Narborough and there would have been considerable traffic along it, passing through Pentney. There was a bone mill, nearer to Narborough, and  a flour mill on the river at Pentney.

There was never a main road through the village. To get there from Swaffham in days gone by, you would have had to use the coach road from Swaffham to Lynn, take a side track to Narborough, and make your way from there on pathways across the marshy ground. 
The railway came to Pentney in the mid 1850's.  This made a big difference to the lives of many people, creating extra jobs and giving an opportunity for poorer people to travel further afield.
However, it contributed to the decline of small villages, as people  had more chance to find work in the larger towns.

The 1881 Census shows this very clearly.  I checked through it for people born in Pentney, but listed on Census night in other parts of England, Wales or Scotland.  Not surprisingly, there were many in the larger local area: 327 in various parts of Norfolk, 4 in Suffolk, 12  in Cambridgeshire and one each in Huntingdon and Bedford. However, the Census also showed a surprising number who had travelled further afield. I found about 80 Pentney-born people spread around the country, as far north as Durham and as far west as Devon.  Quite a few of these people were in the London area, of course. 


I was able to find some of them in the Pentney Church Registers, as well, and also in the 1851 Census, at home in Pentney.  Sadly, it is not possible to find the married women there  as, of course, their names have altered. 
I found it strange that of all the 80 people found, away from Pentney, only in one family were husband and wife both born in the village.

All sorts of questions occur to me when looking at their places and occupations.  How did Benjamin Young become an Agent for a New York Merchant?
What happened to cause Robert Hastings to have to become an inmate of the Workhouse in Paddington?

What was it like for Eliza Brown to be the wife of a Foreman in a Guano Works?  Let's hope that her husband didn't have to get too close to the product!

Some of the occupations of this group reflect the new technology.  Joseph Balding was an electrician at Guy's Hospital.  There were several railway workers, who had obviously moved to new places with their jobs.  Some had gone to the big city of London in search of work in Service, as we see with three sisters, Amelia, Jane and Emma Bainbridge, all working as servants to families a little further up in the social scale.
At a higher, social level, we see Frank Paul, the son of Thomas Paul, the farmer at Ashwood Lodge for many years.  Frank by 1881 was a Surgeon, in Liverpool.  His father, Thomas was the first employer of  "The King of the Norfolk Poachers"! Probably Frank would have known of this character in his childhood.

Read more about the information contained in the various Census Returns. On these pages:
Introduction     The early years       1851 Census       1881 Census (with link to 1891 List)

Rita Sheridan, Warwickshire,  England

Email: rasheridan@lineone.net