Victorian Sundays

Since it’s Sunday, here’s a repeat of one of my “rogue kitty” Howard’s posts…

Duty calls

Yet I am here to tell you a bit about Victorian Sundays.

In 1851, a “religious census” revealed less than half of all the English attended any Church or chapel at all, much less the almighty Church of England.

This was often because the working man (and his wife!) had little respite.  The working man was at it from early Monday until late Friday.  Often he worked Saturday morning as well.  This left Sunday for all the necessities: a trip to the barber, repairs around his own house, and a feast with the family.  Not to mention the fact in Victorian times, a working man who appeared in Church in his regular everyday clothes was made to feel ashamed.  Couldn’t he locate some finery for the occasion?

Popery, or allegiance to the Church of Rome

Being a professed Roman Catholic made one a non-conformist.  Also all Baptists, all non-Church of England Protestants, and all Jews.  These folks were required to support the Church of England with their taxes.  Likewise, depending on the era, they paid additional fees as religious non-conformists.  Nice, eh, to be a minority, pay tribute to the majority, and also pay a fee for not agreeing to join the majority?  Talk about the courage of your convictions.  Frankly, most felines would fold.


So what was Sabbatarianism?  Just what it sounds like — strict observance of the Sabbath as a day of rest.  This didn’t just restrict all labor, which for the working man was a wonderful thing.  It also prohibited many recreations, such as:

  • reading novels
  • reading newspapers
  • reading non-religious stories in magazines
  • romantic dates for young men and women
  • play with regular toys for children, though a Noah’s Ark might be permitted

Sabbatarians pressed for NO pubs on Sundays, no trains, and no shops.  They were mostly successful.  On a Victorian English Sunday, most shops were closed. and pubs ran shorter hours.  Only the trains continue, unabated.

So did these Evangelical Sabbatarians do anything worthwhile?

They actually did.  One needs only to read the collected works of Charles Dickens to feel the real fire, religious and humanist, demanding reform.  Victorian religious reformers weren’t simply in the business of restricting the workman from his Sunday pint.  They wanted to change the world.  And in some ways they did.  These religious folk rethought Victorian prisons, asylums, and workhouses.  They campaigned against cruelty to animals and took up alms for orphans.  They even established religious refuges for fleeing prostitutes.  All in all, they sincerely tried to leave the world better than they found it.

And now … we  must sleep.  Good day to you!

4 thoughts on “Victorian Sundays

  1. Because of my perception of "Christianity" having become colored by the extreme right and their hatred of all things not white-bread, I often overlook the very real good work of many Christian organizations. These folks set the standard, and some churches still follow it today.

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