Cushiest/ hardest jobs in the year of the Whitechapel Murders

Barmaid Victorian

Some examples from 1,000 Ways to Earn a Living (1888)

Secretaryships to institutions

‘Are held usually by clergymen or retired military men. These positions are much coveted, and in a recent instance 967 applications were received in reply to a single advertisement in The Times. Secretaries of clubs are frequently members of distinguished families. Such positions fall only to the fortunate. The renumeration is from £400 to £1,500 per annum, including apartment and board.

Private, Household Cavalry

1s. 9d a day plus rations, lodging, clothing &c equal to 15s per week.


‘Speaking of it as a profession, the Church is one of the widest of all. Most of the professors at our Universities, the masters in our schools, and numbers of secretaries of religious and other bodies, are qualified priests. In order to become a clergyman it is almost absolutely necessary to obtain a University degree, although it is not requisite ( as is popularly understood ) that that degree should have been granted by either Oxford or Cambridge… From the point of view of a livelihood, it is unfortunately too well known that the Church is far from being a lucrative profession, though, like others, it has its co-called prizes…yet…there is no reason why a clergyman’s leisure time should not be profitably employed in a material as well as a moral sense. The pursuits of tuition or literature are always open to him…

According to figures taken from The British Almanack for 1896 the highest paidBishop in 1888 was Frederick Temple of the diocese of London, who received £10,000 a year (£200 a week). This is roughly equivalent to £1m a year today. The Prime Minister ( hardly a cushy number) received £5,000 a year– the same sum as senior Cabinet members. The Lord Chancellor trousered £10,000 a year, while a top civil servant would be paid around £1,500. Dr Temple, incidentally, is alleged to have worked around 15 hours a day as Bishop of London. For his pay one would have expected that.


‘The occupation of a barmaid is not one which can be recommended. In London the Young Women’s Christian Association have done their best to assist barmaids and restaurant girls by opening a sort of club for them at 14, John Street, Bedford Row, W.C. A trifling charge is made for the use of the rooms and classes. These last are for instruction in French, music, singing and arithmetic. The annual subscription is 1s.6d., which affords the use of the library, drawing-rooms, and gives admittance to the concerts and other gatherings. Situations as barmaids can generally be obtained from advertisements in local daily papers or from the Licensed Victuallers’ Gazette. One or tow references as to character are necessary, and the girl, who should be over eighteen years of age , must be able to write decently and to keep accounts. Beginners have to ‘ give time ‘ , as it is called. This may either one or two months, and in some cases more. During this period she receives her board and lodging, but no wages. At the end of the time she receives either notice to go or an invitation to stay. The wages are small—generally from 7s to 14s per week. The hours are long, and the work arduous.’

British Museum Assistant

‘Nominations and appointments to permanent situations in the Museum are made exclusively by the three Principal Trustees, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor, and the Speaker of the House of Commons…The salary of second- class assistants is £120, rising to £240 by annual increments of £10; first class assistants ( filled usually by promotion from the second- class), £250 to £450….’

Famous BM assistants have included Richard Garnett, A. M. Hind and Angus Wilson.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *