Willen Daily Life

Infant mortality

In Victorian times people tended to have very large families, (eight or more children was not unusual), but many of these children died, often as young babies. As these pictures show this was true for Willen, and all levels of society were affected.

John Benthall, the Vicar, was educated to degree level, his grandfather was a doctor and he was rich enough to afford servants. Even so, his grand daughter, Edith, died aged only 14 days.

The Goodmans were quite poor. Alfred Goodman was a farm labourer, and his wife Amelia was a basket maker. Their first two children, John and Harry died as children.

Henry Whiting was the biggest farmer in Willen. He and his brothers farmed large areas of North Bucks. They were very well off , but despite this, Doris Kate his youngest daughter, died aged only 2 months.
These tragedies were not taken lightly by the families concerned. Henry Whiting had eleven children and Doris was youngest child, but even so the family felt erected a proper tombstone on her grave. Edith Benthall has the same amount of space on the family plaque as the rest of John's family, including his sister. The Goodman's were poor people, yet they paid for an expensive tombstone to commemorate their lost sons.

What were the reasons for this high rate of infant mortality and why has it changed?