IN THE short span of years between the accession of George III and that of his son, William IV, the face of England changed. Areas that for centuries had been cultivated as open fields, or had lain untended as common pasture, were hedged or fenced; hamlets grew into populous towns; and chimney stacks rose to dwarf the ancient spires. Highroads were made--straighter, stronger, and wider than those evil communications that had corrupted the good manners of travellers in the days of Defoe. The North and Irish Seas, and the navigable reaches of the Mersey, Ouse, Trent, Severn, Thames, Forth, and Clyde were joined together by threads of still water. In the North the first iron rails were laid down for the new locomotives, and steam packets began to ply on the estuaries and the narrow seas.
Parallel changes took place in the structure of society. The number of people increased vastly, and the proportion of children and young probably rose. The growth of new communities shifted the balance of population from the South and East to the North and Midlands; enterprising Scots headed a procession the end of which is not yet in sight; and a flood of unskilled, but vigorous, Irish poured in, not without effect on the health and ways of life of Englishmen. Men and women born and bred in the countryside came to live crowded together, earning their bread, no longer as families or groups of neighbours, but as units in the labour force of factories; work grew to be more specialized; new forms of skill were developed, and some old forms lost. Labour became more mobile, and higher