Perhaps the canals and railways, their building and working gave some freedom to workers and families in their brief and harsh lives. When James Brindley built the Coventry Canal, a Contour Canal out of the heart of the West Midlands town, families working the narrow boats moved, slowly over weeks in to The Black Country trading iron, coal, grain and market garden fruit and vegatables. It was possible to imagine happy English working families exchanging smiles, laughter and quips when Joy and Tragedy were delivered un to them frequently in equal measure. Rules of monogamy, religion, marriage and family were more ad hoc and loose neccessarily because of high infant mortality and the grinding poverty which accompanied daily life. The winters of the idylic past were still winters. The summers were still summers. Early English Industrial Life was Brutally Short due to Hunger and Misfortune.
As James Brindley in 1761 built the first canal, the Bridgwater Canal, in 1845 Railway Mania started. Railways were built by labourers with shovels and picks then mechanical shovels like the Ruston Bycruss.
Cycling appeared on pneumatic tyres about the time of Emperor Bicycle Works at Frog Island in Leicester in 1888.
Railway Navvies and Tramps lived life around their work and often died shortly afterwards from exhaustion, ill health and poverty. Many were habitual rowdies and drunkards. But when some integrated with sober religous god fearing communities they passed in the countryside nearby, say in Northampton they were, as shown on old photographs, briefly happy. Could it be the English People expect too much from life?