Web Sites of Interest
Shire books publish a wide range of pocket sized guides on a very wide range of topics which are invaluable in find out about life in the past - and there are almost certainly some titles which will fill you in with the background. Titles which I have which I found useful (they may not always be still in print) are:
Bricks and Brickmaking, by Martin Hammond, 1981
Dairying Bygones, by Arthur Ingram, 1997
Discovering Horse-drawn Vehicles, by D J Smith, 1994 - This is one of the large books (176 pages) and provides a very useful introduction on the subject.
Straw & Straw Craftsmen, by Arthur Staniforth, 1991
Turnpike Roads, by Geoffrey N Wright, 1997
The Victorian Workhouse, by Trevor May, 1997
Visit their current site for a very long list of current titles.