William Snape (c.1774-1833), Mercer and Draper, Lichfield, Staffordshire

William Snape was a mercer and draper in Market St, Lichfield, who was used by the overseers to supply fabrics, cloths and threads to the workhouse. He supplied fabrics such as blue linen, drab calico, Irish linen, blue print, buttons and thread.[1] This suggest that the workhouse may have been making some form of uniform or sets of apprentices’ clothes (see ‘Blue Duffle’ entry 28 March 2019). We have vouchers for him supplying the workhouse between 1824-1830. The bill from 1824 has a pre-printed ink header across the top. It shows a tombstone with a shrouded urn on top with two figures either side one of which represents Liberty with her scales and sword. This suggests that his business was doing well as he could afford to add the headers.[2] The bills are still hand signed though by him, proving that he was literate. The header also states that William furnished funerals meaning that he supplied all the drapes, clothes and fabrics used in the funeral and he would rent them out. This at the time had become a lucrative business.

William Snape, son of Isaac Snape, was baptised on 24 July 1774. William Snape’s registered age in the calendar of wills was 59. This would mean his year of birth would be 1774. William Snape the elder married Anne Jackson in 1801 in St Mary’s, Lichfield.[3] We believe that they had a son, also called William, as there is a baptism that took place in May 1806 with reference to them.[4] At the moment we have no evidence suggesting that the son carried on the business or went into the same profession as he is not listed in any trade directories and we have no vouchers after the date William dies. There is however, a Mrs Anne Snape listed in White’s 1834 directory. She is not listed under any business, and had moved from Market St to Beacon St. This suggests that she was living off independent means.[5] There is a possibility that it could be the widow of William Snape as she is listed as Mrs Anne Snape. William did not leave a will when he died, however, letters of administration were drawn up after his death.[6]

The vouchers suggest that the business of William Snape was lucrative and successful as the total amount paid for the four bills we have is £22 9s 6 ½ d. It is then surprising to find that on 17 April 1821 there was a bankruptcy case in the London Gazette for William Snape, ‘of the City of Lichfield, Mercer, Draper, Dealer and Chapman’.[7] There were then three meetings arranged on the 14, 15 and 29 of May at the Talbot Arms, Rugeley, Stafford. The first meeting was for Snape to make a full ‘disclosure of his estate and effects’ and also for any creditors to prove their claims. The second sitting was to choose assignees, who were responsible to gather in all the debts owed to William Snape and the administration of his bankruptcy. The final sitting on the 29 was to finish the examination and for William Snape to declare everything he had, to state all his debtors and creditors. The solicitors for the case were Mr Thomas Gnosall Parr, of Bird Street, Lichfield and Messrs. Constable and Kirk, solicitors, Symond’s-inn, Chancery Lane, London.[8] The date for the final dividend to be paid was 16 December 1822 at the Talbot Arms, Rugeley, where all creditors should prove their debts and that any claims after that date would be disallowed.[9] This suggests that it brought an end to everything that the commissioners were going to do, therefore freeing Snape from the bankruptcy. We know that he recovered as the vouchers state that he was supplying the workhouse just two years after being cleared of his bankruptcy.

William Snape died and was buried in March 1833 at St Michael’s, Lichfield.[10]


[1] Staffordshire Record Office (hereafter SRO) LD20/6/6 no item no., Lichfield, St Mary’s overseer’s voucher, 1824; SRO LD20/6/6 no item no., Lichfield, St Mary’s overseer’s voucher, 1830.

[2] SRO LD20/6/6 no item no., Lichfield, St Mary’s overseer’s voucher, 1824.

[3] SRO D20/1/9, Lichfield, St Mary’s Parish registers, 1801.

[4] SRO D20/1/3, Lichfield, St Mary’s Parish Records, Baptisms, 1806.

[5] William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire (Sheffield: 1834).

[6] SRO P/C/11, Lichfield, Calendar of Peculiars, 30 August 1833.

[7] London Gazette, 17 April 1821, 877.

[8] London Gazette, 16 October 1821, 2059; London Gazette, 17 April 1821, 877.

[9] London Gazette, 23 November 1822, 1929.

[10] SRO D27/1/9, Lichfield, St Michael’s, Burials, 29 March 1833, 191.

Elizabeth Dawes (1769-1852), Grocer, Lichfield, Staffordshire

Elizabeth Dawes was a grocer in St John’s Street, Lichfield, who was used by the overseers of the workhouse to supply groceries and sundries such as rice, oatmeal, potash and salt from June to September 1823.[1] The workhouse made 22 purchases from her business between these months suggesting that her business was in frequent contact with the workhouse. In a second bill from February to March 1823, she was selling the same items: rice, black pepper and treacle. Although it is a shorter bill it proves that she was in business with the workhouse for at least nine months.[2] The first bill was not written by her but by another party. The second, however, was written and signed by her as demonstrated by a comparison between the handwriting on the bills and her marriage certificate.[3] This means that she was not illiterate but that she possibly employed someone showing that the business must be stable and possibly profitable.

Elizabeth Dawes was registered under ‘Shopkeepers and Dealers in Groceries and Sundries’ in Pigot and Co.’s 1828 directory and White’s directory of 1834.[4] In Pigot’s directory she is registered along with 16 other ‘Shopkeepers and Dealers in Groceries and Sundries’, three of whom were women and nine were men. Twelve grocers were also listed separately, none of whom were female. As she was listed in Parson’s and Bradshaw’s 1818 directory as a ‘Grocer and Tea Dealer’, this means she was running the business for at least 16 years.[5]

Elizabeth Barisford was born in 1768.[6] She married Benjamin Dawes on 24 September 1797 in Lichfield at St Mary’s.[7] Benjamin died and was buried in St Michael’s, Lichfield, in 1817.[8] We do not think that they had any children as there are no baptisms recorded for the Parish of St Mary’s with a reference to them.[9] However, in the 1841 Census there is a Jane Wildley, 20, listed as living with her but the connection between Elizabeth and Jane is not stated.[10] Elizabeth is also listed as having a female servant, called Mary Hall, aged 13, living with her. This is an indication of her middle class status as she could afford to employ a servant. A servant would free up Elizabeth’s time allowing her to focus on and run her business instead.

By the 1851 Census Elizabeth was 83 and registered as an inmate annuitant which means that she was living off the profits of her investments or savings suggesting that her business had been successful enough to support her retirement. She had also moved address and was now living on Tamworth Street. She was now a member of someone else’s household possibly family but we do not know.[11] Whilst she was no longer working, the fact that she was also no longer living in her own house suggests that she might be living in reduced circumstances.

Elizabeth died on 10 July 1852 at the age of 84. She was buried in St Michael’s. Lichfield alongside her husband Benjamin.[12]


[1] Staffordshire Records Office (hereafter SRO), LD20/6/6 No item no., Lichfield St Mary’s overseer’s voucher, 1823.

[2]SRO LD20/6/6 No item no., Lichfield, St Mary’s overseer’s voucher, 1823,

[3] SRO, D20/1/9, Lichfield, St Mary’s Parish Register, 24 September 1797.

[4] John Pigot and Co., Pigot and Co.’s National Directory, 1828-1829, part 2 (Manchester and London, 1828), 717; William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire (Sheffield: 1834), 161.

[5] W. Parson and T. Bradshaw, Staffordshire General and Commercial Directory (1818), 186.

[6] St Michael’s Church Yard, Lichfield, Gravestone; D20/1/9, Lichfield, St Mary’s Parish Register, 24 September 1797.

[7] SRO, D20/1/9, Lichfield, St Mary’s Parish Register, 24 September 1797.

[8] SRO, D/27/1/9, Lichfield, St Michael’s Parish Register, 1 April 1817.

[9] SRO, D20/1/9, Lichfield, St Mary’s Parish Register, Baptisms.

[10] TNA, HO107/1008/3, 1841 Census, Elizabeth Dawes, Lichfield.

[11] TNA, HO107/2014, 1851 Census, Elizabeth Dawes, Lichfield.

[12] Lichfield, St Michael’s Church Yard, Gravestone.

Jane Davidson (1748-1827), Grocer, Brampton, Cumberland

Jane Davidson was a grocer who was used by the overseers of Brampton to supply the workhouse with standard dry goods such as tea, sugar, barley and tobacco.[1] For one bill in 1819 she received £1 6s 11 ½ d. This was for supplies of grocer’s goods that she had made on 11 occasions between January and April. Although we only have one voucher, this shows that she was in regular contract with the workhouse. It gives the impression that she was not just used once and was actually a frequent supplier to the workhouse. The supply of tea in a small amount such as 2oz, as written in the voucher, suggests that it was not for the general use of the inmates and that it was more likely used for medicinal purposes, or for the use of the master and mistress of the workhouse.

Davidson was born in 1748.[2] She married Robert Davidson, a grocer, however we do not know when but we know it was before 1816 as this was when Robert passed away.[3] Jane Davidson had two daughters and a son; Mary who married George Hadden; Jane who married Thomas Hobson; and Thomas. [4] As well as this she also had at least 13 grandchildren, eight by Mary and George Hadden, and five by Jane and Thomas Hobson.[5] She also had a stepson via Robert’s first wife of which nothing is known.

In his will Robert Davidson left the business to his wife Jane and not to his eldest son.[6] This suggests that he had trust in her to run the business and to look after it. The stereotype is that the eldest son would inherit the business, however, it was quite common that businesses were inherited by widows. Robert was illiterate as he signed his will with a cross. This probably meant that the accounts and the books for the business were not done by him but most likely by Jane. This could be why he trusted her to run the business.

Jane Davidson, grocer, is not registered in either Jollie’s 1811 directory or Pigot’s 1828-29 National directory.[7] This suggests that their business could have been a more stable, locally based one so therefore they did not need to advertise nationally, and even after the death of Robert in 1816 Jane Davidson did not place herself in any other directory suggesting that she had maintained the stable business.

Jane Davidson used at least one local shop to maintain her stocks. The ledgers of Isaac Bird, grocer, Brampton, state that she settled a bill adding up to 15s 11d in 1819.[8] One example of this is that she bought ¼ stone of shag tobacco at 2s 7d presumably to stock her own shop as the amount is too much for her own personal use.[9]

This is a work in progress, subject to change as new research is conducted.


[1] Cumbria Archives, PR60/21/13/5/101, Brampton overseers’ vouchers, Jane Davidson, 20 January-6 April 1820.

[2] In the Burial ledger her age was given as 79. Cumbria Archives, G.Bell and C. Yellowley (eds), Brampton Denary Burials Part 1, 1813-39, 49.

[3] Cumbria Archives, G.Bell and C. Yellowley (eds), Brampton Denary Burials Part 1, 1813-39, 49.

[4] Cumbria Archives PROB/1816/WI462A C/1/18/9/5, Will and Inventory of Robert Davidson, 9 September 1816.

[5] Cumbria Archives, G.Bell (ed.), Brampton Baptism, Marriage and Burials, 1813-39.

[6] Cumbria Archives PROB/1816/WI462A C/1/18/9/5, Will and Inventory of Robert Davidson, 9 September 1816.

[7] F.Jollie and Sons, Jollie’s Cumberland Guide and Directory 1811 (Carlisle:1811); John Pigot and Co., Pigot and Co.’s National Directory, 1828-1829, part 1 (Manchester and London, 1828).

[8] Cumbria Archives, DCLP8/38, Isaac Bird, Grocery, Brampton, Ledger, 1817-19.

[9] Cumbria Archives, DCLP8/39, Isaac Bird, Brampton, Ledger, 1817-19.