John Lakin lies dead in a fever ward

Among the overseers’ vouchers for Alrewas, Staffordshire, are a few letters relating to paupers. In a few short lines, one in particular, summed up a person’s life. In April 1832 Alrewas vestry received a letter from J. Halton of Stockport.

‘Gents, One John Lakin aged 49 lies dead in our fever ward and we have been called upon to provide for his funeral.  It appears he belongs to your place, by birth, having been born out of wedlock and that you have frequently relieved him, in different places. The last time was at Christmas 1827 or 8. This being the case you will, we trust, refund the cost of his funeral amounting to £1.5.0.  He was by trade a tailor. Your attention will oblige, J. Halton’[1]

The parish registers for St Mary’s, Stockport, lists a John Lakin aged 59, having been buried on 11 April 1832. His residence was given as The Dispensary. Despite the ten year age difference, this is the same man. Halton had been quick off the mark, sending the letter the day before Lakin’s funeral.

Halton’s letter, though short, is cleverly constructed. It points out that having been born illegitimately, Lakin’s legal settlement was his place of birth, in this case Alrewas. It notes that Alrewas had previously provided poor relief for Lakin, thereby establishing precedent for payment of his funeral. Lakin’s death also makes it clear that this is the last time that Alrewas will be called upon for relief, which might have induced the parish further to pay up.

[1] SRO, D783/2/3/13/4/1/1, J. Halton, Stockport, 10 April 1832.

Charles Cook, Apprentice Shoemaker

From 13 June to 23 July 1827 Charles Cook, the son of Widow Cook, was on a six-week trial as an apprentice boot and shoe maker. As was fairly standard for parish apprentices, Charles was supplied with a jacket, trousers and waistcoat, two pairs of stockings, a hat and  five yards of calico to make two shirts. The cost of drawing up the apprentice indenture and attorney’s fees amounted to £1 11s 6d, bringing the amount expended by the parish on Cook’s apprenticeship to £3 7s 0d.[1] In addition, there was the apprentice premium itself which added a further £10 to parish costs. Given that the total expenditure on Cook’s apprenticeship by parish of Whittington, Staffordshire, equated to the yearly income of a well-paid female domestic servant, this was not an inconsiderable sum. It was one which the parish deemed acceptable as it would shift parish responsibility for Charles Cook onto the shoemaker.

Cook, however, was not living in Whittington, but at Grove Cottage, Edmonton St, Camberwell, Surrey, with his mother Sarah. Charles Cook may never even have set foot in Whittington, but the village would have been his legal place of settlement if his father had been born, or had acquired legal settlement there.

Charles was apprenticed to James Rogers of Stretton Ground, St John’s, Westminster, for a term of seven years.[2]

It is possible that things turned out alright for Charles Cook, for there is an entry in the 1841 Census for a Charles Cook, a shoemaker living in Wellington Street, Camberwell, with his wife and three children.[3]

Sources

[1] SRO, Whittington Overseers’ Vouchers, D4834/9/3/11/7, [1827]; D4834/9/3/11/18, 12 Jun 1827.

[2] SRO, D4834/9/7/37, 12 June 1827; D483 4/9/7/37, 23 Jun 1827.

[3] TNA, HO107/1050/6, 1841 Census.

Catherine Johnson and Catherine Godwin, Inmates, Rosliston Workhouse

Like many parishes Whittington, near Lichfield, had no workhouse. Instead, it relied on providing outdoor relief, paying rent on properties to house some of its poor and sending paupers to Rosliston Workhouse in Derbyshire.

Around 1802, Rosliston together with the parishes of Caldwell, Coton-in-the-Elms, Croxall, Linton and Stretton-in-the Fields united under the terms of Gilbert’s Act of 1782 to provide for the poor. Arrangements were made with other parishes, including Whittington, whereby paupers could be sent to the workhouse with the costs borne by the parish to whom the pauper had the legal right of settlement.

In 1818 Whittington paid Rosliston Workhouse for twelve weeks board for Catherine Johnson. As with most people from this time we know little about Johnson, but we do know that by 1820 at the latest she had been joined in the workhouse by Catherine Godwin, also from Whittington. For the next two years overseers’ vouchers provide glimpses into their lives. Bills were submitted each quarter by Rosliston for Johnson and Godwin’s board, soap and coal.

Johnson and Godwin contributed to their own maintenance through their needlework skills. Several bills list thread, tape, bindings, linings for bodices, the spinning of flax and the provision of calico, worsted and fustian cloth. One bill of 3 January 1820 notes ‘cutting out and assisting Johnson to make cloth’. Other clothing related items include the provision of aprons, stockings, capes and gowns for both women.

There were also medical bills. One in 1820 was for ‘dressing for Johnson’ and ‘dressing for Godwin’ from a Dr Adams. The services of a midwife were paid for by Whittington for Catherine Godwin at the start of 1821, but all did not go well for we find payment for laying the child out, taking the child to church, a coffin and a burial. Nothing further is then recorded about either Johnson or Godwin in the vouchers.

Sources

SRO, Whittington Overseers’ Vouchers,

D4834/9/3/2/7, 1818

D4834/9/3/4/31, 3 Jan. 1820

D4834/9/3/4/32, 3 Jan. 1820

D4834/9/3/4/2, 20 Mar. 1820

D4834/9/3/4/3, 25 Mar. 1820

D4834/9/3/2/40, 30 Dec. 1820

D4834/9/3/2/41, 21 Jan 1821

D4834/9/3/2/42, 24 Mar. 1821

D4834/9/3/2/43, 24 Mar. 1821

Edwin Chadwick writes to the Assistant Overseer of Alrewas

The majority of surviving overseers’ vouchers for Alrewas are from Lichfield solicitors William Bond and Sons of Dam Street dealing with issues of settlement and removal.

Contained within the bundles are a number of letters written by or on behalf of those seeking relief. One letter stands out from the others. It was written neither by a pauper nor on behalf of one, but by Edwin Chadwick (1800-90), a hugely influential figure in mid-nineteenth century health, factory and poor law reform. Committed and talented, he worked for the Board of Health but his approach to reform angered many of his opponents.

Chadwick was born in Longsight, Manchester. His father became editor of The Statesman in 1812 and in 1816 editor of The Western Times. Chadwick trained as a barrister but also wrote reports on London’s slums for newspapers.

At the time of writing in October 1824 to Samuel Taylor, Assistant Overseer of Alrewas, Chadwick was the Secretary of the Poor Law Commission. Chadwick was responding to a letter  about the establishment of a workhouse.

Poor Law Commissioners Office Somerset House 11th Oct 1834

Sir, I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 7th Inst and to assure you that the Board will not neglect the expressed wishes of your Vestry, for the establishment of a well regulated workhouse, and for uniting the four divisions comprehended in the Parish of Alrewas, for the purpose of parochial management.  When the Assistant Poor Law Commissioners are appointed you may expect that one will make an early visit to your Parish, and in the interim it is suggested to your Vestry to propose the way, as far as possible for the suggested union.  I am further directed to send for your information, a copy of the Report and the Extract of Evidence published by the late commission of Enquiry, and a copy of the recent Act.

I am Sir.  Your Very Obedient Servant E Chadwick, Secretary.[1]

[1] SRO, D783_2_3_14_1_1 E. Chadwick, Secretary of the Poor Law Commission to Samuel Taylor Asst Overseer Alrewas  11 Oct. 1834.

An Extension to St Mary’s Workhouse Garden, Lichfield

In July 2020 the Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies published my article on workhouse gardens.[1] Since then further information has come to light regarding the garden of St Mary’s Workhouse in Sandford Street, Lichfield.

The article noted that in 1769 Henry Rogers supplied the potatoes and kidney beans for the garden.[2] An entry in the overseers’ accounts for 19 July 1777 shows that the existing gardening operation was extended when the committee appointed to oversee the repair and extension of the workhouse for the ‘reception and employment of the poor’ accepted the offer ‘made generously by the Reverend Dr Falconer respecting a piece of Meadow Ground for a Garden’.[3]

Figure 1: LD20/6/3, Lichfield St Mary’s, Overseers’ Account Book 1778-1784.

The accounts for 1778 show purchases for the garden and the payments made to labourers. In April thread for ‘garden line’ was purchased, presumably for marking out the ground. A Mr Bramhall was paid for plants and seeds. Other than ‘beans’, however, the specific types of plants and seeds are not listed. Gardeners were provided with ale. Wm Marklew was paid three shillings for two days’ work digging the new garden. In April and May ‘Brindley’ and others were also paid for unspecified garden work.

One of the crops was potatoes. On 30 October 1778 the workhouse received 5s 10d from a Mr Simpson for ‘Boys getting up Tatoes’. Although workhouse inmates were given ‘pay’ for any work they undertook in the new attic work room amounting to ‘two pence out of every shilling for their use’, it seems likely that in this instance the money went to the workhouse rather than directly to the boys.

 

With thanks to JK for the above image.

[1] Peter Collinge, ‘He shall have care of the garden, its cultivation and produce’: Workhouse gardens and gardening c.1780-1835’, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1754-0208.12717.

[2] SRO, D3891/6/30/32, Henry Rogers, 27 May 1769.

[3] SRO, LD20/6/3, Lichfield St Mary’s Overseers’ Account Book 1778-1784.

Grace Sandwick’s Possessions

Figure 1: PR5/43, Greystoke Poor Account Book, 1740-1812

When Grace Sandwick was granted poor relief by the parish of Greystoke and boarded out with Deborah Bushby in 1774, she brought with her a range of clothing and belongings. Apart from what is recorded in Greystoke’s Poor Account, nothing further has yet come to light to provide further information on Sandwick. Deborah Bushby was baptised in Greystoke on 13 April 1738 and buried in the parish church on 29 January 1814.

The parish recorded in its Poor Account Sandwick’s possessions. Sometimes parishes sold such goods to help defray the cost of relief. On other occasions, if the pauper was admitted to a workhouse, the items could be stored and returned should the pauper leave. In this instance, as Sandwick was boarding with Bushby, it looks as though the list was draw up so that there could be no dispute over what Sandwick owned.

April ye 7th 1774 Agreed with Deborah Bushby for Grace Sandwicks Boarding for one year at the rate of four pounds four shillings pr year to be paid quarterly.

A schedule of the Goods brought with her the said Grace when she came to lodge with the said Deborah Bushby the date afored: viz one feather bed, 2 Blanketts, 2 Feather Bolsters, one quilt, a kuggone[?] lining sheet a Bedstead a line whool [____alor?] one shag hat one stew pot a meal box and brown gown one blew gown & jacket one good quilted black petty coat Callamanca, a blew petty coat and one white one brown petty coat a blew cardinall one blue apron a corner cupboard and Box each with a lock a Check and White Apron 2 or 3 caps.

Though poor, Sandwick had a change of clothes. Some of the terms used to describe them are unfamiliar to us today but they tell us about something the quality and durability of what she wore. From the seventeenth century ‘shagg’ was used to describe the nap of cloth. It was often coarse and long. Sometimes it was used to describe worsted cloth having a velvet nap. Such material was often used for linings. Calamanco was an unprinted, plain cotton, often white. The ‘blew cardinal’ was a short cloak with a hood.

The lockable cupboard and box were important as a means of securing possessions, particularly when spaces were shared. For many people in the eighteenth century, a lockable box was the only private storage facility they had. Lockable boxes became associated with servants. They could be used to transport belongings between one job and the next. The lack of a box, as Amanda Vickery points out was ‘a sign of the meanest status’.

Sources

CAS, PR5/43, Greystoke Poor Account Book, 1740-1812.

National Burial Index for England and Wales, St Andrew, Greystoke, 29 January 1814.

Amanda Vickery, Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2009), pp. 38-40.

 

 

John Peake (b.1798), Ironmonger, Furniture Broker and Bankrupt, Lichfield

Figure 1: SRO, LD20/6/7/202, Lichfield, St Mary’s Overseers Vouchers, John Peake, 21 November 1831

Living in Lombard Street, by 1851 John Peake, then operating as a furniture broker (which usually meant a dealer in second hand goods) had a large family. Born in Lichfield in 1798, his wife Charity had been born in Exeter in 1806. Between them they had nine children: Edward (b. 1831), a writing clerk; Ann (b.1834); Peter (b. 1837), a tailor’s apprentice; Thomas (b. 1838); Elizabeth (b.1842); Charity (b.1842); Philip, (b. 1844); Steven (b. 1847); and Arthur (b. 1850).[1] With the exception of Elizabeth, Charity and Philip, who were born in Barton, Staffordshire, all the children were born in Lichfield.

This was his second marriage. The Birmingham Journal in 1826 reported the death of ‘Mrs Peake, wife of Mr John Peake, ironmonger, of Market Street, Lichfield’.[2] She was 32.

Listed in Pigot’s 1828 directory and in White’s 1834 directory as resident in Market Street, Peake supplied the overseers St Mary’s with ironmongery such as nails, coffee pots, and canisters, but, as his bills show, he was also a colourman or dealer in paints and oils.[3]

An advert in the Staffordshire Advertiser in 1829 reveals more about Peake’s business.[4] He was a bell hanger, lock and jobbing smith. His stock, offered at low prices with a five per cent discount for ready money, included cutlery, 52-piece table services, grates, lamps, fenders, fire irons, Britannia metal and ‘japanned’ goods, locks, bolts, hinges, nails, and screws. The same advert also announced that Peake was seeking ‘A respectable youth’ as an apprentice.

Things started to go wrong in July and August 1837 when a fiat of bankruptcy was issued against Peake and his business partner Thomas Hall.[5] They were required to present themselves before the bankruptcy commissioners on 7 September and again on 6 October at the Old Crown Inn, Lichfield. There they were to ‘make a full discovery and disclosure of their estate and effects’, and their creditors were ‘to come prepared to prove their debts’. Those indebted to the bankrupts, or who had any of their effects, were to contact solicitors Messrs. Bartrum and Son, of Old Broad Street London, or Messrs. E. and F. Bond, solicitors, Lichfield. The Bonds also undertook work for the parish of S. Mary’s.

At the end of September the Birmingham Journal announced the immediate disposal of the stock-in-trade, counters, shelves, and implements of Messrs John Peake and Co. ‘ironmongers, braziers, and tinmen in Market Street’.[6]

A dividend was paid to creditors in February 1838 at which point creditors, who had not already proved their debts, were requested to attend the meeting at the Old Crown to prove their claim, or be excluded the benefit of the dividend. Claims not proved at the meeting were to be disallowed.[7]

A certificate of discharge for Peake and Hall was issued in March 1838.[8] This allowed them to pursue business once again. This, however, was not the end of the issue. In December 1838, creditors were informed of a meeting to take place, once again at the Old Crown, with the assignees of the bankrupts’ estate on 21 January 1839.[9]

At the meeting the creditors were to assent or dissent from the assignees commencing a law suit against the trustees and managers of Lichfield’s Bank for Savings and against John Peake, Thomas Hall, and others for the purpose of ‘recovering certain sums of money, now in the hands of the said trustees and managers of the said Bank’. The assignees claimed that the money formed part of the separate estate of Thomas Hall. The creditors were also asked to assent or dissent from allowing the assignees to submit to arbitration in the matter. The matter rumbled on.

Six years later in December 1844, it was announced that John Balguy, a commissioner authorized to act in bankruptcy cases would sit in January 1845 at the Birmingham District Court of Bankruptcy, in order to ‘Audit the Accounts of the Assignees of the estate and effects’ Peake and Hall.[10]

Alongside his wife, in 1861 were their sons Stephen (sic), an architect’s clerk, aged 14; and Arthur; and their grandson, Charles Peake, aged eight.[11] By 1871 Peake’s household in Bore Street was reduced in size again. Living with himself and his wife were their daughter Charity and her husband George Smart who had been born in Essex.[12]


[1] TNA, HO 107/2014, Census 1851.

[2] Birmingham Journal, 4 February 1826, p.3/5.

[3] Pigot and Co., National Commercial Directory [Part 2:] for 1828–29 (London and Manchester: J. Pigot and Co., 1828), p.  716; William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Staffordshire and of the City of Lichfield (Sheffield: 1834), p. 160.

[4] Staffordshire Advertiser, 28 March 1829, p. 1/1.

[5] London Gazette, 25 August 1837, p.  2261; 10 December 1844, p. 5139.

[6] Birmingham Journal, 30 September 1837, p. 5.

[7] London Gazette, 13 February 1838, p. 333.

[8] Globe, 8 March 1838, p. 3.

[9] London Gazette, 28 December 1838, p. 3002.

[10] London Gazette, 10 December 1844, p. 5139.

[11] TNA, RG9/1972, Census 1861.

[12] TNA, RG 2913/37, Census 1871.

Joseph Collins (b.1795), Currier, Tea Dealer and Wine Merchant, Lichfield

Currier Joseph Collins was born in Claydon, Oxfordshire, in 1795.[1] He was the son of Quakers William and Elizabeth Collins. His father was a farmer.

He married twice. First in 1817 to Elizabeth Vaughton, at St Michael’s, Lichfield; and second, to Elizabeth Langley of Rugeley in 1823.[2] The second marriage took place at St Martin’s, Birmingham, on 22 September 1823.[3]

In 1851 Joseph and Elizabeth Collins, were living in Tamworth Street, with their children, Charles, 23, also a currier; and Emma, 19, an organist; and servant, Mary Beech, 20.[4]

Joseph was not listed in the 1818 trade directory, although gardener and seedsman John Collins was listed with an address in St John Street, and an Edward Collins, of the Fountain Inn, Beacon Street.[5] Two curriers and leather dealers were listed: John Langley in Tamworth Street, and Thomas Langley in Bore Street.[6]

By 1828 Joseph Collins of Tamworth Street had replaced John Langley. Thomas Langley continued to operate from Sandford Street.[7] By 1834 Collins was still in business in Tamworth Street, Thomas Langley had disappeared, and the only other currier listed was William Hughes of Dam Street.[8]

A currier’s job was to process tanned hides which involved a number of processes: cleaning, scraping, stretching and finishing with oils, wax or polish.[9]  Collins was also a tea dealer and wine merchant.

SRO, LD20/6/6, Lichfield, St Mary’s Overseers’ Voucher, Joseph Collins, 22 July 1829

Collins supplied the overseers of St Mary’s with leather. His bills are elaborately headed with three distinct images.[10] The first shows the armorial bearings of the Worshipful Company of Curriers with its motto ‘Spes Nostra Deus’ (God is our hope). At the top, arms hold up a currier’s shave, and on the shield are four more pairs of shaves.[11]

In the middle is a classic representation of the tea trade: ‘Chinamen’, tea chests, water and a distant ship.[12] Above this are the printed words ‘Agent to the London Genuine Tea Company, 23 Ludgate Hill’. In 1843 the London Genuine Tea Company placed a notice in the Staffordshire Advertiser.[13] Two circumstances had prompted the announcement: growing concern over the adulteration of tea, which they described as ‘disgraceful transactions’; and the ‘peace recently concluded with the Chinese’. The latter had enabled the Company to increase its stock of the finest teas. Eager to promote its ‘pure and unadulterated teas’, it listed its provincial agents, including Joseph Collins of Lichfield.

The third image shows a woman in a classically-inspired dress standing next to a barrel adorned with vines, and grapes. In her hand and she holds up a wine glass. On top of the barrel is a wine bottle and surrounding the barrel are casks, bottles and a bottle carrier. In the background is a three-masted ship. This image reflects the third strand of Collins’ business, that of ‘Agent to the Wine and Spirit Compy, 141 Fleet Street, London’.

In 1835 elections were held in Lichfield. The results created ‘dissatisfaction’ and the episode was reported widely in the press.[14]

The Staffordshire Advertiser reported that the ‘natural quietude’ of Lichfield ‘has not been proof against the excitement of electioneering ardour … Scarcely has the exercise of the parliamentary franchise ever produced so strong a sensation … Squibs, manifestoes, exhortations, and denunciations have succeeded each other with a rapidity unexampled in the annals of the borough-city’. It continued: ‘Two chief parties divided the town. The Elective Franchise Society … held their meetings at the George Inn. A second and mixed party then met at the Old Crown Inn … [who on polling day] made no public display, and indeed many of them declined voting altogether’.[15]

The Sun commented that the Elective Franchise Society, established soon after the last election, ‘has worked wonders … considering how the city had been confined by the Tories previously thereto. The Tories ‘using all the influence that they were possessed of, as well as using their threats of turning several people out of the official situations which they held, if they did not vote according as they were wished’, failed to get the result they hoped for. The Elective Franchise Society proposed 18 reformers; 17 were elected. One of those newly-elected was currier, Joseph Collins. Other suppliers to the overseers of St Mary’s were also elected: Stephen Brassington, John Meacham, and Nicholas Willday. The one remaining place went to a Tory ‘who had ‘the least number of votes’.

The Wolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser noted that ‘The result of the election has created dissatisfaction and the opponents of the liberals now blame themselves for not having made vigorous opposition’.[16]


[1] TNA, RG 6/34, England and Wales, Society of Friends, Birth 1578-1841, Berkshire and Oxfordshire: Monthly Meeting of Banbury.

[2] SRO, D27/1/18, Lichfield, St Michael, Marriages, 13 April 1817.

[3] Staffordshire Advertiser, 13 December 1823, p.4/3.

[4] TNA, HO 107/2014, Census 1851.

[5] Parson and Bradshaw, William Parson and Thomas Bradshaw, Staffordshire General and Commercial Directory (Manchester: J. Lynch, 1818), p. 170.

[6] Parson and Bradshaw, Directory, p.185.

[7] Pigot and Co., National Commercial Directory [Part 2:] for 1828–29 (London and Manchester: J. Pigot and Co., 1828), p.  716.

[8] William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Staffordshire and of the City of Lichfield (Sheffield: 1834), p 158.

[9] The Worshipful Company of Curriers, https://www.curriers.co.uk/history [accessed 26 June 2020].

[10] SRO, LD20/6/6, St Mary’s, Lichfield, Overseers’ Vouchers, 22 July 1829; 31 December 1829

[11] https://www.curriers.co.uk/history [accessed 26 June 2020].

[12] Peter Collinge, ‘Chinese Tea, Turkish Coffee and Scottish Tobacco: Image and Meaning in Uttoxeter’s Poor Law Vouchers’, Transactions of the Staffordshire Archaeological and Historical Society, XLIX (June 2017), pp. 80–9.

[13] Staffordshire Advertiser, 25 March 1843, p. 1/3.

[14] Wolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser, 30 December 1835, p.2/6.

[15] Staffordshire Advertiser, 2 January 1836, p.3/4.

[16] Wolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser, 30 December 1835, p.2/6.

The Kirkby Lonsdale Digester

On 10 August 1811 wholesale ironmonger George Backhouse of Kendal billed Kirkby Lonsdale Workhouse for a single item, a digester, costing £1 11s 4d.[1] In a pamphlet from around 1740, entitled Cheap provision, recommended to the publick in general, and poor in particular, the purpose of a digesterwas to dissolve bones that could be used in soups and broths.[2] It was not evident how a digester worked.

‘An excellent Broath is made with Bones, dissolved by a digester, and thicken’d with Rice. To make a nourishing and satisfactory Dinner of it Put Half a Pound of Meat, of any Sort, salt or fresh, or both, or Ox Cheek, Cow Heel, Calves, Feet &c cut into Bits, into a Gallon of Water, after you have made it boil and froth up, put in a Pound of Rice, let it Boil for three Hours, adding another Gallon of Water warm’d’.[3] To this, may be added with discretion, ‘any garden stuff … Pease, Turnips, Potatoes, Parsnips, Leeks, … and it may be season’d with Ginger, Jamaica or black Pepper’.

Sixty years later, the snappily-titled The economy of an institution, established in Spitalfields, London, for the purpose of supplying the poor with a good meat soup, At One Penny per Quart. Principally extracted from the Papers of the Society, and published with a view to the Establishment of similar institutions, in towns, villages, and populous neighbourhoods produced by the Society for the Relief of the Industrious Poor, reported that a digester had been installed in Spitalfields, but it was not yet in use.[4] The committee was of the opinion that ‘most of the nutrient may be extracted from the bones by the usual mode of preparing the Soup’, to wit they had four boilers, two of one hundred gallons each and two of 150 gallons each.[5]

The society gave the following recipe for one hundred gallons of soup: eight stones of beef, 16 stones of shin of beef, 46lbs of pease, 36lbs of Scotch barley, 24lbs of onions, 8lbs of salt, 10oz of black pepper.[6] These were to be placed in a boiler filled with water and simmered overnight. In the morning the water was to be topped up.

The reports of the Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor thought a digester saved both food and fuel.[7] The reports gave a description from the Birmingham Soup Shop on how a digester functioned. ‘Soup is prepared by previously dissolving the meat and bones in the digester; a vessel which … is capable of dissolving bones to jelly within a few hours’.[8]

‘The bones are cut into small pieces with an axe, and part of them put into the digester, which is filled two-thirds with water, and the lid screwed down; when the first operation takes place, for two of three hours, with a light weight on the valve. What then remains undissolved is put a second time into the digester, with the rest of the bones, and the same quantity of water, greater weight being laid on the valve, equal to 40lb or 50lb on the square inch. When the bones are supposed to be nearly dissolved, and the vessel cool enough to open, the meat is added … and the whole boiled together for two or three hours, with only a small pressure on the valve’.[9] For this to work successfully, ‘some skill, and a great degree of attention is required’.[10]


[1] Cumbria Archive Service, Kendal, WPR19/7/1/5/1, Kirkby Lonsdale Overseers’ Voucher, George Backhouse, 10 August 1811.

[2] Cheap provision, recommended to the publick in general, and poor in particular (London[?], 1740[?])

[3] Cheap provision, recommended to the publick in general, and poor in particular (London[?], 1740[?]), pp.1-2.

[4] Society for the Relief of the Industrious Poor, The economy of an institution, established in Spitalfields, London, for the purpose of supplying the poor with a good meat soup, At One Penny per Quart. Principally extracted from the Papers of the Society, and published with a view to the Establishment of similar institutions, in towns, villages, and populous neighbourhoods (London: W. Phillips, George Yard, Lombard Street, 1799).

[5] Society for the Relief of the Industrious Poor, The economy of an institution, p. 15.

[6] Society for the Relief of the Industrious Poor, The economy of an institution, p. 14.

[7] Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor, The reports of the Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor  (London: printed by W. Bulmer and Co., 1798-1800), p.151.

[8] Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor, The reports of the Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor  (London: printed by W. Bulmer and Co., 1798-1800), p. 166.

[9] Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor, The reports of the Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor  (London: printed by W. Bulmer and Co., 1798-1800), p. 164.

[10] Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor, The reports of the Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor  (London: printed by W. Bulmer and Co., 1798-1800), p. 164.

Richard Brown (1763–1831), joiner and undertaker, Dalston


Figure 1: Cumbria Archives, SPC44/2/39/5, Richard Brown, 31 August 1830.

The overseers’ voucher above for a coffin, dated 31 August 1830, is addressed to ‘the Late Richard Brown’.[1] 

A memorial stone in Dalston records:

Erected

to the memory of Richard Brown, of Dalston

who died August 26th 1831

Aged 68 years

Also of Matilda, his wife

Who died December 11 1831,

Aged 67 years

Also of Elizabeth, their daughter

Who died March 31st 1799

Aged 7 years

Also of Richard, their son

Who died December 18th 1811

Aged 11 years.[2]

Brown was a joiner and undertaker. According to James Wilson he had ‘a wooden shanty in the small garth by the Grammar School, belonging to Mr Jackson … “He [X] dropt down dead when screwing down a coffin at the New Rookery: Dr Watson tried to blood him, but without effect”’.[3]

The question that arises is whether the Richard Brown (deceased) named in the voucher is the same Richard Brown whose details are recorded on the memorial, even though there is a discrepancy of a year in the dates. It might simply be that the person who wrote the bill, put ‘1830’ instead of 1831, or that James Wilson made an error when transcription error in his
Monumental Inscriptions.


[1] Cumbria Archives, SPC44/2/39/5, Richard Brown, 31 August 1830.

[2] James Wilson, The Monumental Inscriptions of the Church, Churchyard and Cemetery of St Michael’s, Dalston, Cumberland (Dalston, W. R. Beck, 1890), 6.

[3] James Wilson, The Monumental Inscriptions of the Church, Churchyard and Cemetery of St Michael’s, Dalston, Cumberland (Dalston, W. R. Beck, 1890), 140.