Thomas Gill c1737-1789. A Pauper Funeral. Skelton Parish

Thomas Gill lived in Lamonby and Leath in Skelton parish. He was described as a labourer in the parish  according to the records available most of the time. It is assumed that he took on labouring work most of his life and that his income and ability to make a living would be very dependent on his ability to work. Skelton being a rural area the work would most likely involve that related to agriculture


He married Elizabeth (Betty) Gibson when he was 37 and she was 21 on 23 November 1774. It is possible that Gill had been married before as Skelton poor law vouchers show that the parish overseer arranged a binding into an apprenticeship for a Thomas Gill’s son in 1772. Whether this was this Thomas Gill’s son is not known. Thomas and Elizabeth had 5 children William (b.1775) , Hannah (b.1776), Mary (b.1779), Margaret (b.1781) and Elizabeth (b.1786.) When Elizabeth was born Gill was referred to as a pauper. By the 10 March 1789 Gill had died aged 49;  his family  presumably left  to struggle on. His son William had already died in 1775 aged 2 months. Hannah, his daughter, was alive in 1799 and had a son. Thomas. His birth is recorded as illegitimate on 23 May of that year. If his wife Elizabeth remarried or how long she lived is unknown.

Funeral Expenses

Assuming the family were unable to pay for his funeral, Skelton parish appears to have borne the cost. The parish  provided similar provisions for the pauper funeral of Edward Tinkler in 1793 as well as others. With similar items on the small bills and petty cash vouchers. The expense for Gill’s funeral included bread from Wm Nicholson,  £0.4s.0d , Ale and Beer from Ann Todd £0.2s.0d,  butter from Wm Hodgson £1.6s.0d, cheese £0.2s.0d, sugar £0.1s.6d, barley 2 quarter £0.0s.5d, cakespice £0.0s.2d, tobacco 2 0z £0.0s.3d, candles £0.0s.4d,  a shroud £0.2s.6d, 10 oz tea, a coffin £0.12s.0, and Church fees £0.1s.6d; the total cost being £1.8s.5d.  Who consumed the food is not known. This may not be comparable with a pauper’s funeral in the larger cities. The respect afforded the poor in death may have been dependent on parish finance and those who administered them.


In rural areas the fear of resurrectionists and anatomists was probably less than in the larger cities with medical schools. These schools could procure  bodies for research in unethical ways. The Anatomy Act of 1832 proposed to address this by allowing poorhouses, workhouses and hospitals to give up bodies not claimed by friends of relatives to surgeons and teachers of anatomy. Some argued that this would benefit the poor by reducing the cost of medical advice while also helping medical science. The likelihood is it perpetuated the poor’s fear of the workhouse.

The following is taken from Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society iv, 425-435, Rev R.W. Dixon, ‘Hayton: The Old Registers’.

Before poor law unions the poorhouse Hayton was at Street House. it is to this the agreement between Thomas Wharton of Faugh and the churchwardens refers to. Thomas Wharton  had an agreement with Hayton Parish for a year in 1773 for ‘letting of the poor’ for a year. The Parish provided clothing and apparel . Wharton was to mend their clothes and stockings. £5 being appointed for the purpose. Under 1 year olds to be counted with their mother as one person. He was to provide meat, drink, washing and lodgings for the paupers He was given  a weekly allowance of £0.1s.2d each pauper adjusted is they left before the week was out. A yearly salary of £12.10s was appointed to him . If the pauper died in the house he was to be buried at the expense of the parish. What this provision entailed can only be surmised. This practice may have continued with an arrangement  with Thomas Milbourn of Towtop in 1776 for letting of the poor for one year


The Register of the Parish Church of Skelton  Baptisms, Burials and Marriages 1580-1812 Bygone Cumberland and Westmorland. (accessed 9 Dec 2018)

 Rev R W Dixon Hayton: The Old Registers’, Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society. vol iv, 425-435

E.S Thomson, Beloved Poison (London: Churchill, 2016)

Liverpool Mercury, 20 January 1832

PR 102/30 Churchwardens and overseers account book 1740-1796. Includes memorandum on agreement for letting of poor for one year to Thomas Milbourn of Towtop p Hayton,Yeoman, 1776

PR 10/V Poor Law Vouchers Skelton

This is a work in progress subject to change.







Isaac Lightfoot’s Will, Wigton, 1817

Many testators endeavoured to make an equal distribution of their estate amongst their surviving children. Often the distribution to women consisted of personal estate with money placed in the hands of trustees. Men tended to inherit reals and personal estate outright. As an attorney, we might have expected Isaac Lightfoot to have followed this pattern. His will, however, shows what appears to be an unequal distribution of his estate with his eldest son receiving nothing and the favouring of is youngest son Osmotherly. We should be careful, however, as it is entirely possible that John and some of his other siblings had received in-life gifts not mentioned in the will. This may account for the distribution that was made.

In his will of 15 June 1814 (proved 27 March 1817) Isaac Lightfoot described himself as a gentleman. After his just debts and funeral expenses had been paid out of the real estate he owned in Greystoke, his daughters Mary and Margaret were to receive £200 each and £20 each yearly for ten years. They were also given a bed and bedding. Mary was to receive the chest of drawers in the parlour and Margaret the clock and case from the kitchen.

If either daughter died before the expiration of the ten years, leaving lawful issue, then their children would stand in place of their mother and receive their share of Isaac’s estate. If the daughters died leaving no children then the clock and chest of drawers were to go to Isaac’s son Osmotherly. Osmotherly was also to receive all of Isaac’s real estate in Greystoke.

Sons Isaac, Joseph and Osmotherly, were to receive money amounting to £640 due to Isaac the elder on bond or otherwise from John Lightfoot, the brother of Isaac, Joseph and Osmotherly. The amount was to be divided as follows: Joseph £100; Isaac £100 (but if Isaac died the sum or the remainder of it was to be given to Joseph); and £440 to Osmotherly. Osmotherly was also to inherit Isaac’s goods, chattels, bills, bonds, securities for money and personal estate.

Isaac, Joseph and Osmotherly were appointed as executors.

The will was witnessed by Robert Norman and John Mingins.

The value of his effects was under £100.


Cumbria Archives, W184, Will of Isaac Lightfoot of Wigton, 1817

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

Rules of Wigton Female Friendly Society from Frederick Morton Eden’s ‘The State of the Poor’ (1797)

Morton summarises the main rules of the society and adds his own comments.

Healthy women under 43 years of age are admitted, on paying 1s 9d, entrance money, 7d box money, and 1d towards providing a doctor.

A member of 3 years standing is allowed, in case of sickness, 5s a week for the first 10 weeks; 3s a week there afterwards; but no sickness, or lameness, in the time of pregnancy, entitles a member to relief from the Society; but if they are the consequence of pregnancy, such member is entitled to the allowance, to commence one month after her lying in. £5 are allowed towards the funeral expenses of a member, and £2 towards the funeral expenses of a husband; but a member cannot receive the last allowance more than once in her life.

Widows are allowed £2 on the death of a child; and unmarried members £2 on the death of a father, brother &c.

Members disclosing the secrets of the Society, upbraiding one another, refusing to be silent, after due notice, &c are liable to a fine; the framers of these rules, which are very minute, seem to have entertained strong ideas of the loquacity of the sex.

The following rule seems well calculated to punish dissoluteness of manners, among the female part of the labouring class.

If any single or unmarried woman, having had a child, before she entered the Society, shall commit the same crime, when in the Society, she shall be excluded; or, if any married woman shall have a child in the absence of her husband, she also shall be excluded, provided she cannot satisfy the Society in six months.

Members of 20 years standing are allowed 2s a week for life, while the fund consists of £100 and upwards.

For managing the concerns, and keeping the keys of the strong box of this Society, two stewardesses are taken by rotation, and continue six months in office; two collectors, who are chosen by the stewardesses, collect fines, &c: a beadle, and warden, (both females), are likewise taken by rotation; the former is the message bearer, and the latter inspects the public affairs of the Society, to see that the officers discharge their duty, and attends the door on club nights. A committee of six women, is taken by rotation, from the roll every six months, whose business is to determine all controversies, to accept members, with the concurrence of the stewardesses, and to give their assent to the lending or disposing of money, or other things, belonging to this Society. The club meets once a month at an ale house in Wigton, the landlady of which is bound under the penalty of 2s 6d to find them good ale.