Elizabeth Wilson, (fl.1785-1788)

Elizabeth Wilson Voucher PR10/V/16 Skelton


Brief research shows that Elizabeth Wilson’s maiden name was Mathews.  Where or when she was married is unknown. She was the daughter of John Mathews (1700-1783) and Grace Sewell (1704- 1788). Their marriage was registered in Skelton parish 15 July 1731. Grace was baptised 13 April 1732 and her brother Joseph on 21 May 1735.

Elizabeth Wilson received money to help with the care of her mother on 1st November 1785. Other vouchers signed by Isaac Dodd, Vestry Clerk,  are of a similar freehand format. The payment to Elizabeth  was  delivered by the hand of Isaac Holm. It is assumed that the money was collected from or sent to a predetermined place known to Skelton people. Very often this would have been an inn or a well-known shop.

Letters from Elizabeth Wilson to Isaac Dodd were addressed with instructions to be left at the Black Bull, Penrith. The Black Bull was situated in the Corn Market area of Penrith. It had eight lodging rooms and stabling for 21 horses. In 1790 a Mr Murthwaite was the victualler there. Rye was sold outside the Black Bull, wheat at the Black Lion, oats at the Fish Inn and White Hart Inn, and barley at the Griffin. All were situated in or near the Cornmarket area.

By 1785 it appears that  Elizabeth was looking after her mother probably at her home, following John Mathews’ death two years earlier aged 83. He is described as a poor man in the parish register. A voucher of June 1785 lists the clothes and property of Grace Mathews to be delivered to her daughter. Isaac Dodd and Thomas Moses signed at the bottom. Her belongings may have been all she possessed. They Included:

  • 1 Chaf bed
  • 3 blankets
  • 1 pare [pair] of harden sheets
  • 1 bolster and pillow and draw
  • 2 Toppings 1 Rug
  • Bed hangings
  • 1 Bedstead
  • Two Gowns
  • 3 Petticoats
  • 1 Hankerchief
  • 2 Blue Aprons
  • 7 Checked Do[Aprons]
  • 1 pare[pair] of shoes
  • 4 Shifts
  • 2 pare[pair] of Stockings
  • 1 pare[pair] of Clogs
  • 6 Caps
  • 1 chair

The first letter to Dodd in November 1787 has Tindal [Tindale near Farlam] written at the top. She expressed her concern that he has not sent cloth for shifts as the money is not enough to buy clothing on top of her other outgoings. Saying she needed to be able to keep her mother clean and cannot do this without a change of clothes. Asking him to show the letter to the Overseers’, she continues:

I have  tobacco and everything to find. She has been a year and a half that she could not dress herself nor go to bed without help. If you don’t send cloth or money I must be obliged to send her back. I have now had her 3 years at May day.’ 

Elizabeth did get the money sent to her, however, as stated in her letter:

‘I received the money but had a great deal of trouble with a guinea which was not weight. When you send again write on the letter full weight or I shall have no chance with the carrier.’  

Counterfeit coins were problematic around this time and up until the 1830s. Punishment could be severe. Weighing a coin was a way of trying to determine its authenticity. It may have been that Elizabeth thought she had been given money that had been clipped, or that it was a newer design of coin recently minted that she did not recognise. 

The last letter of 15  June 1788 updates Isaac Dodd:

‘I received your letter with cash £0.2.9 in due time as for my mother and me we have had a very bad winter for she lay ever since Martinmass, but thanks be to God she has got it over. She was buried May the 29th 1788. So the money as it happened deferred the expenses of the funeral.’

The hand writing in the two letters differs so Elizabeth may have sought help to write them.

John and Grace Mathews

Further vouchers from the parish of Skelton have been found since this original blog was written that show Elizabeth Wilson’s parents John and Grace received help from the Parish prior to Grace being cared for by Elizabeth. In February 1781 an account of their belongings at Skelton poorhouse was made. The overseer for the poor being a John Pool of Unthank quarter. [photo below] After John’s death on 26 February 1783 Ann Steele  received a payment of £1.6s.6d. for the maintenance of Grace. The payment was made by Isaac Dodd.








Cumbria archives and Library.

Andrew Graham, Secret Penrith  (Amberley 2016)

The Register of the parish of Skelton Cumberland 1580-1812 Baptisms, Marriages and Burials

PR 10/110-112 Letters to the Vestry Clerk

PR 10/V/15 Voucher Cumberland. Small Bills and Petty Finance 1700-1834

Newspapers accessed at www.britishnewspaperarchives.co.uk

Carlisle Patriot, 20 September 1823

Carlisle Journal, 19 October 1839

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 21 August 1771

Cumberland Pacquet and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser, 30 July 1782




Thomas Gill c.1737-1789. A Pauper Funeral. Skelton Parish

Voucher PR10/V/14

Thomas Gill lived in Lamonby and Leath in Skelton parish. He was described as a labourer in the parish  according to the records available. 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 were 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 quarters £0.0s.5d, cakespice £0.0s.2d, tobacco 2 0z £0.0s.3d, candles £0.0s.4d,  a shroud £0.2s.6d, 10oz 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 for each pauper adjusted if they left before the week was out. A yearly salary of £12.10s was given 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.


Cumbria Archives

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/14 item 12 March 10 1789 Skelton Overseers Vouchers 

The Register of the Parish Church of Skelton:  Baptisms, Burials and Marriages 1580-1812

Liverpool Mercury, 20 January 1832

 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)

www.gutenberg.org. Bygone Cumberland and Westmorland. (accessed 9 Dec 2018)


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 real 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 his 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.