Settlement, Redemption and Connections – Richard Ward of Alrewas and Burton, shoemaker (1789-1869)

The Covid-19 lockdown has had many of us setting about de-cluttering and tidying at home. For me a principal tidying target has been the collection of notebooks in which I’ve recorded snippets of information and jottings from research at Staffordshire and Lichfield record offices. Going through one of these a few days ago to make sure I had entered up everything on my laptop in a more organised way, I found some brief notes I’d been trying to track down for ages. These concerned a Richard Ward, shoemaker and the source was Burton St Modwen vestry minutes [1].

On 9 July 1817 these minutes reported that it had been resolved to bring Richard Ward into the workhouse to be employed in making and mending shoes and that his goods be redeemed. On 1 May 1822 the minutes reported that Richard Ward of Alrewas be allowed £5 to assist him in his rent, he being unwell at times. This money was sent to him by a courier. On 16 April 1823 Richard Ward of Alrewas was supplied with some bedding.  Now this was a puzzle. Richard was born in 1789 in Streethay, just north of Lichfield. Parish register entries indicate that his family gradually moved northwards to Fradley and then Alrewas. So why was Burton parish a good eight miles away taking responsibility for him? Clues come from the Alrewas parish register [2] where his marriage by licence to Elizabeth Wootton in 1811 indicates he was “of Burton” and this is confirmed by the associated marriage bond and allegation. [3] He may have gained a settlement in Burton, possibly through apprenticeship.

Resolving a person’s settlement could be a fraught business if they sought parish relief and the overseers suspected another parish should or could be liable. It could also be expensive for the parish if a challenge was disputed. Among the project vouchers submitted by lawyers there are many, many examples of the bills incurred by overseers to resolve matters of settlement.

Sadly, overseers’ vouchers for Burton have not found their way to Staffordshire Record Office, so it is not possible to delve further into Richard’s shoe making and mending while in the parish workhouse in Hawkins Lane. Likewise, vouchers for St Michael’s parish in Lichfield (which includes Streethay) have not survived. Vouchers for Alrewas parish were processed for the project and these show that it did not have its own workhouse but sent paupers over to nearby Rosliston in south Derbyshire. [4]

At one of the workshops held at Stafford in connection with the project, Dr Joe Harley set out how useful pauper inventories could be as sources of information. His talk drew on research published in 2015. [5] His paper sets out evidence for the able-bodied poor using the workhouse as a short-term survival strategy. This may well have been the case for Richard.

Overseers’ vouchers for Uttoxeter [6] show that the constable was ordered on 15 Feb 1832 to grant relief to William Breeze to redeem his bundle of clothes and resume his journey to London, and that Joseph Barnes was paid 8 shillings on 20 March 1835 to redeem four articles belonging to Sarah James. Likewise overseers’ vouchers for Tettenhall [7] show payments of 2s to Francis Taylor on 24 Feb 1831 to redeem James Billingsley’s coat, of 6d on 28 June 1832 to redeem Maria Williams’ shawl and of 19s 2½d on 29 June 1832 to redeem Thomas Williams’ coat and for an inquest .

Richard Ward’s experience of Burton workhouse did not put him off returning to the town after his youngest child was born in Alrewas in 1825. It is possible to track the family living in Burton through the 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses until Richard died in 1869 and was buried in Burton’s new municipal cemetery at Stapenhill. Two of his sons (William and Richard) lived out their lives in Burton, too. I have visited all their graves and stood the proverbial six feet above. Richard was my 4xgreat grandfather and William my 3xgreat grandfather. I know lots about their various doings.

During Dr Pete Collinge’s Zoom-based talk to the Erasmus Darwin Society on 28 Jan 2021 on ‘Food and the Georgian pauper: evidence from Sandford Street Workhouse Garden , c. 1770-1834’, a lady attending provided illuminating and fascinating information about cottages on Sandford Street in Lichfield and on the Sedgewick family from her own family memories. It never ceases to amaze me just what detail emerges from studying the overseers’ vouchers and other records in connection with this project and the buzz of excitement that comes from connecting with one’s own family.

[1] SRO, B12, Burton St Modwen Vestry minute book, 1805-1840

[2] SRO, D783/1/1/6 Alrewas All Saints, Register of marriages

[3] SRO, PAL/C/6,7/1811/Ward, Alrewas marriage bond and allegation

[4] SRO D783/2/3 Overseers’ vouchers for Alrewas

[5] Harley, J., ‘Material lives of the poor and their strategic use of the workhouse during the final decades of the English old poor law’. Continuity and Change, 30, (2015), pp. 71-103 doi:10.1017/S0268416015000090

[6] SRO, D3891/6/37/12/1 and D3891/6/41/7/21 Overseers’ vouchers for Uttoxeter

[7] SRO, D571/A/PO/65/13; D571/A/PO/69/71; D571/A/PO/69/173 Overseers’ vouchers for Tettenhall

Abel Rooker, surgeon in Darlaston (1787-1867) Part 3 Abel’s sons

The executors appointed by Abel in his will were two of his sons, one from each marriage. Interestingly these sons were Rev James Yates Rooker of Lower Gornal and Rev John Rooker of Islington, both of them Anglican clergymen. Another son, William Yates Rooker, had also been a clergyman and his wife, Mary Jemima Rooker, took out a complaint against James Yates Rooker over her husband’s estate.

James Yates Rooker led a remarkable life. As a curate at Bamford near Hathersage in Derbyshire he caught the attention of Ellen Nussey who was a lifelong correspondent of Charlotte Bronte’s. Ellen and Charlotte met at Roe Head school in Mirfield in 1831 and Charlotte visited Ellen when she lived with her brother Henry Nussey, who was vicar of Hathersage. He is believed to have proposed to Charlotte in 1839 but was rejected. Ellen and Charlotte’s letters show them indulging in some amusing girl talk about the local curate James Yates Rooker and Charlotte is moved in a letter dated 31 July 1845 to issue a gentle warning to her friend to be on her guard against James’ attractions (perhaps somewhat tongue-in-cheek). Charlotte’s visits to Hathersage are understood to have provided background material for her novel Jane Eyre.

James went on to become the vicar of Lower Gornal in Staffordshire and was joined there by his father after Abel’s second wife Frances died and Abel retired as a surgeon. Abel died in 1867 but some years later in 1879 James became the victim of a murderous attack by one of his parishioners. The incident is ably set out on the Sedgley manor website (http://www.sedgleymanor.com/stories/stories.html).

James survived the murder attempt and went on to serve the parish until his death in 1887.

 

Abel Rooker, surgeon in Darlaston (1787-1867) Part 2 Non-conformist antecedents

Abel was baptised into a dissenting family in Walsall in Feb 1788. His parents James and Mary Rooker apprenticed him to a Walsall surgeon, Francis Weaver, who was a member of the same dissenting congregation. Such an apprenticeship would not have been cheap but it would open up opportunities for a professional career that did not require a university degree, which Abel would not have been eligible for (at least in England) with his non-conformist background.

Abel’s non-conformist family background was a distinguished one. His great grandfather Samuel Rooker (c.1694-1768) was a cooper from West Bromwich and a member of a dissenting congregation that met at Bank Court in Walsall (on the north side of High Street). Samuel and his son Samuel junior, also a cooper, were among several people keen to secede from this congregation on doctrinal grounds. In 1751 they built a small chapel (approximately 10 ½ feet by 9 feet) on land at Hill Top in Walsall (actually more like West Bromwich). This building was registered for religious worship on 17 May 1751 and just a week later was attacked by a mob and destroyed. It was not until 1763 that the discontented group were able to secede, when twenty-eight members and two deacons began to meet in a new building erected in Dudley Street, Walsall. This congregation flourished until 1790 when, on finding that their premises were too small, laid plans to erect a new chapel in Bridge Street. This opened in September 1791 at a cost of £2, 125 13s, with all debts on the building cleared by 1795. Abel’s baptism is recorded in the Bridge Street chapel register but, as it took place in Feb 1788, it is most likely the ceremony actually happened in the Dudley Street premises.

Samuel senior had another son James who showed a vocation for church leadership and he was sent to study at the dissenting academy in Bedworth, Warwickshire under John Kirkpatrick. James was invited by a dissenting congregation in Bridport, Dorset to become their first minister in 1751. In 1764 the dissenting academy at Ottery St Mary (founded by Rev John Lavington in 1752-54) moved to Bridport, following Lavington’s death in December that year, to continue under Rev James Rooker’s tutelage. James built a house (Bridge House at the far end of East Street) in 1765 to accommodate both his family and the students. This became a hotel in the 1980s. James continued at Bridport until shortly before his death in 1780. The history of the Bridport congregation mirrored that of the Walsall one with a group seceding from the established Presbyterian congregation in the town in 1742, which went on to build a chapel at Barrack Street in 1746. It was not until 1750 that they issued an invitation to James Rooker to become their minister. He was ordained on 16 October 1751 after serving a fairly lengthy apprenticeship (a common practice followed by dissenting congregations of this type).

Links between the Rooker family in the Black Country and the West Country continued after the Rev James’ departure for the south-west as evidenced in probate and property documents well recorded in a paper by Alan Sell. One link not mentioned by Sell was the baptism of Samuel junior’s son James Rooker by his uncle Rev James at Bridport in 1757. The baby’s parents were recorded as Samuel and Joanna Rooker of West Bromwich.

A P F Sell, ‘The Walsall riots, the Rooker family and eighteenth century dissent’, Transactions of the South Staffordshire Archaeological Society (1983-4), 25, pp. 50-71.

[transferred from old blog]

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.

 

 

Medicated Vapour Baths – for paupers?

Medicated vapour baths became popular in England in the 1820s. Such things were available in earlier decades, but Sake Deen Mohamed advertised them via both his published works and his bathing establishment at Brighton. The treatment he offered for muscular and similar ailments involved massage and steamy bathing with the addition of Indian oils. He introduced the word ‘shampooing’ to popular usage, although with a slightly different meaning to its current one (ie rubbing the body, whereas we lather our hair). Mohamed was named ‘shampooing surgeon’ to George IV and William IV.

https://wellcomecollection.org/works/xg5ewh67

What did such fashionable treatments have to do with the Staffordshire poor? We might have guessed ‘none’: but we would have been wrong. Spa towns like Buxton had long made bathing facilities available to poor patients, albeit in a heavily regulated way.  In 1785 for example the poor were admitted to bathe at Buxton between the months of May and October, on Mondays only, and funded places were limited to sixteen beneficiaries at any one time.  Successful applicants to the Buxton charity had to support their appeal with ‘a letter of recommendation from some lady or gentleman from his own locality certifying whether he was a proper object of charity, and if the patient was a pauper, also a certificate signed by the Churchwardens or Overseers of the poor that the pauper’s settlement was in, and a certificate from a physician or apothecary that the case was proper for the Buxton waters’.  In the 1820s, though, copyists of Mohamed developed their own vapour bathing equipment which was not dependent on location. Charles Whitlaw patented his medicated baths which could be installed in any town, and published his Scriptural Code of Health in 1838 thanking Anglican and Dissenting clergy for funding treatments for miscellanous workhouse poor.

It was still a surprise, though, to discover that the parish of Alrewas actually sent its paupers to a medicated vapour bathing establishment in Wolverhampton. The vouchers show that in 1831 the parish sent William Riley to the baths run by surgeon Edward Hayling Coleman at Dudley Street in Wolverhampton, albeit the parish paid the resulting bill rather slowly. In early 1832 they also sent a woman called Eams, possible Ann Eams born at Fradley in 1805 or her mother Mary, who Coleman reported in March to be ‘somewhat better’ as a result.

Coleman had invested in Whitlaw’s patented bathing equipment, and set up two facilities for treatment.  There was a public bath in Dudley Street costing 3s6d a time, and he also saw the more prosperous of his patients at his own house in Salop Street for 5s per bathing session.  We do not know the diagnosis for either Riley or Eams, but Coleman promoted his baths for cases of scrofula, cutaneous diseases, liver complaints, gout, rheumatism, asthma and (very optimistically) ‘cancer in it’s incipient stage’.  When the first cholera epidemic swept Britain in 1831-2, Coleman even reserved one or more of his baths ‘for the gratuitous use of the poor’.

 

Sources:  Ernest Axon, ‘Historical Notes on Buxton, its Inhabitants and Visitors: Buxton Doctors since 1700’ (1939), among the ‘Axon Papers’ held at Buxton Museum and Art Gallery ; Charles Whitlaw, The Scriptural Code of Health (London, 1838); SRO D 783/2/3/12/8/2/2 Alrewas overseers’ voucher, bill of Edward Coleman to the parish 1831; D 783/2/3/13/7/1 Alrewas overseers’ correspondence, letter from Edward Coleman 1832; Wolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser 22 June 1831 and 16 November 1831.

 

 

Curious Change of Occupation or dual occupations for Henry Tibbats?

Voucher number D4383/6/1/9/3 in the collection for Wednesbury is a fairly usual sort of bill but was rather feint. It is a bill from Henry Tibbats to Mr Gest dated 30 April 1782.

It reads that Mr Gest Bott [bought] of Henry Tibbats for the [use?] the poor 16 yds woollen jersey at 14d £0.18s. 8d. Recd. the contents of this Bill by me Hen. Tibbats

However, because it was feint I thought I would check to see if Henry was listed in Wednesbury in the 1791 Universal British Directory to make sure I had read the name correctly. Sure enough Henry Tibbats appears in Wednesbury but as a Saw and Trowel Maker.

Now I cannot see the connection between supplying Woollen Jersey material for the Poor in 1782 and being a Saw and Trowel maker in 1791 unless Henry has a wife running a shop under his name (but that is not listed in 1791). Either that or there were two Henry Tibbats

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.

Mary Middleton, Wednesbury

Several Poor Law Vouchers for Wednesbury, Staffordshire1 are bills from either M. Middleton or Mary Middleton for supplying Oatmeal to the Overseers of the Poor. (Circa 1790-1814)

Mary obviously kept a low profile as she has proved very elusive and this is probably the same for many business women of the age.

As many other vouchers appeared to be in a male name with receipts often signed by a female I firstly looked for a marriage between a male Middleton and a Mary 1740-1795 but didn’t find one.

Then I looked for a Baptism in Wednesbury for Mary Middleton but didn’t find one.

After that I repeated the searches with a widened net and found 2 baptisms in Walsall for a Mary Middleton. The first one is on 2 Feb 1759 d/o Joseph and Ann but that Mary appears to die in 1760. The second baptism seems to be to the same couple 29 September 1763. Unfortunately findmypast.co.uk doesn’t have the images of the Baptism online just the transcript. Nor are they on Ancestry Library edition.

 I looked in the Historical records on Familysearch.org to see if they had Walsall images which they didn’t but I found the 1801 Census for Walsall and Joseph Middleton was listed in Ablewell St. as a victualler with 2 males and 3 females. Ablewell St. to Wednesbury would be 4.7 miles according to google maps. (1 of the 3 females could be Mary)

Mary is not listed in either the Universal British Directory 1791 or Parson and Bradshaw’s directory of 1818. However Mary’s Father Joseph Middleton is listed in 1818 as a Victualler and Maltster at the Royal Oak, Abelwell St. Walsall.

Mary does not appear in the 1841 Census so had presumably married or died before then as I failed to find her.

I also tried looking for a marriage for Mary Middleton after 1800 (and the dates on the vouchers) but the only one was in 1790 and if that is her she must have been in business using her maiden name.


Mary may have died in 1824 as I found a burial for Mary Middleton in the transcriptions of St Peter & St Paul Roman Catholic Church, Wolverhampton on 03 Jul 1824 no age is given. There were no burials for Mary in Wednesbury 1800-1840

 I am not sure if we will find anything else.


1  ( D4383/6/9/1/16/3 (1790) D4383/6/9/2/51, D4383/6/9/3/6/6, D4383/6/9/3/17, D4383/6/9/3/68, D4383/6/9/3/77, D4383/6/9/3/95, D4383/6/9/3/1/104, D4383/6/9/3/192, D4383/6/9/3/214