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

Who were you, Ann Peakes?

In 1831 Uttoxeter parish was paying for the support of one of its paupers, William Harrison, while he was living in Belper.  William was young, aged only 20, but very poorly and he died in October that year.  During his illness he was awarded a weekly sum of money between 3s and 5s, and when he died he was buried from the Belper workhouse.  The receipt of the money and the subsequent funeral expenses were receipted with the shaky ‘X’ of one Ann Peakes, despite the fact that Harrison’s father and namesake was also living in Belper at the time.  So who was Ann?

Peakes

There are a number of options.  She was either the nurse who took the weekly money as a salary for the care of Harrison junior during his illness, or a workhouse employee, or merely an intermediary between the parishes of Uttoxeter and Belper and the Harrison family.  Genealogical research reveals no more, in that the only Ann Peakes discernible in Belper crops up on the 1851 census as the wife of an agricultural labourer.  If the author of the ‘X’ was the same person as the census entrant, then she was only 20 at the time of Harrison’s demise (ie already married and the same age as Harrison himself).  Parish nurses were typically older than 20, but it is not impossible that a young married women might make money from parish employment in this way. 

Source: SRO D3891/6/35/1/11.

James Sowter (1783-1832)

James Sowter was born on 9 December 1783 to Samuel and Mary Sowter of Ashbourne in Derbyshire.  He was one of at least five children born to the couple, including older brothers John and Charles, older sister Frances, and younger brother Samuel.  James married Elizabeth Noble by licence in Ashbourne in May 1815, and was buried in the town in December 1832. The couple appear not to have had any children.

The Sowters were pig dealers or jobbers.  The brothers began in business with their father, but in 1808 the partnership between Samuel senior and his sons Samuel the younger, John and James was dissolved.  All debts owing to the concern were to be received by the same men with the exception of John, who presumably wanted to work alone.  The brothers all signed the dissolution agreement, while Samuel the elder merely made his mark.

Image courtesy of the Wellcome Trust: R. Hills, etching of an outdoor pig pen, c. 1815 https://wellcomecollection.org/works/r5wfkuvp. The blanket in the background advertises the engraver, rather than the pig-keeper!

The family supplied the parish of Uttoxeter with pigs between 1821 and 1829.  Their beasts sold for sums between £1 2s and £3 3s apiece, with variations presumably being based on age or size, and on whether adult sows were already in pig.  Samuel Sowter (who may have been the father or the son) supplied two pigs in 1823, but Samuel senior died in 1824 meaning that pig deals thereafter were with Samuel junior or, more regularly, James.  Uttoxeter bought nine pigs from James up to February 1829 but then the parish’s relationship with the family ceased.  Pigs were bought from a range of other men in 1831 including John Williams, Isaac Laban and Thomas Chatterton, but the Sowters had lost or given up the Uttoxeter parish business.

When James died, his widow Elizabeth turned to inn-keeping.  She had been the daughter of Mr Noble of the Red Lion Inn of Ashbourne, and so presumably knew the business.  In the period 1849-53 she was listed as a widow and publican at the White Lion Inn. She died in Ashbourne in 1855.

Sources: Ashbourne St Oswald baptism of 22 February 1784, marriage of 2 May 1815; London Gazette 14 May 1808, p. 685; SRO D 3891/6/8 and D 3891/6/9; SRO D3891/6/37/4/4; Derby Mercury 5 December 1832; Post Office Directory for Ashbourne (1849); census 1851; Staffordshire Advertiser 8 October 1853; Derbyshire Advertiser 28 September 1855.

Ralph Bagshaw (c.1772-1841)

Ralph Bagshaw was a grocer in Uttoxeter who supplied the poor law with both everyday items like rice but also spices and other goods like nutmeg and dried fruit – and not necessarily just at Christmas time. His bill-head represented him as a global trader, with barrels carrying his initials prominent in a non-specific but probably eastern location.

Bagshaw

Bagshaw was born in approximately 1772, married Maria Taylor in Uttoxeter in 1796, and went on to run his grocery business in the town with his two eldest sons, Edward Stanford Bagshaw and Thomas Bagshaw. His third son and namesake Ralph became a solicitor.

Bagshaw was prominent among the grocers supplying the poor law, but his importance could fluctuate quite significantly from year to year.  In 1821-2 for example he was paid £18 0s 2d for groceries, which represented nearly a third of the parish’s outlay on similar goods.  Other grocers in the town such as James Smith, Lewis Hall, and Michael Clewley, along with the firm Porter and Keates, competed with him to supply the workhouse with groceries, but none of them were paid so much as Bagshaw.  Compare this with grocery suppliers in 1823-4, and the picture had utterly changed.  Bagshaw was paid just £5 19s 6d, less than a tenth of the total outlay on groceries, whereas Michael Clewley was paid £20 1s 4.5d.  Clewley had supplanted Bagshaw for the supply of rice and other goods, but it is not yet clear whether this was simply because firms took equitable ‘turns’ in different years, or whether the well-connected churchwarden Clewley had more leverage.

After Ralph senior’s death in 1841 the grocery was carried on by Edward and Thomas. The will was witnessed by surgeon George Alsop whose biography (along with Clewley’s) is included in this blog.

Sources: Uttoxeter St Mary marriage of 20 October 1796; D 3891/6/8 Uttoxeter volume of parish bills, 1821-4; D 3891/6/35/3/41 Uttoxeter overseers’ voucher for groceries 27 January 1831; D 3891/6/40/7/29 Uttoxeter overseers’ voucher for groceries 31 October 1833;  Ralph Bagshaw will proved 1841.

John Beard (1766-1839)

John Beard was one of at least six children born in Wichnor parish to Thomas Beard and Mary (nee Smith).

John was a tailor who also, at the age of 60, took on the task of salaried or ‘assistant’ overseer in Whittington for twelve guineas a year.  As a result he is a signatory to many of the receipts paid for relief to the poor, and to numerous other parish documents such as apprenticeship indentures.  He also took apprentices himself into the tailoring business, including towards the end of his life twelve-year-old William Birch.  He did not receive an apprenticeship ‘premium’ or payment with this child, suggesting that he took the lad on willingly without financial inducement as mutually beneficial: Birch obtained training, while Beard continued in work into old age.  It may have been significant for Beard’s personal finances that the role of assistant overseer came to an end in the mid 1830s with the implementation of the reformed poor law.

Image courtesy of the Wellcome Trust: R. Seymour, a satirical illustration of a lecture for tailors, 1829, https://wellcomecollection.org/works/b3563szd. Note the attendees sit cross-legged, rather than on chairs, the presumed habitual posture of a tailor.

Beard died from ‘schirrus of the stomach’, a form of stomach cancer, in early December 1839.  His will left everything to his niece Elizabeth Elson, daughter of John Beard’s younger brother Thomas Beard and the wife of Joseph Elson.  William Birch’s apprenticeship had years left to run, so he was transferred to a Joseph Elson, possibly a different man to John’s nephew-in-law, for the completion of his term.

This story looks relatively simple, but it has had to be disentangled from that of another John Beard, a younger man, whose relationship to the parish officer is unclear (possibly a nephew or cousin).  John Beard junior owned land in Whittington adjoining that of John Beard senior, according to the Tithe Award, and was described as a ‘retired tradesman’ shortly before his death in 1861.

Sources: Tatenhill marriage of 27 June 1756; Wichnor baptism of 26 January 1766; Staffordshire Record Office D 4838/9/1/1-3 appointment of assistant overseer 1826-34; D4384/9/7/51 apprenticeship papers 1839-40; death certificate of 14 December 1839; PC 11 (1840) will of John Beard; tithe award index for Staffordshire; 1861 census for Whittington.

George Fieldstaff (c. 1789-1864)

George Fieldstaff was someone who benefited from the Old Poor Law as a labourer who was employed for his strength but also as a supplier of accommodation.  Unusually, for histories of the Old Poor Law, he spans the boundary of pauper-ratepayer.

He was baptised George Fieldstead in 1796, the son of James and Sarah Fieldstead, but all later census entries suggest that he was up to ten years old at the time of baptism.  The family’s surname is given variously as Fieldstad and Fieldstid before finally settling on Fieldstaff in the 1820s.  George married Elizabeth Bacon in 1820 and the couple had at least two children (Elizabeth and William), but he became a widower in 1824.  He then married Maria Brough (born c. 1786), who was herself a widow, on 17 January 1825, for which event neither spouse signed their name.  The second marriage produced at least one daughter, Martha, although not until 1835.

Censuses later describe Fieldstaff as an agricultural labourer and hawker, but after the death of his first wife he needed to turn to the parish for help and spent time as an inmate of the Uttoxeter workhouse.  By 1829 he was being employed in the workhouse brickyard, presumably cutting clay or hefting bricks in the manner of an industrial labourer, because he was paid for his work in May 1829.  In July 1829 was prosecuted at the Staffordshire quarter sessions for refusing to work while in the house but was paid again after he had resumed work in September of the same year.

Census labels notwithstanding, the most characteristic and persistent aspect of his employment history (discernible at this distance) is his keeping of a lodging house.  George Fieldstaff had escaped the workhouse by 1832, as between August 1832 and March 1833 Uttoxeter parish paid repeatedly to lodge itinerant people at his house on Smithy Lane, later Smithfield Road.  He charged three pence per night for an adult and one penny for a child.  By 1834 he was paying poor rate on the property as an occupier, on the basis of a presumed rental value of £1 15s per year.  This value was downgraded for subsequent years to less than half this sum, namely 13s 4d.

Image courtesy of the Wellcome Trust: G. Cruikshank, police raid a lodging house at night, 1848, https://wellcomecollection.org/works/xtqtzw9j

This level of rent value does not suggest that the Fieldstaffs offered a high standard of accommodation.  Lodgers from 1841 onwards were occasionally listed as women of independent means, but this might have been disingenuous or even sardonic as most of the occupants of the house were labourers, or even beggars.  At the time of the 1861 census, George and Maria were playing host to their grand-daughter Mary Ann Fieldhouse (who should properly have been identified as Mary Ann Hughes), but also housed eleven boarders aged from their teens to the seventies, born nearby (Ashborne) or much further away (Ireland).

Fieldhouse’s eldest daughter Elizabeth decamped to Burton on Trent with brazier Thomas Hughes and although they probably did not marry, they had numerous children together.  They may have been itinerant workers themselves for a time, as the birthplaces of the children are given variously as Ashby in Leicestershire, Stafford, Rugby, and Cheadle as well as Burton.  Maria ‘Fieldstaff’ baptised 1839 was probably the oldest illegitimate daughter of Elizabeth and Thomas (rather than the youngest daughter of George and Maria), because when she married she gave her father’s name as Thomas ‘Ewers’, a brazier (thereby claiming mother’s common-law husband as her father for the purposes of marriage registration).

George Fieldstaff was buried at St Mary’s church in Uttoxeter apparently aged 75, and left no will.  His only known descendants arise from the union of his daughter Elizabeth with Thomas Hughes, and who took the surname Fieldstaff-Hughes.

Sources: Staffordshire Record Office Q/SB 1829 M/20a; D3891/6/34/2/32 overseers’ voucher 1829; D3891/6/34/6/27; D3891/6/35/2/29 overseers’ voucher 1830; D3891/6/38/3/6 overseers’ voucher 1832; D3891/6/39/8/52a overseers’ voucher 1833; D3891/6/70-75 Uttoxeter poor rate books 1832-1838; 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses; baptisms of 9 November 1796,  27 March 1821, 11 December 1823, 13 May 1835, 30  August 1839, Uttoxeter, and 1860 Roman Catholic church, Burton on Trent; marriages of 2 November 1820, Milwich, 17 January 1825, Uttoxeter, and 1863, Burton on Trent; burials of 30 August 1824 and 23 August 1864, Uttoxeter; http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?topic=500878.msg3577237#msg3577237; with thanks to Dave Marriott for information about Smithy Lane/Smithfield Road.

Coining it, in and around Darlaston

Darlaston’s history is intimately connected to the history of metal-working, particularly  the manufacture of gun-locks and other mechanical components.  We were startled, though, to find such expertise put to felonious ends, and the constable of Darlaston (Thomas Partridge) drawn in to give evidence against the accused.

In 1819 three men were tried at the Staffordshire Assizes ‘for having, at the parish of Darlaston, in the county of Stafford..traitorously made and counterfeited a certain piece of coin to the likeness of a shilling’.  Joseph Wilkes, Thomas Earp alias Reddall and John Duffield stood trial for their lives, since coining was a capital offence.  Witnesses were able to show that Earp had been apprehended with a parcel of metal blanks hidden inside his umbrella, and that Wilkes had taken possession of the dies or ‘stamps’ used to convert the blanks into counterfeit coin.  Duffield was the organiser of the scheme.

Image courtesy of the Wellcome Trust: an eighteenth-century illustration of a machine used in coining https://wellcomecollection.org/works/fuxnvhmx

The three men were working within a midlands network of counterfeiters, and were not apparently inhibited or deterred by the prosecution or execution of members of the circle.    John and Mary Bissaker of Warwick pursued a career in coining, and when John was executed in 1800 Mary carried on (narrowly avoiding execution herself in 1807).  It was Mary’s arrest and prosecution in 1819 that prompted the transfer of dies to the Darlaston men, and Mary’s execution that signaled the movement of the trade from Warwick to Darlaston.

But perhaps the most surprising part of the story is still to come.  When the three defendants were found guilty, Mr Justice Richardson initially sentenced them all to death; yet ‘the prisoners begged loudly for mercy; and the learned Judge was much affected.’  The astonishing result of this spontaneous appeal was that Richardson rescinded the death penalty for both Wilks and Earp, leaving Duffield as the only perpetrator paying for his crime with his life.  Surely this established a problematic precedent for this particular Judge, and for consistency of sentencing, even if it was expressive of candid humanitarianism?

Sources: The Times, 10 August 1819, p. 3; I.M. and M.K. Baker, ‘John Duffield of Darlaston and his descendants’,  http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/articles/Duffield/page2.htm, viewed 28 June 2018

Morris Brothers, Aldridge and West Bromwich

Written by Denise, posted by Alannah

Intrigued when examining two Poor Law vouchers for Aldridge, Staffordshire, which mentioned the trial of “the three Morrises”, my research revealed two brothers were both transported in 1819 to Australia for 7 years for Larceny (Theft).

Included in the description of costs claimed by Constable James Wakeman in a voucher (receipt): “Prosecution of the Three Morris’s” are various journeys and duties commencing 7 Jan 1818, including: taking Thomas Morris at Aldridge, executing two search warrants, attending his prosecution at Shenstone, using a chaise to take the prisoner to Stafford Prison, bringing the prisoner home from [West] Bromwich, journeys of witnesses, a journey to “West Bromwich and Wednesbury to take Mrs Morris”.

Included in the invoice for legal costs incurred on 13 March 1818 by attorneys Messrs Croxall and Holbecke, were costs “Instructions for Brief and preparing same against Thomas Morris on the prosecution of Samuel Boden, the like against Hannah, Thos and John Morris on the prosecution of Sophia Rogers…” and then on the same date “attending at Stafford conducting these prosecutions when Thomas and John Morris were transported”.

My research revealed Thomas and John Morris were born and baptised in West Bromwich, Staffordshire in November 1793 and October 1790 respectively to Hannah (nee Sheldon, 1764-1823) and James Morris (1765-1836).  There were at least four other siblings, Elizabeth, Mary, James and Anne, in the family with ancestors that can fairly easily be traced back to the seventeenth century.

Reports in The Staffordshire Advertiser revealed Thomas was tried at the Stafford Lent Assizes in March 1818 for the theft of a goose and a gander, whilst John and their mother Hannah were tried for “various other felonies”. Hannah was acquitted but John was found guilty of the “theft of wearing apparel” and was sentenced to 7 years Transportation along with brother Thomas.

It seems unlikely that the brothers were sentenced to transportation on first offences but with criminal records at that time usually only quoting names, and not ages or addresses, it is not possible to confirm what other offences might have been committed.  Transportation for 7 years seems to be the customary, albeit harsh, sentence for those convicted of larceny.

They remained at Stafford Gaol until being removed, along with 19 other convicts under sentence of transportation, to the hulks (holding prison ships) at Sheerness, Kent.  They did not leave England until 14 June 1819 when they sailed to Australia on the “Malabar” with 168 other convicts, arriving at Sydney, New South Wales, on 30 October 1819.

Various convict records describe the two brothers: Thomas was 27 years old, a locksmith and was 5ft 5 ½” with a “dark pale” complexion, black hair and hazel eyes. John was 29, a pistol maker, and shorter at 5ft 3 ½”, with a “dark pale”complexion, brown hair and grey eyes with a blemish in the right eye.

They appear to have served out their sentence in Sydney and remained there when granted Certificates of Freedom in March 1825, with Census records indicating they were living together in Market Street, Sydney, in 1828; Thomas was now a gunsmith and John a barber.  There are no apparent records of Thomas marrying or having a family although John secured permission to marry a Bonded Convict (still serving her sentence) in 1829, Catherine Richardson, who had also been sentenced to 7 years Transportation for “Coining” (passing counterfeit coins), arriving on “Competitor” the previous year.

Catherine died in 1842 and there are no records of their children, although John seems to have fathered a daughter with an “Anne D” according to other ancestry trees in 1850.

Both brothers stayed in the Sydney area, Thomas dying aged 56 years in 1850 and John in 1868, aged 78 years.  It is unlikely that they would remained in contact with their family in West Bromwich, Staffordshire, so would have been unaware that father James died in 1836 and their mother, Hannah, in 1823. Their only brother James seems to be more law-abiding, residing with his wife and family in West Bromwich and employed as a pistol filer until he died in 1860.

Sources of Information:

SRO D120/A/PO/102, Aldridge Overseers’ Vouchers dated 15 Mar 1818

SRO D120/A/PO/103, Aldridge Overseers’ Vouchers dated 1818

England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975

England & Wales, Criminal Registers, 1791-1892

New South Wales, Australia, Convict Indents, 1788-1842

Australian Convict Transportation Registers – Other Fleets & Ships, 1791-1868

New South Wales, Australia, Convict Applications for the Publications of Banns, 1828-1830, 1838-1839 New South Wales, Australia, Convict Records,  1810-1891

Australia, Marriage Index, 1788-1950

1828 New South Wales, Australia Census (Australian Copy)

New South Wales, Australia, Historical Electoral Rolls, 1842-1864

New South Wales, Australia, Certificates of Freedom, 1810-1814, 1827-1867

Australia, Death Index, 1787-1985

Australia, Birth Index, 1788-1922

Ancestry Family Trees

Top Trumps explained

The game of Top Trumps depicting people found by the Small Bills project arrived on my doorstep yesterday, and in less than five minutes my son was demanding an explanation of the different categories of score.

Like similar games, each card has a subject (in this case a woman, man, or child associated with the Old Poor Law) and scores in five categories. The scores are frequently assigned approximately or randomly rather than according to a system or to strict data – at least that has been my assumption when playing these games with my children. Therefore the scores are not rigid indicators of research, but either approximations or entirely made up (to ensure a good range of scores across all of the characters).

‘Life Story’ provides a score out of five and notionally indicates the extent to which we can know the details of someone’s life. The East Sussex diarist Thomas Turner is the only one of our people who left such a lengthy personal document, so in honour of this fact he is the only person with the top score of five. Everyone else gets between one and four, based loosely on how well we can hope to research their biography, and find out details of their lives.

Agency is given as a percentage, and alludes to the range of action open to each person. The dead pauper Charles Aldritt has an agency score of zero, whereas the litigious Cumbrian businessman Charles Thurnam has the highest score (95%) in recognition of his willingness to throw his weight around.

Surname rarity has a greater measure of system behind it. I looked at the prevalence or otherwise of each surname according to the website https//:forebears.io and then converted the rankings into a score out of 1000. This process awards Ann Tomsat the highest score of 995, and gives Elizabeth Wilson just 10.

Persistence refers to the number of decades (out of ten) where we might hope to be able to trace the person in historical records, including but not limited to the vouchers. I had to tinker with this set of scores a little, so they do not necessarily represent what I know to be true or feel to be possible for all characters: the risk was that, otherwise, many people would have had a score of just one!

Finally Poverty Rating ranks the cards from one to thirty based on the severity of their poverty relative to each other. In this category the Staffordshire child Nancy Wilkes gets a score of 29: I was very pleased with the illustration for this card!

More information on some of the people featured in the Old Poor Law Top Trumps can be found in the blogs on this website.

Elizabeth Parrock (d.1787), midwife

The history of midwifery in the eighteenth century in England is a story of a traditionally female occupation being colonised by male medical practitioners. In 1700 deliveries were nearly all conducted by women, whereas by 1800 deliveries to prosperous families were conducted by men. Doctors and surgeons charged more for their obstetric services than their female competitors (typically 10s 6d or £1 1s per child by men, compared with 2s 6d or 5s per child by women), so women continued to deliver only the poorest expectant mothers.

Wellcome Images https://wellcomecollection.org/works?query=man-midwife&search=images

The success of the ‘man-midwife’ can be attributed to a number of social and intellectual developments. The introduction of delivery by forceps in the first half of the eighteenth century, a technological refinement not used by female midwives, probably accounts for some of the increased popularity for trained men. They could achieve a successful delivery in difficult circumstances. Men could claim authority and expertise from studying human anatomy in ways not open to women.

Elizabeth Parrock, a Staffordshire midwife, probably trained for her role in the same way as most eighteenth-century women, by practising among her friends. Female midwives emerged when women accustomed to attending births as a friend or relation acquired a wider reputation for their ability to manage the birthing room. In most deliveries where the baby presented normally (head down, facing their mother’s spine) the midwife’s task was to reassure the mother and give advice, while allowing nature to take its course. The two women would probably be surrounded by the female friends of the mother, and collectively the group would keep fathers out of the room.

If the birth became abnormal, due to the malpresentation of the baby or the distress or excess bleeding of the mother, midwives had few techniques at their disposal to achieve a good outcome. Long experience might have taught them how to ‘turn’ the baby in the womb, but the only other option was to call in a surgeon to do something drastic. Women rarely if ever survived a caesarean section before the second half of the nineteenth century.

Dempsey Portraits https://www.portrait.gov.au/image/87695/87987/
Depicting Mary or Elizabeth Leagrove, a gaol attendant in Ipswich, 1823

We don’t of course know what Elizabeth Parrock looked like. The image above is the one we have used to illustrate her in our card game for the project. We do know that she was earlier called Elizabeth Floyd, and was married to George Parrock at Bilston, Staffordshire in 1752. The couple had at least three children, baptised in Bilston and Wednesbury 1756-1760. Elizabeth, therefore, fitted the typical profile for a midwife, being a woman with children of her own but whose children were mature, allowing her to leave her household to work. We know from the overseers’ vouchers that she charged the lower sum for her deliveries, 2s6d per child, for her work in Wednesbury in the 1780s. She was the only woman recorded in the Wednesbury vouchers so far as a midwife, paid for the delivery of just three babies, yet her association with midwifery was strong enough to ensure she was described as a midwife at the time of her burial. The vouchers similarly show that her husband George Parrock was employed by the parish to mend shoes.

Elizabeth is unusual because we can know something about her working life other than her name. Most women who worked as midwives left no records of their business at all, so parish payments for delivering pauper babies is one of the few ways to see them in action. She is also unusual in that female midwives were typically paid immediately after the child was born and did not need to issue receipts, whereas male midwives allowed parents to owe him the money: consequently relatively few female midwives crop up elsewhere in our project database, with only one named midwife per county so far.

Sources: Staffordshire Archives D4383/6/1/9/1/14/20, D4383/6/1/9/2/80, Wednesbury St Bartholomew overseers’ vouchers; marriage of 29 June 1752 Bilston; burial of 4 June 1787 Wednesbury St Bartholomew.