Addiction to Stationery

Who doesn’t like a brand-new note book?  As a life-long stationery addict, archives have always appealed to me on two levels, namely the content of the documents and the materiality of the paper.  Therefore, this short post is dedicated to the joy of discovering a new sort of papery artefact among Staffordshire’s poor-law collection, namely the early-nineteenth-century exercise book.

Children, householders, tradesmen and servants may all have found a use for ephemeral paper products enabling them to record lessons, temporary accounts or memoranda, but the key to their general absence from the archive lies in their disposability: why keep one’s earliest spelling book, or rough accounts from past years?  We (or perhaps just I?) have been fortunate in the unaccustomed durability of parish accounts which were kept at first in case of queries by magistrates and then later as a consequence of administrative inertia, which for some places resisted drives to clear the parish chest (or respond to paper drives) decades or centuries later.

The parish of Gnosall in Staffordshire was periodically keen to separate different types of overseers’ account in the 1810s, retaining cheap exercise books for different purposes.  Sometimes these related to discrete parish ‘quarters’ such as Moreton or Cowley, and sometimes the books were kept for types of benefit supplied to the poor (such as clothing).  These slim volumes feature a variety of cover illustrations, some of which seem merely decorative and others which are more edgy or unexpected.

       

The two books above show uncontroversial images of swans on water, or a cameo of two infants titled ‘Autumn’.  The cameo is credited in tiny writing to J. Evans of 42 Long Lane (a printer of ballads and engravings in West Smithfield, London) in 1798.  The booklets were both clearly workaday tools for the overseers, being covered with calculations and jottings.

   

These second two jotting books are similarly graffitied, yet illustrated with images of jeopardy.  One shows a night watchman armed with lamp and cudgel confronted by a warring couple: the woman has just knocked off the hat of the man in front of her and the hat is in flight, making this a split-second image.  The other booklet also captures a single moment in time, and carries the caption “His foot slipped and down he tumbled, in the very path of the enraged, pursing animal” (which is not obviously a quotation from a well-known text).  A small boy is lying at the mercy of a bull, which is being attacked by two other boys carrying respectively a pitchfork and club.  A barking dog watches from the side, and other children are seen running from the bull which has evidently broken the restraining rope around it’s neck.

What these pictures have in common is their probable location and chronology, since they all seem redolent of contemporary England in the period 1790 to 1820, chiefly in terms of the countryside but with one apparently urban setting.  Purchasers seemingly had a taste for the sweet and tranquil, but also for the amusing or highly-charged scene.

Sources: Staffordshire Record Office D951/5/24, Gnosall parish overseers’ notebook of 1814-15; D951/5/26, Gnosall parish overseers’ notebook of 1817-18; D951/5/27, Gnosall parish overseers’ notebook of 1814-15; D951/5/30, Gnosall parish overseers’ notebook of 1812 onwards.

Silvanus Earp and a Chip Hat

On 8 June 1782, the parish of Wednesbury became indebted to the tradesman Silvanus Earp for a ‘chip’ hat, priced eight pence.  This refers to a hat made of ‘chip’ straw with a fairly wide brim.  Such headgear could be fashionable, and straw hats were certainly customised by both retailers and consumers with a bow or other additions to maximise their flamboyancy.  An entry in the Derby Mercury for 12 June 1800, for example, recommended that the fashion in women’s ‘walking dress’ required a coloured chip hat with flowers at the front.  News from London specifically in 1782 reveals that high-quality chip hats could be worth stealing, but could also be used by elite women in fancy dress who were ‘slumming it’, such as when Lady Beauchamp adopted the character of a French peasant girl for a masquerade ball at London’s Pantheon.  In the case of the Wednesbury purchase, we assume the hat was plain and intended to be worn by a parish pauper.

This image, cropped from The Gallery of Fashion (June 1794), shows the brim of a chip hat: the crown is largely concealed with a profusion of ribbons.

Silvanus Earp (1747-1822) was a general dealer in the 1780s, supplying the parish with both foodstuffs and textiles.  He was not used often by the parish authorities, being present in only a handful of the hundreds of vouchers transcribed for Wednesbury, but enjoyed a personal connection to the parochial officers which proved useful.  The witnesses to his marriage in 1774 included John Guest, presumably the man of the same name who was an overseer of the poor for Wednesbury in 1782.  There at least three generations of Silvanus Earps in the locality, since his father Silvanus senior was a baker in Wednesbury, while one of his sons  Silvanus junior was a factor or merchant who by 1851 had retired to Wolverhampton.  By the time of his death in 1822 he was described as a gentleman and left a lengthy will, albeit his estate was valued at under £100.

Sources: SRO D4383/6/1/9/1/9/3 and D4383/6/1/9/1/14/11 Wednesbury overseers’ vouchers 1782; Wednesbury St Bartholomew, baptism of 7 March 1747,  marriage of 7 April 1774, burial of 27 June 1822; Diocese of Lichfield and Coventry, will proved 24 September 1822; National Archives HO 107 census of 1851, for Penn Road Wolverhampton; Morning Chronicle 14 January 1782; Morning Herald 22 April 1782; Derby Mercury 12 June 1800.

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.

 

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.

 

 

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.

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

William Snape (c.1774-1833), Mercer and Draper, Lichfield, Staffordshire

William Snape was a mercer and draper in Market St, Lichfield, who was used by the overseers to supply fabrics, cloths and threads to the workhouse. He supplied fabrics such as blue linen, drab calico, Irish linen, blue print, buttons and thread.[1] This suggests that the workhouse may have been making some form of uniform or sets of apprentices’ clothes (see ‘Blue Duffle’ entry 28 March 2019). We have vouchers for him supplying the workhouse between 1824-1830. The bill from 1824 has a pre-printed ink header across the top. It shows a tombstone with a shrouded urn on top with two figures either side one of which represents Liberty with her scales and sword. This suggests that his business was doing well as he could afford to add the headers.[2] The bills are still hand signed though by him, proving that he was literate. The header also states that William furnished funerals meaning that he supplied all the drapes, clothes and fabrics used in the funeral and he would rent them out. This at the time had become a lucrative business.

William Snape, son of Isaac Snape, was baptised on 24 July 1774. William Snape’s registered age in the calendar of wills was 59. This would mean his year of birth would be 1774. William Snape the elder married Anne Jackson in 1801 in St Mary’s, Lichfield.[3] We believe that they had a son, also called William, as there is a baptism that took place in May 1806 with reference to them.[4] At the moment we have no evidence suggesting that the son carried on the business or went into the same profession as he is not listed in any trade directories and we have no vouchers after the date William dies. There is however, a Mrs Anne Snape listed in White’s 1834 directory. She is not listed under any business, and had moved from Market St to Beacon St. This suggests that she was living off independent means.[5] There is a possibility that it could be the widow of William Snape as she is listed as Mrs Anne Snape. William did not leave a will when he died, however, letters of administration were drawn up after his death.[6]

The vouchers suggest that the business of William Snape was lucrative and successful as the total amount paid for the four bills we have is £22 9s 6½d. It is then surprising to find that on 17 April 1821 there was a bankruptcy case in the London Gazette for William Snape, ‘of the City of Lichfield, Mercer, Draper, Dealer and Chapman’.[7] There were then three meetings arranged on the 14, 15 and 29 of May at the Talbot Arms, Rugeley, Staffordshire. The first meeting was for Snape to make a full ‘disclosure of his estate and effects’ and also for any creditors to prove their claims. The second sitting was to choose assignees, who were responsible to gather in all the debts owed to William Snape and the administration of his bankruptcy. The final sitting on the 29 was to finish the examination and for William Snape to declare everything he had, to state all his debtors and creditors. The solicitors for the case were Mr Thomas Gnosall Parr, of Bird Street, Lichfield and Messrs. Constable and Kirk, solicitors, Symond’s Inn, Chancery Lane, London.[8] The date for the final dividend to be paid was 16 December 1822 at the Talbot Arms, Rugeley, where all creditors should prove their debts. Any claims after that date would be disallowed.[9] This suggests that it brought an end to everything that the commissioners were going to do, therefore, freeing Snape from the bankruptcy. We know that he recovered as the vouchers state that he was supplying the workhouse just two years after being cleared of his bankruptcy.

William Snape died and was buried in March 1833 at St Michael’s, Lichfield.[10]


[1] Staffordshire Record Office (hereafter SRO) LD20/6/6 no item no., Lichfield, St Mary’s overseer’s voucher, 1824; SRO LD20/6/6 no item no., Lichfield, St Mary’s overseer’s voucher, 1830.

[2] SRO LD20/6/6 no item no., Lichfield, St Mary’s overseer’s voucher, 1824.

[3] SRO D20/1/9, Lichfield, St Mary’s Parish registers, 1801.

[4] SRO D20/1/3, Lichfield, St Mary’s Parish Records, Baptisms, 1806.

[5] William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire (Sheffield: 1834).

[6] SRO P/C/11, Lichfield, Calendar of Peculiars, 30 August 1833.

[7] London Gazette, 17 April 1821, 877.

[8] London Gazette, 16 October 1821, 2059; London Gazette, 17 April 1821, 877.

[9] London Gazette, 23 November 1822, 1929.

[10] SRO D27/1/9, Lichfield, St Michael’s, Burials, 29 March 1833, 191.

Elizabeth Dawes (1769-1852), Grocer, Lichfield, Staffordshire

Elizabeth Dawes was a grocer in St John’s Street, Lichfield, who was used by the overseers of the workhouse to supply groceries and sundries such as rice, oatmeal, potash and salt from June to September 1823.[1] The workhouse made 22 purchases from her business between these months suggesting that her business was in frequent contact with the workhouse. In a second bill from February to March 1823, she was selling the same items: rice, black pepper and treacle. Although it is a shorter bill it proves that she was in business with the workhouse for at least nine months.[2] The first bill was not written by her but by another party. The second, however, was written and signed by her as demonstrated by a comparison between the handwriting on the bills and her marriage certificate.[3] This means that she was not illiterate but that she possibly employed someone showing that the business must be stable and possibly profitable.

Elizabeth Dawes was registered under ‘Shopkeepers and Dealers in Groceries and Sundries’ in Pigot and Co.’s 1828 directory and White’s directory of 1834.[4] In Pigot’s directory she is registered along with 16 other ‘Shopkeepers and Dealers in Groceries and Sundries’, three of whom were women and nine were men. Twelve grocers were also listed separately, none of whom were female. As she was listed in Parson’s and Bradshaw’s 1818 directory as a ‘Grocer and Tea Dealer’, this means she was running the business for at least 16 years.[5]

Elizabeth Barisford was born in 1768.[6] She married Benjamin Dawes on 24 September 1797 in Lichfield at St Mary’s.[7] Benjamin died and was buried in St Michael’s, Lichfield, in 1817.[8] We do not think that they had any children as there are no baptisms recorded for the Parish of St Mary’s with a reference to them.[9] However, in the 1841 Census there is a Jane Wildley, 20, listed as living with her but the connection between Elizabeth and Jane is not stated.[10] Elizabeth is also listed as having a female servant, called Mary Hall, aged 13, living with her. This is an indication of her middle class status as she could afford to employ a servant. A servant would free up Elizabeth’s time allowing her to focus on and run her business instead.

By the 1851 Census Elizabeth was 83 and registered as an inmate annuitant which means that she was living off the profits of her investments or savings suggesting that her business had been successful enough to support her retirement. She had also moved address and was now living on Tamworth Street. She was now a member of someone else’s household possibly family but we do not know.[11] Whilst she was no longer working, the fact that she was also no longer living in her own house suggests that she might be living in reduced circumstances.

Elizabeth died on 10 July 1852 at the age of 84. She was buried in St Michael’s. Lichfield alongside her husband Benjamin.[12]


[1] Staffordshire Records Office (hereafter SRO), LD20/6/6 No item no., Lichfield St Mary’s overseer’s voucher, 1823.

[2]SRO LD20/6/6 No item no., Lichfield, St Mary’s overseer’s voucher, 1823,

[3] SRO, D20/1/9, Lichfield, St Mary’s Parish Register, 24 September 1797.

[4] John Pigot and Co., Pigot and Co.’s National Directory, 1828-1829, part 2 (Manchester and London, 1828), 717; William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire (Sheffield: 1834), 161.

[5] W. Parson and T. Bradshaw, Staffordshire General and Commercial Directory (1818), 186.

[6] St Michael’s Church Yard, Lichfield, Gravestone; D20/1/9, Lichfield, St Mary’s Parish Register, 24 September 1797.

[7] SRO, D20/1/9, Lichfield, St Mary’s Parish Register, 24 September 1797.

[8] SRO, D/27/1/9, Lichfield, St Michael’s Parish Register, 1 April 1817.

[9] SRO, D20/1/9, Lichfield, St Mary’s Parish Register, Baptisms.

[10] TNA, HO107/1008/3, 1841 Census, Elizabeth Dawes, Lichfield.

[11] TNA, HO107/2014, 1851 Census, Elizabeth Dawes, Lichfield.

[12] Lichfield, St Michael’s Church Yard, Gravestone.

Ann Keen and Catherine Keen, boot and shoe dealers, Lichfield

Ann Keen’s listings in trade directories from 1818 to 1851 and her listing in the 1851 Census as a boot and shoe dealer (mistress) belies the notion of the short-lived female-owned business.

Ann Keen was born to William and Mary Keen in Eccleshall, Staffordshire, and baptised on 30 December 1771. She died, unmarried, in 1853, and was buried at Christ Church, Lichfield.

Parson and Bradshaw’s 1818 directory lists a William Keen, ironmonger, grocer, druggist and tallow chandler, with premises in Eccleshall’s High Street. By this date Ann Keen was already established as the proprietress of a shoe warehouse in Market Street, Lichfield. She was one of two female shoe dealers listed in the town; the other being Margaret Pinches of Boar Street. In comparison, ten male boot and shoemakers are listed.

Thus far 11 bills covering the period 1822 to 1829 have been discovered linking Ann Keen’s business to the overseers of St Mary’s, Lichfield. More may come to light. She was supplying men, women and children with ready-made shoes rather than making them. The vouchers show that Ann was assisted by Catherine Keen. What relation Catherine was to Ann is not clear at present, although Catherine might have been the daughter of Ann’s brother Walter baptised in Eccleshall on 31 March 1769. Until Catherine’s Keen’s marriage in 1823, it was Catherine who drew up the bills for the supply of shoes and took payment from the overseers. Following Catherine’s marriage to Moses Smith, a tobacconist from Hanley, Staffordshire, Ann initially employed an assistant J. Beattie, who like Catherine drew up the bills. Later, Ann took to signing the bills herself, or they were initialled by ‘WB’. At the time of the 1851 Census Ann Keen was living on her own in a property on the south side of Market Street.

Catherine’s marriage to Moses Smith was relatively short-lived. Smith died in 1831. By his will Catherine inherited all his stock-in-trade, money, securities for money, debts household furniture, plate, linen, chattels, and personal estate and effects, upon trust during her natural life. His unnamed children (a son and daughter) were to inherit on Catherine’s death. Catherine Smith and George Keen (Moses Smith’s brother-in-law and assistant in his tobacco business) were appointed the executors. An entry in White’s 1834 directory shows that Catherine continued her husband’s business as a tobacconist in Slack’s Lane, Hanley.

Sources

Staffordshire Record Office

BC/11, Will of Moses Smith of Hanley, Staffordshire, proved 7 March 1832

D20/1/11, St Mary’s Parish Register, Lichfield, 30 June 1823

D286/2/11, Christ Church Parish Register, Lichfield, 9 July 1853

D3767/1/5, Holy Trinity Parish Register, Eccleshall, 31 March 1769, 30 December 1771

LD20/6/6/21, Lichfield, St Mary’s Overseers’ Voucher, Ann Keen, settled 18 June 1822

LD20/6/6/, no item number, Lichfield, St Mary’s Overseers’ Vouchers, 14 August 1822, 25 June 1825, one undated [1825], and 29 June 1826, for example

TNA, HO107/2014, 1851 Census

Parson, W. and Bradshaw, T., Staffordshire General and Commercial Directory presenting an Alphabetical Arrangement of the Names and Residences of the Nobility, Gentry, Merchants and Inhabitants in General (Manchester: J. Leigh, 1818), 165, 175, 184, 188, 189

White, William, History, Gazetteer and Directory of the County of Staffordshire and of the City of Lichfield (Sheffield: 1834), 157, 569

White, William, History, Gazetteer & Directory of Staffordshire, 2nd edn. (Sheffield, printed by Robert Leader, 1851), 5