Phineas Stone (d.1796) of Wednesbury and a Haddock

Phineas Stone has only one voucher in our project dataset, but he snagged our interest owing to the disjunction between his occupation, as a gunlock filer, and the typical purchases of the overseers of the poor.  What business did they have with a refiner of gun parts?

The parish overseers paid Stone for a ‘voice’ or vice weighing 36lb on 3 February 1789.  This equipment was for the use of Jonathan Addock or Haddock, and was costed by weight.  At three pence per pound, the total cost of the vice came to nine shillings.  Therefore the parish was buying a tool for use by Haddock, presumably to enable him to earn money.  Unfortunately we have no clues as to what Haddock usually did for a living.  He was a some-time pauper and who needed parish help to pay the burial fees when his wife Ann died 1793, but otherwise we are not really any wiser.  We can only speculate that, like many men in the parish and the wider West Midlands, Haddock was engaged in metalworking of some kind.

A rather tidy workshop showing the manufacture of metal buttons in the Netherlands: engraving by Prevost c.1751-72 image courtesy of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

The Stone family fortunes were also in decline, but not so drastically as to require the need for parish assistance in the vouchers we have catalogued.  Shortly before Phineas died in 1796, his son Phineas (1775-1811) got married and had a son of his own, unsurprisingly baptised Phineas (1797-1837).  Of the three men named Phineas, all of whom were lockfilers, the eldest left an estate worth under £300, but his son was worth under £100 at the time of his death in 1811.    The youngest Phineas was killed in 1837 by the throwing over of a coach.

 

Sources: baptisms of 1 May 1775, 12 March 1797, and 19 January 1834, marriage of 7 September 1796, plus burials of 30 August 1793, 6 December 1796, 4 July 811, and 8 August 1837, all Wednesbury St Bartholomew. Probate for the will of Phineas Stone granted 1797.  Probate for the will of Phineas Stone granted 1811. SRO D 4383/6/1/9/2/95 Wednesbury overseers’ voucher 1789; D 4383/6/1/9/3/111/4 Wednesbury overseers’ voucher 1793.

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.

John Lakin lies dead in a fever ward

Among the overseers’ vouchers for Alrewas, Staffordshire, are a few letters relating to paupers. In a few short lines, one in particular, summed up a person’s life. In April 1832 Alrewas vestry received a letter from J. Halton of Stockport.

‘Gents, One John Lakin aged 49 lies dead in our fever ward and we have been called upon to provide for his funeral.  It appears he belongs to your place, by birth, having been born out of wedlock and that you have frequently relieved him, in different places. The last time was at Christmas 1827 or 8. This being the case you will, we trust, refund the cost of his funeral amounting to £1.5.0.  He was by trade a tailor. Your attention will oblige, J. Halton’[1]

The parish registers for St Mary’s, Stockport, lists a John Lakin aged 59, having been buried on 11 April 1832. His residence was given as The Dispensary. Despite the ten year age difference, this is the same man. Halton had been quick off the mark, sending the letter the day before Lakin’s funeral.

Halton’s letter, though short, is cleverly constructed. It points out that having been born illegitimately, Lakin’s legal settlement was his place of birth, in this case Alrewas. It notes that Alrewas had previously provided poor relief for Lakin, thereby establishing precedent for payment of his funeral. Lakin’s death also makes it clear that this is the last time that Alrewas will be called upon for relief, which might have induced the parish further to pay up.

[1] SRO, D783/2/3/13/4/1/1, J. Halton, Stockport, 10 April 1832.

Charles Cook, Apprentice Shoemaker

From 13 June to 23 July 1827 Charles Cook, the son of Widow Cook, was on a six-week trial as an apprentice boot and shoe maker. As was fairly standard for parish apprentices, Charles was supplied with a jacket, trousers and waistcoat, two pairs of stockings, a hat and  five yards of calico to make two shirts. The cost of drawing up the apprentice indenture and attorney’s fees amounted to £1 11s 6d, bringing the amount expended by the parish on Cook’s apprenticeship to £3 7s 0d.[1] In addition, there was the apprentice premium itself which added a further £10 to parish costs. Given that the total expenditure on Cook’s apprenticeship by parish of Whittington, Staffordshire, equated to the yearly income of a well-paid female domestic servant, this was not an inconsiderable sum. It was one which the parish deemed acceptable as it would shift parish responsibility for Charles Cook onto the shoemaker.

Cook, however, was not living in Whittington, but at Grove Cottage, Edmonton St, Camberwell, Surrey, with his mother Sarah. Charles Cook may never even have set foot in Whittington, but the village would have been his legal place of settlement if his father had been born, or had acquired legal settlement there.

Charles was apprenticed to James Rogers of Stretton Ground, St John’s, Westminster, for a term of seven years.[2]

It is possible that things turned out alright for Charles Cook, for there is an entry in the 1841 Census for a Charles Cook, a shoemaker living in Wellington Street, Camberwell, with his wife and three children.[3]

Sources

[1] SRO, Whittington Overseers’ Vouchers, D4834/9/3/11/7, [1827]; D4834/9/3/11/18, 12 Jun 1827.

[2] SRO, D4834/9/7/37, 12 June 1827; D483 4/9/7/37, 23 Jun 1827.

[3] TNA, HO107/1050/6, 1841 Census.

Catherine Johnson and Catherine Godwin, Inmates, Rosliston Workhouse

Like many parishes Whittington, near Lichfield, had no workhouse. Instead, it relied on providing outdoor relief, paying rent on properties to house some of its poor and sending paupers to Rosliston Workhouse in Derbyshire.

Around 1802, Rosliston together with the parishes of Caldwell, Coton-in-the-Elms, Croxall, Linton and Stretton-in-the Fields united under the terms of Gilbert’s Act of 1782 to provide for the poor. Arrangements were made with other parishes, including Whittington, whereby paupers could be sent to the workhouse with the costs borne by the parish to whom the pauper had the legal right of settlement.

In 1818 Whittington paid Rosliston Workhouse for twelve weeks board for Catherine Johnson. As with most people from this time we know little about Johnson, but we do know that by 1820 at the latest she had been joined in the workhouse by Catherine Godwin, also from Whittington. For the next two years overseers’ vouchers provide glimpses into their lives. Bills were submitted each quarter by Rosliston for Johnson and Godwin’s board, soap and coal.

Johnson and Godwin contributed to their own maintenance through their needlework skills. Several bills list thread, tape, bindings, linings for bodices, the spinning of flax and the provision of calico, worsted and fustian cloth. One bill of 3 January 1820 notes ‘cutting out and assisting Johnson to make cloth’. Other clothing related items include the provision of aprons, stockings, capes and gowns for both women.

There were also medical bills. One in 1820 was for ‘dressing for Johnson’ and ‘dressing for Godwin’ from a Dr Adams. The services of a midwife were paid for by Whittington for Catherine Godwin at the start of 1821, but all did not go well for we find payment for laying the child out, taking the child to church, a coffin and a burial. Nothing further is then recorded about either Johnson or Godwin in the vouchers.

Sources

SRO, Whittington Overseers’ Vouchers,

D4834/9/3/2/7, 1818

D4834/9/3/4/31, 3 Jan. 1820

D4834/9/3/4/32, 3 Jan. 1820

D4834/9/3/4/2, 20 Mar. 1820

D4834/9/3/4/3, 25 Mar. 1820

D4834/9/3/2/40, 30 Dec. 1820

D4834/9/3/2/41, 21 Jan 1821

D4834/9/3/2/42, 24 Mar. 1821

D4834/9/3/2/43, 24 Mar. 1821

The Blackbands of Gnosall

A recent review of the data we have collected for the Staffordshire parish of Gnosall revealed a glorious surname, particularly when we consider the family business: the Blackbands of Gnosall were grocers and drapers, who doubtless supplied their customers with funereal black bands when required.  Further investigation confirmed the sobering reality of the name and the trade, since the latter was insecure despite commissions from the parish.

Brothers Gerard and Benjamin Blackband were both in business in Gnosall in the 1810s and 20s, and their uncle Joseph was in the same line of work in nearby Newport (Shropshire).  Gerard had an early partnership with William Keen, in an grocery and ironmongery, but this was dissolved in 1810 shortly before William Keen married Gerard’s sister Elizabeth.  Gerard Blackband himself married Mary Harper in 1811, while Benjamin married Elizabeth Burley in 1815: both couples had children baptised in Gnosall.  The two families remained in the parish, since Benjamin died there in 1845 and Gerard in 1853.

view Textiles: two fabric samples mounted on a printed background. Wood engraving with applied fabric, 1813.

Fabric samples on a printed background 1813: image courtesy of the Wellcome Trust

The parish made payments to one or other of the Blackband brothers for pauper clothing and textiles for working up into garments.  An account book dedicated solely to parish clothing 1811-12 records sales of robust cloth like thick flannel for 1s 10d-2s 3d per yard, and flimsier stuff like calico for 9d-10d per yard.  Women’s gowns and jackets were made of linsey, a relatively coarse but durable material of wool and flax (or wool and cotton).   Stockings and hats were bought ready-made; everything else was cut out and sewn from the raw materials.

<p>"The gestures of the three female Maldertons at the draper's counter suggest their shock and disbelief as they discover that Horatio Sparkins is a fraud — and are caught out buying inferior silks at "a dirty-looking ticketed linendraper's shop" (278) in order "save a shilling." The elegantly dressed young man with the slender waist and perfectly fitting tailcoat, waistcoat, and cravat is a very "fashion-plate," with Byronic curls and a shocked expression that betokens a mutual recognition between himself and Miss Malderton, centre. Although, as Schlicke, points out, what distinguishes this little tale from the previous London sketches in "Our Parish," "Scenes," and "Characters" is the contribution of all elements of setting, character, and costume to the plot, what connects this "tale" to the earlier, non-fiction pieces is the detailed description that George Cruikshank provides of a commercial establishment, with pricing prominently displayed. The very curtains in this prose-farce, suggestive of a theatrical performance, are priced to go."--Allingham, loc. cit.</p>

G. Cruikshank, A London Linen-Draper’s Assistant, 1839: image courtesy of the Wellcome Trust

Two features of the account book immediately struck me as interesting. First, it is only concerned with quantities of textile purchased, and the cost per unit, not with the overall expenditure on materials.  This suggests that the parish officers were not (in this instance) interested in the bottom line.  They were either monitoring the flow of garments to individual paupers (who wore through their clothing most rapidly?), to the indoor versus the outdoor poor (since the workhouse recipients are identified separately), to the poor of different parish ‘quarters’ (placed in different lists), or checking the price of cloth over time/from different shops.  Second, a small place like Gnosall could still draw on multiple suppliers for clothing and fabric.  The population of the parish in 1811 stood at just 2372 people across all of the parish, but the overseers still managed to spread textile purchases among the separate businesses of Mr Blackband (first name unspecified), Mr Bromley, and Mr Williams. One of our vouchers reveals that Benjamin Blackband was definitely supplying the Gnosall poorhouse with thread, laces and needles in 1823.

Perhaps it was this level of competition in such a small geographical compass that proved so difficult for the maintenance of the Blackband businesses, and perhaps there was a risk in one family investing so heavily in one type of pursuit.  Whatever the cause, though, both Gerard and Benjamin Blackband and their uncle Joseph of Newport suffered bankruptcy in the 1820s.  Notice was given of both Gerard and Joseph’s bankruptcies in 1822, while Benjamin followed in 1825.  The brothers’ recovery from this blow is difficult to chart, but by 1841 Benjamin was living in the household of his brother-in-law William Keen, whereas in the same year Gerard was living independently as a grocer with his wife and children, but lacking any household servants.  Once again, investigation of businesses identified in the vouchers suggests that parish custom was used to support fragile ventures.

Sources: SRO D951/5/29 account book of clothing supplied to the poor 1811-12; D951/5/81/117 overseers’ voucher of 1823; NA HO 107 census of 1841 (NB Gerard is listed under the surname Blackland); NA IR 27/304 death duty register 1853; marriages of 24 January 1811 in Edgemond Shropshire, 13 December 1811 and 14 March 1815 both in Gnosall; baptisms of 22 August 1813 and 5 December 1819 both in Gnosall; burial of 12 March 1845 in Gnosall;  London Gazette entries for partnership and bankruptcies on 18 December 1810, 22 October 1822, 10 December 1822, and 20 December 1825.

Edwin Chadwick writes to the Assistant Overseer of Alrewas

The majority of surviving overseers’ vouchers for Alrewas are from Lichfield solicitors William Bond and Sons of Dam Street dealing with issues of settlement and removal.

Contained within the bundles are a number of letters written by or on behalf of those seeking relief. One letter stands out from the others. It was written neither by a pauper nor on behalf of one, but by Edwin Chadwick (1800-90), a hugely influential figure in mid-nineteenth century health, factory and poor law reform. Committed and talented, he worked for the Board of Health but his approach to reform angered many of his opponents.

Chadwick was born in Longsight, Manchester. His father became editor of The Statesman in 1812 and in 1816 editor of The Western Times. Chadwick trained as a barrister but also wrote reports on London’s slums for newspapers.

At the time of writing in October 1824 to Samuel Taylor, Assistant Overseer of Alrewas, Chadwick was the Secretary of the Poor Law Commission. Chadwick was responding to a letter  about the establishment of a workhouse.

Poor Law Commissioners Office Somerset House 11th Oct 1834

Sir, I am directed to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 7th Inst and to assure you that the Board will not neglect the expressed wishes of your Vestry, for the establishment of a well regulated workhouse, and for uniting the four divisions comprehended in the Parish of Alrewas, for the purpose of parochial management.  When the Assistant Poor Law Commissioners are appointed you may expect that one will make an early visit to your Parish, and in the interim it is suggested to your Vestry to propose the way, as far as possible for the suggested union.  I am further directed to send for your information, a copy of the Report and the Extract of Evidence published by the late commission of Enquiry, and a copy of the recent Act.

I am Sir.  Your Very Obedient Servant E Chadwick, Secretary.[1]

[1] SRO, D783_2_3_14_1_1 E. Chadwick, Secretary of the Poor Law Commission to Samuel Taylor Asst Overseer Alrewas  11 Oct. 1834.

Thomas Norris (1787-1848)

Thomas was baptised in Uttoxeter in 1787 (7 March or 30 May), the son of Thomas and Ann Norris [1]. His father was a farmer. He married Charlotte Kiernan Collins at Stone by licence on 26 May 1821 [2]. In 1836 he advertised his intention in local newspapers to stand as candidate for Relieving Officer to the Uttoxeter Poor Law Union [3]. He had had considerable experience of the old pre-1834 Poor Law system as his signature appears on many of the receipts among the Overseers Accounts for Uttoxeter parish in the late 1820s and early 1830s [4]. He was successful in his candidature as the 1841 census shows his occupation as Relieving Officer [5]. His wife Charlotte listed her occupation as dressmaker, which proved important as she would need to support herself and her children after Thomas died in October 1848 [6].

Thomas and Charlotte had 6 children: daughter Charlotte became a dressmaker, too, Ann and Mary became milliners and Elizabeth became a governess at Blore Hall and at Croxden Abbey [7]. Son Henry eventually became a station master. Their other son, Thomas Henry, died aged 17 months in 1830 [8]. Henry became head of the family, gathering his womenfolk in his home at Dove Bank, including his aunt Harriet, Thomas’s sister, who had been a witness at Thomas and Charlotte’s wedding in Stone [7]. Thomas’s widow Charlotte died in Uttoxeter in September 1872 at the age of 82 [9].

 

[1] SRO, D3891/1/7 Utttoxeter St Mary Register of baptisms

[2] SRO, D5969/1/16 Stone St Michael, Register of marriages

[3] Staffordshire Advertiser, 19 Nov 1836

[4] SRO, D3891/6/31-40 Uttoxeter Overseers of the Poor vouchers

[5] TNA, HO 107/1007 1841 census for Uttoxeter

[6] SRO, D3891/1/34  Uttoxeter St Mary Register of burials

[7] TNA, HO 107/374 1851 census for Uttoxeter; TNA, RG 9/1955 1861census for Uttoxeter; TNA, RG 9/1954 1861 census for Croxden

[8] SRO D3891/1/33 Uttoxeter St Mary Register of burials

[9] SRO D3891/1/35 Uttoxeter St Mary Register of burials

Another Thomas Norris!

The 1841 census listed another Thomas Norris in Uttoxeter besides the one who was a relieving officer [1]. This second Thomas was a printer and bookseller living in the Market Place and was somewhat younger, having been born in 1809 [2]. He was at this stage unmarried and living with his mother Ann and sister Jane. He married Ann Caroline Fowler of Leominster in 1845 [3] and went on to be steward of the Wesleyan Methodist church in Uttoxeter. His sister Jane married a Wesleyan minister (John Peaviour Johnson) in 1844 [4].

However, it is their mother Ann who is the most intriguing figure. She was born Ann Schofield and married Thomas & Jane’s father John Norris at Leek in 1806 [4]. Sometime after Thomas’s birth in 1809 and that of Jane in 1814 the family decamped to Pentwyn in Llanfair Kilgeddin, Monmouthshire [5]. John Norris had been a baker but became a farmer in Wales. By 1834 Ann was a widow and was living in Uttoxeter again. In May of that year she requested to register a printing press and thus the firm of A. Norris & Son of Uttoxeter was born [6]. This must have been quite a departure from her life as the wife of a baker then farmer. What happened in those 20 years between 1814 and 1834 remains to be uncovered.

Ann died in Uttoxeter in December 1848 aged 72 [7]. Her son continued the business in the name of A. Norris & Son until the 1860s when it hit the rocks financially [8].

[1] TNA, HO 107/1007 1841 census for Uttoxeter

[2] SRO, D3891/1/8 Uttoxeter St Mary Register of baptisms

[3] SRO, D3891/1/20 Uttoxeter St Mary Register of marriages; Derby Mercury, 21 Feb 1844, p.3

[4] SRO, D1040/5/10 Leek St Edward Register of marriages

[5] Gwent Archives, D/Pa 71.1-71.8 Records of parish church of Goytrey, Monmouthshire

[6] SRO, Q/SB 1834 T33 Printing press declaration 1834

[7] SRO, D3891/1/34 Uttoxeter St Mary Register of burials

[8] Perry’s Bankrupt Weekly Gazette, 11 Oct 1862, p.7

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.