William Gillard, Grocer, Tea Dealer, Fruiterer and Poulterer, Lichfield

SRO, LD20/6/6/400, Overseers’ Vouchers, Lichfield St Mary, William Gillard, 31 March 1832

William Gillard’s bill for ‘sundries as particularized in book’, is not very revealing about the goods he supplied to St Mary’s Lichfield. From the printed billhead, however, we learn that he was a grocer, tea dealer, fruiterer and poulterer who also sold pickles, vinegars, sauces and Stilton cheese. The illustration of a shop interior shows the products he sold, how they were stored and displayed on shelves, in nests of drawers, in bottles, canisters, jars, boxes and chests. The use of a printed billhead also reveals that Gillard aimed to supply not just the poor but also those further up the social scale and indicated the sort of service they could expect.

William Gillard, baptised on 14 August 1785, was the son of Thomas Gillard of Lichfield.[1]

At the time of the Census in 1851, Gillard was living in St John Street with his wife Mary.[2] He was described as Crier of the Court of the General Quarter Sessions of the Peace. Pigot’s directory of 1828–9, listed him as grocer, tea dealer and keeper of a register office for masters and servants with premises in Boar Street.[3] Mary was born in Morpeth, Northumberland.

William Gillard’s will (giving his address as St John’s Cottage, made ample provision for his wife, provided that she did not remarry after her husband’s death.[4] Part of his personal estate was to be sold and the money invested in stocks and securities to provide her with an annual income. The trustees of William’s estate, his son Charles and Richard Walthow were to permitted to sell part of his estate only with the written consent of his widow. Mary was given a lifetime interest in William’s household goods, plate, china, linen, pictures, books, and chattels.

William and Mary’s children received the following:

Mary Ann, the wife of William Mander, £250.

William Taylor Gillard, £60.

Elizabeth, the wife of Alfred Eggington, £250.

Charles Gillard, £60.

Maria, the wife of Thomas Pear, £250.

Jane, the wife of John William Proffit, £250.

Henry, £80.

The bequests to William’s daughters were independent of their husbands.

Following the death of their mother, any moneys, stocks and securities were to be divided equally among the children.

Gillard died aged sixty-eight and was buried in St Michael’s on 17 January 1854.[5]

[1] SRO, D20/1/3, Lichfield St Mary baptisms and burials.

[2] TNA, HO 107/2014, Census 1851.

[3] Pigot & Co., National Commercial Directory, 1828–9, pp. 716–7.

[4] SRO, P/C/11, William Gillard.

[5] SRO, St Michael’s Parish Register.

Ann Wilcox seeks parish relief

In 1832 pauper Ann Wilcox, or more likely schoolmaster A. Peacock, wrote to the parish of Alrewas in Staffordshire from Portwood, Stockport.

Gentlemen,

In consequence of you not remitting to Mr Pickford, overseer of this place, I have not received any support for the last five weeks last Saturday and I am at this time in a starving condition owing to extreme ill health. I have not been able to do any thing towards a living.  I am exceeding sorry to be troublesom[e] but I am sorry to say that I shall be obliged to go before the Magistrates to send me to you.

I am Gentlemen Your humble Servant Ann Wilcox.

The above is correct A Peacock Schoolmaster.[1]

Wilcox wrote because she had not received relief, but contained within her letter was a threat. Without the money, she would go to the magistrate as the law entitled her to do. The magistrate might send her back to Alrewas as her legal place of settlement. This is a common tactic found in pauper letters. Providing in-parish relief to a pauper was usually more expensive than providing out parish relief. The threat of returning was usually enough to get a parish to pay up.

[1] SRO, D783/2/3/13/5/1/1, Ann Wilcox, Portwood, to the Overseers of Alrewas near Lichfield, Nov. 12 1832.

Beef Alamode

Many bills settled by the parish overseers in both Cumberland and Staffordshire were for beef. Usually, like those submitted by John and Grace Brown in Lichfield or by Edward Young in Dalston and Jno Halliburton in Brampton the bills just listed as ‘beef’ but occasionally ‘shin’, ‘leg’ of ‘calf head’ are itemised. Couple these bills with those made out for salt and spices and the likelihood is that the beef was used to make  ‘beef alamode’, a type of stew or soup that could be eaten hot, or when cold and solidified could be cut into slices. In Brampton,  the workhouse dietary specified hot flesh dinners on Sundays and ‘fragments of cold meat’ on Mondays.

Beef alamode was a very popular dish in Georgian England, so much so that there were entire eating houses devoted to it and it was a handy takeaway too. This was one pot cooking that could be kept on the stove for hours and used to feed large numbers of people. There are many variants on the recipe (or receipts as the Georgians called them) which were tailored to satisfy the demands of different ranks in society, but in essence the ingredients included the following: course beef, water, lard or dripping, flour, vinegar, onions, salt, black pepper and then an interchangeable selection of herbs and spices that could include mace, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and sweet herbs, or whatever else was at hand. In 1826, Lydia West supplied groceries including black, pepper, mustard,  ginger, nutmeg, and cloves to the overseers of Uttoxeter and in 1829, Lewis Hall supplied pepper, mustard, clove pepper and nutmeg.

Sources

Cumbria Archives Service

PR60_21_13_8_1, Food and clothing Brampton Workhouse, c. 1765.

PR60_21_13_5_1, Jno Halliburton, 1811.

SPC44_2_40_8_10, Jan 17th to Aug 29th 1834 Dalston Parish to Edward Young, Settled October 10 1834

Staffordshire Record Office

D3891/6/31/22, Uttoxeter, Lydia West, 23 Dec 1826.

D3891/6/34/10/12, Uttoxeter, Lewis Hall, 1829.

LD20_6_7_169, Lichfield, St Mary, John Brown, 1831.

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.