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

The Kirkby Lonsdale Digester

On 10 August 1811 wholesale ironmonger George Backhouse of Kendal billed Kirkby Lonsdale Workhouse for a single item, a digester, costing £1 11s 4d.[1] In a pamphlet from around 1740, entitled Cheap provision, recommended to the publick in general, and poor in particular, the purpose of a digesterwas to dissolve bones that could be used in soups and broths.[2] It was not evident how a digester worked.

‘An excellent Broath is made with Bones, dissolved by a digester, and thicken’d with Rice. To make a nourishing and satisfactory Dinner of it Put Half a Pound of Meat, of any Sort, salt or fresh, or both, or Ox Cheek, Cow Heel, Calves, Feet &c cut into Bits, into a Gallon of Water, after you have made it boil and froth up, put in a Pound of Rice, let it Boil for three Hours, adding another Gallon of Water warm’d’.[3] To this, may be added with discretion, ‘any garden stuff … Pease, Turnips, Potatoes, Parsnips, Leeks, … and it may be season’d with Ginger, Jamaica or black Pepper’.

Sixty years later, the snappily-titled The economy of an institution, established in Spitalfields, London, for the purpose of supplying the poor with a good meat soup, At One Penny per Quart. Principally extracted from the Papers of the Society, and published with a view to the Establishment of similar institutions, in towns, villages, and populous neighbourhoods produced by the Society for the Relief of the Industrious Poor, reported that a digester had been installed in Spitalfields, but it was not yet in use.[4] The committee was of the opinion that ‘most of the nutrient may be extracted from the bones by the usual mode of preparing the Soup’, to wit they had four boilers, two of one hundred gallons each and two of 150 gallons each.[5]

The society gave the following recipe for one hundred gallons of soup: eight stones of beef, 16 stones of shin of beef, 46lbs of pease, 36lbs of Scotch barley, 24lbs of onions, 8lbs of salt, 10oz of black pepper.[6] These were to be placed in a boiler filled with water and simmered overnight. In the morning the water was to be topped up.

The reports of the Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor thought a digester saved both food and fuel.[7] The reports gave a description from the Birmingham Soup Shop on how a digester functioned. ‘Soup is prepared by previously dissolving the meat and bones in the digester; a vessel which … is capable of dissolving bones to jelly within a few hours’.[8]

‘The bones are cut into small pieces with an axe, and part of them put into the digester, which is filled two-thirds with water, and the lid screwed down; when the first operation takes place, for two of three hours, with a light weight on the valve. What then remains undissolved is put a second time into the digester, with the rest of the bones, and the same quantity of water, greater weight being laid on the valve, equal to 40lb or 50lb on the square inch. When the bones are supposed to be nearly dissolved, and the vessel cool enough to open, the meat is added … and the whole boiled together for two or three hours, with only a small pressure on the valve’.[9] For this to work successfully, ‘some skill, and a great degree of attention is required’.[10]


[1] Cumbria Archive Service, Kendal, WPR19/7/1/5/1, Kirkby Lonsdale Overseers’ Voucher, George Backhouse, 10 August 1811.

[2] Cheap provision, recommended to the publick in general, and poor in particular (London[?], 1740[?])

[3] Cheap provision, recommended to the publick in general, and poor in particular (London[?], 1740[?]), pp.1-2.

[4] Society for the Relief of the Industrious Poor, The economy of an institution, established in Spitalfields, London, for the purpose of supplying the poor with a good meat soup, At One Penny per Quart. Principally extracted from the Papers of the Society, and published with a view to the Establishment of similar institutions, in towns, villages, and populous neighbourhoods (London: W. Phillips, George Yard, Lombard Street, 1799).

[5] Society for the Relief of the Industrious Poor, The economy of an institution, p. 15.

[6] Society for the Relief of the Industrious Poor, The economy of an institution, p. 14.

[7] Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor, The reports of the Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor  (London: printed by W. Bulmer and Co., 1798-1800), p.151.

[8] Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor, The reports of the Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor  (London: printed by W. Bulmer and Co., 1798-1800), p. 166.

[9] Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor, The reports of the Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor  (London: printed by W. Bulmer and Co., 1798-1800), p. 164.

[10] Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor, The reports of the Society for Bettering the Condition and Increasing the Comforts of the Poor  (London: printed by W. Bulmer and Co., 1798-1800), p. 164.

Rattle his bones over the stones; he’s only a pauper who nobody owns: Death and Burial on the Parish in East Hoathly

In the 19th century, the fear of a pauper’s funeral, as expressed in the poem The Pauper’s Drive, was real, and prompted the setting up of burial clubs and specialist insurance policies.  In 18th and early 19th century East Hoathly, by contrast, overseers’ accounts and vouchers suggest that the poor could expect a certain level of dignity in their passing-on at the expense of the parish ratepayers. 

Burial of the Dead by James Taylor (1745-1797)

Care began with laying out the body, often, though not exclusively, by women.  Widow Slarkes performed the laying out of John Streeter in July 1777 and received the same attention from Dame Roase when she herself died ten months later.  The usual payment was 2s 6d.  The examples found of laying out all relate to adults suggesting that, unlike most children, they did not have relatives to perform this service for them.  In the 18th century, the same women were often also paid to attend on the day of interment and to travel to get an affidavit to prove that the shroud being used was made of woollen.  This was a hangover from an Act of 1667 which was aimed at protecting the woollen industry, and which remained on the statute books until 1814, although it was rarely enforced after 1792. 

East Hoathly Overseers’ accounts: East Sussex Record Office, PAR378/31/3/1/1

The accounts also mention the supply of shrouds and coffins for funerals of the parish poor.  The shroud for Sinden’s child (Ann aged two) cost 2s in 1774 and for Dame Thomas 5s in 1776.  By 1821, when the burial in woollen laws no longer applied, the parish was buying calico for shrouds.  In 1822 the coffin for Cornford’s child, James, who was buried on 4 March aged 3 weeks, cost 3s, while the adult coffin supplied for James Sinden set the parish back £1 4s 0d.  There is little detail about the nature of the coffins, although thy were likely to have been quite basic.  There are references to one coffin being ‘plained and oyled’ and to another being made of elm.  In the 1820s pillows were provided for the coffin. 

East Hoathly Overseers’ voucher 1821: East Sussex Record Office, PAR378/31/3/26/94A

Other elements of funerary equipment are also mentioned, although less frequently.  A pall – the cloth spread over the coffin – and napkins were supplied in 1781 and palls appear to have been hired in the 19th century at costs between 2s 6d and 5s.  There are also occasional references to bearers for carrying the coffin to church and to supplying their poles.

There were also fees to be paid for the funeral ceremony and the accounts show that these too could be covered by the parish.  They included the clergyman’s fee for the service – 1s 0d in the late 18th century, 2s 6d by the 1820s – and the clerk’s fees.  Although most entries do not detail the individual services for which the clerk was being reimbursed, there are several which suggest that they included digging the grave and tolling the bell.

East Hoathly Overseers’ voucher: East Sussex Record Office, PAR378/31/3/26/83

A case study of Widow (Mary) Gasson, who was buried on 23 August 1821, serves as an example of how the parish intervened at the end of a pauper’s life.  Mary was clearly ill in early August as there were payments for her nurse and to Mrs Washer and Widow Susans for attending to her, totalling 8s 6d.  After her death, Mrs Washer was paid 2s 6d for laying her out.  Philip Turner supplied 6 ½ yards of calico for a shroud costing 4s 4d, and was reimbursed 3s 6d for the use of a pall.  Thomas Rich supplied the coffin at a cost of £1 8s 0d.  Six bearers received 1s each to carry her to the church, the clerk 3s 6d for the burial and the priest 2s 6d for the service.  Finally, beer worth 3s was provided for the funeral, so she did not go to her rest alone and unmourned, and there is plenty of evidence that other pauper funerals were similarly provided for in East Hoathly. 

East Hoathly Overseers’ voucher: East Sussex Record Office, PAR378/31/3/26/61

Several pauper inventories survive for East Hoathly together with evidence that the parish officers sold the goods after death.  This was certainly the case for Edward Bab/Badcock, who was buried in 1767 ‘upwards of 93 years old’.  The parish clearly felt entitled to sell off the goods of paupers to reimburse them for the poor relief that they had paid out even though this wasn’t strictly legal.  However, there could also be a kinder story behind this policy – of the parish providing poor relief so that the pauper didn’t have to sell or pawn their goods during their lifetime in order to scrape by and of giving them the dignity of a decent funeral.

John and Eleanor Gate (fl. 1753-1776) ‘Whipping ye Dogs out of the Church’

SPC 44/2/53 Dalston workhouse Account Book 1746-1775
SPC 44/2/53 Dalston Workhouse Account book Payment to Eleanor Gate 1786

A voucher dated 1786 has a payment to Eleanor Gate (nee Carrick) for £1.7s.6d. It does not stipulate what this is for but it may relate to the role that she carried out for St Martin’s Church, Dalston, in the years prior to this.[1]

The marriage of John Gate to Eleanor Carrick was registered in Dalston on 10 June 1725.[2]

Amongst the payments and supplies of clothes and clogs for the poor in Dalston Poorhouse’s account book each May from 1753 appears a payment to first John Gate then Widow Gate for £1.0s.0d forwhipping ye dogs out of ye church, opening & shutting ye sashes, sweeping ye church &c for 1 year’. John Gate first received the payment when Isaac Snowden was the master of the poorhouse when he was paid £5.0.0 a year. After John Gate’s death (buried 5 February 1763), his widow Eleanor took over the role. The payments usually appeared at the same time as those to the master of the poorhouse. Eleanor continued to appear in the account book receiving payments until just after John Mark was appointed master of the poorhouse on 3 February 1771. By 1774 ‘Whipping ye dogs out of the Church’ no longer appears to have been a paid task, however, Eleanor received the same payment for the other previously listed tasks. [3]


Dog whippers were engaged by the church to keep order at a time when dogs were perhaps not welcomed but tolerated when they accompanied their owners to church. The role may have also extended to controlling misbehaving children, waking those who had fell asleep or dealing with anything that disrupted the service. This was carried out at other churches. Some dog whippers were provided with a whip, wooden tongs and a uniform. [4]

SPC44/2/37 Payment May 6 1764 to Eleanor Gate for whipping ye dogs out of the church

References
[1] Carlisle Archives, Dalston Voucher, SPC44/2/37 line number to be assigned. June 12- October 5 1786
[2] Carlisle Archives, PR 41/3 Dalston St Michael’s Parish Register of Baptism’s Marriage’s and Buriel,s 1679-1749
[3]Carlisle Archives, SPC 44/2/53 Dalston Workhouse Account Book 1746-1776
[4] Daniel Scott, Bygone Cumberland and Westmorland (1899)

The Price of Bread

An interesting letter has come to light among the Poor Law records and receipts being examined by the East Sussex project, Small Bills and Petty Finance 1700-1834; it is dated 12 October 1834 and is directed to the members of the East Hoathly Parish Council.[1] The letter is from one Richard Gardiner, who will be absent from the autumnal Vestry Meeting, but who wishes to communicate to the Council strong feelings about the market price of wheat and the consequent price of flour, which he can prove is unfairly set in favour of the producers and to the detriment of the consumers; consumers in this rural village being mainly agricultural labourers and the Gentlemen addressed, mainly their employers, the farmers.

These Gentlemen may be his friends and colleagues, but nevertheless, Mr Gardiner states his arguments very firmly, beginning by demanding that at the very least in these difficult circumstances,  the workers should suffer no pay cut:

I appeal to such of you  –  Gentlemen as are Growers, whether, under the depressed and as may be apprehended – the declining State of the Corn Markets, the present general Rate of two Shillings daily Wages, can, without Disadvantage to yourselves be continued to the agricultural Labourer, . . .

This against a back story when for decades the English countryside had known only poor harvests, bad winters and foreign wars. The lawmakers had unashamedly drafted the laws and passed the Acts that ensured the comforts of their own class, while the poor became poorer they suffered under the Enclosures (measures to facilitate new farming methods by consolidating holdings, but cruelly implemented, eradicating the old peasant class), the Corn Laws (measures that protected the farmers from bad harvests and cheap imports but caused a rise in the price of bread), and the Game Act (vicious anti-poaching law: no feeding the family with a rabbit for the pot; 7 years transportation for owning a trapping net, while Man Traps were lawful until 1831). In this way the labouring classes were impoverished, stripped of hope and criminalised.

However, the main impact of the letter concerns the Millers’ excessive prices for flour, a problem which is presented in tabulated detail. And even more seriously, Mr Gardiner writes,

I am credibly informed – that at Lewes, Hailsham, and the other Corn Markets, it is normal with the Millers who meet there to fix by their own Law of Assize, the Price of Flour for the ensuing Week. This, in itself illegal, is in Reality a Conspiracy against the Consumers, which they are unquestionably warranted to counterattack by such Measures as they may think most conducible sic to a Supply of Flour proportioned to the actual Average Price of Wheat . .

Having clearly stated the case, the letter concludes:

In common Candor sic and Justice to Mr John Marten, to the Sons of the late Mr Holman and many others of the Trade who may be in the Habit of supplying Flour to the Inhabitants of East Hothly sic you will, I feel confident, coincide with me in the Propriety of communicating to them whatever may be the Result of your Consultations on this Subject and you will I am equally confident, allow them a reasonable Time to consult with each other – with their Friends, and maturely to determine on their Answer – whether to reject – or satisfactorily, by Explanation, or otherwise – to meet – the Inquiry, which you may think proper to make and continue making – with a View to establishing a more equal…sic than the present Charge for Flour, when compared with the Market Price of Wheat –

                     I am,

                               Gentlemen,

                                           Your obedient Servant

                                                             Richard Gardiner

P.S. The penny – to the £1 – I consider a most unfavorable sic Scale to the Consumer . .

It is good to know that East Hoathly had one voice in support of the disadvantaged classes; that it is a calm, measured and reasonable voice ensures that it is particularly persuasive.

[1] ESRO: PAR378/31/3/ (to be confirmed)

Written and transcibed by Anne White

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.

Jane Davidson (1748-1827), Grocer, Brampton, Cumberland

Jane Davidson was a grocer who was used by the overseers of Brampton to supply the workhouse with standard dry goods such as tea, sugar, barley and tobacco.[1] For one bill in 1819 she received £1 6s 11 ½ d. This was for supplies of grocer’s goods that she had made on 11 occasions between January and April. Although we only have one voucher, this shows that she was in regular contract with the workhouse. It gives the impression that she was not just used once and was actually a frequent supplier to the workhouse. The supply of tea in a small amount such as 2oz, as written in the voucher, suggests that it was not for the general use of the inmates and that it was more likely used for medicinal purposes, or for the use of the master and mistress of the workhouse.

Davidson was born in 1748.[2] She married Robert Davidson, a grocer, however we do not know when but we know it was before 1816 as this was when Robert passed away.[3] Jane Davidson had two daughters and a son; Mary who married George Hadden; Jane who married Thomas Hobson; and Thomas. [4] As well as this she also had at least 13 grandchildren, eight by Mary and George Hadden, and five by Jane and Thomas Hobson.[5] She also had a stepson via Robert’s first wife of which nothing is known.

In his will Robert Davidson left the business to his wife Jane and not to his eldest son.[6] This suggests that he had trust in her to run the business and to look after it. The stereotype is that the eldest son would inherit the business, however, it was quite common that businesses were inherited by widows. Robert was illiterate as he signed his will with a cross. This probably meant that the accounts and the books for the business were not done by him but most likely by Jane. This could be why he trusted her to run the business.

Jane Davidson, grocer, is not registered in either Jollie’s 1811 directory or Pigot’s 1828-29 National directory.[7] This suggests that their business could have been a more stable, locally based one so therefore they did not need to advertise nationally, and even after the death of Robert in 1816 Jane Davidson did not place herself in any other directory suggesting that she had maintained the stable business.

Jane Davidson used at least one local shop to maintain her stocks. The ledgers of Isaac Bird, grocer, Brampton, state that she settled a bill adding up to 15s 11d in 1819.[8] One example of this is that she bought ¼ stone of shag tobacco at 2s 7d presumably to stock her own shop as the amount is too much for her own personal use.[9]

This is a work in progress, subject to change as new research is conducted.


[1] Cumbria Archives, PR60/21/13/5/101, Brampton overseers’ vouchers, Jane Davidson, 20 January-6 April 1820.

[2] In the Burial ledger her age was given as 79. Cumbria Archives, G.Bell and C. Yellowley (eds), Brampton Denary Burials Part 1, 1813-39, 49.

[3] Cumbria Archives, G.Bell and C. Yellowley (eds), Brampton Denary Burials Part 1, 1813-39, 49.

[4] Cumbria Archives PROB/1816/WI462A C/1/18/9/5, Will and Inventory of Robert Davidson, 9 September 1816.

[5] Cumbria Archives, G.Bell (ed.), Brampton Baptism, Marriage and Burials, 1813-39.

[6] Cumbria Archives PROB/1816/WI462A C/1/18/9/5, Will and Inventory of Robert Davidson, 9 September 1816.

[7] F.Jollie and Sons, Jollie’s Cumberland Guide and Directory 1811 (Carlisle:1811); John Pigot and Co., Pigot and Co.’s National Directory, 1828-1829, part 1 (Manchester and London, 1828).

[8] Cumbria Archives, DCLP8/38, Isaac Bird, Grocery, Brampton, Ledger, 1817-19.

[9] Cumbria Archives, DCLP8/39, Isaac Bird, Brampton, Ledger, 1817-19.

Sarah Oliver (c.1778–1852), Grocer, Brampton

The reconstructed life of Sarah Oliver is a combination of a few ‘definitelys’ and many ‘maybes’. She is most visible in historic records as a widow, but even then the traces she left are few. She has come to attention because she supplied Brampton’s overseers with groceries.

The Marriage Bond Index held at Carlisle, lists Sarah Bell, a minor, who married Henry Brough Oliver, bachelor.[1] The bond was dated 22 October 1798. Sarah’s mother Jane was her guardian and the bondsman was Thomas Bell. This may be Thomas Bell the younger who ran the Howard Arms in Brampton and or Thomas Bell the elder, of the Bush Inn and a carrier operating a service between Carlisle, Brampton and Newcastle.[2] There were, however, many people in Brampton with the surname ‘Bell’.

There is a record of a Henry Brough Oliver born 11 November 1776, baptised 10 December 1776, at St John’s, Smith Square, Westminster, the son of Richard and Jane Oliver.[3] A Henry Brough Oliver and a Richard Oliver served as officers in the Eighth (King’s) Foot Regiment c.1792–98.[4] Henry and Richard Oliver of Intack, Cumberland, both held game certificates and were thus licensed to shoot game.[5] Henry Brough Oliver died in 1808, and was buried in Knarsdale, Northumberland.[6]

Henry and Sarah Oliver had several children: twin sisters, Elizabeth and Jane, baptised in Brampton 24 March 1803; and two other twin sisters Isabella and Sarah baptised in Brampton 13 March 1807.[7] There was possibly a fifth daughter Mary born 1 September 1808, in Knarsdale. There was also a son Richard Brough (23 January 1800) who became a doctor with a practice in Carlisle, before becoming the medical superintendent of Bicton Heath Lunatic Asylum, near Shrewsbury.

The Olivers are not listed in the Universal British Directory of the 1790s, but S. Oliver is listed as a grocer in Jollie’s 1811 directory.[8]

Henry was a cotton manufacturer, but a notice in the Tradesman or Commercial Magazine, and later in the London Gazette show that a commission of bankruptcy was brought against him in July 1808.[9] In 1811 the London Gazette, carried the following notice:

The Commissioners in a Commission of Bankrupt, bearing Date the 6th Day of July 1808, awarded and issued forth against Henry Brough Oliver, late of Brampton, in the County of Cumberland, Cotton-Manufacturer, Dealer and Chapman, intend to meet on the 26th Day of December next, at Eleven of the Clock in the Forenoon, at the Bush, in the City of Carlisle, in the County of Cumberland, in order to make a Final Dividend of the Estate and Effects of the said Bankrupt; when and where the Creditors, who have not already proved their Debts, are to come prepared to prove the same, or they will be excluded the Benefit of the said Dividend. And all Claims not then proved will be disallowed.[10]

Despite the declaration that a final dividend was to be paid on this occasion, this was not the end of the matter. Fifteen years later, another notice in the Gazette called the creditors of Henry Brough Oliver to a meeting at the Office of Messrs. Mounsey, Solicitors, Carlisle, ‘to take into consideration and determine upon the best mode of proceeding as to a certain sum of money, lately become due to the said Bankrupt’s estate; and on other matters and things relative thereto’.[11]

As a grocer, Sarah Oliver was in regular contact with Brampton’s overseers between 1818 and 1820.[12]  In the 139 days between 22 December 1818 and 10 May 1819, for example, purchases were made on 70 separate occasions. Some of her stock came from fellow Brampton grocer Isaac Bird. She settled her account with him in cash, and once in tobacco.[13]

Oliver supplied Brampton’s workhouse with imported items including tea, coffee, sugar, and pepper; and domestic items including, candles, soap, starch and flour.[14] Oliver did not sell a more restricted range of goods than male grocers also located in Brampton. Her goods were identical in name to the flour, soap, starch, blue, candles, tobacco, barley, tea, coffee and sugar supplied by Joseph Forster.[15]  Moreover, prices paid per stone, pound or ounce, were very similar. It is entirely possible that the quality of goods differed, but neither the vouchers nor Forster’s ledger make such distinctions possible.

In the early 1820s Oliver moved her business to Scotch Street, Carlisle, where she acted as agent to the London Genuine Tea Company.[16] Daughters Elizabeth and Jane, became milliners and dressmakers; they are listed in Jollie’s1828–29 directory, as also being resident in Scotch Street.[17] In 1834 Richard Hind, ironmonger, of English Street, Carlisle, married Mary Oliver, of Scotch Street.[18]

Sarah Oliver died Carlisle in 1852.  Her death was reported in the Carlisle Patriot: ‘Yesterday, in this city, aged 52, Sarah, relict of the late Mr. Henry Brough Oliver, of Brampton, deeply lamented by her family’.[19]

This is a work-in progress, subject to change as new research is conducted.


[1] Cumbria Archives, Carlisle, Marriage Bond Index.

[2] Peter Barfoot and John Wilkes, Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce and Manufacture, 5 vols. (London: c.1795), V, Appendix, 27–9. 

[3] St John the Evangelist, Smith Square, London, born 11 November, Baptised 10 December 1776, Henry Brough, son of Richard and Jane Oliver.

[4] Historical Record of the King’s Liverpool Regiment of Foot; http://oxfordindex.oup.com/view/10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.U197827 accessed 12 Feb. 2019

[5] Carlisle Journal, 4 September 1802, p.1; Carlisle Journal, 24 September 1803, 3.

[6] The Monthly Magazine, vol. 26 (R. Philips, 1808), 492.

[7] Cumbria Archives, PR60, Brampton, St Martin’s Parish Registers, 1663–1993.

[8] F. Jollie, Jollies Cumberland Guide & Directory (Carlisle: 1811)

[9] Tradesman or Commercial Magazine, 1, (July–December 1808), (London: Sherwood, Neely and Jones, 1808), 271.

[10] London Gazette, 26 November 1811, 2301.

[11] The London Gazette, 25 February 1826, 437.

[12] Cumbria Archives Service, Carlisle, PR60/21/13/5/100, 6 April 1819; PR60/21/13/5/124, 8 January 1819; PR60/21/13/6/710 February 1820, Brampton Overseers’ Vouchers, Sarah Oliver.

[13] Cumbria Archives Service, Carlisle, DCLP/8/38, Isaac Bird, Grocer, Brampton, Ledger, 1817-19.

[14] Cumbria Archives Service, Carlisle, PR60/21/13/5/124; Brampton Overseers’ Voucher, Sarah Oliver, 8 January 1819.

[15] Cumbria Archives Service, Carlisle, DCL P/8/47, Joseph Forster, grocer, Brampton, ledger, 1819–31; William Parson and William White, History, Directory and Gazetteer of Cumberland and Westmorland (Leeds: Edward Baines and Son, 1829), 426.

[16] Carlisle Patriot, 30 August 1823 and 3 December 1825.

[17] J. Pigot and Co., National Commercial Directory [Part 1: Cheshire – Northumberland] for 1828–29 (London and Manchester: J. Pigot and Co., 1828), 71; W. Parson and W. White, History, Directory & Gazetteer of Cumberland & Westmorland, (Leeds: Edward Baines and Son, 1829), 165

[18] Carlisle Journal, 1 November 1834, 3.

[19] Carlisle Patriot, 27 October 1832, 3.