John Beard was one of at least six children born in Wichnor parish to Thomas Beard and Mary (nee Smith).
John was a tailor who also, at the age of 60, took on the task of salaried or ‘assistant’ overseer in Whittington for twelve guineas a year. As a result he is a signatory to many of the receipts paid for relief to the poor, and to numerous other parish documents such as apprenticeship indentures. He also took apprentices himself into the tailoring business, including towards the end of his life twelve-year-old William Birch. He did not receive an apprenticeship ‘premium’ or payment with this child, suggesting that he took the lad on willingly without financial inducement as mutually beneficial: Birch obtained training, while Beard continued in work into old age. It may have been significant for Beard’s personal finances that the role of assistant overseer came to an end in the mid 1830s with the implementation of the reformed poor law.
Beard died from ‘schirrus of the stomach’, a form of stomach cancer, in early December 1839. His will left everything to his niece Elizabeth Elson, daughter of John Beard’s younger brother Thomas Beard and the wife of Joseph Elson. William Birch’s apprenticeship had years left to run, so he was transferred to a Joseph Elson, possibly a different man to John’s nephew-in-law, for the completion of his term.
This story looks relatively simple, but it has had to be disentangled from that of another John Beard, a younger man, whose relationship to the parish officer is unclear (possibly a nephew or cousin). John Beard junior owned land in Whittington adjoining that of John Beard senior, according to the Tithe Award, and was described as a ‘retired tradesman’ shortly before his death in 1861.
Sources: Tatenhill marriage of 27 June 1756; Wichnor baptism of 26 January 1766; Staffordshire Record Office D 4838/9/1/1-3 appointment of assistant overseer 1826-34; D4384/9/7/51 apprenticeship papers 1839-40; death certificate of 14 December 1839; PC 11 (1840) will of John Beard; tithe award index for Staffordshire; 1861 census for Whittington.