The Brinkhurst family: paupers of East Hoathly parish

In early 1782 Benjamin Brinkhurst died, leaving a widow and three children. Charles Vine charged the parish 12s 6d for making his coffin on 15th February. John Burgess supplied 4 quarts of beer “for the people at Brinkhursts”, which may have been part of the provisions for the funeral. Benjamin was buried on the 17th February.

Benjamin was originally from Wartling, and after moving to East Hoathly, worked as a labourer for John Vine, starting in September 1760. He married Ann Dalloway in April 1762 and gained the right of settlement in East Hoathly in 1769.

Benjamin and Ann had three surviving children: Benedicta (born 1771), William (1773) and John (1776). Two children born to the couple in 1763 and 1764 had died young. When Benjamin died Benedicta was eleven, and William and John nine and six respectively.

The family had received help from the parish prior to Benjamin’s death, but would be more reliant on its help after the death of the breadwinner. During the period immediately before and after her father’s death it was Benedicta who collected the family’s groceries from Thomas Turner’s store, perhaps because her mother was nursing Benjamin. Subsequently Widow Brinkhurst was usually named as the recipient by Turner in his invoices.

Turner supplied candles and soap to the family. He supplied foodstuffs: cheese (4 lbs at a time), butter and sugar, as well as condiments – salt and pepper. For flour the family went to Charles Fielder the miller, getting through 4 gallands (sic) every week to a fortnight. They ate mutton, which seems to have been the staple meat of the poor of the parish, and this Benedicta obtained weekly from the butcher, Richard Fuller. Fuller’s bill to the Parish for the first part of 1783 itemises weekly supplies of mutton to Benedicta from the 1st February to the 15th April.

In the bills which survive it is startling how often the Brinkhurst boys had their shoes mended, (in common with other children in the parish). In one of his bills Thomas Davy remarks plaintively that he had mended William’s shoes “several times”. There is only one instance of Benedicta’s shoes being mended in the surviving bills, in April 1782.

If the boys were provided with new shoes once or twice a year, their feet must soon have outgrown their footwear, and that, and the active life they led, would help to explain the frequent need for repair.

In December 1786 when Benedicta was fifteen, and the boys thirteen and ten, the children’s’ mother Ann died, and the record of her burial on 15 December was annotated “pauper” (not the case for her husband). She seems to have been ill for some time as Mr Paine the surgeon had supplied medicine worth 13 shillings the previous September.

After that the boys became “parish children”. They lodged with parishioners who fed and housed them, and the parish was billed for their keep. The Mr Turner, who was responsible for William may have been Thomas Turner himself.

At the beginning of February 1786 Benedicta received a new pair of shoes, costing 4s 6d. She was rising 16 at this date, and it seems quite old for a child at that time to be dependent, and not expected to be at work.

Village inhabitants were usually provided with a set of clothes prior to looking for a position. That there is no record of Benedicta being outfitted other than with shoes may be because the records have not been transcribed or are incomplete. In contrast, there are bills for a waistcoat for Benedicta’s brother John in the spring of 1790, followed by a hat and hose later in the year, and in 1791 when he reached the age of 15 he was provided with a pair of shoes and nails, presumably a preliminary to starting to look for work.

Benedicta may have left the village to find work, but the boys stayed on in East Hoathly as parish children, continuing to provide the shoe menders with work.

Benedicta re-surfaces in the records at the age of twenty four, living in Lewes. In July 1795 her marriage banns were read in the parish of All Saints Lewes. Benedicta married Stapley Ade, a cordwainer, of St Michael’s Parish Lewes, on 26 July 1795. Her husband was forty eight years old to Benedicta’s twenty, which makes one wonder how she met him. Maybe he had been her employer prior to their marriage (although they were recorded as living in separate parishes). Their first child Ruth was born on December 25th in the same year, which indicates that Benedicta was already pregnant when the couple married.

The couple had five children: Ruth (born 1795), George (1797), Mary (1801), and John (1803) and Alfred (1808). Only the oldest two lived beyond infancy. The fifth child, Alfred Stapley Ade, was baptised in September 1808, and buried on 5 March 1809. Shortly after, on April 16 1809 there is a burial record for Benedicta, whose age was recorded as thirty six years, although her birth in 1771 would make her thirty eight.

Sources

www.Familysearch.org accessed 18 January 2019

PAR378/31/3/8 for settlement examination of Benjamin Brinkhurst

PAR 378/1/1 Early registers (1560-1812)

PAR378/31/3/19, PAR378/31/3/20, PAR378/31/3/21, PAR378/31/3/22

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.

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

Senna and Prunes for Dame Trill

When parishes agreed to meet the costs of medicines for the parish poor, they might require medical practitioners to submit an itemised bill for the raw materials, procedures and travel involved in delivering treatment.  Many of the items were commonly known to contemporaries, but are less familiar to us: therefore when writers abbreviated entries for repeated supplies, they stored up a problem for twenty-first century readers.  It is notoriously difficult (and perhaps unwise) to try to decipher the abbreviated Latin prescriptions of physicians.  It is a little easier to understand the medical interventions involved when the original language was English, and/or the substances remain part of formal or informal treatments.

Eighteenth-century woman perched on public convenience.
National Portrait Gallery. ‘National Conveniences’, James Gillray, 1796. NPG D13021.

Dame Trill from East Hoathly had a problem we can recognise – she was constipated.  We do not know the background to her story; she may have suffered a dietary deficiency of roughage or, if struggling with piles, she might have found relief in additional stool softener.  Whatever the cause, the problem was stubborn.  The parish bought senna and prunes for Dame Trill repeatedly 1770-4, usually at a cost of six and a half pence per treatment.  Raisins were sometimes offered as an alternative to prunes.

Other treatments issued to the sick poor were more general.  The purpose of diuretic balsam is made clear in the name, in that it was designed to remedy the retention of urine, but the specific diagnosis is less easy to divine.  Medicines for the poor at this date still relied on humoural understandings of the body for their rationale.  Humoural medicine construed ill health as the imbalance of humours or fluids within the body.  The four humours of blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile had a unique blend or balance for each individual, and the restoration of health demanded the removal of any humour that was overly prevalent.  For this reason vomits, purges, diuretics and bleeding were among the most frequently used medicines throughout the eighteenth century.

In addition to generic remedies there was a willingness by parishes to pay for the equivalent of brand-name medicines, known at the time as patent medicines.  Widow Cane of East Hoathly was given Hooper’s Pills in 1773.  The patent for this medicine was first issued in 1743  and was one of the most successful and long-lasting products of its type, being sold well into the twentieth century in England and elsewhere.  It pledged to tackle female ‘irregularities’ and so was assumed by some customers to be a viable solution to an unwanted pregnancy.  It is important to say, though, that we don’t automatically suppose that this was the purpose of the parish in buying the pills for Widow Cane!  This medicine also offered to treat stomach problems, hysteria, and menstrual concerns: perhaps Widow Cane was menopausal?

Lists of medicines and treatments for the parish poor have presented a problem to historians thus far: how are we to use them, if we cannot work out the ingredients of items listed simply as pills, powders or mixtures, and if the recipients are not always obvious?  This is one of the problems this project is hoping to address.  Do get in touch with the project team if you have any ideas about how we might use these intriguing vouchers to ask historical questions.

The parish of East Hoathly

East Hoathly tithe map, 1839. East Sussex Record Office: TDE 48/1.

East Hoathly is a small village located in central East Sussex. It lies just over four miles south east of Uckfield, off what is now the major route running south eastwards towards Eastbourne. To the north and east the landscape is dominated by the rolling hills of the High Weald and to the south the South Downs. In the eighteenth century the parish encompassed some 2,000 acres of woodland and mixed agricultural land together with numerous ponds. Most of the parish was divided into small farms occupied by tenants renting from local landowners including the wealthy and politically influential Pelham-Holles family.

East Hoathly tithe map, 1839. East Sussex Record Office: TDE 48/1.

During the eighteenth century East Hoathly contained only a handful of houses, largely clustered around the conjunction of roads at the centre of the parish. The church lay just to the south-west of this centre. However, the parish also incorporated a number of small hamlets with a scattering of houses including: Grays, Blackboys, Whitesmiths, the Nursery and Halland. By 1801 the whole of the parish contained only 56 domestic houses, occupied by 76 families. Over the next forty years the number of houses doubled, so by 1841, 119 houses were recorded in the parish. During the same period, 1801-1841, the population of the parish rose from 395 to 607. In 1841 only 31 out of the 607 inhabitants were recorded as having been born outside of the county, suggesting a reasonably stable population with relatively few in-comers.

The Rector

Country Characters No 7, Vicar, Thomas Rowlandson, 1799. Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, PID:
digcoll:3996479.

The church and the rector were central to village life, but the clerical living was not particularly generous. By 1872 it was worth only £261 per annum. In addition, the church was in increasingly poor repair and in 1856 it was demolished in favour of a new building. From 1752 to 1794 the rector was Thomas Porter. Porter had followed his brother, Richard, into the living and remained there until his death at the age of 74. He also held the nearby living of Ripe. According to the diarist Thomas Turner, Porter was an outgoing-man, and was often the centre drinking parties that went on into the small hours of the night. At the same time, Porter was also apparently assiduous in performing his clerical duties, although these were admittedly light. There were no more than a dozen baptisms a year during the eighteenth century and sometimes as few as four. But by the nineteenth century, this had risen to between ten and twenty per year. Marriages remained fairly constant at two to four a year, while burials amounted to less than a dozen per year. Porter was also quite diligent in pursuing his extra-clerical business, acquiring significant parcels of land and property in the area.

Thomas Turner (1729-1793)[1]

While in many ways East Hoathly was an unremarkable rural parish in southern England, it is notable as the home of Thomas Turner, shopkeeper and prolific diarist of the mid-eighteenth century. Turner was twenty-one when he first came to the parish in 1750. He married Peggy Slater in 1753 and the first of his surviving diaries date from 1754. Turner initially came to the parish in order to run a small general shop. At first he rented premises in the centre of the village, purchasing the property shortly after 1765. But Turner was much more than just a shopkeeper. He threw himself into parish life and administration. His meticulous accounting was put to good use in service of the village. He briefly kept the local school and later became both a churchwarden and overseer of the poor. He also acted as occasional surveyor, assisted the local tax collector, wrote wills, gave advice and acted in law on behalf of many of his neighbours. All of this was carefully noted in his diaries, together with vivid accounts of the everyday life of the parish. The last surviving volume ends in July 1765.

Occupations

Other than the church, the parish supported the general shop run by the Turner, a small school and at least two public house, one of which was the King’s Head. However, the overseers’ vouchers make it clear that several other craftsmen and women were operating in the parish, including shoemakers and cobblers, a butcher, a miller, carpenters, builders and blacksmiths, together with tailors and seamstresses. These were augmented by local petty officials: for instance the excise officer, postmaster and schoolmaster, most of whom had dealings with Thomas Turner in his capacity as churchwarden or overseer of the poor. In the early nineteenth century there was a slight drift away from the agricultural occupations that dominated the parish workforce, with a growing number concerned with ‘trade, manufacture or handicrafts’. The numbers recorded in this census category grew from 15 families in 1801, to 35 families out of 97 in 1831.

Halland House and the Duke of Newcastle

West front of Halland House drawn in 1783 by S.H Grimm. BL Add MS. 5671 f.47 (no 82)

The largest house in the parish belonged to the Duke of Newcastle. The family seat, Halland House, was located in the hamlet of Halland, and straddled the parish boundary with the adjacent parish of Laughton. By the later 1760s the Elizabethan house was dilapidated and was substantially demolished. What remained, continued to be used as a generously proportioned farm house.

Through most of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries there were regular public open days or celebrations at the house, where both the local gentry and parishioners of all classes enjoyed the hospitality of the Duke of Newcastle and other members of the Pelham-Holles family. Thomas Turner recounted in his diary,

About four p.m., I walked down to Halland with several more of my neighbours, in order for a rejoicing for the taking of Cape Breton, etc., where there was a bonfire of six hundred of faggots, the cannon fired, and two barrels of beer given to the populace, and a very good supper provided for the principal tradesmen of this and the neighbouring parishes,[2]

Despite the attendance of notable members of the aristocracy, judiciary and political allies of the Duke at such events, Turner commented in his diary that the celebrations ‘might be more properly done by distributing something to the poor.’[3] Charitable donations by the aristocracy were commonplace in the eighteenth century and often distributed through the local overseers of the poor including gifts of food and fuel.[4] Thomas Turner was assiduous in noting their distribution in East Hoathly.

The ‘Old Poor Law’

In common with many small rural parishes East Hoathly did not maintain a workhouse and cared for its poor in the community. Pensions were paid to a small group of regular, often elderly or otherwise infirm paupers. Food stuffs, clothing, footwear and fuel formed regular components of parochial support.

The village doctor besieg’d, Thomas Rowlandson. Wellcome Library no. 10978i .

The parish also provided medical care and medicines for the needy poor. A local apothecary or surgeon provided treatment and dispensed medicines when called on to do so by the overseer of the poor.  Occasional ad hoc payments were made for specific items and small sums given to the itinerant poor. At least one parishioner was supported in Bethlem Hospital, an institution for the insane poor in the City of London. A number of illegitimate children and babies were maintained by East Hoathly parish. These infants were boarded out locally (often with members of the child’s extended family) and subsequently apprenticed. In addition, the parish ensured that repairs were made to cottages and other dwellings that housed their impoverished men and women. At least one cottage, on the outskirts of the village, was used to house the poor. This ‘poorhouse’ was quite possibly owned by the parish and accommodated two families. Labouring work was given to the able poor particularly when these cottages or the church required maintenance.

In the year ending Easter 1776 East Hoathly raised £199 through the Poor rate.[5] By Easter 1803 this had more than doubled to just over £418. Of this, £358 was spent on relieving the poor and a further £13 on the removal of paupers, overseers’ expenses and legal costs. In 1803 the parish was permanently caring for 22 adults, 3 children under 5 and a further 13 children between the ages of 5 and 14. In years of extreme stress, particularly when the harvests failed, then many more agricultural workers were thrown ‘on the parish’. In 1801, men from East Hoathly joined those from the neighbouring parishes of Chiddingly, Framfield and Buxted, this band of 300 then marched to Lewes in order to ask the county Bench for poor relief.[6] It is difficult to say if some form of parochial ‘wage subsidy’ was established in East Hoathly but it seems likely.

Louise Falcini

[1] For a fuller biography see David Vaisey. 2004 “Turner, Thomas (1729–1793), diarist and shopkeeper.” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 14 Aug. 2018. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-48266.

[2] Thomas Turner, The Diary of Thomas Turner, 1754-1765, ed. David Vaisey, New edition (East Hoathly: CTR Publishing, 1994), 161.

[3] Turner, 161.

[4] Naomi Tadmor, Family and Friends in Eighteenth-Century England: Household, Kinship and Patronage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 85–89.

[5] To the nearest whole English pound.

[6] Sussex Weekly Advertiser, 24 Feb. 1801 and 21 Apr. 1801. Cited in Griffin, Carl J. The Politics of Hunger: Protest, Poverty and Policy in England, C. 1750-C. 1840. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020,