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.

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.

George Haslehurst (c.1792–c.1866), Nail Maker, Uttoxeter

George Haslehurst, born in Eckington, Derbyshire, c.1792, probably the son of  George Haslehurst of Eckington a nailer who, in 1791, had been fined £20 for poaching (reduced to £10 on appeal). He first came to attention through the surviving overseers’ vouchers of the parish of Uttoxeter, Staffordshire. Subsequent research had uncovered a complex life of multiple marriages, infant deaths and criminal activity.

On 10 September 1821 he married Hannah (I) Wood (c.1800–22), a spinster, at St Mary’s parish church Uttoxeter. The witnesses were James Appleby and Thomas Osborne. It was a brief marriage as Hannah died and was buried on 4 February 1822. George was not a widower for long, for he married for a second time on 22 October 1822. His wife was Hannah Cotterill (née Appleby), the recently widowed wife of Thomas Cotterill (1795–1821). Their marriage had taken place on 17 April 1820 and had as been equally brief as George and Hannah Haslehursts’. It is interesting to note that one of the witnesses of the Cotterill marriage had been Thomas Osborne.

George and Hannah (II) had a son Thomas born 8 February 1823, either meaning a very premature baby or Hannah (II) had become pregnant very soon after the death of George’s first wife, Hannah (I). Thomas was baptised at Uttoxeter’s Wesleyan chapel. He died aged four months in early June 1823. A Mary Haslehurst, possibly George’s and Mary’s second child, was buried in Uttoxeter on 23 June 1823, aged three months. In 1827 a third child, Elizabeth was born and in April 1831 a fourth, Mary, who survived for eleven months and was buried on 8 March 1831. It is likely that the birth of Mary led to Hannah’s (II) death on 4 June 1830, aged 31.

It is at some point after this that Haslehurst and the administrators of the Poor Law for Uttoxeter came into contact with each other. In April 1831 George Haslehurst was served with a removal order and was taken with his surviving child Elizabeth to Eckington by William Williams. Williams charged the parish £2 8s for his services. In May 1831 two vouchers relating to Haslehurst show that Elizabeth had died, a coffin had been supplied by Goodall and Heath and that Uttoxeter had paid for the child’s burial.

For the next fifteen years nothing further is heard of George Haslehurst until just before his third marriage. In January 1846 the Derbyshire Advertiser reported that George had been found guilty of being drunk and of assaulting Robert Yeomans of Ashbourne. He was fined for both, and in default of payment was to be committed to gaol for 24 days. His conduct did not prevent his marriage to Fanny Overton (née Baker), a widow with one son Enoch from Ashbourne. The marriage took place at St Oswald’s, Ashbourne on 28 March 1846.

It is also possible that this George Haselhurst was the same George Haslehurst, aged 53, who was up on a charge of larceny, but subsequently acquitted, at the Derby County sessions in January 1844.

By 1851 George, aged 59, and Fanny, aged 57, were living with Enoch Overton in Bunting’s Yard, High Street, Uttoxeter. However, it also seems likely that George once again found himself at odds with the law, and this time it was far more serious. In July 1854 the Derby Mercury reported the trial of George Hazlehurst, aged 62. He was charged with indecent assault upon Elizabeth Marsden a seven-year-old infant. The incident had occurred on the 1 May 1854 at Barlborough, a place close to Eckington. The newspaper thought evidence unfit for publication. The jury found him guilty of the intent and he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment with hard labour.

George died sometime between 1854 and 1861. The 1861 Census shows that Fanny Haslehurst, now 67, a widow and infirm was still living in High Street, Uttoxeter.


Derbyshire Record Office, St Oswald’s Parish Register, Ashbourne.

Derby Mercury, January 1844, July 1854.

Derbyshire Advertiser, January 1846.

1851 and 1861 Census Returns

Staffordshire Record Office,

SRO, D3891/6/37/1/20; D3891/6/37/2/18; D3891/6/37/2/23; D3891/6/37/2/24; D3891/6/37/2/30; D3891/6/37/3/26, Uttoxeter Overseers’ Vouchers.

St Mary’s Parish Register, Uttoxeter.

Uttoxter Wesleyan Chapel Register

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