The details of details of goods, services, and prices contained in vouchers submitted to Uttoxeter’s overseers of the poor are shedding light on the daily workings of the Old Poor Law, but to what extent did these suppliers advertise in local or regional newspapers?
Between January 1831 and July 1832 a survey of the Derby Mercury reveals relatively few Uttoxeter business owners placing notices or adverts specifically to promote their enterprises. Even fewer of them can be linked directly to the poor law vouchers. Initially, this may seem surprising, but is readily explainable. The Derby Mercury was just one of a number of regional papers and perhaps it would be more likely that Uttoxeter’s traders would place notices in the Staffordshire Advertiser. A survey of the Advertiser, however, is revealing a similarly limited pattern of engagement. How can this be explained? In part it was due to the high cost of adverts charged by newspaper proprietors. In 1800 the Derby Mercury charged 3s 6d per advert on top of which duty of 1s 6d was also chargeable. It may also have been the result of local traders supplying very local markets, where the need to advertise beyond the immediate vicinity was considered unnecessary. This was particularly so if the goods were perishable such as meat, fruit and vegetables. There are other things to consider, however. Where the variety (as opposed to the quantity or quality) of stock changed little business owners may have seen little point in advertising the same things week in week out. Instead, they may have preferred to save their adverts for more important events such as changes in personnel, especially the appointment of new staff or business partners, or changes in business ownership or location. The only real exceptions to these were announcements of the arrival of new or fashionable stock, especially if they came from London.
Which of Uttoxeter’s business owners did place notices in the Derby Mercury, and what were they announcing?
Grocer William Lovatt’s marriage to Miss Elizabeth Bakewell of Marston Montgomery was announced in October 1831. On 6 April 1831 tobacconist Jane Smith, with shops in both Uttoxeter and Ashbourne, declared that she was continuing the business of her late husband James for the benefit of herself and her large family. When in February the White Lion, Bradley Street, with stabling for 20 horses, and ‘calculated for a common brewery’, was offered to let particulars could be had from Abel Ault, or John Ault, timber merchant, Derby.
Some Uttoxeter businesses, including those of Samuel Garle (see separate entry), Thomas Woolrich (see separate entry), and Tompkinson and Co., were acting as agents for patent products including Heeley’s rhadiographic pens, Perryian pens, John Leeming’s genuine horse medicines, Barclay’s asthmatic candy, and Dr Sibly’s Reanimating Solar Tincture for debility, consumption, nervous complaints, rheumatism, spasms, indigestion, and lowness of spirits. Chemist Thomas Woolrich (who so far has not turned up in the overseers’ vouchers) had a national business network. His claim to fame was ‘Woolrich’s improved diuretic horse balls’ available from ‘all respectable medicine vendors in most market towns in the kingdom’. In addition to Uttoxeter, they were also sold wholesale by London agents such as Messrs Barclay & Sons, 95 Fleet Market; Mr Edwards, 66 St Paul’s Church Yard; Sutton & Co., Bow Church Yard; and Butlers’, Cheapside. They could be bought at 73 Princess Street, Edinburgh, and at 54 Sackville Street, Dublin. Closer to home they were sold retail by Drewry & Son, Derby; Whitham, Ashbourne; and Claughton, Chesterfield.
Some people probably wished that notices regarding their businesses had not appeared. The bankruptcy of surgeon George Alsop (see separate entry) was announced in November 1831, but at least it provided work for Uttoxeter solicitors Bedson and Rushton who notified debtors and creditors of meetings about Alsop’s plight at the Red Lion on 24 and 25 November, and on 23 December. Debts owing to Alsop were to be paid to his business partner Mr Chapman or to Bedson and Rushton. Similarly, in March 1831 Bell’s bank suspended payments owing to heavy debts. A meeting of creditors, however, concluded that James Bell’s assets and credits were sufficient to meet liabilities and leave a considerable surplus. The creditors were lucky. Dividends of 10s in the pound declared within 4 months. Bell avoided bankruptcy, but it did him little good. His death was reported at the end of November.