Thomas Gill lived in Lamonby and Leath in Skelton parish. He was described as a labourer in the parish according to the records available. It is assumed that he took on labouring work most of his life and that his income and ability to make a living would be very dependent on his ability to work. Skelton being a rural area the work would most likely involve that related to agriculture.
He married Elizabeth (Betty) Gibson when he was 37 and she was 21 on 23 November 1774. It is possible that Gill had been married before as Skelton poor law vouchers show that the parish overseer arranged a binding into an apprenticeship for a Thomas Gill’s son in 1772. Whether this was this Thomas Gill’s son is not known. Thomas and Elizabeth had 5 children William (b.1775) , Hannah (b.1776), Mary (b.1779), Margaret (b.1781) and Elizabeth (b.1786.) When Elizabeth was born Gill was referred to as a pauper. By the 10 March 1789 Gill had died aged 49; his family were presumably left to struggle on. His son William had already died in 1775 aged 2 months. Hannah, his daughter, was alive in 1799 and had a son, Thomas. His birth is recorded as illegitimate on 23 May of that year. If his wife Elizabeth remarried or how long she lived is unknown.
Assuming the family were unable to pay for his funeral, Skelton parish appears to have borne the cost. The parish provided similar provisions for the pauper funeral of Edward Tinkler in 1793 as well as others. With similar items on the small bills and petty cash vouchers, the expense for Gill’s funeral included bread from Wm Nicholson, £0.4s.0d, Ale and Beer from Ann Todd £0.2s.0d, butter from Wm Hodgson £1.6s.0d, cheese £0.2s.0d, sugar £0.1s.6d, barley 2 quarters £0.0s.5d, cakespice £0.0s.2d, tobacco 2 0z £0.0s.3d, candles £0.0s.4d, a shroud £0.2s.6d, 10oz tea, a coffin £0.12s.0, and Church fees £0.1s.6d; the total cost being £1.8s.5d. Who consumed the food is not known. This may not be comparable with a pauper’s funeral in the larger cities. The respect afforded the poor in death may have been dependent on parish finance and those who administered them.
In rural areas the fear of resurrectionists and anatomists was probably less than in the larger cities with medical schools. These schools could procure bodies for research in unethical ways. The Anatomy Act of 1832 proposed to address this by allowing poorhouses, workhouses and hospitals to give up bodies not claimed by friends of relatives to surgeons and teachers of anatomy. Some argued that this would benefit the poor by reducing the cost of medical advice while also helping medical science. The likelihood is it perpetuated the poor’s fear of the workhouse.
The following is taken from Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society iv, 425-435, Rev R.W. Dixon, ‘Hayton: The Old Registers’.
Before poor law unions the poorhouse Hayton was at Street House. It is to this the agreement between Thomas Wharton of Faugh and the churchwardens refers to. Thomas Wharton had an agreement with Hayton Parish for a year in 1773 for ‘letting of the poor’ for a year. The Parish provided clothing and apparel. Wharton was to mend their clothes and stockings. £5 being appointed for the purpose. Under 1 year olds to be counted with their mother as one person. He was to provide meat, drink, washing and lodgings for the paupers. He was given a weekly allowance of £0.1s. 2d for each pauper adjusted if they left before the week was out. A yearly salary of £12.10s was given to him. If the pauper died in the house he was to be buried at the expense of the parish. What this provision entailed can only be surmised. This practice may have continued with an arrangement with Thomas Milbourn of Towtop in 1776 for letting of the poor for one year.
PR 102/30 Churchwardens and overseers account book 1740-1796. Includes memorandum on agreement for letting of poor for one year to Thomas Milbourn of Towtop p Hayton,Yeoman, 1776
PR 10/V/14 item 12 March 10 1789 Skelton Overseers Vouchers
The Register of the Parish Church of Skelton: Baptisms, Burials and Marriages 1580-1812
Liverpool Mercury, 20 January 1832
Rev R W Dixon ‘Hayton: The Old Registers’, Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society. vol iv, 425-435
E.S Thomson, Beloved Poison (London: Churchill, 2016)
www.gutenberg.org. Bygone Cumberland and Westmorland. (accessed 9 Dec 2018)
This is a work in progress subject to change.