William Snape (c.1774-1833), Mercer and Draper, Lichfield, Staffordshire

William Snape was a mercer and draper in Market St, Lichfield, who was used by the overseers to supply fabrics, cloths and threads to the workhouse. He supplied fabrics such as blue linen, drab calico, Irish linen, blue print, buttons and thread.[1] This suggest that the workhouse may have been making some form of uniform or sets of apprentices’ clothes (see ‘Blue Duffle’ entry 28 March 2019). We have vouchers for him supplying the workhouse between 1824-1830. The bill from 1824 has a pre-printed ink header across the top. It shows a tombstone with a shrouded urn on top with two figures either side one of which represents Liberty with her scales and sword. This suggests that his business was doing well as he could afford to add the headers.[2] The bills are still hand signed though by him, proving that he was literate. The header also states that William furnished funerals meaning that he supplied all the drapes, clothes and fabrics used in the funeral and he would rent them out. This at the time had become a lucrative business.

William Snape, son of Isaac Snape, was baptised on 24 July 1774. William Snape’s registered age in the calendar of wills was 59. This would mean his year of birth would be 1774. William Snape the elder married Anne Jackson in 1801 in St Mary’s, Lichfield.[3] We believe that they had a son, also called William, as there is a baptism that took place in May 1806 with reference to them.[4] At the moment we have no evidence suggesting that the son carried on the business or went into the same profession as he is not listed in any trade directories and we have no vouchers after the date William dies. There is however, a Mrs Anne Snape listed in White’s 1834 directory. She is not listed under any business, and had moved from Market St to Beacon St. This suggests that she was living off independent means.[5] There is a possibility that it could be the widow of William Snape as she is listed as Mrs Anne Snape. William did not leave a will when he died, however, letters of administration were drawn up after his death.[6]

The vouchers suggest that the business of William Snape was lucrative and successful as the total amount paid for the four bills we have is £22 9s 6 ½ d. It is then surprising to find that on 17 April 1821 there was a bankruptcy case in the London Gazette for William Snape, ‘of the City of Lichfield, Mercer, Draper, Dealer and Chapman’.[7] There were then three meetings arranged on the 14, 15 and 29 of May at the Talbot Arms, Rugeley, Stafford. The first meeting was for Snape to make a full ‘disclosure of his estate and effects’ and also for any creditors to prove their claims. The second sitting was to choose assignees, who were responsible to gather in all the debts owed to William Snape and the administration of his bankruptcy. The final sitting on the 29 was to finish the examination and for William Snape to declare everything he had, to state all his debtors and creditors. The solicitors for the case were Mr Thomas Gnosall Parr, of Bird Street, Lichfield and Messrs. Constable and Kirk, solicitors, Symond’s-inn, Chancery Lane, London.[8] The date for the final dividend to be paid was 16 December 1822 at the Talbot Arms, Rugeley, where all creditors should prove their debts and that any claims after that date would be disallowed.[9] This suggests that it brought an end to everything that the commissioners were going to do, therefore freeing Snape from the bankruptcy. We know that he recovered as the vouchers state that he was supplying the workhouse just two years after being cleared of his bankruptcy.

William Snape died and was buried in March 1833 at St Michael’s, Lichfield.[10]


[1] Staffordshire Record Office (hereafter SRO) LD20/6/6 no item no., Lichfield, St Mary’s overseer’s voucher, 1824; SRO LD20/6/6 no item no., Lichfield, St Mary’s overseer’s voucher, 1830.

[2] SRO LD20/6/6 no item no., Lichfield, St Mary’s overseer’s voucher, 1824.

[3] SRO D20/1/9, Lichfield, St Mary’s Parish registers, 1801.

[4] SRO D20/1/3, Lichfield, St Mary’s Parish Records, Baptisms, 1806.

[5] William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire (Sheffield: 1834).

[6] SRO P/C/11, Lichfield, Calendar of Peculiars, 30 August 1833.

[7] London Gazette, 17 April 1821, 877.

[8] London Gazette, 16 October 1821, 2059; London Gazette, 17 April 1821, 877.

[9] London Gazette, 23 November 1822, 1929.

[10] SRO D27/1/9, Lichfield, St Michael’s, Burials, 29 March 1833, 191.

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