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Monday
Dec172012

Bk2: Henry Atley, Louisa Tomlin (Cobley), Jane Weekley, Elizabeth Figgis, Maud Burgin: SOME WORKHOUSE LIVES.

SOME WORKHOUSE LIVES

I have decided to tell a few stories of the Ringstead people who found themselves in Thrapston Union Workhouse in the Nineteenth Century. I have given a brief introduction to the Thrapston Union Workhouse and the Ringsteead Gift Charity as I do not think that there has been a history of them yet written.

Thrapston Union Workhouse.

Sketch by George Clarke June 23rd 1847

With the kind permission of Northampton Record Office

 

The Thrapston Union Workhouse

At the beginning of the Nineteenth Century many villages and towns had their own parish workhouse, sometimes just an ordinary cottage set aside for the purpose. The Parliamentary Report of 1777 recorded workhouses in Denford, Raunds and Thrapston so that it seems that that there was not a workhouse in the village of Ringstead itself.

From 1601 a Parish Overseer was appointed annually who could levy a poor rate to look after the sick and old, often in their own homes, and provide work for the able-bodied. Increasingly this latter group were touted around the parish for work on the local farms, their wages subsidised from the poor rate.

This system became a subsidy for the farmers and tended to depress wages for ordinary labourers or make it more difficult for them to find work. It also became increasingly expensive, especially in the agricultural depression following the end of the Napoleonic Wars. A Government Commission was set up and all the parishes in the country were consulted, perhaps for the first time. Unfortunately the Commission’s recommendations came out before much of this evidence had been received back.

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was the result. Poor Law Commissioners were appointed to combine the more than 13,000 parishes into 573 ‘Unions’ and new workhouses were built to serve them.

The Thrapston Poor Law Union came into being on 30th November 1835 with 26 constituent parishes. By 1836 the Union Workhouse site was agreed on the Denford Road. The architect, William J. Donthorn designed many workhouses in the area based on the model cruciform plan published by the Commissioners. Ringstead’s contribution to the cost was £227 from the ‘liquidation of a debt incurred before the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act’.

On 14th June 1836 there was an advertisement in The Times inviting builders to tender by 9 o’clock on the 28th June and be ‘prepared to enter upon the work forthwith’.

Less than a year later, on May 6th 1837 there was an advertisement for a married couple as MASTER and MATRON of the workhouse. It was not a job to suit everyone.

They must be without children resident with them, from 35 to 45 years of age, of good health and unquestionable character. They will be required to reside constantly in the workhouse where they will be provided with rations and lodgings and have a salary of £60 per annum. The master must write a good hand and be conversant with accounts.

By 1871, when another advertisement for Master and Matron was placed the age range had widened to 30 to 50 years but the salary was still £60 a year, £40 for the Master and £20 for the Matron. The Master also had to provide:

. . . security, with two sureties in the sum of £300, for the due performance of the duties of both offices.

In general the Matron had responsibility for the female inmates, as well as children under seven of both sexes. Simon Fowler in his book, Workhouse, also records the speech of John Wyld, Master of Bishop Auckland Workhouse, which details the couple’s duties and states that the Matron should also:

. . . ‘pay particular attention to the moral conduct and orderly behaviour of the female paupers and children; to see that they are clean and decent in their dress and persons and to train them up in such employments as will best fit them for service.’

Fowler also adds that:

Practical housekeeping issues, such as ensuring that bed linen was changed monthly also fell into her domain.

The Master always had overall charge but it was an extremely demanding, poorly paid, post for both Master and Matron and it is little wonder that Unions often had difficulty in appointing and then retaining them and that many fell beneath the standard expected.

On June 15th 1837 there was a further advertisement inviting tenders for clothes:

Viz: black felt hats at per doz; boys leather caps at per doz; men’s coats, waistcoats and trousers of dark gray woollen cloth at per suit; mans and boys linen shirts at per doz; strong gray worsted stockings at per doz; cotton handkerchiefs at per doz; men’s house shoes at per pair; men’s strong shoes at per pair; coarse straw bonnets at per doz; brown stuff gowns and frocks at per garment; stays at per doz; flannel at per yard; coloured twilled cotton at per yard; linen shifts at per doz; blue checked linen for aprons at per yard; black worsted hose at per doz; coloured cotton handkerchiefs and shawls at per doz; women’s and girls’ shoes at per doz..

On the 6th July, one month after Mr. And Mrs. Thompson had been voted as the best candidates for the new positions of Master and Matron, the Board of Guardians met to approve the clothes tender from Mr. Edward Hodson. Much was the same as in the advertisement but the males’ suits (Men’s £1. 3s. 0d; Youths’ 15s. 0d; Boys’ 14s. 0d) were of beavertreen rather than ‘dark gray woollen cloth’. Beavertreen is to beavers what moleskin is to moles and is a fustian made of coarse twilled cotton and garments are still made from it in England today.

We can get some picture of what those first workhouse inmates would have looked like. The men dressed in, to the modern eye, rather lumpy heavy brown suits with heavy boots. The women in long gowns of coarse brown ‘stuff’ over flannel petticoats with checked aprons and sometimes straw bonnets.

It would have been a recognizable, humiliating uniform, coarse, often ill-fitting, and hot in summer. Nevertheless for those who had lived in poverty for some time, and who had no other access to clothing charities, it would often have been better than the clothes that they had had to take off when they had entered the institution. If and when they left the institution (which they could do at any time with short notice) they would have had to don once more their own washed clothes.  Of course for those who suddenly had to enter the workhouse because of the death or ruin of a breadwinner, the change in clothing would have been harder to bear.

The regime of the workhouse was designed to be harsh and unpleasant. It was set up as a deterrent to reduce the cost to the ratepayers so that each person who entered the Union Workhouse was deemed to be a failure of the system. Edwin Chadwick, the architect of the new Union Workhouse system, had advocated that the inmates, on entering should be divided into seven groups based on sex and age, who should, at all times be kept separate. Often there were only four groups but the insane and the mentally ill would usually have shared the same dormitories as the rest of their age and sex.

The workhouse day would also have been strictly ordered with early rising (5 a.m. in the original rules) and bed times (8 p.m.).  Those able to would also have put in ten hours work each day within the timetable of meals and prayers. Again this would not have been such a shock to the system as to people today in those times when daylight governed the working day for many. What they would have found hard would have been the compulsion. Many Ringstead men and women, who were used to running their own lives by home work, whether shoemaking or lacemaking would have found this lack of freedom intolerable.

In some workhouses the paupers never saw the outside world. Even the work, which would often have been similar to that in the prisons, but without the treadmill, would have been within the walls of the union. At Thrapston, however, there were, at times, work parties to local quarries where the men broke stones. It was miserable, rough work but many used to the open fields would have been glad to leave the claustrophobic conditions of the workhouse. As we shall see, the inmates also worked at producing firewood during some of the century. The women were expected to work in the kitchens and laundry as well as keeping the Workhouse clean.

At Andover in 1845 a scandal was uncovered when it was found that the inmates were so starved that they tried to eat the marrow from the rotting bones that they were breaking up. This caused a national scandal and many, such as Charles Dickens, were against the whole workhouse system. What it also showed is that as with many institutions, and as we are finding even now, it is the humanity and integrity of those running and managing a residential institution which largely determine how good or bad such places are.

There were never such horrific conditions such as at Andover or the harsh dehumanised norm of the large urban Workhouses but there was at least one scandal at Thrapston. It was linked to a Master and Matron who had been in post for some sixteen years. The Northampton Mercury of the 16th July 1887 had an article headed, “Shocking Revelations”. Underneath was a report of the Board of Guardians meeting on the previous Tuesday. The Workhouse Inspector, W. A. Peel, had reported that on his last visit he had found the House in a “discreditable condition”. He had discovered:

On the male side of the House the beds were either unmade, or had been used since being made. Some of the bolsters in the dormitories were without straw. On the Master’s attention being called to this he had stated that he had asked the guardians for straw but they had not let him have any. On being further questioned, however, he could not say which guardians he had asked. The earth closets were in an offensive state. The Inspector found also that the inmates and casuals were employed together in cutting wood, contrary to the regulations. The male and female reception areas were in a filthy state and littered with feathers. The infections ward was foul and in a disgraceful state. The washerwomen complained that their beer had been withheld. The mortuary was in a disgraceful state and in it was a dead body, not properly attended to. In the hospital a lad was lying on a bed without sheets. The nurse said that she had asked for these sheets but could not get any. The inmates said the soup and beef-tea that they were supplied with were not fit to drink but (and the Chairman said he wished to call especial attention to this) and told the Inspector they would suffer for it. [By withdrawing food.]

The Guardians seemed even more concerned by the fact that the Master had sometimes been absent from the House without leave. They had also found over some four years that the maintenance costs were 2s. to 2. 6d. per head above the cost of other unions. There had been several inconclusive investigations to discover why this was the case but all they could say was that it could only be down to “bad management”.

The Master and Matron were asked to resign which they did with a letter ending:

                Trusting we may leave the House as clean and in good order as we found it 16 years ago.

This, however, was not the end of the matter and “bad management” was perhaps a euphemism for fraud. On the 30th August 1887 Richard P. Wakefield was charged with embezzling ten sums of money of 19s 6d. amounting in all to £9 15s. We discover that Thrapston Workhouse like many others provided employment for the able-bodied male paupers by wood sawing and billet making. These billets were used in the Workhouse as firewood but were also sold to local customers as far as Higham Ferrers. Some of the inmates took this wood out on a donkey cart and were paid by the customers. They gave this money to the Master.

Richard Wakefield was charged with keeping some of this money himself. The Magistrates made it clear that the Guardians had been very slip-shod in managing the accounts and, as a result, although “there was a cause of very grave suspicion against the defendant” nevertheless they did not feel there was clear proof of his wrongdoing. The case was dismissed and, perhaps surprisingly, Richard Wakefield stayed in Thrapston with his family and by 1891 had become the local Registrar of Marriages.

As you can imagine, food was a constant source of complaint among the inmates and none would have grown strong on the diet. It would have been very dull with a minimum of meat and a maximum of filling carbohydrate. On 5th April 1856 the Guardians’ Minute Book records the “Dietaries for Children, which gives some indication of the uniform dullness of the fare and the exact way in which it was calculated,

Table A. Children from 2 to 5

 

BREAKFAST

DINNER

SUPPER

 

Bread

 

oz

Milk

 

Pints

Meat

 

oz

Potatoes

 

oz

Suet

Pudding

oz

Rice Pudding

oz

Bread

 

oz

Butter

 

oz

Tea

 

Pints

Sunday

4

½

3

8

-

-

4

¼

1

Monday

4

½

-

-

8

-

4

¼

1

Tuesday

4

½

3

8

-

-

4

¼

1

Wednesday

4

½

-

-

-

8

4

¼

1

Thursday

4

½

3

8

-

-

4

¼

1

Friday

4

½

-

-

8

-

4

¼

1

Saturday

4

½

3

8

-

-

4

¼

1

Suet Pudding = 9½oz flour and 1½oz suet to pound. Rice Pudding = 5½oz Rice to a pound

In Table B for the children from 5 to 9 the fare was identical except they received an extra 2oz of suet and rice puddings and ¾ oz of cheese instead of the ¼oz of butter.

(Thrapston Board of Guardians Minute Books NRO PL10)

 The numbers of paupers from Ringstead living in Thrapston Union Workhouse were never large and were mainly the old and infirm and unmarried women entering the workhouse to have a baby, as the table below shows.

 

Thrapston Union Workhouse Births 1839 – 1910 and Deaths 1837 – 1910

Registers of Births: Ringstead People only

Date of Birth

Sex

Name of Parent(s)

Legitimate or Illegitimate

When Baptized and Name

(or death)

01 Mar 1839

F

Jane Weekley

Illegit

-

28 Apr 1843

M

Jane Weekley

Illegit

Died 29 Apr -

10 Mar 1846

M

Lydia Atly

Illegit

-

04 Feb 1848

F

Elizabeth Ann Smith

Illegit

-

02 Mar 1849

F

Mary Ann Warren

Illegit

-

14 Apr 1851

M

Elizabeth Major

Illegit

-

09 Sep 1852

M

Jane Weekley

Illegit

-

04 Mar 1861

F

Louisa Tomlin

Legit.

 

02 Feb 1873

M

Hepzibah Major

Illegit

02 Mar 1873 Joseph

09 Jan 1887

M

Mary Ann Brown

Illegit

-

14 Aug 1896

M

Maud Emma Burgiss

Illegit

-

24 Mar 1899

F

Mundin(g)

-

Winifred

29 June 1905

F

Jane Elizabeth Nash

-

-

25 Aug 1906

F

Maud Carter

Illegit

-

07 Apr 1907

M

Jane Smith

Illegit

-

 

Register of Deaths: Ringstead People only

Date of Death

Name

Age

Where Buried

21 May 1839

Mary Saddington

77

-

29 Apr 1843

Thomas Weekly

Infant 1 day

-

23 Dec 1843

William Rawson

83

-

19 May 1851

Thomas Major

5 weeks

-

13 June 1857

Lot Magor (Major)

33

-

17 Sep 1859

Jane Fairy

41

-

02 Mar 1862

John Roberts

74

-

01 Apr 1863

Alice Roberts

55

-

03 Feb 1866

Morris Knowles

73

-

12 Dec 1868

William Roughton

22

-

14 Dec 1871

Anna Hardwick

83

-

10 Feb 1874

James Whiteman

71

-

05 Jun 1875

William Walker

76

-

30 Nov 1875

Sarah Andrews

67

-

24 Dec 1878

Hill Greene

65

-

19 Apr 1881

Timothy Chandler

69

-

16 Apr 1882

George Mundin

62

-

08 Feb 1884

Samuel Rowlett

75

-

19 Dec 1885

Rebecca Manning

73

-

19 Sep 1888

Sarah Abbott

63

Ringstead

18 Jun 1889

Rebecca Warren

81

Ringstead

14 Jun 1890

George Warren

77

Ringstead  (fr)

14 May 1891

George Smith

46

Ringstead

04 Jun 1893

Elizabeth Wadsworth

70

Woodford (fr)

25 Jun 1896

Richard Wadsworth

60

Ringstead  (fr)

09 Dec 1896

James Figgis

38

Ringstead

02 Apr 1899

William Munding

52

Ringstead (fr)

28 Dec 1899

Thomas Hilson

48

Ringstead

11 Feb 1901

William Allen

69

Ringstead

19 Nov 1902

Elizabeth Warren

86

Ringstead (?)

05 May 1903

William Phillips

73

Ringstead

24 Sep 1904

Henry Phillips

57

-

09 Apr 1907

William Smith

29

Ringstead

15 May 1908

Samuel York

66

Ringstead

11 Sep 1908

William Dick

74

Ringstead

06 Dec 1908

Eliza Fox

88

-

11 Jan 1909

William Manning

70

Ringstead

18 Mar 1910

Sarah Colbert

90

-

(fr) Friends or family have taken to bury

Few of the people in these lists would have stayed long in the workhouse. Some would have gone in to give birth to a child and others to die. George Mundin, for example is shown as dying there on 14th May 1882 but we know from a report in the Wellingborough News that this was an even sadder case than most workhouse deaths.

SUICIDE OF AN ELDERLY MAN – Mr. J. T. Parker held an inquest at Thrapston Workhouse on Monday on the body of George Mundin, labourer, of Ringstead, aged 64 years. Deceased had of late suffered from bronchitis, and this had prevented him from going to work. On the 8th inst. He went to bed at 9.30 in his usual spirits and the next morning his daughter found him with his throat cut and a knife beside him. He was removed to Thrapston Workhouse, but he succumbed to his injuries on the 16th inst. The jury returned a verdict that the deceased committed suicide while temporarily insane.

A report of the suicide in the Northampton Mercury included significant extra information:

The deceased had for some time been in a depressed state of mind, owing to family troubles and he had dreaded having to go into the Union.

We see that many workhouses gradually became local hospitals, often with separate infirmaries being built to replace the old sick wards but most elderly people still dreaded going into them, because of their past associations, for much of the Twentieth Century.

If we look at the Censuses for Thrapston Workhouse from 1841 to 1891 we see a similar picture with comparatively few people from Ringstead and those almost entirely mothers and their children, or expectant single mothers or the infirm elderly.

Censuses for Thrapston Union Workhouse: Ringstead Born and Families

CENSUS

Name

Sex

Occupation

Age

1841

 

 

 

 

 

TOTAL INMATES  0

 

Resident Staff  3

0

1851

Harry Atly

M

-

4

 

Elizabeth Major

F

Servant

19

 

TOTAL INMATES  64

 

Resident Staff  3

 

1861

Louisa Tomlin

F

Ag Lab’s Wife

21

 

Rebecca Tilley

F

-

5

 

Isaac Tilley

M

-

5

Family

Mary Tilley

F

Ag Lab’s Wife b. Stanwick

40

 

Eliza Tilley

F

b. Stanwick

7

 

Sarah E Tomlin

F

b. Thrapston

I mth

 

TOTAL INMATES  65

 

Resident Staff  3

 

1871

Clara Sutton

F

-

5

 

Fanny Coggins

F

Wife of Shoemaker

24

 

Louisa Tomlin

F

Wife of Ag Lab

33

 

James Whiteman

M

Shoemaker

71

Family

Sarah Tomlin

F

Scholar b. Raunds

10

 

Martha Tomlin

F

b. Sheffield, Yorks.

1

 

Elizabeth Sutton

F

Dom. Servant b. Little Addington

41

 

Elizabeth Coggins

F

b. Raunds

6

 

Alice Coggins

F

b. Raunds

3

 

Margaret Coggins

 

b. Raunds

2

 

John Coggins

 

b. Raunds

2 mths

 

TOTAL INMATES  67

 

Resident Staff  4

 

1881

Timothy Chandler

M

Gardener

70

 

Elizabeth Figgis

F

Pauper

18

 

TOTAL INMATES  87

 

Resident Staff  4

 

1891

NONE

 

 

 

 

TOTAL INMATES  75

 

Resident Staff  4

 

1901

Mary Mundin

F

widow

40

 

Harry Mundin

M

 

12

 

Percy Mundin

M

 

10

 

Alexander Mundin

M

 

5

 

William Phillips

M

Ordinary agricultural labourer

71

 

Henry Phillips

M

Horsekeeper on farm

52

 

William Manning

M

Ordinary agricultural labourer

61

Family

Sarah Phillips

F

(wife of Henry :  born Raunds)

55

 

Bertram Burgin

M

Illegit. son of Maud b. Thrapston

5

 

Maud Burgin

F

Illegit. daughter of Maud b. Raunds

3

 

 

 

[Maud (mother) born in Ringstead]

 

 

TOTAL INMATES 102

 

Resident Staff  4

 

 

In the 1841 Census there were no Ringstead born children in the Thrapston Workhouse; in 1851 there were just two; in 1861 three (although there were five other linked family members); four in 1871 (with five other family members); two in 1881, none in 1891 and 7 in 1901. Of course this is only a snapshot on one day every ten years and is based only on those born in Ringstead but it does indicate that numbers of people from Ringstead in the workhouse were low and it tended to be used by people in times of crisis rather than poverty, although all would have been poor. The resident staffing moves away from education to nursing, as the Workhouse increasingly becomes the local hospital for the poor, especially for childbirth, mental illness and ‘senile decay’.

As I am writing this in the last week before Christmas 2012 I thought I ought to finish on a more positive note. The other side of the Dickensian world. On 27th December 1900, in the last few weeks of Victorian England, there was an article in the Northants Evening Telegraph, headed, CHRISTMAS DAY AT THE WORKHOUSE:

As in former years, the Guardians of the Thrapston Union have this year done everything possible for those under their care. The large dining hall, thanks to the efforts of the master and matron (Mr. And Mrs. Cook) had been tastefully adorned with the orthodox Christmas decorations of holly and ivy, these forming a frame for the many pictures which adorned the walls. The chapel was also nicely decorated with evergreens, the service which was held being conducted by the Rev. A.C. Neely of Islip. The dinner was naturally the great event of the day and a capital fare was provided, consisting of roast beef, fowls and plum pudding, to which, needless to add, full justice was done. The company numbered about 170. In the evening an entertainment arranged by the officers of the House was given, several of the musical inmates contributed to the programme. With kindly forethought Mrs. Buckley of Thrapston had sent a number of toys for the children, whilst Dr. Masters (the former medical officer) gave each man an ounce of tobacco, and two ounces of tea and half-a-pound of sugar to the women, besides oranges and sweets for the children. The master also received a parcel of books and pictures from the office of the “Review of Books”, for which he desires to express his thanks as well as to the other donors.

 

 

Workhouse buildings on a frosty morning 13th December 2012

(Now East Northamptonshire District Council Offices.)

The perimeter wall and gates have gone but otherwise looks very similar to George Clarke’s 1847 sketch. Now, however, surrounded by a housing estate.

References

Thrapston Poor Law Union Ref. PL10 (Northampton Record Office).

Northampton Mercury, Northants Evening Telegraph. (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk ).

The Times (http://galegroup.com via Cambridgeshire Libraries online).

Thrapston Guardian Minutes. (NRO PL10).

Censuses for Ringstead and Thrapston.

http://institutions.org.uk/poor_law_unions/workhouse_life.htm .

Thrapston Poor Law Union and Workhouse (http://users.ox.ac.uk/-peter/workhouse/Thrapston?Thrapston.shtml .

Workhouse Tales. Eric Jenkins (Cordelia 1998).

Thrapston Union. Workhouse Births and Deaths (The Eureka Partnership 2011 and NRO).

Workhouse. Simon Fowler. (The National Archives2007).

The Victorian Workhouse. Trevor May (Shire Publications Ist pub. 1997)

 

Ringstead Gift Charity

 

The poor of Ringstead, as in many other parishes could look to a local charity for help before they were forced into looking to the Poor Law and the Workhouse. At the time of the Ringstead Enclosure (1839 – 41) Thomas Wilkins, considered the principal resident at the time, tried to discover the history of the Ringstead Charity Estate for George Capron who had bought up much of the land of the old Ringstead Open Fields.

He found that, in 1824, Thomas Burton, the non-resident Lord of the Manor, and Oliver Cox who was a resident land owner, had been the only remaining trustees and it was the latter who effectively managed the operation of the fund. At that time, John Porter, then an old man of 78, who had been the Parish Clerk for many years, confirmed that the origin of the charity was lost but at some point a bequest of strips of land among the Ringstead Open Fields had been made, the rent from which were to be given to the deserving poor, mainly in the form of clothing and bedding. Other aged inhabitants confirmed his account. A charity had begun in 1617 when John Wells left a bequest of sixteen shillings to be paid yearly and administered by the minister and churchwardens. They were to use it to help the sixteen poorest households in Ringstead. How and when it changed into the Ringstead Charity which was based on the rental money from land that the Charity owned is unclear.

 The entries in the Charity's small cash book are difficult to decipher but include in November 1835:

Widow Whiteman 5 yds Flannel 1/=. 3 yds blanket 9/=

Widow Major          Ditto

John Fairey & wife  2 sheets @ 2/11 & 4 yds D[?] 11/=

Daniel Ball 1 Blanket 5/= & 2 sheets 5/10

[note 1/= is one shilling and there were 20 to the pound (£): 2/11 is 2 shillings and 11 pence with 12 pence making one shilling]

In 1836 Oliver Cox died and Thomas Wilkins took over as the other trustee. Then, with the enclosure of the Open Fields George Capron became the major landowner and he, with Thomas Wilkins, took over the running of the charity.  It was probably also be at this time that the strips were consolidated into twenty-seven acres of land on the Denford Road.The granting of aid seems to have been run previously according to the judgement of the trustees but Capron wanted the charity to have clear rules. In 1847 these rules were agreed and a handbill was produced and distributed throughout the parish.

This listed the ‘legally settled inhabitants’ who were entitled to claim. These included:

                Married Couples, Widows, and Widowers, having at least, one Child under twelve years of age.

                Married Couples whose united ages amount to ninety.

                Women above the age of forty.

                Men above the age of fifty.

                Orphan Children and Persons who, from sickness or infirmity, are unable to gain their own living

They also had to have lived in Ringstead for at least a year, not follow any business on their own account or occupy premises above the yearly value of £5. Of course, they also had to be judged to be in need.

  

 

Ringstead Charity Handbill

Southwick Hall Archive

(With the kind permission of Christopher Capron)

In 1863, the newly appointed vicar, Percival Sandilands, was asked to become a trustee but would only accept if part of the funds were applied to the maintenance of the school. The Reverend Sandilands was successfully driving through a scheme to establish a school in the village at this time. He was asked by the trustees to submit a scheme to the Charity Commissioners. This he duly did and in 1864 the Ringstead Gift Charity was registered and three quarters of the income from the rents was to be applied:             

. . . towards the benefit and support of a school or schools for the instruction and education of the children of labourers and those persons of the poorer class residing in the said Parish of Ringstead including the industrial education of the female children or of any limited number of such children to be selected by the trustees, so long as such school or schools shall be efficiently and properly conducted and there shall not be any rule or practice in the management thereof which shall exclude any children from admission thereto upon the sole ground of their particular religion, creed and persuasion.

This only left a quarter of the rents for the poorest of the parish or, to be more exact, ‘the deserving and necessitous’. The Gift Charity was to provide them with ‘clothes, bedding and fuel, medical or other aid in sickness, or other articles in kind’.

We see a year later that the allotment holders were being instructed to gather stones from their plots and to place them in a heap near the road. They would be paid a maximum of 8d. a load and the stones would be used to improve the allotments’ cart road. On December 26th 1868 the Minutes clearly reiterate that the allotments are:               

. . . intended to help the deserving poor; that if a man is in a position to open a shop he no longer requires the aid of an allotment; and that in the case of any holder of an allotment so embarking be made he shall, if the Trustees think fit, be called upon to quit his allotment.

In December 1870 it is resolved that no man will be eligible for an allotment until he has lived in the parish for a year. It seems likely that some of these rules were created to exclude certain individual claimants. We see a constant list of people who are told to give up their allotments either because of non-payment of rent or because their circumstances had changed and they were not now considered deserving enough. The allotments become known as 'Mr. Capron’s Gardens' and a 1898 Agreement between the Rev. G. Capron and John Pearson for Garden No. 9 clearly sets out the rules of occupation which include the condition: 

That he will cultivate the Garden well and keep it free from weeds and that he will not in any year sow more than 20 poles with potatoes, nor more than half the Garden with white straw corn, and will sow the remainder with root crops, vegetables or beans.

The charge for the allotments is set as 2s 2d. per rood per quarter on 1st January 1897 and by the time of John Pearson’s agreement, in October 1898 it is set as £2 10s. 0d per acre per year. At the start of the nineteenth century measurements could be slippery concepts with many local variations but we can assume, by this time, that four roods were equal to one acre and the rental had increased by over forty percent.  This seems excessive so there may have been other factors.

By the 1890s the aid distributed was mainly given in the form of money instead of clothes and bedding with, in 1895, a single person receiving six shillings and a couple nine shillings. The allotments and the small weekly sums would perhaps have helped the very poor survive outside the workhouse, especially if they had a family to help them.

The Ringstead Charity would have helped generations of poor Ringstead people. If we look at the cash book for 1879/80 we see a typical list of payments:

               

                Widow Abbott                  6s.

                James Attlay                      6s.

                William Bates                     6s.

                Thomas Ball                        6s.

                Widow Bull                         6s.

                Widow Burnham              6s.

                Widow Coottingham      6s.

                Widow Dix                          6s.

                Henry Dix                            6s.

                Widow Fox                         6s.

                Noah Green & Wife        9s.

Noah Green and his wife had been the Post Master and Mistress so we see that once their working lives were finished many elderly people, not just the poorest, became dependant on charity.

Even as late as 1968 the trustees of the charity were being reprimanded by the Charity Commissioners for spending too much of the income on the poor rather than using three quarters for educational purposes. This educational part of the charity became a separate charity called Ringstead Educational Foundation.

Like the Poor Law, the Gift Charity was very Victorian in its fear of giving to the undeserving. Increasingly the income designated for those in need was used for the relief of the poor elderly, before the national old age pensions came into being early in the next century. Nevertheless many would have been grateful to the small handouts which would have made their lives a little easier even if it was not always enough to save them from the Workhouse.

 

References

Various Ringstead Gift Charity Documents (Southwick Hall). My thanks to Greg Bucknill for making my research at Southwick Hall possible.

Various uncatalogued Ringstead Gift Charity Minutes and Cash Book. (Northampton Record Office).

www.ringsteadpc.org.uk.

 

 

 

Henry Atley (1846 -1896)

 

In the life story of William Weekley Ball we told of the disappearance and probable death, by his hand, of his heavily pregnant mistress, Lydia Atley [sometimes Atly or Attley] on a warm July evening in 1850.

We can see in the Parish Registers that she had a child, called Sarah Ann Atley, probably named after her sister, who was born in 1848, baptised in the parish church on 9th June 1849 and buried in the churchyard, aged six months, just ten days later. Sarah Ann Dix, her sister, gave evidence at the trial of Lydia’s alleged murderer in 1864 where she states:

                I cannot say if Lydia Attley kept company with Wilkinson before the birth of her first child.

We learn that James Wilkinson, a journeyman baker, was alleged to be the father of Lydia’s first child. I had thought that this was taking the child whom she was carrying at the time of her disappearance as her second child. What I had not found out at the time of writing that biography was that Lydia had had a child in the Thrapston Union Workhouse some two years earlier.  For all its harsh regime it was often the best place for a poor woman, especially a single one, to have a child as there was at least basic food and medical care.  

Henry was born in the Thrapston Workhouse on 10th March 1846, the illegitimate son of Lydia and, possibly, James Wilkinson. We do not hear of Henry in the accounts of Lydia’s last day at William Ball’s trial so perhaps he remained in the workhouse. Certainly he is there in 1851 aged four years old. He is shown in the Census list next to the nineteen-year-old Elizabeth Major also from Ringstead. The Census was conducted on 30th March and Elizabeth gave birth to her illegitimate son Thomas on 14th April who died just 5 weeks later.  Was Elizabeth able to give some comfort to Henry?

By 1861 he is working as a ‘milk boy’ for Thomas Freeman, a Ringstead farmer of 350 acres employing 12 men and 2 boys. Henry is living with Thomas and his wife Lucy and a ‘maid-of-all-work’ Elizabeth Bluff, so perhaps they had taken him under their wing. In her evidence at the trial Sarah Ann Dix had told of Lydia’s last day when she had sent her to take dinner to her husband who had been working in ‘Mr Freeman’s field’. Perhaps the Freemans, who had been wealthy yeoman farmers in the parish for many years, felt an obligation to help this orphaned boy.

When we next find Henry, in the 1871 Census there is one of those unexpected and yet far from uncommon moves into a totally different environment. He is a twenty-five year old mechanic boarding with George Smith, a miner and his wife Jane at 20 Church Street, Wednesbury in Staffordshire. Henry was to make the West Midlands his home. Could it be, with the trial of William Weekley Ball in 1864 that it was thought that he would be better away from Ringstead, in a place where he could leave his past behind?

In 1872 Henry married Emma Partridge, the daughter of James Partridge, a screw forger who lived in nearby Darlaston. The couple had a daughter, Harriet Emma, born on the 16th June 1874 at their home in 90 Old Park Road, Wednesbury. Sadly, Emma died in childbirth and, understandably, it was another six months until the child’s birth was registered. At the time of the registration, on 14th December 1874, Henry was a ‘Stock taker in an Iron Works’.

In the 1881 Census he is a thirty-five year old widower, once again boarding, but this time with Elder Cooper, a moulder, and his family at 30 Hill Street, Wednesbury. His daughter, Harriet is staying with her grandparents, James and Ann Partridge and their grown-up children at 107 Cobden Street, Wednesbury.

Henry was now a ‘Time Keeper’. It would seem likely that he was working in one of the local factories checking that workers arrived and left on time. He had moved from being a worker to being someone who worked for the company checking on workers. Depending on the personal qualities of the person employed it could be an unpopular job as lateness could be punished with large deductions from wages.

In 1886 Henry married again, this time to Mary West and by 1891 the couple have three children, Nellie, Edith E and Dorothy. That Henry was moving into management can be seen from the 1991 Census for he is now the ‘Manager of a Nut and Bolt Works’. The family are living at 1 Bills Street in Darlaston.

This was an area with houses and small workshops cheek by jowl. Many of these were gradually taken over and the work moved into large purpose-built factories in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. We can see in the streets around them, a boiler tender and a file cutter, a breaker down (sheet mills) and an iron straightener, a blacksmith and a blacksmith’s blower. There are also a number directly involved with the nuts and bolt industry: bolt screwers, forgers and machinists, an orders clerk and stock taker.

In 1892 he is probably the, “H. Atler, Bills Street, Darlaston, Clerk”, who is given in the local newspaper as one of the signatories in the Memorandum of Association to change James Simpson & Sons from a partnership to a limited company. The company were iron founders and manufactured iron and steel, bolts, nuts and tools. The firm was based at the Acorn Works, Bills Street, Darlaston so Henry was very close to his work. With mostly coal-fired, steam driven machinery it would have been a noisy, smoky environment in the factory and also in the area around.

It is quite a remarkable journey that Henry has made from being the ‘bastard child’ of a poor murdered woman in Northamptonshire to the manager of a works in the West Midlands. Unfortunately Henry died some five years later in 1896 aged just fifty years old. His widow, Mary, lived another thirty-two years 

References

Censuses for Ringstead, Wednesbury and Darlaston. (www.Ancestry.co.uk ).

Ringstead Parish Registers (NRO and www.rushdenheritage.com ).

England & Wales FreeBMD Marriage Index 1837 – 1915. (www.Ancestry.co.uk ).

England & Wales FreeBMD Death Index 1837 – 1915 (www.Ancestry.co.uk ).

 

 

Louisa Cobley [also Tomlin, Norris and Elliott] (1839 - 1913)

Louisa was one of the few young women that entered Thrapston Workhouse to have a child who were already married. She was the daughter of William and Elizabeth Cobley and was baptised in Ringstead Parish Church on the 10th February 1839. She was a twin but her brother, David, died just three weeks later. Her father was a carman and, in the 1841 Ringstead Census, we see Louisa, aged two, with her older brother Samuel and her parents. A carman was someone who drove a horse-drawn cart of some kind. It may be that he was taking coal around the village.

Living next door was Lydia Atlee (Attley), a widow, with her teenaged daughter whose disappearance was to cause such concern some nine years later. Lydia, the mother was a pauper, as was her neighbour Rose Manning. We cannot be sure but it seems likely that they were all living in London End, the small group of poor cottages where Back Lane joined the Denford Road. Certainly, Lydia was living there at the time of her disappearance in 1850.

William and Elizabeth had seven children between 1831 and 1849 but three died in the first two years of life. William died too in early October 1848 aged just forty-four years old leaving Elizabeth with four surviving children. The death of the main breadwinner would often have led to the workhouse for a poor widow and her family but Elizabeth, in an action which her daughter seems to have noted, married quickly, on 17th June 1850, and perhaps was financially better off than before as a result. Her new husband was Lovell Warren, a coal dealer, some sixteen years her junior. One can only wonder if he was the employer of William as a carman. These quick remarriages will only seem cynical to those who have not endured grinding poverty.

The 1851 Census has Elizabeth with Lovell, together with Louisa aged 12 together with her siblings, Samuel, Joseph and Martha. Louisa married John Tomlin, a young brickmaker from Raunds on 13th February 1859. The Marriage Certificate gives Louisa’s father as William Cobley but gives his occupation as coal merchant which may refer to her stepfather Lovell Warren. Neither bride nor groom were able or willing to sign their names. The honeymoon period was short because by the 1861 Census she was an inmate in Thrapston Union Workhouse. With her is her daughter Sarah E Tomlin who was born in the workhouse a month earlier on 4th March 1861.

Where is her husband John in 1861? From other evidence it seems that the couple spent some time in Derbyshire and Yorkshire. Could he be the S, T or J Tomlin in Sheffield Union Workhouse? He is a stone mason who is said to come from Ireland. Perhaps he did not want to be sent back to his home parish. It is possible but it is unlikely. Sarah Elizabeth was baptised in Raunds Parish Church on June 30th, just a few months after her birth. John is shown as a labourer.

The truth about the often ‘lost’ years between Censuses can be filled in because of a shocking sequence of events which brought Louisa to court. It is from this case that we discover that John Tomlin deserted Louisa in September 1863 at about the time of the birth of their son, Alfred. This forced her back into the Workhouse where she remained for some years. On 22nd November 1866 a shoemaker from Raunds called Edwin Goldsborough (or Goldsboro) came into the Workhouse.  At 9 am on 25th February 1867 Edwin Goldsborough left the Workhouse and two hours later Louisa with the two children left, too, with another woman called Elston and her child. The Workhouse Master, Robert Bray, delayed letting out Louisa because he had heard of her intentions of going with Goldsborough and of leaving the children somewhere.

Two days later Sarah, who would be nearly seven years old, was brought back to the Workhouse by Louisa’s brother’s wife but whether she was abandoned, ran away or was left with the brother's family we do not know. Edwin and Louisa, with four-year-old Alfred continued walking north to Deeping St James in Lincolnshire where they stayed for a couple of weeks. Edwin managed to get work as a shoemaker with a Mr. Fowler in Market Deeping, which was about two miles away. Louisa sometimes went, with her young son, to the ‘shop’ to help him. After some ten days Edwin left and Fowler, the employer, advised her to beg her way back to Thrapston rather than stay with such an idle man.

Goldsborough made it clear on many occasions that he was not prepared to work for another man’s child and told her if she did not get rid of Alfred he would leave her. On 14th March Louisa went to the Bourne Union Workhouse, some nine miles further north, and asked them to take Alfred in. She told them that Alfred was the son of her sister, Mary Winterton and had been born in Bourne Workhouse. The Relieving Officer could not find the birth but said that he would take them both in but not the child on his own. All Unions were worried about being left with the expense of looking after deserted children. She also went before the Board of Guardians but they again refused unless she too entered the Workhouse. She hurried out of the room saying, “I shall do something different to that”.

They left Deeping St James and walked the further nine miles west to Stamford. Edwin stayed in a lodging house while, carrying Alfred, Louisa walked around the town. It was a cold moonlit evening with snow on the ground. She was seen at times around the town wearily trudging along with Alfred a heavy burden in her arms. She was passed, by a witness, on her own at the George Bridge and she made no mention of a missing child. At 9.40 pm the couple reported the loss at the police station. Louisa told the police that she had been very tired and had sat down on the footbridge and put Alfred down beside her. He had “slipped through the rails and got drowned”.

The George Bridge aound 1870/1880 showing the bars under which Alfred rolled to his death.

The cross bars were later replaced by large diamond lattice work

By kind permission of Lincolnshire Library & Heritage Services

We find all this information from the several court cases that followed over the next months when the couple had to answer to a charge of wilful murder. From the start the police were suspicious and took them immediately into custody. Edwin immediately became violent and it took four police officers to drag him to his cell. At the various Petty Sessions they were both remanded until the Summer Assizes in Lincoln Castle in July 1867.

Alfred’s body was not found until 5th May about 200 yards downstream from the George Bridge and the cause of death was established as drowning. He was found still in the hood, dress and shoes that he had left the Thrapston Workhouse dressed in, the body protected by the thick mud.  Edwin’s lawyer submitted that his client had no case to answer and he was discharged. He also claimed that the “uniform kind treatment of her child by the prisoner negative the theory of the prosecution that she had thrown her child into the river on purpose”. The jury was out for forty minutes and returned a not guilty verdict on Louisa.

At first it seemed likely that the couple moved north to the Sheffield area for Louisa had a child there in about 1870 and then returned south to Thrapston Workhouse where we find her back with her ten-year-old daughter Sarah (who may never have left the Workhouse) and her new child, Martha who is one years old. There is no sign of Edwin Goldsborough in the Workhouse with her. Here the picture becomes confused for further research reveals that he was in the Thrapston Workhouse on 12th January 1868 because he was sent to prison for six weeks for assaulting three other inmates after a dispute over his interference with the fire in the room. In February 1871 he was once again sent to prison for a month for, ‘misconduct in the Union Workhouse’. This is the reason he is not in the Workhouse in the 1871 Census. His behaviour always volatile seems to have worsened for the Northampton Mercury of the 8th April 1871 reports:

One male convict has been removed to Pentonville prison. Edwin Goldsborough was brought into prison on 10th February for misconduct in the Thrapston Union Workhouse, was certified as being insane by two medical gentlemen on the following day, and removed on 16th February to the Northampton Lunatic Asylum by an order from the Secretary of State.

There we will leave him.

On April 2nd 1871, while Louisa was in Thrapston Workhouse, and Edwin Goldsborough was probably in Northampton Lunatic Asylum, her husband may be the John Tomlin who is a labourer born in Northamptonshire, lodging in Ilkeston in Derbyshire. It seems unlikely that he was the father of any her children after Alfred and it is also not clear, as he was in Thrapston Workhouse in 1868 and 1871, if Edwin Goldsborough was the father either, although it is possible. In the 1871 Census Louisa is shown as a widow. Of course few working class people could afford to divorce in the nineteenth century and this may not be true. We have not yet found the death of John Tomlin but there may be a number of other reasons for this.

By the 1881 Census Louisa is shown as thirty-seven years old, although actually a few years older, and is living in Marshalls Lane in Raunds. With her is her ten year old daughter, Martha, (who we would expect to be at least eleven). There is also a boarder called Caleb Norris, a shoemaker born in Irchester. He is thirty-eight years old which may explain the reduction in Louisa’s age. In the Raunds High Street is a man called George Elliott living with his wife Hannah and their family. We will meet him again a little later.

A few months after the Census Louisa married Caleb Norris. She must have felt, for once, secure from the workhouse but Caleb, died just two years later, only forty years old, in August 1883. Life would once again have been very difficult and in 1891she is a charwoman lodging with a sixty-six year old bachelor called Thomas Nobles in Hargrave Road, Raunds. Also in the house is a young visitor called Nellie Elliott who is just eleven years old.

George Elliott’s wife, Hannah had died on 27th December 1886 in Northampton Infirmary which would explain in part why Nellie was staying with Louisa at the time of the 1891 Census. A few months later, in July-Sept 1891 Louisa married Nellie’s father, George Elliott who was just two years her junior. They are together with George’s daughter, Ellen Elizabeth, who is twenty-one years old and probably the Nellie of the last Census. They are living in Scalley Lodge in Marshalls Road, Raunds and George is a horsekeeper on a farm. A year later, in April-June 1902 George died aged 60.

By 1911 Louisa Elliott is a seventy-one year old widow living on her own in Baker Street Irthlingborough.  It seems almost certain that she is the Louisa Elliott from Irthlingborough who died in the Wellingborough Workhouse Infirmary on 5th January 1913 The name of her deceased husband is unknown and her age is given as eighty-four, ten years older than her real age. Her cause of death was entered as senile decay which could explain this mistake.  She may have been unable to give her correct age.

In the end she could not escape the workhouse. How we look on her life depends on our view as to her guilt over the death of her son and her various, “marriages”.  Was she a vulnerable woman who had the misfortune to attract men who treated her badly or was she an evil, scheming liar who would do anything to get by? As usual, the truth may be somewhere in the middle.

And what of Louisa’s children? How did their troubled lives affect them? In 1911, while probably suffering from ‘senile decay’, Louisa said that she had had seven children of which three were still living. If this is true who is the third (or possibly fourth) child? Sarah Elizabeth married John Ablett, a shoe finisher from Irthlingborough in 1879 and is there in the 1881 Census. Then she disappears and in the 1891 Census John, now 32, is shown married to Rhoda who is 24 and born in Kettering. Rhoda is possibly Rhoda Olney (or Onley), a shoe liner, who in 1871 and 1881 is seen living with her grandparents in Gold Street, Wellingborough.  I find no further sign of Sarah after 1881 nor of Rhoda after 1891. I cannot find the death of Sarah or her re-marriage or the death of Rhoda. John possibly re-married to Dinah Ekins in 1905. It seems likely that John and Sarah parted and found new partners outside marriage. There is more to be discovered but there we must leave her. Martha’s life is even more hidden and I have not yet found her after the 1891 Census where she is with her mother in Raunds.

References

Censuses (www.Ancestry.co.uk ).

BMD Registers (NRO & www.rushdenheritage.com ).

Lincolnshire Chronicle, Lloyd’s Weekly Paper, Stamford Mercury, Illustrated Police News, Louth & North Lincolnshire Advertiser, Grantham Journal. (www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk ).

 

Jane Weekley (1816 – 1877)

In the life of Louisa Cobley we saw how marriage and motherhood had put her in the Workhouse but also how she married twice more and so almost managed to live the rest of her life without the stigma of pauperism. Jane Weekley’s life followed an opposite and harsher, path.

She was baptised on October 27th 1816 to Elizabeth, the wife of labourer James Weekley. At the time, of her birth the young couple, who had married in Ringstead Parish Church on 11th December 1815, were living in Hargrave, some four miles to the south-east. They soon after moved back to Ringstead and had the usual list of regular births, and infant deaths, over the next two decades. The exact number of children is complicated by the probability that at least one of the ‘children’ in the Census was actually an illegitimate grandchild, adopted as their own: a not uncommon practice.

In the 1841 Census James and Elizabeth and their surviving children are back in Ringstead. The children are listed in chronological order except for the last two daughters. Mary, aged one, is above Eliza who is two years old. This could just be a mistake by the enumerator but, when we look at the list of births in Thrapston Union Workhouse we see a different possibility. On 1st March 1839 an illegitimate female child had been born to Jane Weekley who ‘belongs’ to the parish of Ringstead.

This first universal, detailed census does not give the relationships to the ‘Head of the House’ as subsequent ones do but the 1851 Census does show twelve-year-old Eliza Weekley as the daughter of James. She was born in Thrapston, however, and it seems certain that Eliza was actually the illegitimate daughter of Jane who has been adopted by her parents. Of course there is the possibility that James is still the father but we have no evidence to support this apart from the Census entry.

 

Eliza Weekley, daughter of Jane

With the kind permission of the Sylvia P. Weatherhogg (nee Cobley)

Jane had two further illegitimate children born in Thrapston Workhouse.  The second was a boy who was born on 28th April 1843 but who died the next day. A youthful Richard Jefferies, in 1874, wrote of the ‘Field-Faring Women’:

The overcrowding in cottages leads to what may be called an indifference to decency. It is not that in families decency is wantonly and of a set purpose disregarded, but stern necessity leads to a coarseness and indelicacy which hardens the mind and deadens the natural modesty even of the best girls. Then the low scandals of the village talked over from cottage to cottage, the rude jokes of the hayfield, the general looseness and indifference which prevail as to morality all prepare the girl for the too common fall. If she remains at home and works in the fields after the age of fifteen, unless uncommonly strong minded, it is an open question whether she will or will not succumb.

By 1851 James, still a shepherd, and his family had moved to Titty Ho in Raunds. His wife Elizabeth and daughters Jane, now thirty-four, Sophia and Eliza (Jane’s daughter) are all shown as stone gatherers.

Clearing the fields of stones was often miserable, hard work. It seems that Jane endured field work most of her life and she would have been weather-beaten and old before her time.  Richard Jefferies again, although writing of Wiltshire, gives some idea of the working life of a field-working woman:

At seven or eight years old the girl’s labour begins. Before that she has been set to mind the baby or watch the pot, and to scour about the hedges for sticks for the fire. Now she has not only to mind the baby, but to nurse it; she carries it with her in her arms; and really the infant looks almost as large as herself and its weight compels her to lean backwards. She is left at home all day in charge of the baby, the younger children and the cottage. Perhaps a little bread is left for them to eat, but they get nothing more until the mother returns about half-past four, when woe be to the girl if the fire is not lit, and the kettle on. . . A little older – at ten or eleven or twelve – still more skinny and bony now as a rule, she follows her mother to the fields and learns to pick up stones from the young mowing grass, and place them in heaps to be carted away to mend drinking places for cattle. She learns to beat clots and spread them with a small prong; she works in the hayfield and gleans at corn-harvest. Gleaning –poetical gleaning – is the most unpleasant and uncomfortable of labour, tedious, slow, back-aching work; picking up ear by ear the dropped wheat, searching among the prickly stubble.  . .

Growing plainer and plainer s years go by, the elder women are wrinkled and worn-looking, and have contracted a perpetual stoop.

Some eighteen months after the 1851 Census, on the 9th September, 1852 another son was born to Jane in Thrapston Workhouse. I have found no further sign of this child’s life or his death. Was he adopted at birth? There is no sign of him with Jane in 1861. She is still unmarried and living with her elderly parents. James is now seventy-two and Elizabeth some seven years younger. James is still a shepherd and Jane is a field worker, as are her younger sisters May Ann (21) and Sophia Cobley who, at twenty-nine is a young widow with a daughter, Charlotte. It seems that times were still hard for the family.

In his book, The Common People, J.F.C. Harrison reminds us that:

Women were an essential part of the harvest team. But their work was not limited to the special effort required at that time of year. Of the 2 million people employed full-time in agricultural occupations in 1851, 11.4 per cent were women and in 1901 the percentage was 5.9. Women worked in the fields at gleaning, potato gathering (“tatering”), turnip-pulling, hoeing, weeding, thinning, hop-binding and in all kinds of fruit and vegetable picking. In some jobs the children worked alongside their mothers.

I have not analysed the Censuses and, because the work was often seasonal, some women field workers would not be shown there but the impression one gets is that the percentages of field workers in Raunds and Ringstead was less than the ones given above. In general shoe work or lacemaking would be preferred by most women able to make the choice.

In 1862 Jane’s younger sister Sophia had an illegitimate son, Owen, with Joseph Smith named as the father. In 1863, 1867 and 1868 Sophia went to court to obtain weekly payments from Joseph who had paid 1s 6d for the first fifteen weeks after his son’s birth. Unfortunately Joseph Smith was also ‘indigent’ and so served a one month prison sentence in default.

In 1864 James Weekley died and five years later, Elizabeth followed him to the grave. Jane would now have been on her own but in the summer of 1863 her sister Mary Ann had married William Webb Braybrook and in 1871 Jane was living with them. They are living in Chapel Road, Ringstead.  By now, aged fifty-five, Jane is on Parish Relief Her hard life was almost certainly taking its toll. Six years later Jane died and was buried in the Raunds churchyard on 11th June 1877. No sign of her grave remains.

References

Censuses (Ancestry.co.uk)

Ringstead Parish Registers (www.rushdenheritage.com and NRO)

Raunds Parish Registers (NRO)

Thrapston Union Workhouse Births (NRO PL 10/214 & PL 10/215)

Thrapston Union Workhouse: Deaths (NROPL10/217)

Field-Faring Women (Fraser’s Magazine 1874). Collected in: The Toilers of the Field. Richard Jefferies (Longmans Green & Co. 1892; Silver Library Edition 1893)

The Common People. J.F.C. Harrison. (Fontana 1984)

Northampton Mercury.7th Feb 1863; 26th Oct. 1867; 18th Jan 1868

 

 

Elizabeth Figgis (1864 – 1918) and her siblings

Samuel Figgis had been born in Bassingbourn in Cambridgeshire in 1820. Some time after 1841 he arrived in Ringstead and by 1851 was a carpenter’s apprentice lodging with George Smith. We do not know what drew him north but in 1852 he married local girl Maria Hill.

Maria was the daughter of James Hill, the landlord of the Black Horse and the Hills were related by marriage to the Greens who were the other major landlords in the village. It would have meant that Samuel would have quickly become part of the Ringstead social web. We have seen in the life story of Korah Dicks that Samuel had been appointed to the old parish post of constable which continued alongside the new professional constabulary. Unfortunately, in 1855, he allowed the rascally Korah to get drunk in Northampton on his way to the County Gaol for which he was taken to court and fined.

Samuel and Maria’s eldest son, Henry, was born in 1853 and there then followed seven more children until, in 1864, Elizabeth was the last. None of them were baptised in the Parish Church which probably means that they were nonconformists. Some time before 1869 Samuel became the landlord of the recently built New Inn, although he still kept on his carpentry work. The Northampton Mercury for the 17th February 1871 reports that he had been sued by a Mr Briggs, a farmer and brickmaker from Denford for £24 17s. 10d. for bricks (about £1200 today). He had paid off some of the debt and the case seems to have been amicably settled.

We find in 1871 Samuel and Maria with six of their children living in the New Inn with one lodger, Timothy Chandler. Life seems seemed set fair with the two businesses and the children soon beginning to contribute or leave home. In 1873, however, Samuel died, aged 62, and was buried in the local churchyard on May 1st. Three-and -a -half years later, on December 13th 1876, Maria was buried. Henry, the eldest son had returned to the village and taken over the running of the New Inn but the family exploded and we pick out the individual children as they try to reconstruct their lives. Some seem to have managed quite well but three had contact with the workhouse but in very different circumstances.

If we start with Henry, the eldest, who had become the new landlord at the New Inn, it seemed at first that he would find it easiest to make a new life after the death of his parents. He had left Ringstead to become a journeyman baker in Lady’s Lane, Northampton before returning to take over the pub. He had married Elizabeth Clarke from Brigstock in 1875 and in the 1881 Census we find the couple in the New Inn with their three children. Henry has simply described his occupation at ‘Inn Keeper’ but Elizabeth has had herself listed as a, ‘Licensed Victualler’s wife’. There seems a certain pride in their new life. They are listed in an 1885 Directory as still being in the New Inn but we know that the family left soon after.

For some reason it did not work out and Henry had to work for a time as a farm labourer at Ecton. The family are there when Eliza, his wife, died on 22nd September 1888. She cause of death was Phthisis which was a medical term for a wasting disease but usually referred to T.B., one of the great scourges of Victorian England. She had been ill for fiteen months and was just thirty-six years old when she died. The family's fortunes were rapidly falling apart.

In 1891 Henry was back in Northampton as a journeyman baker, boarding with his new employer, Edward Kightly at 51 Scarletwell Street.  Writing earlier, in 1869, Richard Rowe described this part of town:

. . . which is almost solely peopled by shoemakers and their purveyors. Neatly built, yet squalid, unfragrant, two-floored cottages; roadways splashed with slops and littered with garbage; dirty children quarrelling, grubbing in the dirt, racing, squealing, squatting on the kerbstone in rows; vixenish women and beery men, in and outside of the low ”publics”, are the salient features of this area.

His eldest son, George is an ‘aerated water van boy’ boarding just down the road from his widowed father. But where are his other children? We find Rose, Samuel, Margaret, John and Leonard all in Northampton Union Workhouse. It seems that poverty has ripped his children away from Henry but the truth is sadder. The children had been taken away to the Workhouse to protect them from their father. It was his nine-year-old daughter, Rose, who was the butt of his violence. He had accused her of selling bones and keeping the money and had told her to go upstairs. The Northampton Mercury for the 25th July 1890 continued:

Rose said that when he came up she ran under the bed and he told her to come out. She had no bruises before that beating. He had beaten her before but not many times.

The family were living at 9 Little Cross Street and Eliza Quick, the wife of a lamp-lighter from Number 2  had seen her with a bleeding shoulder which Henry claimed in court had come from her hiding under the iron bedstead. Other of his children testified against him and ‘Sammy’ told how he had chopped the stick up’ after his father had gone out. The Police Sergeant who went to the house found the children ‘insufficiently clothed and very dirty’. He added:

The house was also in a very dirty condition. In both bedrooms you could not put a pin anywhere for fleas, and the stench was dreadful.

Henry was sentenced to one month’s hard labour. We now see that his employer had taken him in as a lodger after his release. Some six months later, on 19th December 1891 he died in Northampton Union Workhouse of Phthisis, like his wife. He was thirty-nine years old. By 1901 Rose and her sister Margaret had become maids in Eastbourne. We can only hope that they had happy lives.

Fanny Figgis, Henry’s sister, had married Thomas Mitchell Chambers in 1873. He was a soldier who in 1871 had been a private in the 99th Foot in East Cowes Barracks.  When we next find Fanny she is living in Leeds with six of her children. We discover what has happened in the meantime as five of the children have been born in various parts of India and only the youngest has been born in Leeds. Thomas returns to civilian life and by 1901 is a boiler stoker in a tannery and two of his girls are ‘leather blackers’.

Thomas Figgis, in 1881, was a general labourer, lodging in Butchers Buildings in Irchester. By 1891 he has moved to West Ham with his wife Zillah (sometimes Lillah). The family then moved back to Wellingborough and in 1911 we still find Zillah in Melton Road but there is no sign of Thomas.  In fact Thomas was probably paving the way for their emigration for he and Zillah emigrated to Summerland in British Columbia and certainly Zillah, in 1929 moved on to Ohio in the United States.

Harriett Ann is something of a mystery and I have found neither her death nor other appearance in the records. Her younger brother James, however, seems to have reacted badly to the death of his parents and shows up in the local newspapers. In July 1879 he was fined for being drunk and disorderly in Denford and in 1880 he was again fined for the same offence in Thrapston. He remained in Ringstead as a lodger and worked as a farm labourer. It does not seem that he married and on 9th December 1896, aged just thirty-eight, he died in Thrapston Workhouse.

Arthur, like his brother, Thomas, moved to work in West Ham and then on to Maidstone in Kent, the birthplace of his wife Rose. By 1911 he is a widower there, living with his son, Sidney, and working as a labourer for the Maidstone Borough Council.

The family, of course, like others would have naturally spread as the children grew up but the comparatively early deaths of their parents and the sudden change of lifestyle,  caused great hardships to many of the children. In some ways, Elizabeth, the youngest child, seems to have initially suffered the worst of all the siblings.

By 1881 she was a pauper in Thrapston Union Workhouse and just eighteen years old. Normally that would have meant that she was pregnant but we have found no sign of that. When we look at the Census page, we see around her, Harriett Beeby, 53, imbecile; Abigail Clarke, 49, imbecile; Eliza Fairey, 81, blind and imbecile; Elizabeth Dix, 26, imbecile, Mary Ann Matthews, 39, imbecile and Elizabeth Richardson, 33, imbecile. It is likely that they were all in the women’s dormitory together. It must have been an unpleasant and, at times, frightening place for a young girl to live. It seems strange that she was not given a temporary home in the New Inn with her brother, Henry, and his young family, but perhaps we can now understand that there may have been good reasons why she preferred to go to the Overseer and present herself at the Porter’s Lodge of the Workhouse.

Like a number of women, marriage was a way of escaping from desperate poverty to bearable poverty. In early 1883 she married Thomas Mitchell who was some nine years her senior.

Thomas came from a large family in Raunds. His father, James, was an agricultural labourer and it would have been a hard life for them all. Thomas followed his father into farm work. Elizabeth and Thomas first lived in Raunds and their first child, Ernest Leonard Mitchell, was baptised there on 3rd May 1883, shortly after their marriage. Sadly, Ernest died a little later in the same year. Their second child, Edith, was baptised on 15th February 1885 in Raunds and she survived to have children of her own.  The next two children however died very young. Some time around 1890 the family moved to Chapel Lane, Stanwick and Thomas became a limestone digger at one of the local pits. A son, Fred, had been born in 1888 and baptised in Raunds on 19th February 1888 and another daughter, Florence Maud, had been baptised in June 1890 but she was buried in early 1892 and Fred, who seems to have been baptised again in 1992, followed soon after.

We cannot be sure why Thomas changed his work but a brief article in the Raunds section of the Northampton Mercury for 23rd January 1891 gives some insight into the seasonal, unreliable, nature of much farm work and the suffering that this could produce.

DISTRESS – In consequence of the prolonged frost the agricultural labourers and all those following outdoor employments have experienced a considerable amount of privation, if not actual distress, since Christmas. Soup and other necessaries have been distributed.

Elizabeth and Thomas stayed in Stanwick for at least five years but then moved to Knuston Farm Cottages in Knuston, near Irchester. They are there in 1901 and Thomas is now a horsekeeper on a farm. Only Percy (9) and Ellen (5) are till at home for Edith, at 16, is a domestic servant to Walter Woodward, a plumber, and his wife Alice and their young family at 55 Moor Road, Rushden. Such girls were very vulnerable and she gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Georgina, a couple of years later.  Thomas may have had a cottage but it would have been tied to the job and it may be that they lost both for by 1911 they are back in Raunds at 4 Woodruff’s Yard off the High Street. Thomas is once again a farm labourer and Elizabeth is working as a charwoman. The two children are bringing some money to the household, Percy as a shoe riveter and Ellen by working half days as a domestic.

We are reminded by the 1911 Census that Elizabeth has had seven children, four of whom have died. The small, almost unnoticed, griefs of many families in the nineteenth century. Their daughter Edith had married Harry Marshall and was living in Rotton Row with a family of her own. 

Things seem settled but once again fate was against the family for in 1913 Thomas died and five years later in 1918 Elizabeth followed him to the grave. She had lived to see all her three remaining children married and her son Percy, return alive but wounded from the Western Front.

 

References

 

Raunds, Ringstead, Irchester, Northampton, Stanwick Censuses (www.Ancestry.co.uk ).

FreeBMD (www.Ancestry.co.uk )

www.familysearch.com .

Northampton Mercury (www.britishnewspaperarchive.com ).

The Northampton Shoemaker. Richard Rowe. Good Words 1st November 1869 (www.familyhistorynorthants.co.uk/1869.html .

Death Certificate for Henry Figgis 1891.

 

 

Maud Emma Kate Burgin (1878 – 1897)

In this brief story of a brief life we can see the useful work that the Workhouse could do but also its limitations and bureaucratic heartlessness.

Maud was the daughter of Edward (or Edwin) Burgin who had been born in Wolverhampton of Irish parents. His wife Sarah Kettle was from Spittlegate near Grantham in Lincolnshire and the couple had married in the Grantham area in the spring of 1871. In 1861 Sarah had been staying in Ringstead with her much older sister, Mary, who was married to agricultural labourer, Thomas Wills. It was presumably this connection that brought the young couple to the village. Their first two children Mary Ann and Elizabeth were both born in Spittlegate so it seems likely that the couple moved south between 1875 and 1878 when Maud Emma Kate was born, followed by her sister Alice in 1880.

The family were in Carlow in 1881 and moved to London Road by 1891. At first Edward had been an ironstone labourer but by 1891 was a farm labourer, perhaps because of the closure of local pits. The children kept being born, and dying. We know from the 1911 Census that Sarah had fifteen children of which only five survived.

It is Maud Emma Kate with whom we are concerned with here. On 14th August 1896 she gave birth to an illegitimate son in Thrapston Workhouse. We know from a later newspaper report that it was a very difficult birth. The boy was called Bertram Leonard Burgin and it seems that he remains in the Workhouse for he is there in the 1901 Census aged five years old. In the November of the following year Maud was coming to the end of a pregnancy again. Once more she was having a very difficult time.

She gave birth to a female child on the Friday and was attended by Mary Mitchell, the midwife. On the following two days she complained of pains in her stomach and chest. She seemed comfortable on the Saturday night but then deteriorated and, on the Sunday afternoon, Mary Mitchell tried to get an order for a doctor as Sarah, her mother could not leave her daughter and the other children. Dr. Ramsay told her that he would not attend Maud without the money or an order. She went to a Mr Whitney and then to Mr Fisher who said he was the overseer but could not give her an order. He sent her to Mr O. Smith who also said that he could not give her one and in desperation to one of the Workhouse Guardians called Smith but he too could not help.  She told Edwin (Edward) that his daughter needed a doctor but he could not afford to pay for one.

Maud became very ill and, before eight o’clock on the Monday morning, her father went to Thrapston to see Mr. Parish, the Relieving Officer to get an order for a doctor but he said he could only give an order for her to come into the Workhouse.

Edwin pleaded that his daughter was dangerously ill and not fit to be moved but Parish still refused to give a doctor’s order. On returning home he found that his daughter was dead.

At the Inquest held on the following Tuesday, at the Barber’s Arms, Dr. Mackenzie said that Mrs Mitchell, the midwife, had come to see him (presumably when he was busy or out and Doctor Ramsay took the message). When she returned soon after, he told her she need to get an order from the parish but she again returned and said that she could not obtain one. The Mercury report continues:

. . . he told her to go to the Relieving Officer and also told her what to do with the patient. He gave her some pills and told her to poultice the patient; in fact he told her just the same as he should have done had he attended. . . [As a result of a post mortem examination] he found that the cause of death was puerperal peritonitis*. He did not think that he could have prevented this had he attended the confinement. He could not say if he had been called in sooner he could have saved her life. Deceased was a very unhealthy and bloodless woman. There was no sign of unskilful treatment by the midwife.

[*A not uncommon cause of death at this time, in mothers after childbirth, especially if there had been tissue damage during a difficult birth. The use of hands (or instruments), that had not been properly sterilised could also be a cause.]

The case naturally led to an outcry in Raunds and the Inquest jury asked the Coroner to pass the following resolution to the appropriate authorities:

That the jury has heard with consternation that the overseers of Raunds have received no instructions as to the granting of orders in cases of urgency and necessity:- That the jury strongly recommend the Thrapston Board of Guardians to appoint a resident Relieving Officer for the parish of Raunds.            

We see the inadequacies and bureaucratic callousness of the old system which would eventually lead people to call for a ‘free’ National Health Service.

The Thrapston Board of Guardians met on Tuesday 30th November and considered the criticism levelled at its officers and doctors. The members defended the actions taken and made it clear where they felt the fault lay.

The parents must long have known what state this poor girl was in, and it was possible for them to make preparations beforehand. Not only did the father earn 18s. a week, but the girl herself and another daughter and a son were earning money and with the income coming in they could not find fault with the Relieving Officer in refusing to give an order. If he had done so he would not have carried out his duty according to the interests of the Board, because they did not want to encourage parents to neglect their children or encourage people to get into these immoral ways. . . Mr Lovell pointed out that if the doctor had not put his foot down and get an order he would never get any fees at all.

The Board decided that:

. . . under the circumstances they would pay the expenses of burying and they also exonerated the doctor, the overseers and the Relieving Officer from blame, taking no steps regarding the recommendations to appoint a Relieving Officer for Raunds. – The matter then dropped.

When we look back through the newspaper reports we see part of the reason for the attitude of the Board to the Burgins. In 1885, while they lived in Ringstead, Edward was charged with leaving his wife and family chargeable to the Thrapston Union. In 1890 he was found guilty of not sending his daughters Alice and Maud to school. Perhaps most significantly, just two years before Maud’s death her mother’s fifteenth and last child was stillborn. The midwife went to the doctor to ask him to certify the cause of death but he refused without an order. There was not thought for the mother.

The Burgins were a “problem family” and they were clearly labelled as the “undeserving poor”. Maud suffered as a result.

The daughter, born just before her young mother’s death, did survive and was also called Maud in memory of her mother. By 1911 she was boarding with her brother ‘Bertie’ in Twywell with a widow called Elizabeth Percival. In the First World War Bertie enlisted with the Royal Sussex Regiment and died of his wounds on 26th April 1917. There appears to have been no correspondence about obtaining the medals due to him at the end of the war.

References

Ringstead, Raunds, Stanwick, Knuston and Thrapston Censuses. (www.Ancestry.co.uk ).

Riingstead, Raunds and Thrapston BMD.

Northampton Mercury. (www.Britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk ). 

UK Soldiers Died in Great War 1914-19 (www.Ancestry.co.uk ).

 

 

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