Bradwell: Ancient and Modern

A History of the Parish and of Incidents in the Hope Valley.

By Seth Evans (1912)

Transcriptions by Rosemary Lockie, © Copyright 2013

Chapter XI.

IN THE PARISH WORKHOUSE DAYS.
HOW THE POOR EXISTED.

OVERSEERS' OLD RECORDS.

The old accounts and records of a parish are always interesting and instructive, but in our case we have not those of a parish but of one township within a parish. The accounts of the overseers of the poor, contained in an old book known as “William Evans' Book”, covering a period from 1818 to 1850, are eloquent as shewing the life of the village poor in the first half of last century.

Before making any allusion to the contents of this book it ought to be said that the author is in possession of the ancient Deeds for a century and a half, showing that a century ago, when Bradwell kept its own poor, the workhouse was at Edentree, - the very house that was enlarged and is now the residence of Dr. Clegg. And real workhouses they were in those days, for the inmates were compelled to work, and our Bradwell workhouse was fitted up with weavers' looms. A Deed dated 29th October, 1812, sets forth that John Hibberson, of Sickleholme, innholder, a member of one of the oldest Bradwell families, variously spelt Ibbutson, Ibbotson, Ibberson, and lastly Hibberson, sold for £125 to Thomas Hill, shopkeeper, and Robert Middleton, of Smalldale, miner, the overseers, at the request and by the proper order and direction of the inhabitants of Bradwall, the dwelling-house, cow-house, barn, loomshop, and garden at Edentree. But in 1819, having an eye to business, the overseers removed the paupers and their looms to other premises at Yard Head, now two houses belonging to Mr. Albert Bradwell, which was the workhouse down to the Bakewell Union being formed.

In those days the overseers expended something like £500 a year, and collected a rate once a quarter, and their accounts give us a glimpse, not only of the primitive kind of workhouse, but of the lives of the inmates, the out-door poor, and most other things in the parish.

For instance, in 1818 we had “oile for the house 5 weeks at 1d., 5d.” - probably to oil the looms of the paupers, and at the same time they were supplied with “thread, 5½d.”, and when the flitting had taken place we “paid 1s. 4d. for a pair of spindles”, and “William Kenyon for a beam 8s.” Then we have “Adam Hill for a pair of looms £1 10s.”, and being short of money we paid “Adam Morton on account of looms 10s.”, giving him the other half-sovereign next year when we gave “John Smith towards looms 18s. 6d.” In 1825 we have “setting up looms 8s. 6d.”, and the following year, determined not to allow old Webster to eat any idle bread, they bought “a five dozen

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bobbins, new pickers, cording, etc., for Webster” and paid “William Ollerenshaw 6d. for setting up Webster's looms”.

In food and cooking, the inmates of this institution, and the out-door paupers as well, appear to have had a fairly good time in those days of small things. Their supplies of potatoes, butter, meat, candles, etc., were liberal, but they appear to have baked their own oatcake with the meal provided by the overseers. There was “paid for setting up Backstone 2s. 9d.” - that “backstone” was in the house not long ago, - and there was also “paid to Jacob Eyre for two troughs 16s.” Old Jacob Eyre was a baker in Nether Side, and when he got too old to carry on his business he sold his mixing troughs to the overseers for the paupers to mix their dough in.

In 1819 we “relieved old Nanny” at a cost of 11s. 9d., and soon afterwards we “paid William Revill for old Nany's shoes 2s. 3d.”, and “relieved old Nany and Hannah instead of milk 12s. 8d.” We also “paid for baking old Martha's bread 6d.”, and later “bought flannel for old Martha”. Not long after this the old lady was taken to her long home.

“Richard Kay for Townend's breeches 3s. 2½d.” shows that the personal appearance of the paupers was not neglected, and 1s. 11d. was “paid for ¾ yard of fustian to mend William Hibbs' breeches”. It is to be feared that William had rheumatism, for there is an entry “To William Hibbs, oil of Pigma to rub his thigh, 4½d.”

The ladies had a touch of pride in them, which the overseers encouraged, for they spent 2s. 8d. on “Hannah Gee's bonnet”, and sundry fineries for others. They “bought Mary Hall, Castleton, two shifts 5s. 1d.”, and also a “bedgown for Mary Hall, Castleton, 2s. 6d.” This lady was doubtless fond of a dance at Castleton Wakes, like most people in that famous village, and so they “relieved Mary Hall at Castleton Wakes 2s.”; indeed, the entries show that Mary was often “set up” with cash to visit Castleton at a “good time”. And the inmates had generally a spree at these “good times”, especially at Bradwell Wakes, on the second Sunday in July, for there are numerous entries. Here is one, in the handwriting of William Evans, overseer, “1831. July 9, To cash to the House for the Wakes 7s. 6d.”

Unfortunately, the records disclosed many lapses from the strict path of morality, for a great deal of money was spent in tracing runaway fathers of illegitimate children. The custom seemed to be to outrun the constable, who had to follow them all over the country with a warrant in his possession. The expense was enormous. And when magisterial business had to be transacted journeys had to be made to Chesterfield, Bakewell, Hathersage, Hayfield, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Tideswell, Glossop, Low Leighton, or anywhere else where a magistrate lived.

The sick poor were well looked after, judging from the quantity of intoxicants that found its way into the “House”, for there are hundreds of such items. On one occasion there had been a new arrival at the workhouse, increasing the population by one, when there seems to have been a very nice feast over the job at the ratepayers' expense, for they paid for “goods to the House for the merry meal 3s.”, and “Ale for Charlotte Palfrey 4s.” It is the first time we have come across a merry meal in a workhouse on such an occasion, and paid for out of the rates too! In 1824 we “relieved Isaac Furness when going to the doctor 1s.”, and when a man was in Chapel Gaol we “gave his wife Sukey 4s. 6d.” We can imagine the wry faces that would be pulled after half-a-crown had been “paid for saults and pills for Mary Wragg's child”, and five shillings was given “to Robert Hawksworth's wife having a bad leg”.

Behind these entries there may be many a tragedy. For instance, in 1831, “To Alice Smith, for wine, being poorly, 2s.” Poor Alice evidently got worse, for she lingered on more than a year, when we read “To Alice Smith for a peck of malt, being poorly, 2s. 5d.” The end was fast approaching, for the next entry mentions old Doctor Lowe, “To James Lowe attending Alice Smith, 5s.”, followed by “Alice Smith, extra, being poorly, 2s.”, the story closing with the items, “Alice Smith's coffin 18s., fees 8s., shroud 1s. 3d.”

The wayfarer was not turned empty away - the overseer had at least a copper for him. He gave a shilling “to relieve a woman in distress from America”, and another shilling “to a man in distress through loss at sea”, and he paid “to a poor woman in distress to pay her lodgings 3d.”

And the overseer interested himself in getting employment for those who would otherwise be on his hands, and an entry tells us that we paid “expenses to Bamford getting Deborah Walker a place 1s.” He got a good many others a “place” so as to keep them off the rates, and there is an item, “To Elizabeth and Jane Marshall to prevent them being excluded from the club at Bakewell 5s. 6d.” One man, although wanting bread, had great expectations, for the overseers gave “Robert Hobson for bread, and promised to return it on the receipt of his fortune, 5s. 6d.” Amongst the hundreds of curious entries are: “To two chamber potts to House 6d.”, and “Idleback 1d.” - an almost obsolete name for potmould.

How poor lads were rigged up and placed out as parish apprentices is shown by numerous payments. In 1818 we have a payment “for Isaac Eyre's hat”, and five years later there was “paid with Isaac Eyre to his master £2 2s.” “paid for his new cloaths 14s. 6d.” “for his new hat 2s. 6d.”, “expenses at binding him 6s. 6d.”, “expenses going to Whetstone about Isaac

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Eyre 1s.” One poor lad who wanted to make his way in the world is mentioned where there was “given to John Middleton going to seek a situation 6s.” He was successful at Bollington, twenty miles distant, and the next item we come across reads: “To Joseph Wright taking John Middleton to Bollington 13s.” That lad became a prosperous tradesman at Bollington. Why a door-tenter was necessary at the workhouse is a puzzle, but there was paid “to William Smith for door-tenting two years 5s. 3d.”

There are numerous payments of good stiff sums for law costs, mainly cases of settlement that had been taken to Quarter Sessions. In 1818 there was “Pade Mr. Cheek and Counselors £8 17s.” This was old Lawyer Cheek, of Wheston, near Tideswell, who was often “pade” to unravel legal problems. There is “Expenses to Pontefract Sessions £22 16s. 8d.”, and a payment of £40 14s. “Parker and Brown's law bill”.

It would be interesting to know where were the rights of turbary, and what led to half a guinea being paid tor “Parker and Brown's opinion on turf”, and 12s. 6d. to Benjamin Barber for “drawing up the above case”.

It would appear that teetotalism was then unknown, for everything had to be washed down with liquor. All the meetings were held and the business transacted in public-houses - good old inns of the olden times. The Bull's Head was kept by Ellen Bradwell; the Green Dragon by Joseph Bocking; the Rose Tree by William Bradwell; the Rose and Crown by Robert Morton; the Newburgh Arms by William Kenyon; the Whito Hart by Elias Needham; the Miners' Arms by Robert Howe; and the Lord Nelson at Brough by Joseph Sidebottom. These appear to have reaped a rich harvest, for nothing could be done, without something being “spent”, and the amounts per meeting varied from five to ten shillings; indeed, there are hundreds of these items.

About a dozen of the solons of the village attended when there was “spent at the accompts 5s.”. and often more. Even Outram's Dole of 15s. could not be paid without those who doled it out spending 5s. at the Bull's Head.

The Headborough was an important functionary, who was responsible for the township list of Militia men, and there appears to have been a good deal “spent” when he was appointed. In 1818 there was “paid to William Revill for serving Headborough £1”, and in the following year “William Fox for serving Headborough £2 4s. 8d.” Revell was a shoemaker and kept a beerhouse in Nether Side, where the bank now stands, and Wm. Fox was a shuttle maker.

Considerable sums were paid to “Militia men, 19s. 4d.”; and “Given Militia men 3s.” A meeting respecting the militia resulted in 6s. 6d. being “spent”, and it is followed by some curious entries. Here they are: “expenses of three Militia men over the subscriptions, £6 2s. 6d.”; “Paid for 737 parts of two Militia men, 19s. 4½d.”; and “Given Militia men, 3s.” The second item is a mathematical problem that will bear solution. Of course we “spent at Headborough meeting 5s.” The next year we “expended at two Militia meetings 7s. 7d.”, and “paid for Militia men £5 5s. 4d.” In 1824 we “spent at choosing a new Headborough 3s. 6d.” and at “marking a Militia list 5s.” while “George Elliott headborough's bill” was £1 9s. 3d., and “Thomas Bocking do.” £1 6s. 7d. Next year we have “To a Militia man £3 12s. 4½d.” and so on ad lib, and in 1829 we have “To soldiers red coats 2s. 6d.”

We are also given an insight of the old Church rates, a rate levied on the parishioners for the support of the Parish Church. In this township it was unpopular, because most of the people were Dissenters. The amount appears to have varied, for while the “Church score” in 1819 was six guineas without any information as to how the amount was arrived at, we have next year “Church rate 7 penny lay £6”, while in 1823 “Church score” had gone up to £9. Of course, something had to be “spent” at the inn where these men were paid as well as where the overseers were appointed. indeed there appears to have been a jovial time when William Evans and William Ashmore were appointed overseers, for 15s. 6d. was “spent”. and later, “meeting at William Bradwell's, nominating overseer, 15s.” In 1823 there appears to have been a good deal spent on ale and tobacco over the tithes for we have “Tobacco and pipes at Tythe meeting. 6d.” “spent at Joseph Sidebottom's on Tythe business 1s.”, “spent at Elias Needham's on Tythe business 5s.” and “spent at Robert Morton's on Tythe business 8s. 8d.”

There appears to have been a “Town's Box” in those days. We wish it was in existence now, and all its former contents in evidence. It would tell a strange tale. Whether or not its contents had been tampered with is not said, but in 1824 we “paid for a key for the Town's Box 7d.” After this there appears to have been a systematic inspection of the box. for in the early part of 1826 we “spent at a meeting at Robert Morton's 5s.”. and the very next day “a meeting at Ellen Bradwell's 3s. 6d.”

Another important functionary, the constable, had plenty to do, and a rate was levied to recompense him, for in 1821 we read “Constable rate 3 penny lay £2 14s.”, and in the previous year the “constable's score” was £1 10s. There was “paid for ale on the appointment of constable at Robert Morton's 5s.” and Henry Hill was paid £11 for serving the office. Who the poor creature was, who was hustled off to the asylum is not stated, but there was “paid to Constable and John Bradwell going to Bedlam, together with Glossop constable expenses 13s.” The constable's accounts would be still more interesting reading.

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The mole-catcher was quite an institution in the place. In 1819 we “paid mole-catcher half a year's wage £4”, and the payment is continued from year to year. And the same year we “paid for a lock for the pinfold 8d.”, and “paid John Cooper for pinning 10s.” but both mole-catcher and pinner are functionaries of the past, and the pinfold in Hungry Lane was thrown into the road widening a few years ago.

How or by what means King George was “proclaimed” we are not told, but in the accounts of 1820 we have “expenses at proclaiming King George the Fourth 10s.”

There was no “penny post” in those days, but the overseers had occasional letters for which they had to pay. Here are a few of the items: “Paid for a letter for Micah Wright 2s. 5d.” “a letter from Manchester 9d.” “letter to Oldham 10d.” And they were occasionally worried with communications from London, thus “letter from Parliament 2d.” “paid for a letter from the House of Commons 3d.” “a letter from London respecting a petitioner 2d.”, “making a return to the House of Commons and expenses 5s.”

We have an entry “To a letter from London to take the population 1s. 1d.” This relates to the census of 1831, when the population of Bradwell was found to be 1153. Another entry reads: “To expenses at justice meeting with population 3s. 6d.” We don't suppose that William Evans, the overseer, took “the population” to the justice meeting, or he would have his hands full. The stormy period of the Reform Bill was just over, and so under date July 16th, 1832, we read “To the Reform Act from London 2d.” Two years afterwards we have “To instructions respecting voting from London 2d.” and “To a second instruction respecting voting from London 2d.” In 1837 there is the entry “To a parcil from Bakewell respecting the Polling Places 3d.” A complete change came over the scene when Poor Law Unions were formed, and so we came across the entry in 1838, “To an order from London to join the Union 2d.” And this joining the union caused ructions. The Workhouse was closed, and the few paupers removed to Bakewell. But that was not all. The accounts of the overseers had to come under the lynx-eyed Government auditor, and at the end of the accounts for 1841 we have the ominous entry: “The accounts of Thomas Middleton and Henry Hill of items which the auditor will not allow”. And these items totalled £50 5s. 10d. But our overseers cared not for auditors, for they kept strictly to the old path. They “paid for ale at a meeting 5s.” “paid for ale and tobacco at a meeting with John Hall 5s. 1½d.” and “to ale, gin, and tobacco at meeting William Butcher 6s. 6d.” In fact, they had a separate list of “the items which the auditors will not allow”, for they never “allowed” him to see them, but paid them out of the rates all the same.

Our book ends with 1852 when George Fox and Robert Evans were the overseers, and from that date the accounts are not such as to call for special mention.

A deed dated 17th June, 1831, in the author's possession, is interesting as showing how and when the old Workhouse at historical Edentree passed into other hands and became private property. The parties to the deed are Thomas Hill, shopkeeper, Isaac Somerset and William Evans, overseers of the poor, and the several persons - principal inhabitants of the township of Bradwell. Those “principal persons” are Thomas Hill, Isaac Somerset, William Evans, Robert Middleton, Josiah Barber, Abraham Dakin, George Bradwell, Thomas Middleton, Thomas Jeffrey, Thomas Andrew, Thomas Somerset, Abraham Ashmore, Joseph Wright, William Burrows, and Robert Morton.

The deed goes on to recite that at a vestry meeting of the inhabitants held in the Sunday School house in Bradwell, on the 15th of April last, convened by public notice for the purpose, it was unanimously agreed by all the said inhabitants then present who were the major part in value of the inhabitants of the township, that the property should be forthwith sold by auction to the best bidder, the purchase money to be paid to Isaac Somerset and William Evans, and applied by them as the inhabitants should direct.

Accordingly the overseers offered for sale the two dwelling-houses (forming one house called Edentree House), barn, cowhouse, loomshed and garden, also a croft adjoining the said garden, and an allotment late part of the waste which was allotted to the devises of George Ibberson, by an Act of Parliament enclosing the Commons in Bradwell, the properties being in the occupation of William Burrows, Benjamin Hill and Thomas Elliott. The sale took place on May 15th, 1831, when Mr. John Maltby was declared the purchaser for £110.

OCR/transcript by Rosemary Lockie in February 2013.

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