Archive for May 2016

An Ashington Hero’s Death

James White was born in 1916 son of William James White and Mary Jane Chrisp of 113 Rosalind Street, Ashington.  He was baptised on 4th January 1917 at Seaton Hirst St. John and went on to work at Woodhorn Colliery before joining the Army on the outbreak of the Second World War.

EP 166-06 p32 copy

James enlisted in the 1st Battalion Tyneside Scottish (Black Watch) where he became Private James White, 4459525, and found himself in France during the retreat to Dunkirk in May 1940.  It seems that the 1st Battalion had deployed as part of the British Expeditionary Force [BEF], and were tasked with the construction of airfields

[see http://www.tynesidescottish.org/history/ts-ww2].  As the German army advanced, the 1st Battalion formed a blocking position at Ficheux, near Arras, which they held for several hours, enabling many men to reach the Dunkirk beaches, before withdrawing themselves.

James didn’t make it home on the retreat and subsequent evacuation.  He was reported as missing, and it wasn’t until 1942 that he was officially declared ‘Killed in Action’.

NRO 11055-5

NRO 11055/5

He died on 20th May 1940, aged 23 years, and was buried in Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux.  His grave is one of 39 within the cemetery whose location could not be properly identified, so is marked ‘Buried Near This Spot’.  The verse that was put on the gravestone is heartbreakingly apt:

A grave unknown

Across the sea

Is where our thoughts

Will always be

NRO 11055-3

NRO 11055/3

Sadly, James’ parents and siblings were never able to visit the grave, and the story of his service and subsequent death were shrouded in mystery.  It wasn’t until his great niece searched for his name on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website that the family finally began to unravel the stories that had been told.  Although no-one in the family is alive who knew him, he is still remembered amongst the current generation who visit his grave regularly.

James' Grave

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.”

Laurence Binyon, 1914

This Week in World War One, 19 May 1916

Berwick Advertiser title 1915

 

BERWICK ADVERTISER, 19 MAY 1916

 

LOCAL NEWS

 

Mine Sweepers’ Pensions – The Admiralty have intimated that all mine sweepers injured in the course of duty, and not through culpable negligence, will receive a pension of twenty five shillings weekly, if totally incapacitated, and ten and sixpence if partially disabled, together with half-a-crown for each child. In the event of being killed, his widow will receive a weekly allowance varying from ten shillings to sixteen and sixpence, with a graduated scale for each child.

Different types of sea mines at the German Marine Museum. © Photographer - euro-t-guide.com.

Different types of sea mines at the German Marine Museum. © Photographer – euro-t-guide.com.

 

THE RISE IN FOOD PRICES

55 per cent. Since Beginning of War

 

The Board of Trade Labour Gazette, dealing with retail prices of food in the United Kingdom, states that on May 1 values showed an increase of about 4 per cent. as compared with April 1. Both beef and mutton indicated a rise of about 6 per cent., or from ½d to ¾d per lb, on the average. Potatoes showed an increase on the month of 42 per cent., whilst the increase in the tax on sugar was reflected in a rise in the retail price of about 10 per cent., or ½d per lb. The average prices of fish, bacon, and cheese were slightly higher at May 1 than a month earlier. Tea, milk, butter, and margarine showed little change in price, apart from an increase from 5d to 6d per quart of milk in a great part of London. The seasonal decline in the price of eggs continued. As compared with 1st May, 1915, the general level of prices showed an increase of about 23 per cent.

 

BERWICK PETTY SESSIONS

UNUSUAL CASE OF BRIGHT LIGHTS

 

Peter Richardson, Jun., Berwick, electrician, was charged with having on 8th May, failed to obscure light.

It appeared from statement by the Chief Constable that the accused was left in charge of the house of the Manager of the Electric Works at Bridge Terrace. He had visited the house during the day, and while doing so he had turned the light on, omitting to switch it off again. In the evening the light was observed by soldiers on guard at Bridge End, who ineffectually rung the bell.

A photograph taken in 1906 of the Berwick end of the Berwick Bridge, where soldiers observed the 'Bright Lights' ten years later in 1916. © Berwick Record Office.

A photograph taken in 1906 of the Berwick end of the Berwick Bridge, where soldiers observed the ‘Bright Lights’ ten years later in 1916. © Berwick Record Office.

 

Police Constable Spiers was called, and got the accused out of bed and had the light extinguished.

The Chief Constable mentioned it was an unusual case, and he pressed for no vindictive sentence. The accused was 18 years of age. Fined 2s 6d

 

PRESENTATION OF SILVER CUP TO CAPTAIN EVELYN CARR

Interesting Function at Scremerston

 

There was a large and popular gathering of the villagers of Scremerston on Friday evening last in the Miners’ Institute for the purpose of welcoming and honouring Captain J. Evelyn Carr, Manager of the Colliery Company, presently home on leave from the Front.

The gallant Captain has been on active service since August 1914, and notwithstanding his arduous experiences he looked fit and well.

It was fittingly decided to present Captain Carr with a solid silver cup, a replica of the famous gold cup offered by the Highland Agricultural Society at their show held at Hawick in 1914. This cup is valued at 300 guineas, and was won by Capt. Carr with a rare exhibit of Leicester sheep entered against all comers in this particular class.

The presentation cup was filled by the Capt., and the company entertained to cake and wine.

Scremerston Colliery Silver Band - © Berwick Record Office, BRO 1753-2a.

Scremerston Colliery Silver Band – © Berwick Record Office, BRO 1753-2a.

 

Mr Geo. W. Glahome presided, and during the evening a fine musical programme was sustained, a prominent feature being the Scremerston Silver Band under Mr Allan. The Scremerston Sketch Party submitted a short comedy, entitled “The Designing Woman,” which was greatly appreciated. Mr Whitfiled acted as leader of the party, and Misses Mason, Whitefiled, Jeanie Davidson, Messrs John Moore and Robert Foster all acted as capable artistes. Other songs were contributed. Among others present were Mrs Carr, Mr John Mitchell, Ancroft Town farm; Mr John Black, etc.

Captain Carr left for the Front on Sunday night.

 

“Please, Sir, I Want Some More.”

Life inside the workhouse was designed to be difficult in order to act as a deterrent and ensure that only the truly destitute would apply. The common image portrayed is of inmates having bread and gruel, wearing uncomfortable coarse uniforms and doing heavy manual labour such as stone breaking. The Minute Books for Morpeth and Hexham Workhouses reinforce that life was hard but they also provide evidence that staff and patrons were often kind and provided treats and entertainment for paupers and were concerned about their health and welfare.

Public holidays were declared for the Coronation of Edward VII and inmates at Morpeth Workhouse were given a roast beef dinner and tarts on the 26th June 1902 and a tea on the following day. In conjunction with the Coronation, children at Hexham workhouse were given mugs as a souvenir. The mugs were gifted by Sir John Swinburne and a vote of thanks to him is documented in the Minute Book on 8th July 1902.

Coronation Dinner 1902 GMO/1

Coronation Dinner 1902
GMO/1

Coronation Mugs GHE/12

Coronation Mugs
GHE/12

The Minute Book entries below prove that Christmas and New Years Day dinners were given to pauper inmates and that other treats were allowed to be brought into the workhouse. Rich patrons often donated gifts of beer, biscuits and mince pies which were gratefully excepted. This was advantageous as it meant that paupers were provided with treats that did not have to come out of Union funds.

Permission to receive Christmas gifts 1903 GMO/1

Christmas Festivities 1903
GMO/1

 

Treats from patrons Christmas 1900 GHE/12

Treats from Patrons Christmas 1900
GHE/12

This Minute Book entry from December 1903 records a cheque being received at Morpeth Workhouse from a Mr Anderson for the purpose of providing some ‘creature comforts’ on New Years Day.

New Years Days Comforts 1903 GMO/1

New Years Day Comforts 1903
GMO/1

 

Workhouse inmates were also given treats at Easter. One such instance is recorded in the Hexham Guardian Minute book on 18th March 1902 when it is recommended that paupers have the usual outing on Easter Monday afternoon from 1pm to 5.30pm. Unfortunately it does not state where they were going to. Inmates received entertainment within the workhouse as an entry in the Hexham Minute Book on 11th December 1900 shows that paupers were treated to a magic lantern entertainment show by Mr James, Mr Shield and their assistants.

Proposed Easter Outing 1902 GHE/12

Easter Outing 1902 GHE/12

 

Magic Lantern Show 1900 GHE/12

Magic Lantern Show 1900
GHE/12

There were many children living in the workhouse. If an able-bodied man was admitted then his whole family had to join him. Orphans and abandoned children often ended up in the workhouse and many were in ill health. Children were also placed in homes which often provided a more comfortable environment for them to live in. The extract below shows an entry from December 1904. The Medical officer at a home in Cullercoats recommends that a child named Rose Foster, aged 6, should have a change of air at Rothbury for a month or two. Although the child is resident in Cullercoats, the Guardians of Morpeth Union contributed to her maintenance so needed to give their permission for her to reside in another area. The Guardians must have been concerned about her state of health as they agreed to the request. Care for inmates is also evident at Hexham workhouse as an entry for December 1900 records a request to give the old and sick women tea and provide oranges for children. The request was later approved.

Change of Air 1904 GMO/1

Change of Air 1904
GMO/1

Caring for Children & Elderly Paupers 1900 GHE/12

Caring for Children & Elderly Paupers 1900
GHE/12

 

International Nurses’ Day – the nurses’ lives at Stannington Sanatorium

Today is International Nurses’ day, which celebrates the work and contribution of nurses to society and takes place on the birthday of Florence Nightingale. We thought we would select a few images and documents to give us an insight into the sanatorium nurses’ lives at Stannington. Our online exhibition has already looked a little at the lives of the nurses, especially in the early years, so we thought we would look at some of what our collections reveal about their lives and surroundings.

At many hospitals accommodation would be provided for staff. Florence Nightingale highlighted the importance of space for staff as nurses had formerly slept on the wards, and nurses’ homes became used from the 1870s. The Nurses’ Home at Stannington Sanatorium, constructed in 1926, is sadly an enigma as we have no layout of the interior. If it was built like others the nursing hierarchy would have been preserved in the architecture. Sisters often had their rooms at the end of corridors so they kept an unofficial eye on younger staff, and matrons’ rooms were often near the main door, overlooking staff and visitors as they came and went. We know the Nurses’ Home at Stannington Sanatorium was large to incorporate further growth in the number of nurses required. However an excellent insight into the building comes from the war years, when a number of documents in the Annual Report for 1946 (HOSP/STAN/2/1/2) relate to the curtains, carpets and furnishings of rooms as they were moved from Stannington to the Hexham Hydro and back again.

HOSP/STAN/9/1/1 Nurse's home

An inventory of furniture in rooms made by Miss Martindale on the 28th August 1944, ahead of the transfer back from Hexham Hydro, lists the contents of the doctor’s and matron’s rooms. This gives quite a detailed view of the Matron’s room:

 (13) Matron’s bedroom, Stannington – wardrobe and dressing chest in Matron’s room at Hexham. Bed wanted for matron’s bedroom at Stannington. Keep a Hydro bed for this purpose.

(14)Rose-pink long curtains and pink carpet from Matron’s sitting rooms at Stannington are in store in the attic at Hexham. Note: – Keep carpet in Matron’s room at Hexham for use at Stannington (Carpet extra good quality).

(15) Matron’s spare bedroom at Stannington. Bedroom suite, wardrobe, dressing table and bed in one of the Sister’s bedrooms at Hexham.

The Assistant Matron’s room had a simpler layout of ‘1 wardrobe, 1 chest of drawers, a bed’. The nurses’ rooms were also simple. A list of furniture shows each nurse had besides a bed a dressing table, towel rail, a chair or armchair, some had a locker or wardrobe, and linen baskets. Only one of the 102 rooms on the list had a carpet.

Other documents within HOSP/STAN/2/1/2 show a little of what living in the Nurses’ Home would have been like. A staff recreation fund was established some time in 1946, and an itemised list details ‘from Inauguration to 7th April 1947’ what was spent. This money came partly from the Sanatorium Committee, who gave £95, but money also came from member subscriptions and a raffle. The biggest purchases were on a dance – with £61 12s spent on a band; £8½ 1s 3d on food; 10s on domestic help, presumably for the tidying up afterwards; £3 13s 3d was spent on decorations; there must have been a prize-giving, as prizes cost £1 6s 4d; and printing stationary and postage for the invitations cost £2 19s 7½d. It would be interesting to know when this took place; perhaps it was the domestic and nursing staff Christmas dances.

HOSP/STAN/9/1/1 Tennis

Other entertainment came from three wireless radios and a second-hand sewing machine. This must have been for the staff to make their own clothes, as we know from a linen list also found in HOSP/STAN/2/1/2 that their uniforms were made within the sanatorium by in-house seamstresses. Books for a staff library were included on the list, mostly technical nursing textbooks but £5 was spent on fiction. Tennis balls, playing cards, a dartboard and darts and give an impression of how the nurses socialised in their free time. Practical needs were not forgotten, a hair dryer and electric iron also made the list, and spiritual needs thought of in the re-wiring for the chapel to keep it in use. A list of furniture from this time also shows the nurses’ sitting room had a grand piano and a pianola. The furniture list for the nurses’ sitting room shows there were three settees, leather and occasional arm chairs, a moquette tub chair, three tables, a writing table, sideboard, bookcase and a mirror pinched from the matron’s sitting room at Hexham Hydro. The nurses’ dining room contained 12 oak tables and 31 chairs. There were also individual sitting rooms for the higher ranks such as staff nurses, sisters and the matron. The domestic staff had their own dining and sitting rooms, and the teaching staff also had their own dining room. The photographs below are from a 1936 brochure for the sanatorium, and judging by these descriptions it seems there wasn’t a great deal of change in 10 years!

HOSP/STAN/9/1/1 Nurses' recreation room

HOSP/STAN/9/1/1 Nurses' dining room

A 1946 list from HOSP/STAN/2/1/2 of the distribution of staff and patients shows there was an assistant matron, home sister, night sister, 2 ward sisters, two trained part-time nurses, 5 assistant nurses and 17 probationer nurses. Another list shows how the numbers fluctuated throughout the year. In the January of that year the 34 nurses were split fairly evenly between resident and non-resident, but by December only 4 lived outside of the sanatorium.

We know that the number of patients and nurses had dwindled during the war years, but they were boosted after the war, particularly by student or ‘probationer’ nurses. The 1947 annual report (HOSP/STAN/2/1/3) discusses the future use of the hospital for training junior nurses, the ‘probationer’ nurses mentioned earlier. They had lectures given on site by the doctors (such as Doctor Stobbs) and other medical staff, and took an exam. This can be seen from the Nurse’s Schedule of Practical Instruction (NRO 10352/27), a book where their competency in each area was shown by a signature of one of the lecturing medical staff. The book takes the student from basic cleanliness, punctuality and organisation up to taking sputum samples, bronchoscopy and treating patients with chemotherapy such as Streptomycin. Below are some of the pages from the book. The nurse who owned the book completed her training, and each section is signed off.

NRO 10352-27-1

NRO 10352-27-3NRO 10352-27-4NRO 10352-27-5NRO 10352-27-6If you would like to find out more about the nurses at Stannington Sanatorium please have a look at our online exhibition, which features the stories of Matron Isabella Campbell and Florence Parsons, and memories from other nurses.

 

Leaving your mark – strange signatures in the court documents

In the course of looking through some of the manorial sources we are using on the project we see a lot of different types of handwriting. Some are beautifully practiced and elegant, others scribbled and hard to decipher. Examples like the one below from Morpeth in 1659 show how different letters can look to modern eyes, but with time and patience they can be worked out.

Sant/BEQ/28/1/1 cropped image.

This however is the handwriting of educated clerks and court officials. Most of the rest of the population would have been illiterate, so it would be required for them to give a ‘mark’ of some description. For more affluent classes this may be shown by a seal, but in most cases a simple ‘X’ would show they had been present and gave their agreement to the document being signed. However more complicated marks could be devised by an individual to identify themselves. Such identifiers are found in other areas of medieval and post-medieval life. Masons’ marks on stone would identify who had prepared each block, and would often be passed down families, with additions by each generation. Likewise potters would mark the underside of their work to show its provenance in their workshop. Though we have featured the document below previously, this is a good example of a document signed by numerous people with their own marks.

ZBL 2/13/21 p.2 cropped image of a presentment.

There are several ways these men have chosen their mark. John Roddam (1st line) has taken the ‘R’ from his surname. Conversely Ridley Havelock (4th line) has used the initial ‘R’ from his first name, and the same can be found with ‘T’ for William Taylor (6th line) and Thomas Pattason (8th line). William Ransom (last line) uses a bold ‘W’ of two crossed V’s like witches’ marks, and perhaps Thomas Smith’s (10th line) began as a ‘T’, but was added to. The ‘N’ of Nicholas Ridley (2nd line) is reversed, and William Coulson (12th line) could be an inverted ‘C’, or reflect a horseshoe or other device. The others seem to be choosing marks unrelated to their name, similar to simple marks like the masons’ marks.

We are keeping our eyes peeled for interesting examples like these as we look through the manorial documents we hold, and were excited to share a recent discovery that has given us much discussion and food for thought. In the image below we see a ‘H’ used by Humphrey Heatherington like the previous examples, and John Heatherington’s half-cross is much like that used by John Reay (11th line). A squiggle also represents a mark or signature used by William Marshall. However our favourite is that used by John Riches, a doodle perhaps symbolising a hook, or even a bird.

NRO 324

We would love to be able to work out what it means, if anyone has any suggestions please let us know! In the meantime we will keep looking for other interesting examples.

NRO 324 cropped image.

 

This Week in World War One, 5 May 1916

Berwick Advertiser title 1915

 

BERWICK ADVERTISER, 5 MAY 1916

 

BERWICK BOUNDS RIDING

Quiet Ceremony

 

For the 308th time the customary riding of Berwick Bounds took place on Monday. Few gentlemen made the round of the marches by conveyance, but there was again a fair proportion of equestrians, the number only being one short from that of last year. At twelve o’clock the procession led off from the parade, where a large concourse of spectators had assembled to witness the gathering, by way of Cowport Gate to the Magdalene Field and Jingling Bridge, when they struck the main road. The conveyances followed the usual route by way of Church Street, High Street, Castlegate, and North Road. Arriving at Whitadder Bridge the company were provided with a liberal refreshment, and the usual ceremonies were gone through. The company arrived back during the afternoon, and a halt being called in front of the Town Hall, the mayor briefly returned his thanks to all who had completed the circuit.

The Berwick Riding of the Bounds, the riders crossing the Jingling Bridge - © Berwick Record Office, BRO 1944-1-7215-20-018.

The Berwick Riding of the Bounds, the riders crossing the Jingling Bridge – © Berwick Record Office, BRO 1944-1-7215-20-018.

 

The horsemen were as follows:- Mr John Cameron, Vetinary Surgeon, Berwick; Mr R. Buchannan, Berwick; Master Moffat, West Edge; Capt. J. C. Collingwood and Miss Collingwood.

There also rode in the conveyances – His Worship the Mayor (Ald. J. W. Plenderleith), Sheriff Matthew Ross, Councillor Thos. Wilson, Mr Jas. Gibson, Acting Town Clerk; and Mr Johnston, Sergeant-at-Mace- first carriage. Ald. Maclagan, Mr H. W. Willits, Councillor Brewis, Councillor W. J. Dixon, Chief Constable Nicholson, Councillor F. Richardson, Councillor W. Richardson, Ald. H. Greenwood, and Mr Blaikie, jun., acting Sergeant-at-Mace – second carriage. Mr Robert Jeffrey and Private Albert Richardson – third carriage. Five cyclists also started out upon the round.

This year it was agreed that owing to the exceptional period of national stress through which we are passing, the no Bounds Dinner be held. It need not, however, be inferred that the absence of the customary spread had anything at all to do with the small attendance present.

 

OFFICER AND PRIVATE

BADLY INJURED BY GRENADE AT BELFORD

 

A most unfortunate and serious accident took place at Belford in the early hours of Tuesday evening in which a Lieutenant and a Private of the Northern Cyclists quartered in the district were involved. It appears that the officer was in charge of a small section a little way out of the village and was instructing the men in the art of grenade throwing. In the meantime, it is inadvisable to record how the unfortunate event occurred, but we may state that for some accidental reason a grenade exploded near to the Private and the Lieutenant, both of whom sustained wounds of an extensive and serious character. They were removed with all speed to Alnwick Infirmary, where, up to the time of writing, the lie in a rather critical condition. The sad occurrence cast quite a gloom over the village, where both the unfortunate men were well known. The hope is freely expressed on all hands that science may be able to alleviate their sever suffering.

 

LOCAL NEWS

 

Accident to a Well Known Butcher – The many friends of Mr Shiel Dods butcher, Berwick, will learn with regret that he met with a nasty accident on Monday morning at his slaughter house, Tweedmouth. He had been dispatching and weighing sheep for the London market, when in turning to leave his foot slipped, and he was brought to the ground with a nasty jerk. It was thought at first that he had broken his leg, but on being examined by Dr C. L. Fraser, it was discovered that the sinew of his right leg had been snapped. He was removed home to his residence in High Street. It is understood while the injury to Mr Dods is not of a serious character, it has been decided to remove him to the Infirmary, where a slight operation will be performed. A specialist may be called in to assist.

A recent photograph showing Berwick Infirmary. © Rod Allday, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

A recent photograph showing Berwick Infirmary. © Rod Allday, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

 

Ambulance Aid in time Emergency – Our readers will probably be interested and gratified to learn that arrangements have been made for coping with any circumstances which require ambulance assistance in times of emergency during the war. In consequence of a recent meeting held between representatives of the Infirmary, the Chief Constable, and officials of the two local ambulance organisations, and subsequently with the Chief Scout Master, the following arrangements have been made. By courtesy of the parties interested three stations will be available: (1) for Berwick, “The Infirmary, “ (2) for Tweedmouth, “The Mitchell Memorial Hall” in Kiln Hill and (3) for Spittal. “The Police Station” at Spittal. As soon as occasion arises, and if sufficient warning be given, a staff of ambulance workers will immediately proceed to each of these stations, and boy scouts will, also, be detailed to each station to act as messengers and orderlies. Steps have been taken to furnish each station with the necessary appliances, and it is hoped by these means that, in the unhappy event of first aid being required, ample assistance will be forthcoming.

 

WEDDING BELLS IN WAR TIME

Pretty Ceremony at Ford

 

On Tuesday, May 2nd, at Ford Parish Church, Northumberland, the marriage took place of the Rev. T. J. Parry, temporary chaplain at the Front, second son of Mr James Parry of Halesworth, Suffolk, and Miss Betty Neligan, eldest daughter of the Right Rev. Bishop Neligan, D.D., and Mrs Neligan of Ford Rectory, Northumberland.

The ceremony was performed by Bishop Neligan, the father of the bride, and was choral. The Church was most tastefully decorated with flowers, kindly given by Lord Joicey, from the gardens of Ford Castle.

The bride who walked up the aisle on the arm of her brother, Cadet M. D. M. Neligan, R.N., was given away by her mother, who wore a pale grey dress of liberty silk and chiffon and a black hat.

The bride was charmingly dressed in a white liberty crepe de chine gown with a simple train and tulle veil, and carried a beautiful bouquet of white flowers. She was attended by two bridesmaids, Miss Helen Neligan (sister) and Miss Joan Ackland (cousin), whose pretty dresses were shell pink liberty crepe de chine with black picture hats and wreaths of forget-me-nots. They carried lovely bouquets of pink carnations and silver chain bags, the gift of the bridegroom.

The best man was Captain Parry, D.S.O., 4th Suffolk Regiment, brother of the bridegroom. Both he and his brother were in service khaki uniforms.

The charming bouquets were made by Mr Jackson, head gardener of Ford Castle.

Ford Castle and Parish Church, part of the Ford and Etal estate. © N T Stobbs - Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

Ford Castle and Parish Church, part of the Ford and Etal Estate. © N T Stobbs – Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

 

The Church was filled with friends and parishioners, including Lord Joicey, the Hon. Marguerite Joicey, and Mrs Macray, grandmother of the bride. All the friends assembled at the Rectory afterwards, when a presentation was made by Lord Joicey and Mr Gray, on behalf of the parishioners of Ford Parish of a very handsome pair of tall silver candlesticks. The presents included many handsome cheques.

The happy couple left later in a motor for St. Mary’s Loch, where the short honeymoon will be spent before the bridegroom returns to the Front. The bride’s going away dress was a dark blue gabardine coat and skirt with pale chiffon blouse and black straw hat with pale blue flowers.

The Parish Poor

Since the medieval period relief to the poor has played an important part in the development of society. It was not until the time of Elizabeth I that it was governed by a legal statute which determined who was eligible for relief and under what circumstances they would receive it. The surviving records can provide a fascinating insight into how ordinary people lived and the general movement of the population historically. Over a series of posts we will highlight some of the most commonly used poor law documents in our collection.

 

 

Poor Rate

Money was raised to support the poor of the parish by the charging of a local parish rate, or tax. The money raised was used by the Overseers to support the poor. This example is a copy of the first page from the Alnwick Poor Rate register of 1768.

 

EP 132-038a p01 copy

 

It lists the names of those Alnwick residents eligible to pay poor rate. It provides some detail about their property and notes the rent and rates payable on the property. This information is then used to calculate how much poor rate is payable – the figure in the last column.

 

 

 

 

Overseers Accounts

The Overseer kept accounts of how money collected was spent. This page from an Account Book of 1786-1816 shows one of several references to Ann Mack within the volume. It would be possible to work through the volume and discover when Ann first received payment and then when payment was ceased.

EP 001-010 Catton (Allendale) (M) 12-9-1799

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EP 001-010 Catton (Allendale) (M) 12-9-1799

 

Sometimes it is possible to locate vouchers or receipts relating to particular cases dealt with by the Overseers. Below is a copy of a receipt found in the Ellingham parish records recording expenses incurred in the delivery of a child to Ann Mack in 1802.

 

 

 

Removal Orders

The removal system was one way of ensuring that large numbers of the poor did not become dependent upon the parish and their ratepayers. Everyone was expected to have a legal parish of settlement. If the place where you lived was not your legal place of settlement and you were unable to support yourself and your family, you could be removed to your own parish. This is a copy of the removal order relating to Ann Mack in 1802.

 

EP 134-074 Removal (Ann Mack) copy

 

 

On the date that the order was issued Ann was resident in Alnwick parish. The document states that Ann’s legal parish of settlement was Ellingham, an adjoining parish to Alnwick. Sometimes after a person was removed, they returned to where they had lived. Within our collection of removal orders there is a second one for Ann Mack issued in 1806, four years after this order was issued. Both request that Ann should be physically removed from Alnwick to Ellingham.

 

 

 

 

 

Bastardy Bonds

If a mother was unable to provide for her illegitimate child, the parish had to take financial responsibility for supporting it.  The mother was expected to reveal under oath to the Overseers the name of the child’s father. A bond was then drawn up and the father of the child was meant to agree to provide the ’lying in’ expenses of the mother as well as maintenance for the child in the future. In this way the Overseers tried to avoid yet more financial demands being placed on the parish. Below is a copy of the Bastardy Bond issued by the Overseers of Ellingham parish in relation to the illegitimate child of John Ridley and Ann Mack.

Bas

 

The child was unborn at the date the bond was issued and is therefore not named.  (In some bonds the child has been born and a name can be discovered.)  The father of the child is named as John Ridley, a labourer, of Westgate, near Newcastle Upon Tyne.

The names of two other men are given in the document – Richard Smart, farmer, of Westgate, Newcastle Upon Tyne and Joseph Hall, Blacksmith, of Newcastle Upon Tyne. These men stood as sureties to the bond so were responsible for supporting the mother and child if the father ran away or failed to pay support. Sometimes the bondsmen were relatives of the father of the child. Using Bastardy Bonds is one way to try and trace an illegitimate ancestor in a family, however not all bastardy cases resulted in the drawing up of a bond. Sometimes the case was settled without the involvement of the parish. Even when the parish was involved, many Bastardy Bonds have not survived.