Apr 272020
 

 


It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Karen Bailey.

This blog post technically features not one but eight jobs – a bumper crop!

 

The workhouse is a fairly standard feature in most English and many Welsh towns in the Victorian period. Established after the introduction of the 1834 Poor Law, the idea was to reduce the cost of the poor from the parish by “encouraging” the poor to work to be able to support themselves rather than rely on parish support. Poor people, including children, worked in the workhouse doing often hard labour in return for shelter, food, and education for children.

Conditions inside the workhouses were terrible – after all, the whole point is to allow people to work to be able to drag themselves out of poverty, so they couldn’t be seen to be too inviting or it would more likely encourage too many people to enter the workhouse if it was seen as an “easy way out”.  Families were split up and men, women and children kept apart in different areas of the workhouse. Alas, sometimes people were so poor that they simply had no other choice but enter the workhouse; based on my own family history research, they often didn’t leave again and went from workhouse to grave.

Nothing still stands of Droitwich Workhouse, but this image shows the boys’ yard and Master’s house at Llanfyllin workhouse in Mid-Wales, UK, which was built to a similar layout. Source: Author’s own image.

The Poor Law grouped parishes into Unions, and each Union was responsible for building and maintaining a workhouse. The Unions local to my One-Place Study, Droitwich, include Bromsgrove, Kings Norton, Kidderminster and Droitwich itself. An 1843 record from the (English) National Archives recently released as part of their “free digital records” (do go and check that out to see if there are any records available for your Place!), shows a list of jobs within these Unions and the salaries which each were paid.

In brief, the jobs listed are:

  • Clerks: the “personal assistants” of the workhouse, doing everything from organising meetings to writing up and submitting reports; Droitwich had one.
  • Relieving Officers: These evaluated anyone applying for entry to the workhouse and approved their entry (or not). Droitwich had three.
  • Auditor: As the role would entail today, the auditor ensured financial transparency and accuracy of reports. Droitwich had one.
  • Master and Matron: These were very often a husband and wife combination. The Master oversaw the management of the workhouse, whilst the Matron acted as his deputy while also dealing with anything to do with female or child inmates. Droitwich had one of each.
  • Porter: Much like in a hotel, the porters dealt with all goods and persons entering or leaving the workhouse.
  • Schoolmaster: To give the children a basic education and generally supervise them. Droitwich had a combined porter and schoolmaster.
  • Nurse: To care for the sick and infirm of the workhouse. Interestingly, Kidderminster lists one but Droitwich, Bromsgrove and Kings Norton did not. Perhaps their poor were not as sick?
Extract from a table of workhouses, found in the (English) National Archives, of the Droitwich Poor Law Union’s entry showing jobs and salaries.

Extract from a table of workhouses, found in the (English) National Archives, of the Droitwich Poor Law Union’s entry showing jobs and salaries.

Interestingly, the document appears to be a recommendation to reduce the salaries of the workhouse employees within the Bromsgrove and Kidderminster Unions! Apparently, Droitwich and Kings Norton were paying their employees a reasonable sum, as none of those are annotated to be reduced.

If you are interested in learning more about workhouses generally, I wholeheartedly recommend looking at Peter Higginbotham’s workshouses.org.uk for an excellent resource for both workhouses and the Poor Law generally, and for every (I believe!) workhouse in England including histories, records excerpts and photographs.

References:

Apr 252020
 

 


It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Steve Jackson.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m a big Star Trek fan, and it would be just my style to work out some way of shoehorning a green-blooded, pointy-eared alien into a one-place studies blog post! But as my Place is earth-bound Waters Upton, that would be illogical . . .

According to an online Dictionary of Old Occupations, “Vulcan [is] a term for a Blacksmith, possibly derived from the name of the Roman god.” The blacksmith, with his forge, hammer and anvil, is probably one of the first people we think of when considering village occupations – even a village as small as Waters Upton had one.

Blacksmith shop: Original photo by Chris Light at English Wikipedia; adapted and used under a Creative Commons licence.

Blacksmith shop: Original photo by Chris Light at English Wikipedia; adapted and used under a Creative Commons licence.

Blacksmiths worked with iron to make everything from nails and horseshoes, and they repaired tools and farm implements, so their importance to the communities they served can easily be imagined. Many also worked closely with wheelwrights, as the wooden components of wheels for carts, wagons and carriages were held together by an outer rim of metal. Originally the metal took the form of strakes, lengths of iron which were nailed to the outside of wheels. In the mid-1800s however strakes were replaced by tyres, each one a single ring of iron made to fit the wheel tightly once it was cooled, with tire-bolts added to ensure it remained in place.

With the fires in their forges burning all day, blacksmiths were used to working in hot conditions. Not all blacksmiths received a warm welcome at Waters Upton however. On the night of Sunday the 2nd of October 1785 “a very rash and fatal Affair” occurred when a blacksmith from Ruyton with the amazing appellation of Octavius Caesar Augustus Hithcot visited the Waters Upton watering hole of innkeeper John Gower. Unfortunately “an Affray arose about some trifling Matters, when the Landlord took his Gun and shot the Blacksmith dead on the Spot.” Gower then absconded, with a 10 guinea reward on offer for his apprehension.

Map of Waters Upton showing the location of the smithy: From Ordnance Survey Six Inch map XXIX.NE published 1886, Crown Copyright expired; reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under a Creative Commons licence.

Map of Waters Upton showing the location of the smithy: From Ordnance Survey Six Inch map XXIX.NE published 1886, Crown Copyright expired; reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland under a Creative Commons licence.

Thankfully Waters Upton’s own blacksmiths, at least in the 1800s, seem to have fared rather better. Although James Ridgway was not a native of the parish, he was born nearby at Cold Hatton in Ercall Magna and was baptised at Waters Upton St Michael on 10 March 1811. His father John was a blacksmith and James followed in his footsteps, taking his trade with him when he moved to Waters Upton. He was a resident of the village by 1837 when he married Ann Jones at Cound in Shropshire, and he remained there, working as a blacksmith, for the rest of his life. He died on 24 February 1890 aged 78 and his gravestone in Waters Upton churchyard formed part of a project which ultimately led to my one-place study.

James Ridgway’s gravestone also memorialises his two wives. Ann Ridgway née Jones passed away aged just 39 on 6 March 1846, and James wed his sister-in-law Harriet Mayne Knot in Birmingham in 1851. (James’s brother George, who also became a blacksmith but remained in Cold Hatton, was married to Harriet’s younger sister Elizabeth Mayne Knott.) Harriet lived to the grand old age of 90 before she died on 21 March 1903.

Gravestone of James, Ann, and Harriet Mayne Ridgway: Steve Jackson.

Gravestone of James, Ann, and Harriet Mayne Ridgway: Steve Jackson.

 

The Ridgways’ blacksmith services in Waters Upton did not end with the passing of James. His son (by his second wife) Charles John Ridgway was working with him as a blacksmith’s assistant by the time he was 16 and continued the business until at least 1917.

When he died, aged 68 and unmarried, on 11 February 1924, Charles left effects valued at £1803 19s 10d. So I think it is fair to conclude that the Vulcans of Waters Upton lived long and prospered.

Apr 242020
 

 


It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Simon Last.

In January 1942 the whole of the country was fully involved with Wold War 2 and in Parham in Suffolk Percy Kindred and his brother Herman were the farmers at Crabbe’s and Park Farms in the village.

However, things were soon to change forever as construction began on an airfield which called for half a million tons of concrete, three diagonal runways and a giant local workforce the like of which had never been seen before. Rubble for hardcore was imported from bomb sites in London and Birmingham and 4,500,000 bricks were laid.

No part of the airfield fell within the boundary of Framlingham parish, the site being some three miles to the east between the villages of Great Glemham and Parham, with all the technical sites, administrative buildings and living sites around Silverlace Green in Parham.

The airfield was to be used by the United States Army Eighth Air Force and was built as a standard heavy bomber airfield to Class A specification. The three intersecting runways were of 2,030, 1.440- and 1,430-yards length. There was an encircling concrete perimeter track and fifty aircraft hardstands, along with two T-2 hangars, technical sites and Nissen hut accommodations for some 3,000 persons, dispersed in the surrounding countryside - ( in 1944 Glen Miller and his Band performed in one of these T-2 hangars to an audience of 6,000)

The airfield was opened in 1943 and was given USAAF designation Station 153 (FM). The 95th Bombardment Group (Heavy) arrived at Framlingham on 12th May 1943 from Rapid City AAF South Dakota.

The group flew the B-17 Flying Fortress as part of the Eighth Air Force's strategic bombing campaign and entered combat on 13th May 1943 by attacking an airfield at Saint-Omer. After suffering disastrous losses in its daylight air attacks on the Continent, the 95th was transferred to nearby RAF Horham on 15th June to regroup.

The 390th Bombardment Group (Heavy) arrived at Framlingham on 4th July 1943 from Great Falls Army Air Base Montana.

The 390th Bomb Group flew its last combat mission on 20th April 1945. In over 300 missions, they dropped 19,000 tons of bombs. They lost 181 aircraft and seven hundred and fourteen airmen were killed. The group dropped food supplies to the Dutch during the week prior to V-E Day.

After the war, Parham airfield became a clearing station for the rehabilitation of Polish nationals before being abandoned and closed in late 1948. The land was returned to

agriculture and the runways were broken up and ground into aggregate. Buildings were allowed to dilapidate and were used for farm storage. Among them was the Control Tower which was shot up and abandoned after the Americans held a riotous farewell party there in August 1945.

Today the runways and hardstands of Parham airfield have long since been removed for hardcore. The perimeter track has been reduced to one lane farm access roads but remains fundamentally complete. The technical site is in use as an industrial estate, with many of the World War II Nissen huts in use.

In 1976, a project was undertaken to restore the derelict control tower. The Tower was finally dedicated as the 390th Bombardment Group Memorial Air Museum of the USAAF on 13th May 1981 and, since then, has remained in active contact with, and received steadfast support from, US veterans, their relatives, supporters and Friends. There is a website at www.parhamairfieldmuseum.co.uk  for more information.

Apr 232020
 

 


It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Steve Pickthall.

Tabernarius is from the Latin meaning tavern or innkeeper and I just like the sound of the word - sounds better than just plain "tavern keeper". In the past the local inn or pub was an important meeting place for the locals (albeit mostly men). It was often used as the venue for public meetings and inquests. In modern times pubs may be less popular and many have closed their doors for good in the last few years with the economics of running this type of business being a challenge that too proves too much for many, particularly in rural areas. In my place, New Fishbourne there used to be three pubs, but now only one remains - the Bull's Head - and this blog deals in particular with one licensee who may have been driven by economics to desperate and dishonest measures.

Bull's Head, New Fishbourne

Bull's Head, New Fishbourne

Louis Gould took over the licence of the Bull's Head sometime between 1882 and 1890. The previous occupant, William Knight is listed in a Kelly's commercial directory for 1882 and Louis is listed in the directory for 1890. In the directories that I have copies of, Louis is listed up to 1895 and in 1899, Thomas Jenner is listed as the licensee of the Bull's Head. I haven't had chance yet to narrow down the dates by looking through the licensing records, but the following may help identify why Louis gave up the pub.

Sussex Agricultural Express, 16th January 1893

Sussex Agricultural Express, 16th January 1893

I love reading old newspapers and as can be seen from the above article, by 1893 Louis was earning a living as a fly proprietor and horse dealer. A fly was a type of horse drawn carriage and was for hire by fare-paying passengers similar to a taxi today. I am not certain whether Louis was also still running the pub at this point.

Louis seems to be on the downward spiral, because he is later listed in a calendar of prisoners dated 9th January 1896 having been sentenced to "four calendar months hard labour". What was his crime? He was convicted of "Unlawfully and with intent to defraud his creditors within two months before the date of a certain Judgement obtained in the Queen's Bench Division of the High Court of Justice against the said Louis Gould by William Burgess, on the 23rd September, 1895, which is still unsatisfied, remove one gig, one landau, and two horses, on the 6th September 1895." He subsequently removed other items on the 7th September (two more carriages) and on the 15th of October removed 25 horse collars and two saddles.

The previous incumbent of the Bull's Head, William Knight was a pillar of the local society - he is even mentioned in a newspaper article as having saved someone's life. Louis Gould seems to have been of a somewhat different nature.

 

 

Apr 222020
 

 


It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Karen Bailey.

Droitwich in Worcestershire, England, is situated on underground brine springs which are more salty than the Dead Sea, and has been important centre for salt extraction for a long time; Iron-Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon finds in Droitwich demonstrate the importance of its salt trade. By the time of the Domesday Survey, Droitwich had five wells, with combined annual production of over 1,000 tons of salt, more than the whole of Cheshire’s production1.

Until 1695 the Crown owned all the rights to the salt production in the town, levying heavy rent charges on the three existing pits and restricting the ability to sink any further pits, however local man Robert Steynor broke this monopoly, allowing more people to profit from the natural resource. Deeper pits were sunk to access a stronger brine flow, and new steam-powered machinery meant production skyrocketed; the traditional June to December production season became a thing of the past and all-year-round manufacture became the norm.

By the 19th century, many large salt works (and some smaller enterprises) covered the town, the larger works having their own rail sidings and canal barges. Tenements were “thrown up” to house the workers arriving in Droitwich to work at the new factories. This period has been described as Droitwich’s “heyday of salt production”; at its peak in 1872, 120,000 tons of salt was produced2.

For the saltworkers, the work was backbreaking, heavy labour with long hours in hot and humid conditions, as the furnaces burning off the water from the brine to leave the salt were lit twenty-four hours a day. Both men and women worked in the factories, with older children helping too.

Figure 1: Salt workers loading coal into the furnaces under the huge salt-evaporating vats, c1900. Source: old postcard

 

Figure 2: Salt workers packing salt (left of image) into sacks (right of image). The sacks weighed around 130kg each. Source: Brettell, Droitwich in Old Photographs

The view of Droitwich in the 1800’s would have been dismal: smoke and debris from various salt works creating a grey smog and turning buildings black and dirty; chimneys, workshops, and slum workers housing, all contributing to an image of “grey industrial squalor”. With the decline of salt manufacturing, by the late nineteenth century, the ‘industrial squalor’ was replaced by “by the sadder squalor of abandoned and derelict buildings”3.

Figure 3: The Vines area taken from Dodderhill in 1860, showing the smoggy, dirty conditions. Source: Town Centre Development Plan, 1960.

In 1825 the salt tax was repealed, and a new brine source was discovered at Stoke Prior, a few miles north-east of Droitwich4. Attracted by the large profit margins in salt manufacturing, local entrepreneur John Corbett acquired all the salt producing companies at Stoke Prior as well as some of those in Droitwich itself, developing the sites and incorporating more efficient means of brine pumping and finding “new markets in which to sell it”5.

Being a “typical Benthamite entrepreneur”, Corbett provided an entire village for his workers and their families including providing a church, school, good housing and amenities, as well as improving their working conditions. He stopped employing women, claiming it promoted immorality as men and women often worked in a state of undress because of the heat of production, increasing pay for married men to compensate for the loss of their wife’s earnings6.

Figure 4: Female salt workers tending to the brine in the evaporating vats, c1900. Source: old postcard

Increased domestic and foreign competition bankrupted many smaller companies and the “stress of competition”7 drove survivors to amalgamate in 1889 to form the Salt Union. The whole industry was in decline, and with the added pressure of the close proximity of Stoke Works, salt manufacturing ceased in Droitwich in 19228. The sites of the old salt works “degenerated into rubbish tips”9, and soon the whole of the Vines and Covercroft areas were ‘slums’.

A new industry was needed to save the town – and surprisingly a large-scale cholera epidemic was the answer! But that’s another story for another post!

However, in recent years, salt has once again started to be produced from the brine springs under the town. You can now buy Droitwich Salt again, which is particularly nice in the equally locally made Wychbold Fudge’s salted caramel offering! (I only try these things out for the good of my One-Place Study, of course!)

References:

1 Salt Manufacturers' Association, History [Online]. Available:  https://www.saltsense.co.uk/a-brief-history-of-salt/

2 L. Blewitt & B. Field, Droitwich: A Pictorial History (Chichester: Phillimore, 1994), p. 3.

3 B. Middlemass & J. Hunt, John Corbett: Pillar of Salt, 1817-1901 (Droitwich: Saltway Press, 1985), p. 87.

4 B. Middlemass & J. Hunt, John Corbett: Pillar of Salt, 1817-1901 (Droitwich: Saltway Press, 1985), p. 20.

5 A. White, Worcestershire Salt: A History of Stoke Prior Salt Works (Bromsgrove: Halfshire Books, 1996), p. 32.

6 B. Middlemass & J. Hunt, John Corbett: Pillar of Salt, 1817-1901 (Droitwich: Saltway Press, 1985), p. 31.

7 W. Sterry Cooper, Fragments of Droitwich History and Development (Droitwich: F. L. Whately, 1935), p. 7.

8 D. F. Freezer, From Saltings to Spa Town: The Archeology of Droitwich (Droitwich: Droitwich Print and Design, unknown date), no page numbers.

9 C. Weaver, The Healing Baths of Droitwich Spa (Malvern: Spas Research Fellowship, 1999), p. 110.