Apr 302020
 

 


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.

There don't seem to be very many occupations that start with the letter "Z" - despite checking a number of on-line sources, I found only Zigarius, Zinc Worker, Zincographer, Zitherist, Zoetrope Maker, Zincographer, Zoographer, Zumologist and Zythepsarist. You may not be surprised to hear that I have not found any people with these occupations in my place which is New Fishbourne a small village in Sussex. We have not been offered any blogs for this letter from members which suggests that other places don't have people with these type of occupations (if there are, we would love to know in the comments).

It is thought that surnames (or last names) come from a number of origins:

  • Patronymic or Matronymic - handed down from or inherited from the father or mother (or sometimes the mother's parents) or names that are a contraction of "son of x" such as Johnson or Evans
  • Personal attributes - descriptive names such as Short, Brown, Young, Long, White.
  • Locational - where a person lived or came from for example York, London, Field, Hill, Fleming
  • Adoptive - on marriage or taking the surname of a rich relative or powerful local lord (maybe in an attempt to win favour or reject one's existing family?)
  • Using second personal name as a surname - for example John Jacob (although these may be patronymic instead)
  • Occupational - Archer, Thatcher, Gardener, Smith or Cook

Looking through the A-Z blog for this year there are so many occupational terms that have become surnames - Salt, Farmer, Judge, Clerk, Master, Porter, Nurse are just a few of them, there are many, many more. Some are easy to identify such as Baker, but a number refer to occupations that are generally obsolete such as Fletcher (a maker of arrows in case you wondered).

So as we come to the end of this year's A-Z challenge I would like you to think about how the names of occupation have influenced and contributed to the surnames we come across in real life and more importantly in the places we study. I would also like to thank all those who have contributed to the success of this year's challenge.

Apr 292020
 

 


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.

What is a yeoman? Before I became interested in family and local history (and embarrassing to admit also for a long time after) I thought that a yeoman was something to do with the military - probably a mixture of being influenced by a combination of the Gilbert and Sulivan operetta; the yeoman of the Guard at the Tower of London (The Queen's Body Guard of the Yeomen of the Guard are a bodyguard of the British Monarch.); references in literary works for example from William Shakespeare - "Fight, gentlemen of England! fight, bold yeomen! Draw, archers, draw your arrows to the head! Spur your proud horses hard, and ride in blood; Amaze the welkin with your broken staves!"; and some half-remembered image similar to that below.

https://images.app.goo.gl/wE37LgVwrwnz1uBQ8

How a yeoman might dress

Eventually the light dawned (it doesn't happen often - I should really make a note in my diary when these rare events happen...). The word is used in two different ways - the one is used in the context of a fighting man (and often one who would be part of a landowner's private army in earlier times); the other to distinguish someone cultivating their own estate, effectively a freeholder.

According to Old Occupation Names on the Hall Genealogy Website the word originally (in the 16th and 17th century) had a more particular meaning in that it meant someone that held (and inherited) his land by "custom rather than will" so that the land passed automatically from father to son and the lord could not prevent it. The lord did retain rights over things such as cutting wood, hunting and mineral rights, but being a yeoman had other benefits - being able to graze your animals on common land and gaining some protection from the lord's control by local bylaws. It was therefore desirable to retain a small piece of your "own" land - however small.

By the 19th century after the progressive change in the way the country and in particular the countryside was governed, the term came to just be accepted as someone who farmed their own land - a useful distinction from the pervasive "ag. lab" that we find so many of.

In my own place of New Fishbourne, Sussex, I have not come across many mentions of  a "yeoman" - this may be because so far I have concentrated on 19th century research or a reflection of the pattern of land ownership (a question to be added to the ever-growing todo list of things to research). I have however come across one entry in the Births, Marriages and Deaths column for the Sussex Advertiser for the 24th May 1841 - "Died - On Wednesday, 19th inst. the wife of Mr. Willis Hardham, yeoman, Fishbourne, near Chichester." - not just a yeoman, but the wife of one.

When I next have the satisfaction of planting my potatoes on my own (very) small patch of land, I will remember that this is what being a yeoman is all about....

Apr 282020
 

 


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 Janet Barrie.

Xylophone. Unfortunately we have no xylophone manufacturers to my knowledge in Springhill. No xylophone players either, though one resident was a semi-professional kit drummer. I know, that would be ‘P is for percussionist’ or ‘D is for drummer'.

Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

x-ray. i’m not aware of any X-ray operatives either, thought that would be ‘R is for radiographer’.

xenon administrator. Well, nearly. I am an anaesthetist and Springhill resident, and xenon is an anaesthetic. The only problem is that I’ve never actually used it…

x for the unknown. Now I have plenty of those:

Firstly there are people whose occupations are known, but I don’t know what they actually involved. One example is Harry Taylor, who worked all his working life in Gaghills footwear mill as a ‘clicker’. It was quite a while before I found out that a clicker was the man (and it was usually a man) who cut the leather to the required pattern to be sewn into shoes. Apparently it was one of the most sought after (and best paid) jobs in the factory. The name ‘clicker’ came from the sound the cutter made as it clicked over the corrugated support over which the leather was stretched. 

There are other examples. The 1841 census includes one Thomas Walsh, age 30, ‘chair bottomer’. Now that sounds obvious, but did they really employ someone just to put the bottoms on chairs? A ‘mule piecer’ spent his days joining the ends of broken spinning threads, not assembling beasts of burden. And if you are not familiar with the textile industry you may wonder what the census enumerator meant by ‘PLWC’ - power loom weaver of cotton.

Secondly there are people who I know lived in the area but have no idea what they actually did. The census of course helpfully lists names and occupations. Unfortunately other sources aren’t so kind: rates books, voters’ lists, lists of tenants in deeds… It’s relatively easy to know who lived where, sometimes much harder to know how they earned a living if they didn’t happen to be on the census. Some sources help of course. Newspapers may state the occupation and the council minutes helpfully document that one Eileen Taylor had recently been appointed as librarian.

But that’s all part of the fun. And it wouldn’t be fun if it was easy.

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.