Pig jobbery

A pig jobber is a slightly archaic name for a pig trader.  The occupation is listed many times in the trade directories of nineteenth-century England, and this sort of business could benefit from parish funds.  Uttoxeter bought pigs regularly, to fatten them up on the scraps left by workhouse inhabitants and then sell or use the meat. In the two years between March 1827 and February 1829 the parish bought a total of 16 pigs for £41 19s 6d, or an average of £2 12s 6d each.  The parish also tried to grow their own, as when they paid to have a sow put to a boar, otherwise accounted for as ‘brimming the sow’.

This engagement in animal husbandry is not surprising in itself, but it is perhaps more notable for the extent of the enterprise and particularly the problem that it has raised in writing biographies for this project. The pig jobber or dealer who garnered 100% of Uttoxeter’s custom in 1827-9 was one James Sowtee.  He was listed under this name in both the vouchers and other parish accounts.  The problem is that, according to the historical record, he does not otherwise exist. The surname ‘Sowtee’ is wholly unknown on genealogical websites such as forebears.co.uk and rarely crops up anywhere, with or without the forename James.  The national archive holds records of a Chancery case heard in 1838 between Sowtee and Bowden, but otherwise the name draws a blank. It is substituted instead with homophones such as Souter or Souter.

Therefore tracking down Uttoxeter’s go-to pig jobber has been a piece of detective work. As the name Sowtee was unrecorded, I looked instead for a common equivalent i.e. the name Sowter.  This name was found throughout England in 1881 but was most prevalent in Derbyshire (and of course Uttoxeter sits close to the Derbyshire border). Next I looked for the name in the digitised historical directories for Derbyshire, and scrolled through the 24 ‘hits’ for the directory of 1829.  This turned up one John Sowter living in Bag Lane in Derby (then a poor area of the city, now the rather smarter East Street) working as a pig jobber.  Therefore I suspect that either the parish or the directory recorded his first name incorrectly, but that this is likely to be our man.  I would be happier if I could find him subsequently in a census or with a death record, to confirm the first name decisively.


Postscript: this was not the whole story! See the biography for James Sowter.


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