Francis Taylor, Constable and Governor of the Workhouse.

The Francis Taylor in question is probably the third child of Richard and Elizabeth Taylor, baptised on 24 Nov 1799 at St. Lawrence, Darlaston.

Married at St Peter’s, Wolverhampton, on 30 Jan 1820. Francis Taylor, bachelor married Mary Wheeler, spinster after Banns. Both signed, Witnesses Jno. and Mary Wood. (No children found to this couple.)

Died 15 July 1843, and Buried 19 Jul 1843 at St. Bartholomew, Wednesbury, age 43.

Francis Taylor first came to notice as he signed a large number of Paupers Vouchers in Tettenhall.  (Stafford Record Office ref. D571/A/PO69)

These covered a variety of expenses such as these examples in 1832/33                D571/A/PO69/25 a Receipt dated 28 Mar 1833 for 1 quarter’s salary £6 5s 0d signed Fras. Taylor.

Further entries in 1832-3 show the variety of items Fras. Taylor claimed for; –

  1. 5 Inquests, summary W’hampton, Pattingham & Codsall. Inquest and witness.
  2. Warrant and taking Thomas Carter to Lunatic Asylum in Stafford
  3. 9 Inquests from 30 Nov1832-Jan 19 1833
  4. Paying magistrates clerks fees
  5. Paying workmen for repairs to workhouse
  6. Serving notices [unspecified).
  7. Removals of Paupers.
  8. Paying to get up 17½ roods of potatoes in Workhouse Garden
  9. Providing clothes and tea, beer, milk, brandy etc. for sick paupers.
  10. Butter & Milk for 4 weeks, Barm for 4 weeks, Beesoms, Thread & Tape, 3 Tin cans mended, Blacklead & Corks, 2 Inquests
  11. Journeys to check up on people – presumably either apprentices or families receiving relief. EG. A journey to Wordsley by order of the meeting.

In 1828 According to his application to run Wednesbury Workhouse (see below) he became Governor of Tettenhall workhouse. At the same time he was obviously working as Parish Constable as a report of one or two Inquests he attended shows.

Presumably it was only the most newsworthy Inquests which got reported such as the one reported in the Wolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser 15 October 1834. This was the report into the Inquest on Mary Wright of Tettenhall who rumour believed had been burnt to death by her husband. The husband had been tried 14 years before for the murder of his son aged about 5 or 6 by drowning but had been acquitted on grounds of insanity and detained in Prison. They heard evidence from various people including that of Francis Taylor, constable of the Parish, who had arrested John Wright and had examined his hands and seen signs of singeing and blisters. John Wright claimed that he had been trying to put out the flames when his wife’s sleeve caught fire. The coroner’s verdict was accidental death.

Wolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser 29 October 1834 (Stafford Quarter Sessions. Prisoners indicted for riot at Willenhall and destroying Parish Books on 6 Aug. when parishioners were required to elect a Clergyman for perpetual curacy of that place.)                 Francis Taylor, constable of Tettenhall, was employed at Willenhall on the 6th of August, to keep the peace. He saw Foster coming to the chapel with the books. He saw the books thrown to Watkin who pulled the leaves out, and threw them to Turner. He saw Turner tear them to pieces.  He could not swear to the other prisoners.

In 1836 The West Bromwich Union required a Master and Matron for the workhouse at Wednesbury. There was presumably a series of knock out elections as Aris’s Birmingham Gazette on 19 September 1836 had 8 notices for applicants as below, and Aris’s Birmingham Gazette on 26 September 1836 had 3 notices for applicants as transcription below.

 

To the MAGISTRATES

And Guardians of the Poor for the Parishes of West Bromwich,  Handsworth, Wednesbury, Oldbury, Worley, and Worley Wigorn.

GENTLEMEN,

I Take the Liberty of respectfully soliciting your votes and interest on behalf of myself and Mrs Taylor, for the situations of Governor and Matron of the Workhouse to this Union.                    The satisfactory manner in which we have filled similar situations in the parishes of Tettenhall and West Bromwich for the last eight years, will be offered to your notice in proof of our fitness for the discharge of the duties,

I remain, Gentlemen,     

Your obedient servant,

FRANCIS TAYLOR.

Workhouse, West Bromwich. Sept. 13 1836.

This was obviously a much bigger Union than Tettenhall as the figures in the Annual Poor Law Commissioners report shows.

Year ended 25 March 1837.

1.Total money levied – Tettenhall £934, West Bromwich £2483:

2.Expended for the relief of the Poor – Tettenhall £807, West Bromwich £1350;

3.Expended in Removals of Paupers, Law Charges etc – Tettenhall £12, West Bromwich £112;

4.Payments for or towards County Rates – Tettenhall £82, West Bromwich £67

5.Expended for all other purposes – Tettenhall £107, West Bromwich £740

6.Total Parochial Rates expended – Tettenhall £1008, West Bromwich £2269

Francis obviously got the job – 1841 Census- HO107/977 folio 40

Address- West Bromwich Workhouse, Wednesbury, West Bromwich

Francis Taylor age 40 Master born Staffordshire

Mary     Taylor age 35  Matron  born Staffordshire.

Elizabeth Martin Wheeler aged 4, A visitor. Born Staffordshire.

   Followed by a Clerk and a list of inmates.

However all was not well within the Union. Aris’s Birmingham Gazette on 17 June 1839 was reporting that in West Bromwich Poor Law Union 26 Guardians were refusing to Act in consequence of the restrictions of the Poor Law Commissioners.  Unfortunately it did not go into details but the Staffordshire Gazette and County Standard on 15 June 1839 had a similar report with the addition of – “The elder part of the inmates of the West Bromwich and Wednesbury workhouses are restrained from tobacco, and the whole from beer.

Whether it was as a consequence of this or not but when Francis wrote his Will on 10 Dec 1842 he is described as a Victualler of Walsall and he appoints his wife Mary and her brother Aaron Wheeler as executors. However it is possible that he continued to work as Master until his death on 15 July 1843 as the Guardians advertise for a new Master on 26 July.

I am confident that it is the same Francis writing the Will as was Master of the Workhouse. There were 2 marriages for a Francis Taylor to a Mary before 1841. However Francis’ application to be Master of the Workhouse in 1836 was also for his wife to be Matron, indicating that he was already married and therefore must be the one married in 1820. The other possible marriage had been in 1838 which was after the application. Mary Wheeler was baptised at St. Bartholomew, Wednesbury on 2 Feb 1802 and was the daughter of Joseph and Sarah Wheeler. Aaron her younger brother was baptised 25 Mar 1810.  The signature on the marriage appears similar to that on the Tettenhall vouchers. (Just to confuse the picture another Francis Taylor also married to a Mary had moved to Tettenhall by 1842 and was working as an Ag. Lab. but he was born in Shropshire and signed his name with an X at his marriage in 1838.)

On 5 Jan 1844 Mary obtained Probate on Francis Taylor’s Estate; value under £100

marriagesignatures     voucher-signature-cropped    willsignature    Signatures marriage 1820                voucher 1833                                    Will  1843

marysigprobate                                                                                                                  signature on Probate 1844

Wolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser 26 July 1843

WEST BROMWICH UNION

WANTED a GOVERNOR and MATRON for   

  the West Bromwich Workhouse, to enter upon their duties immediately.  The salary is £65 per annum, with the rations of the house.                                 Security with two individuals and the Governor in the sum of £200 will be required.                                                                                                                                The day of election is fixed for MONDAY, the 31st instant, at the Board Room at the DARTMOUTH HOTEL, WEST BROMWICH, at twelve o’clock in the forenoon. Testimonials, free of expense, to be sent to the Clerk on or before the 29th instant.                                                                                                                    Candidates must attend at the Board Room personally on the day of the election.  

Signed by order of the Board.

John Marshall, Clerk


Francis’ widow Mary married again at St. Bartholomew, Wednesbury on 30 Jan 1845. Marriage, Mary Taylor, age 42 a widow, her father Joseph Wheeler, a Coachsmith, to John Cumpston age 39 a widower, a miner, his father John Cumpston also a miner. Witnesses were Aaron Wheeler and Susannah Lees.

Early Victim Compensation

The British Criminal Injuries Compensation Board began work in August 1964 in response to a white paper of the year before, but informal compensation was apparently available at the discretion of magistrates in earlier decades and centuries.  A Uttoxeter parish apprentice was one beneficiary of this leeway.

Martha Palmer was apprenticed by the parish to John Limer, a joiner, presumably to learn skills of housewifery rather than woodworking.  Martha was unfortunate in her master’s family and allegedly experienced violence at the hands of John’s wife Mary.  On 12 April 1825 Mary was said to have made Martha ‘strip herself naked’ whereupon Mary removed her own garter and used it to tie Martha’s hands behind her back. Mary then ‘beat her with a knotted rope’.  This apparent abuse of a parish apprentice was swiftly brought to the attention of local magistrates and on 20 April they investigated the event.  They judged that John Limer could not clear his wife of the accusation and conversely that Martha had ‘made full proof of it’, perhaps by being evidently battered and bruised.

It was not entirely uncommon for parishes to pursue abusive masters and mistresses of pauper apprentices and obtain a child’s release from their indentures.  It was unusual, however, for the apprentice to be compensated for their suffering.  Nonetheless the Staffordshire magistrates required John Limer to pay the substantial sum of £15 to the churchwardens and overseers of Uttoxeter, to be laid out to Martha’s benefit.  What is more we know that the money was collected and spent accordingly.  In December 1836 Martha asked to receive the final £5 tranche of compensation money, presumably having already obtained the benefit of earlier payments to the value of £10.  She began married life in January 1837 with one Samuel Walley of Doveridge, who was keen to ensure his wife received what was due.  He wrote to remind the overseers to pay on the same day that his marriage was solemnised (!), and the money was disbursed forthwith.

Sources: SRO D3891/6/31/1,  D3891/6/44/3 and 4.