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.

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