Workhouse life

Tettenhall workhouse existed from at least 1766 and in the early nineteenth century housed between 17 and 68 inmates at any one time, with an average occupancy of 36.   The trend was for a declining workhouse population, however, since the average was 38 in the period 1816-1820 but only 22 in the years 1826-7.

The workhouse in Tettenhall accommodated the same sectors of the parish population as seen elsewhere in pre-1834 workhouses.  The elderly and young children formed the bulk of the long-term residents, while adults of working age experienced short periods of workhouse residency.  The oldest known person in the Tettenhall house was Richard Simmons who died there on 12 January 1827 aged 86.

Monthly inmate lists survive continuously from April 1816 to March 1820, with another list spanning April 1826 to March 1827.  Some notable individuals include William Taylor who was blind and lived in the workhouse from its earliest list until his death aged 27, and Dinah Corns who was punished with six months in prison at Stafford for having her third illegitimate child.

Relief for the workhouse poor extended beyond bed and board.  Early finds among the Tettenhall vouchers suggest that overseers remained somewhat attentive to other needs including for footwear.  This voucher from November and December 1819 indicates that eight inmates (comprising over a quarter of the workhouse population at the time) had pairs of shoes mended, at costs ranging from 7d to 3s.

Tettenhall workhouse shoes

Moving to Tettenhall

For over a year the volunteer group at Stafford has been calendaring the contents of the Uttoxeter overseers’ vouchers, giving rise to over 3000 spreadsheet entries detailing names, trades, and paupers’ receipt of relief.  The work has extended beyond the statutory institution of the New Poor Law, because the new law took a few years to implement in Uttoxeter.  This means that voucher details have been collected into the early 1840s.  Analysis of the research potential from these vouchers in future can can be confident that it covers all the available material, for which we must give a huge THANK YOU to everyone in the group.  It also means, however, that there is now a new focus for the vouchers project, and collectively we have already started blogging about Tettenhall.

Tettenhall does not possess nearly so many overseers’ vouchers as Uttoxeter, so there are fewer pieces of paper to unfold, but the rural south-Staffordshire parish forms a neat comparison with a more northerly market town like Uttoxeter.  The nature of the vouchers is rather different too, in that the chronological spread is much wider (back to the mid eighteenth century) and the organisation of information is less reliable.

Furthermore, Tettenhall benefits from a different cohort of additional parish material.  Uttoxeter has almost no surviving overseers’ account for the same years as the vouchers, but has a wealth of pauper letters.  Tettenhall, in contrast, has accounts and multiple supporting types of document (although many fewer letters).  Tettenhall did have a workhouse, providing one decisive point of comparison with Uttoxeter.  Workhouse inmates will form the topic of my next blog entry.