Aldridge Overseers

Aldridge overseers’ accounts and vestry minutes yield the names of twenty men who held the office of overseer of the poor between 1823 and 1836.  Two men in each year were elected in this period, as the practice of employing a salaried assistant overseer was not supported continuously throughout the period.  A comparison of these names with those of local residents given in White’s Directory of 1834 reveals that, with the exception of Joseph Reynolds the beer-house keeper (and coincidentally assistant overseer 1820-2), all of the men whose names feature in the Directory were farmers.

1823  Charles Arrowsmith, Thomas Martin

1824  John Clarke, William Tookey

1825  Thomas Cook, Thomas Middleton

1826  Charles Juxon or Jaxon, Joseph Shelley

1827  John Smith, John White

1828  Thomas Crumpton, John Proffitt

1829  Thomas Keen, Thomas Martin

1830  Thomas Martin, John Nevill

1831  Thomas Martin, Joseph Reynolds

1832  Daniel Arblaster, Thomas Martin

1833  John Cliff, Thomas Martin

1834  William Bates, John Lea

1835  Daniel Allen, Joseph Shelley

1836  Daniel Allen, Joseph Shelley


So the important question for us will be, why did Thomas Martin do duty as an overseer so often?  He held office in seven of these fourteen years, and continuously 1829-33.  He presumably had an aptitude and taste for parish work; in addition to stints as overseer he was also the constable of the parish in 1826, when he was given five pounds ‘in consideration of his remaining in the office for the year ensuing as a bonus, for his extra duties in keeping the peace’.  The vouchers may reveal why keeping the peace was such an issue in the mid-1820s.

Sources: SRO D1104/4/1 Aldridge vestry minutes 1808-27; D4122 Aldridge overseers’ account book 1823-37.


If this is Friday, this must be Aldridge

The vouchers of Whittington parish have been typed up in quick time, meaning that we are now turning the focus to Aldridge.  This parish has crossed my radar before, as the home parish of farmer John Masgreave.  John was the elder brother of Ellen Parker neé Masgreave, for whom I wrote an entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Once again I’m in quest of names for the overseers and churchwardens of a parish, and this time I have both a set of vestry minutes and a volume of overseers’ accounts to help with the search.  The vestry minutes reveal that Aldridge anticipated legislation of 1818-19 and appointed a salaried assistant or ‘standing’ overseer as early as 1815.  The first post-holder was Patrick Cormick, succeeded in 1820 by Joseph Reynolds.  Reynolds was appointed at a salary of £25 per year, ‘without any cost or charge whatever to the parish excepting all journeys more than 10 miles from Aldridge’.  The parish was clearly trying to keep control of its liabilities in relation to trips associated with legal matters or the settlement of the poor.  Reynolds was required to receive and collect all the poor rates, pay the poor, and ‘execute the general business of the parish subject to the controul [sic] of the overseers for the time being’.  In other words, the parish still elected annual overseers, but they were merely honourary as it was Reynolds who did all the work.

The vestry minutes contain highlights of parish business and low points of parish behaviour.  In illustration of the former, it was resolved in January 1824 that the conveyance of letters between Aldridge and Walsall should be continued by Mrs Hathaway.  Rules were drawn up for the times when this lady should be expected to travel between the two locations for the reliable carriage of post.  A letter bag with a lock and key was supplied to her by the overseers of the poor (for some reason: the mail was not typically their province).  At the other end of the spectrum there was the intransigence of the organist and choirmaster.  Richard Glover was discharged from this post in 1822 for for ‘inability, impropriety of conduct and neglect of duty’.  There is no elaboration of these charges, but given that the next post-holder William Prince was specifically required to arrive at church early, and to teach singing to four parish girls, one can only hope that lateness was the worst of his offence.

Sarah Johnson 1823-1837

Sarah appears to have a slightly late baptism as she was nearly 7 years old when baptised at St. Giles, Whittington on 5 September 1830 resulting in her date of birth also being recorded (22 Jan 1823). She was the daughter of Ann Johnson of Whittington. No Father was recorded so the implication is that she was illegitimate.

Sarah died at the young age of 13 and was buried at St. Giles, Whittington on 17 Nov 1837 with an abode of Fisherwick.

The Burial Record does not show how she died but from the Pauper’s Vouchers for Whittington (at Stafford Record Office) it appears that she died as a result of Burns.

Voucher reference number D4834/9/3/22/3, dated 23 Dec 1837 is a Quarterly statement of receipts and payments by the Parish Officers of Whittington totalling £46 15s 3d. This Pre-printed form has the handwritten addition of travelling expences, postage, collecting Rates, Oil Cloth and Dressings for Sarah Johnson who was burnt, and collecting Bastardy Payments.

Another voucher number D4834/9/3/22/12 is a Settled Bill sent by W. Norman to the Overseers for 1½yds of Oil Cloth costing 6s 6d  dated 3 Nov 1837.

Sarah’s cause of death could be confirmed in her death certificate as she died in the first 6 months of civil registration..  

Name: JOHNSON, SARAH   Age at Death (in years): 13.  GRO Reference: 1837  D Quarter in LICHFIELD UNION  Volume 17  Page 43

So far I have not found any record of Oil cloth being used when dressing burns.

Sarah’s Mother Ann may have been one of the twin daughters of John and Ann Johnson of Whittington, baptised on 12 July 1807 (with twin sister Susanna) at St. Giles, Whittington. With siblings Richard baptised 21 Aug 1803, Catherine baptised 5 Apr 1805 and John baptised 31 Dec 1809.  If she had been born shortly before baptism in 1807 then she would only have been around 16 years old at the time of Sarah’s birth.