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.

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