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.