Abel Rooker, surgeon in Darlaston (1787-1867) Part 3 Abel’s sons

The executors appointed by Abel in his will were two of his sons, one from each marriage. Interestingly these sons were Rev James Yates Rooker of Lower Gornal and Rev John Rooker of Islington, both of them Anglican clergymen. Another son, William Yates Rooker, had also been a clergyman and his wife, Mary Jemima Rooker, took out a complaint against James Yates Rooker over her husband’s estate.

James Yates Rooker led a remarkable life. As a curate at Bamford near Hathersage in Derbyshire he caught the attention of Ellen Nussey who was a lifelong correspondent of Charlotte Bronte’s. Ellen and Charlotte met at Roe Head school in Mirfield in 1831 and Charlotte visited Ellen when she lived with her brother Henry Nussey, who was vicar of Hathersage. He is believed to have proposed to Charlotte in 1839 but was rejected. Ellen and Charlotte’s letters show them indulging in some amusing girl talk about the local curate James Yates Rooker and Charlotte is moved in a letter dated 31 July 1845 to issue a gentle warning to her friend to be on her guard against James’ attractions (perhaps somewhat tongue-in-cheek). Charlotte’s visits to Hathersage are understood to have provided background material for her novel Jane Eyre.

James went on to become the vicar of Lower Gornal in Staffordshire and was joined there by his father after Abel’s second wife Frances died and Abel retired as a surgeon. Abel died in 1867 but some years later in 1879 James became the victim of a murderous attack by one of his parishioners. The incident is ably set out on the Sedgley manor website (http://www.sedgleymanor.com/stories/stories.html).

James survived the murder attempt and went on to serve the parish until his death in 1887.


Abel Rooker, surgeon in Darlaston (1787-1867) Part 2 Non-conformist antecedents

Abel was baptised into a dissenting family in Walsall in Feb 1788. His parents James and Mary Rooker apprenticed him to a Walsall surgeon, Francis Weaver, who was a member of the same dissenting congregation. Such an apprenticeship would not have been cheap but it would open up opportunities for a professional career that did not require a university degree, which Abel would not have been eligible for (at least in England) with his non-conformist background.

Abel’s non-conformist family background was a distinguished one. His great grandfather Samuel Rooker (c.1694-1768) was a cooper from West Bromwich and a member of a dissenting congregation that met at Bank Court in Walsall (on the north side of High Street). Samuel and his son Samuel junior, also a cooper, were among several people keen to secede from this congregation on doctrinal grounds. In 1751 they built a small chapel (approximately 10 ½ feet by 9 feet) on land at Hill Top in Walsall (actually more like West Bromwich). This building was registered for religious worship on 17 May 1751 and just a week later was attacked by a mob and destroyed. It was not until 1763 that the discontented group were able to secede, when twenty-eight members and two deacons began to meet in a new building erected in Dudley Street, Walsall. This congregation flourished until 1790 when, on finding that their premises were too small, laid plans to erect a new chapel in Bridge Street. This opened in September 1791 at a cost of £2, 125 13s, with all debts on the building cleared by 1795. Abel’s baptism is recorded in the Bridge Street chapel register but, as it took place in Feb 1788, it is most likely the ceremony actually happened in the Dudley Street premises.

Samuel senior had another son James who showed a vocation for church leadership and he was sent to study at the dissenting academy in Bedworth, Warwickshire under John Kirkpatrick. James was invited by a dissenting congregation in Bridport, Dorset to become their first minister in 1751. In 1764 the dissenting academy at Ottery St Mary (founded by Rev John Lavington in 1752-54) moved to Bridport, following Lavington’s death in December that year, to continue under Rev James Rooker’s tutelage. James built a house (Bridge House at the far end of East Street) in 1765 to accommodate both his family and the students. This became a hotel in the 1980s. James continued at Bridport until shortly before his death in 1780. The history of the Bridport congregation mirrored that of the Walsall one with a group seceding from the established Presbyterian congregation in the town in 1742, which went on to build a chapel at Barrack Street in 1746. It was not until 1750 that they issued an invitation to James Rooker to become their minister. He was ordained on 16 October 1751 after serving a fairly lengthy apprenticeship (a common practice followed by dissenting congregations of this type).

Links between the Rooker family in the Black Country and the West Country continued after the Rev James’ departure for the south-west as evidenced in probate and property documents well recorded in a paper by Alan Sell. One link not mentioned by Sell was the baptism of Samuel junior’s son James Rooker by his uncle Rev James at Bridport in 1757. The baby’s parents were recorded as Samuel and Joanna Rooker of West Bromwich.


A P F Sell, The Walsall riots, the Rooker family and eighteenth century dissent, Transactions of the South Staffordshire Archaeological Society (1983-4), 25, pp. 50-71.

Abel Rooker, surgeon in Darlaston (1787-1867) Part 1

Among the Darlaston Poor Law vouchers are detailed bills submitted by the surgeon Abel Rooker. Unlike those for parishes previously worked on, these give much more precise information on what Mr Rooker was supplying in terms of treatments and medicines. Surgeons from earlier parishes in the project generally were retained for a fixed half-yearly fee and then sought additional re-imbursement for lengthy involvements or unusual items. Mr Rooker does not appear to receive an agreed retainer until somewhat later (certainly by 1822).

When undertaking biographical research into individuals of interest who emerge from this project it is surprising where this leads. In the case of Abel Rooker this proved to involve 18th century developments in the non-conformist tradition that became Congregationalism and links between Walsall and Bridport in Dorset, an attempted murder in Lower Gornal and female chit-chat between Charlotte Bronte and her friend Ellen Nussey.

Abel Rooker was born in Walsall on 18 October 1787, the son of James and Mary Rooker and baptised in the independent chapel in Walsall on 20 Feb 1788. He developed his skills under the Walsall surgeon Francis Watkin Weaver, who paid apprentice tax for Abel on 26 January 1803, when Abel would have been 16 years old.  Abel went on to marry Susanna Brevitt, the daughter of a Darlaston butcher, Thomas Brevitt and his wife Sarah, by licence at Darlaston St Lawrence church on 9 May 1811. Even if Abel had retained his parents’ non-conformist views the marriage would have had to take place in an Anglican church in this period before civil registration was introduced in 1837. Susanna was only 20 years old when they married.

Abel and Susanna had 4 children (James Yates Rooker, Harriet Mary Rooker, William Yates Rooker and Susanna Rooker) before they produced a son Abel who died as a baby (he was buried on 1 September 1818). Sadly Susanna had already passed away on 23 June that year. It is distressing to realise that at the time that Abel was ministering to the medical needs of the Darlaston poor, his skills could not save his own wife and son. It is interesting that Abel sought letters of administration on his wife’s estate on 5 Sep 1818. At this period, a wife’s property was considered to belong automatically at marriage to her husband.

Abel married again in 1821, by licence, on 22 May at Handsworth. His bride was Frances Fletcher, a glass maker’s daughter from Wednesbury, with whom he had 6 children (Maria, William, Ann Alice, Abel, John and Thomas Fletcher).

Frances died on 5 October 1853 and again Abel sought letters of administration in order to deal with his wife’s estate.  He retired as surgeon on 1 Oct 1854 when his partnership with Thomas William was dissolved. Abel then moved to live in Lower Gornal and the 1861 census shows him living in Church Street with his unmarried daughter Ann Alice. He died in Lower Gornal on 18 April 1867 and two of his sons acted as executors of his will (probate granted at Lichfield on 13 June 1867).



Baptismal, marriage, death, apprenticeship, census and probate information accessed at Ancestry www.ancestry.co.uk/ and Find my Past www.findmypast.co.uk/

Wolverhampton Chronicle and Staffordshire Advertiser, 4 October 1854

The Elsmores Part 3: Apprenticeships

Searching the apprentice records on the Staffordshire Names Index reveals the names of nine Elsmores from the Colwich area: Ann, Francis, George, James, John, Mary, Sarah, Thomas and William. Either it was common for people to pay a fine for not taking apprentices, or some of the Elsmores proved, on occasion, to be unsatisfactory in some way. Looking at the dates of the apprenticeships it seems that 1828 was a crucial year.

In 1828, aged 11, Ann Elsmore the daughter of Mary Hawthorn (late Elsmore) was apprenticed to housewifery to farmer James Astley of Hixon. The apprenticeship did not actually take place as another source notes that Astley paid £10 instead of taking an apprentice.

With his parents deceased, in 1832 Francis Elsmore, aged 10, was apprenticed to farmer Charles Haywood. However, the following year Haywood paid a £10 fine instead of taking Francis. On this occasion Francis’ age was given as 13. Instead, Francis (13) was apprenticed in husbandry to Samuel Buttery, another farmer on 13 July 1833. In 1835 Francis, (age given as 11 so it might be another Francis Elsmore) was apprenticed to farmer William Smith. In all instances, however, the sources note that Francis was an orphan.

George Elsmore was apprenticed to Thomas Aylsbury of Taft Farm in July 1823, but like Ann and Francis, by December his master had paid £10 instead of taking George. The following year George (11) was apprenticed to cordwainer John Elsmore.

Nine-year-old James Elsmore was apprenticed in husbandry to William Masters in 1823 on the same date that George had first been apprenticed.

In 1808 John Elsmore, the son of Thomas and Ann Elsmore of Bishton was apprenticed to farmers John and Thomas Bould of Hixon until he reached the age of 18.

Aged 10 Mary Elsmore (parents deceased) was apprenticed to John Day, a butcher in Great Haywood, in 1819.

In 1827 Sarah Elsmore, aged 10, was apprenticed in housewifery to Viscount Thomas William Anson of Shugborough. This arrangement does not seem to have worked out as in the following year Sarah (of Sitch Lane) became apprenticed in lace-making and housewifery to Henry Cox of Great Haywood (who is recorded as a baker so perhaps it was Henry’s wife who was to instruct Sarah). After this Sarah was to be assigned to James Elsmore.

Thomas Elsmore was apprenticed to James Trubshaw at his new house in Little Haywood in 1821.

William Elsmore (11) son of Sarah Elsmore of Hixon was apprenticed in husbandry initially to Henry Churchill, a schoolmaster. The apprenticeship them seems to have been transferred to Walter Yates, a farmer, of Coley.


SRO, D24/A/PO/2809, John Elsmore, 9 Apr. 1808

SRO, D24/A/PO/2721, John Elsmore, 9 Apr. 1808

SRO, D24/A/PV/1, John Elsmore, 9 Apr. 1808

SRO, D24/A/PV/1, Mary Elsmore, 27 Oct. 1819

SRO, D24/A/PO/2722, Mary Elsmore, 27 Oct. 1819

SRO, D24/A/PV/1, Thomas Elsmore, 15 Sep. 1821

SRO, D874/7/6/23, James Elsmore, 5 Jul. 1823

SRO, D24/A/PV/1, George Elsmore, 5 Jul. 1823

SRO, D874/7/6/27, George Elsmore, 18 Dec. 1824

SRO, D24/A/PO/2833, Sarah Elsmore, 4 Jul. 1827

SRO, D24/A/PV/1, Sarah Elsmore, 14 Aug. 1827

SRO, D24/A/PV/1, Sarah Elsmore, 16 Jul. 1828

SRO, D24/A/PO/2838, Sarah Elsmore, 16 Jul. 1828

SRO, D24/A/PO/2723, Sarah Elsmore, 2 Aug. 1828

SRO, D24/A/PO/2723, Ann Elsmore, 16 Jul. 1828

SRO, D24/A/PV/1, Ann Elsmore of Princes End, 16 Jul. 1828

SRO, D874/7/6/29, Ann Elsmore, 16 Jul. 1828

SRO, D24/A/PO/2723, William Elsmore, 16 Jul. 1828

SRO, D24/A/PO/2839, William Elsmore, 16 Jul. 1828

SRO, D24/A/PO/2840, William Elsmore, 16 Jul. 1828

SRO, D874/7/6/30, William Elsmore, 8 Nov. 1828

SRO, D24/A/PV/1, William Elsmore, 8 Nov. 1828

SRO, D24/A/PO/2723, William Elsmore, 8 Nov. 1828

SRO, D24/A/PO/2723, Francis Elsmore, 21 Jan. 1832

SRO, D24/A/PO/2723, Francis Elsmore, 11 Apr. 1833

SRO, D24/A/PO/2723, Francis Elsmore, 13 Jul. 1833

SRO, D874/7/6/34, Francis Elsmore, 13 Jul. 1833

SRO, D24/A/PO/2723, Francis Elsmore, 11 Jul. 1835

This is a work in progress, subject to change as new research in conducted.

The Elsmore Family, Great Haywood, Shoemakers, Part Two: Who were the Elsmores?

The Elsmores were Roman Catholics. As a result of Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act, between 1754 and 1837 all marriages had to take place in the Church of England. The Catholic registers that do survive for this period contain records of illegal marriages. Several Elsmore marriages took place at the parish church of St John the Baptist, Tixall, Staffordshire. White’s 1834 directory notes, however, that adjoining the south wing of Tixall Hall ‘is a modern Catholic chapel, a handsome Gothic structure, with an octagonal tower, and beautiful stained glass windows. The parish church … is a small edifice dedicated to St John the Baptist’. For several centuries Tixall had been a safe haven for Catholics. In 1827 the Clifford family, who lived in the hall, built the chapel. By 1835 they had left the area giving the chapel and an acre of land to the Catholics of the area. In 1845 the chapel was taken down and rebuilt in Great Haywood.

William Elsmore (b.1783) married Susan or Susanna Dale on 13 February 1809. The marriage was recorded as having taken place at St John the Baptist church. Susanna was around six months pregnant at the time. Their son James was baptised 23 July 1809 at St John’s. Susan Dale and her sister Frances were confirmed on 5 May 1802 at Tixall chapel.

For Colwich, the 1841 Census (when ages for adults were rounded down to the nearest five years) lists William (55) a cordwainer, his wife Susanna (50) and five children: Stephen (25), Thomas (20), Mary Ann (16), Frederick (15) and Francis (13). Living next to them was another William Elsmore, (30) a joiner and carpenter; his wife Anne (32), and children Teresa, (4); Louisa, (2) and Ann (1).

The 1851 Census reveals that William, aged 68, was born in Stafford, and Susanna, aged 67, was born in Tixall. Stephen (38), born in Baswich, was a cordwainer like his father. No other children of William and Susannah are listed but living with them were two grandchildren, Cecily aged nine (born in Stowe) and Edward Brian, aged two, born in Campden, Gloucestershire. This may explain the connection with Chipping Campden of Thomas Elsmore, a bricklayer, lodging at an inn in High Street, noted in the 1851 Census.

Another child of William and Susanna was Charles, born 1814. At the time of the 1851 Census he was a ‘post’ boy living in St John Street, Lichfield, along with his brother Francis, an ostler and general servant; and an extended family that included their sister Mary A. Brian (37), a victualler’s wife, born in Great Haywood; her sons William (3), born in Longton; Charles (1), born in Great Haywood; and Henry (6 months), born in Lichfield. Also living at the same address was brother-in-law Edward Guy (36), an agricultural implement maker, born Boston, Lincolnshire; and niece Teresa Elsmore (14), a nurse. Visiting when the census was taken was cousin Harriet Dale (30), born in Tixall.

White’s 1851 directory informs us that William Brian was the innkeeper of the Lord Nelson, St John Street, Lichfield.

James Elsmore (b.1809)

Also in the 1841 Census for Colwich are James Elsmore, a cordwainer, his wife Pamela and their children James (b.1836), Robert (b.1837), Pamela (b.1838) and George (b.1840). James and Pamela (née Wood) were married at Painswick, Gloucestershire, on 15 July 1833.

In the 1871 Census James (61), a master cordwainer employing one man, and Pamela (60) and two of their children, Monica, aged 25, a machinist and Francis, aged 15, a cordwainer were all living next to Great Haywood Catholic school and chapel. On the other side of them were William Elsmore, (60) a joiner and carpenter; his wife Anne (67), daughter Martha, (28) a certified schoolmistress; son William (26) also a joiner and carpenter, and a grandson, Francis (3), born in Broughton, Yorkshire.

Jane, Brian and Ann Elsmore

1841 Census for Great Haywood at Norton Land are Henry and Mary Yates and their children John and Ann; and a Mary Elsmore (30). Henry was an agricultural labourer. Next to them at Swansmoor Farm were Robert Cliff [?] aged 70, a farmer; Jane Elsmore (60); Jane Elsmore (26); Brian Elsmore (24); and Ann Elsmore (20).

In 1861, at Swanmoor Farm, Colwich, were Brian Elsmore, (47) farmer of 114 acres employing one labourer and one boy; and Brian’s sisters Jane (49) and Ann (44).

White’s 1834 directory notes that Swanmoor was three miles north-west of Colwich with two large farms. One belonged to Sir T. A. Clifford, constable, and the other to William Moore.

George Elsmore (b.1814)

In 1861, at Billington, Bradley, lived George Elsmore (47), a cordwainer; wife Ellen, (38); Thomas (12), a cordwainer; and Ann (9).

By 1871 George Elsmore (57), born at Little Haywood, his wife Ellen (48), born Stafford, and their children (all born in Bradley) William (16); Thomas (22), an indoor farm servant; Ann Eliza (19); George (18), a ‘farmer’s son’; Ellen (15); Elizabeth (13); Emily Jane (11); Alice (8); and John (5) were still resident at Billington, Bradley.

By the next census (1881) many of George’s and Ellen’s children were no longer living in the family home. George (67) and Ellen (58) were living with their unmarried son William (26), an agricultural labourer; and a grandson Edward B. Elsmore (5) in Berry Ring, Bradley.

Joseph Elsmore (Farmer)

In 1826 Joseph Elsmore of Swanmoor was appointed as a juror for the Quarter Sessions.

Joseph Elsmore (b.1814)

Joseph was born in Fradswell and became a farm bailiff in the parish of St Andrew, Shifnal, Shropshire, living at Hatton School. His wife Elizabeth (b.1823) was the school mistress and was assisted by their daughter Margaret (b.1857). Living with them was Herbert Merriman (b.1853), and agricultural labourer; and Richard Wedge (b.1861), a groom and domestic servant.

Thomas Elsmore (b.1821)

In 1841 in the parish of St Mary, Stafford, shoemaker Joseph, born around 1821, was living with his wife Mary and their two children William, aged two; and Bernard, aged one.

Joseph Elsmore (b.1821)

Living in the same street in Stafford as Thomas Elsmore (b.1821) was shoemaker Joseph, his wife Caroline and their son Thomas, aged one.

Frederick Elsmore (b.1828)

Like his father William, Frederick became a shoemaker. He appears to have moved around a great deal. In 1841 he was an apprentice shoemaker in Stafford living in the household of his master Samuel Mountford. In 1851 he was lodging in St Peter’s parish Derby. Ten years later he had moved to Walsall Wood. He was still a shoemaker and still living in digs.

Robert Elsmore (b.1784)

In 1851 at Mavesyn Ridware, Staffordshire, Robert Elsmore (67), born in Colwich and his wife Sarah (51) were in receipt of parish relief. Their 14-year-old daughter Rebeccah was dressmaker’s apprentice, and their 11-year-old-son Henry was an agricultural labourer.

William Elsmore (b.1816)

Living at Ellastone, Staffordshire, were William Elsmore (35) a bookkeeper to a builder, (born in Bradley, Staffordshire); his wife Charlotte (42) born in Ellastone, and their children William H. (12), born in Colwich; Bryan T. (9); Jane (7); Frederick J. (4); and Louisa (1). The last four children were all born in Ellastone.

John Elsmore (b.1814)

John Elsmore was born in Great Haywood. By the time of the 1851 Census he was a widowed a farm labourer living in Armitage. His daughter Elizabeth (b.1828) was a laundress, and his son, Thomas (b.1829) was a farm labourer.


Birmingham Archdiocese Archives, P162/1/2, Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages, Deaths, Roman Catholic Parish Marriages, 1798–1853

Gloucester Archives, P244, IN 1/16, Gloucestershire Anglican Parish Registers, Painswick


SRO, Q/Rjr/1826, Quarter Sessions Jurors Lists (Staffordshire Name Index)

The National Archives, ‘How to look for records of Catholics’

TNA, HO 107/994/11, Census 1841

TNA, HO, 107/1010/1, Census 1841

TNA, HO, 107/1999, Census 1851

TNA, HO, 107/2014, Census 1851

TNA, HO, 107/2015, Census 1851

TNA, HO, 107/2076, Census 1851

TNA, HO, 107/2143, Census 1851

TNA, HO, 107/2146, Census 1851

TNA, RG, 9/1908, Census 1861

TNA, RG, 9/1909, Census 1861

TNA, RG, 9/2018, Census 1861

TNA, RG, 10/2819, Census 1871

TNA, RG, 10/2820, Census 1871

TNA, RG, 11/2634, Census 1881

TNA, RG, 11/2687, Census 1881

William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire (Sheffield: 1834)

William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire (Sheffield: 1851)

This is a work in progress, subject to change as new research is conducted.

The Elsmore Family, Great Haywood, Shoemakers, Part One

The family name has various spellings including Ellsmere, Ellsmore and Elsmon. Most frequently it appears as Elsmore. Vouchers relating to the Elsmores survive for the period 1817–1834. The earliest, for the repair of shoes for Ann Gooding costing £0 1s 8d submitted by William Elsmore, is dated 2 July 1817.

The Elsmore name crops up frequently in the Colwich overseers’ vouchers, both as makers and repairers of footwear, and as recipients of parish relief. It was a very extended family so disentangling the precise relationship between one member of the family and another is not always straightforward. Nor is it always easy to determine precisely which member of the family was in receipt of poor relief. The first entry on the Elsmores looks at their visibility within the overseers’ vouchers for Colwich. The second is an attempt to establish the connections between the various branches of the family.

Some members of the family seem to have been prosperous; others relied more heavily on parish relief. Yet more dipped in and out of the parish system. Parson and Bradshaw’s, Staffordshire General and Commercial Directory, (1818) lists John Ellsmere and Thomas Ellsmore as shoemakers, whilst William Elsmore is listed as a shoemaker in White’s directory of 1834. Inclusion in a trade directory however, was no guarantee of business success.

The vouchers suggest that some of the Elsmores survived on the margins. Indeed, some rather poignant survivals indicate that whilst the Elsmores were shoemakers, they could not afford to provide shoes or even repair them for their own children without recourse to the parish. In 1821 John Elsmore was paid for repairing the shoes of four people including ‘William Elsmore’s Girl’. William and John Elsmore received work from Colwich’s overseers, usually in the form of carrying out shoe and boot repairs throughout the 1820s, if not always consistently. Perhaps, by providing work, it was in an attempt by the parish to reduce the number of occasions when the Elsmores sought parish relief. If so, it was not entirely successful. In 1828 Sarah, William and James Elsmore were the beneficiaries of two pairs of shoes and the repair of shoes. In the same year James Elsmore was paid for resoling and heeling Sarah Elsmore’s shoes and John Elsmore for shoe repairs for ‘Sarah Elmore’s girl’ and for Mary Elmore’s girl’.

In 1831 William was paid for repairing the shoes of ‘Francis’ and ‘Frederick’. Although many people had the names ‘Francis’ and ‘Frederick’, they were also the names of two of William’s children. One bill for the provision of clothes covers the period from 1823 until April 1832. Amongst the 34 names listed (some appear more than once) as beneficiaries, the Elsmore name occurs on four occasions: Widow Elsmore’s son; George Elsmore[‘s?] widow (it is not clear whether this refers to George himself or to his widow); Francis Elsmore; and Frederick Elsmore.

On one occasion a bill for repairs, dated 1830, was not settled until January 1832 when it was paid to a ‘Mrs Elsmore’.


William Parson and Thomas Bradshaw, Staffordshire General and Commercial Directory, (1818)

SRO, D874/1, St Michael’s and All Angels Parish Register, Colwich

SRO, D24/A/Po/1136b, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 2 Jul. 1817

SRO, D24/A/Po/1282, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 21 Jan. 1821

SRO, D24/A/Po/1561, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, Jul.–Aug. 1828

SRO, D24/A/Po/1519, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 28 Oct. 1827

SRO, D24/A/Po/1529, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 26 Feb. 1828

SRO, D24/A/Po/1567, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 21 Sep. 1827

SRO, D24/A/Po/1623, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 18 Oct. 1829

SRO, D24/A/Po/1641, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 9 Mar. 1830

SRO, D24/A/Po/1695, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 10 Mar. 1831

SRO, D24/A/Po/1748, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 6 Jan. 1832

SRO, D24/A/Po/1760, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 20 Mar. 1832

SRO, D24/A/Po/1761, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 20 Mar. 1832

SRO, D24/A/Po/1777, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 16 Apr. 1832

SRO, D24/A/Po/1778, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 21 Apr. 1832

SRO, D24/A/Po/1964, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 7 Mar. 1834

William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire (Sheffield: 1834)

This is a work in progress, subject to change as new research is conducted.

Jane Baxter (1792–1867) and the Brick-Makers of Uttoxeter

Uttoxeter had a number of brickworks situated on the Heath near to the workhouse. It is almost certain that most of the bricks were used locally. Indeed, Kingman has calculated that as around 40 per cent of a brick’s cost could be accounted for by its transportation the distance between production site and final destination was often short. The poor law vouchers contain payments for the digging out of clay, for the transport of other raw materials, particularly coal from Stoke-upon-Trent and Cheadle, and for brick production, but not for transportation. The latter costs may have been covered by the purchasers. Pitt’s history of Staffordshire (1817) notes that in the town ‘The houses in general are well built of brick, and commodious. The wharf belonging to the Grand Trunk Canal Company, with several large warehouses enclosed by a brick wall, … has contributed much to the prosperity of this small but flourishing town … There are several neat mansions of brick, built in the vicinity of the wharf’.

Until mechanisation in the nineteenth century, brick-making was both relatively small-scale and seasonal with manufacturers often engaged in other occupations. Clay tended to be dug between autumn and spring, with the actual process of brick-making occupying the summer and autumn months.

The only Utttoxeter brick-layer noted in the 1793 Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce and Manufacture was William Hubbard who also doubled as a maltster. No brick-makers were listed. What is perhaps surprising is that even by the time of Parson and Bradshaw’s 1818 directory although the number of brick-layers had increased there were still no brick-makers listed. John Allen of Balance Hill, John Allen of Pinfold Lane, William Blurton, John Chatfield, William Eglison, William Hubbard, Neville Newbold, and John Walker were all brick-layers. Edward Hooper was both a bricklayer and builder, and more unusually John Tunnicliffe of High Street was listed as a brick-layer, grocer and flour dealer. Thomas Salt is described as the ‘agent for the sale of tiles of all descriptions, fire and floor brick, & Quarrie’s patent water, etc, pipes’. Many of these items are listed amongst the overseers’ vouchers.

The situation had shifted considerably by 1834. Brick-layers included Joseph Blurton, Anthony Chatfield (who crops up many times in the vouchers), Edwin Chatfield, John Chatfield and John Chatfield junior. A number of brick-makers are also listed. They included Clement Baxter, John Hudson, Margaret Parker and (unless this was a place rather than a person) the unlikely sounding Parish Yard. All were located on the Heath. In Uttoxeter were John and William Hales.

Jane Baxter, the daughter of George and Jane Baxter, was baptised on 3 February 1792. Her siblings included Clement (1780–1841), George (1786–1852), James (baptised 13 October 1789), Peter (baptised 17 October 1796) and Edward (1794–1859). George Baxter, a yeoman, died in 1802. In his short, probated will (£100) he left all of his real and personal estate to his ‘loving wife Jane’ for her own enjoyment and disposal. No mention was made of any children. His executors were William Chatfield, yeoman, and William Rogers, gardener (see entry 2 Feb. 2018)

At what point Clement Baxter entered upon the brick trade is unknown. The earliest reference we have is in the 1834 directory. His will of 1841 (£200) described him as a brick-maker. He bequeathed all his real and personal estate to his sister Jane appointing her as his sole executrix. We may ask why Jane was bequeathed the brickworks ahead of her brothers. Although it is often thought that males always inherited businesses before females, this was not necessarily the case. If it was felt that the men in the family were already established in their own occupations, or regarded as feckless or lazy, women often inherited. It may also have been a way of securing an income for the unmarried Jane thus reducing or eliminating her dependence upon the family. She also had practical experience in the brickworks operated by Clement. Her name appears in a number of overseers’ vouchers showing that she was dealing with the accounts. On 14 July 1829 there is a settled bill for 300 bricks costing 8s, whilst in March 1830 she received £5 8s 0d for a delivery of dung. This involvement would have placed her in a good position. She knew who the customers were and more importantly those who paid on time and those who did not. She would have known where raw materials could be obtained and the price to pay for such items.

In both the 1851 and 1861 Census returns Jane Baxter is recorded as being unmarried and living alone on Uttoxeter Heath. In 1851 she is listed as a brick-maker mistress. She is also listed as a brick-maker in White’s 1851 directory alongside Porter and Keates who by then had added brick and tile making to their other activities as grocers, tea dealers, ironmongers, chandlers, hemp and flax dressers, and nail manufacturers.

Following Jane Baxter’s entry in the 1851 Census is the entry for Peter Baxter, a brick maker journeyman; his wife Charlotte and their son Isaac, a cordwainer journeyman, and brick-maker journeyman John Norris. In all likelihood Peter was working for his sister. Whilst Peter was a brick-maker journeyman in 1831 he applied to the overseers for a pair of new shoes for his wife costing 6s. In 1835 he received £1 0s 0d for clothes for an apprentice. Clearly, although in work, his income was insufficient at times. The 1851 Census also lists widow Elizabeth Baxter (69) living on the Heath with her sons Thomas (35) a carter and labourer, and Edward (33) a brick-maker journeyman. Both were unmarried. Elizabeth was possibly the widow of Jane’s brother George. Other brick-makers on the Heath were Thomas Parker and his son Charles described as a brick-maker/servant, and master brick-layer William Godrich.

By the time of the 1861 Census much had changed. Jane was out of business; Peter, now widowed, had become a servant, and Isaac has disappeared from the record. Norris was still a brick maker. Also listed as a brick-maker was G[iddeon?] Prestbury.

Jane died in 1867 and is buried in the churchyard of St Lawrence, Bramshall.


Peter Barfoot and John Wilkes, Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce and Manufacture (1793)

Bramshall, St Lawrence Memorial Inscriptions

Mike Kingman, ‘Brickmaking and Brick Building in Staffordshire 1500–1760’, (Unpublished PhD Thesis, Keele University, 2006)

Mike Kingman, ‘The Adoption of Brick in Urban Staffordshire: the Experience of Newcastle-under-Lyme, 1665–1760’, Midland History, 35:1, (2010)

C. C. Owen, The Development of Industry in Burton-upon-Trent (1978)

William Parson and Thomas Bradshaw, Staffordshire General and Commercial Directory, 3 vols (Manchester: J. Leigh, 1818), II

William Pitt, A Topographical History of Staffordshire (Newcastle-under-Lyme: J. Smith,1817)

SRO, D3891/1, Uttoxeter Parish Registers

SRO, D3891/6/34/12/040, Uttoxeter Overseers’ Vouchers, 14 Jul. 1829

SRO, D3981/6/36/1/22, Uttoxeter Overseers’ Vouchers, 7 Mar. 1830

SRO, D3891/6/36/6/21, Uttoxeter Overseers’ Vouchers, 20 Nov. 1831

SRO, D3891/6/43/3/7, Uttoxeter Overseers’ Vouchers, 30 Jun. 1835

SRO, D3891/6/42/19, Uttoxeter Overseers’ Vouchers, 6 Oct. 1835

TNA, IR27/360, Court of Probate, Wills and Probate

TNA, H.O. 107/2010, Census 1851

TNA, R.G. 9/1955, Census 1861

William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire (Sheffield: 1834)

William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire (Sheffield: 1851)

This is a work in progress, subject to change as new research is conducted.

Thomas Steeple Flint (1788–1851) part 2

In an earlier posting on Flint (15 Jan. 2018), it became apparent that he was much more than just a basket maker. An auction advert in the Derby Mercury in 1838 provides details of his premises in Uttoxeter’s Market Place and an explanation for his move to Spiceal Street.

Flint’s property had ‘two commanding fronts, one opposing the Market Place, having a frontage of 28 feet; and one facing the Sheep Market, with a very handsome Private Entrance and a Frontage of 45 feet’.

The house consisted of a ‘Front shop 21 feet by 16 feet … with a sitting room at the back …together with a handsome parlour, neatly fitted up with cupboards … There is cellaring under the whole; part thereof is now used as a workshop, and a kitchen well supplied with soft water … Over these apartments is an elegantly fitted-up dining room 20 feet 6 inches by 14 feet 6 inches … with marble chimney piece, and two sleeping rooms, one of which is 19 feet by 11 feet 6 inches’ also with a marble chimney piece. The other room was smaller but had a large closet attached. Above these rooms were another six sleeping rooms and above those an attic measuring 43 feet by 21 feet. Outside there was a garden and stabling for four horses.

Towards the end of the advert Flint availed ‘himself of this opportunity of returning thanks to the public at large, for the very liberal support he has received since his commencement in business, and respectfully informs them that he is now declining the same in favour of his journeymen John Wyatt and Simeon Johnson’.


Derby Mercury, 31 October 1838

Matthew Woodward (1794–1857), Woollen and Linen Draper, Haberdasher and Deputy Postmaster, Rugeley, Staffordshire

Between November 1826 and July 1832 Woodward submitted four bills to the Colwich overseers totalling £1 11s 0½d for flannel, linen cloth, worsted stockings and haberdashery items. Parson and Bradshaw’s directory does not list Woodward, however, Pigot’s 1828 directory reveals that he was a linen and woollen draper. Like many in his trade, his billheads show that he was also a silk mercer, hosier and haberdasher. He also had another occupation as Rugeley’s deputy post master.

The Rugeley post office was established in January 1830. The position of deputy (for which a bond of £300 was payable marking Woodward out as a person of means) was held initially by John Wood, but he resigned within 12 months. Woodward (listed as a draper in the post office appointment books) was engaged on 6 January 1831.

The roles of deputy postmaster and postmaster were ones that carried with them responsibility, and depended upon trustworthiness and creditworthiness so it comes as something of a surprise to note that in November 1831, less than a year into his new job, the London Gazette records that a commission of bankruptcy was issued against Woodward, ‘mercer and draper, dealer and chapman’ on 3 November 1831. The commissioners proposed to meet at 12 noon in the Talbot Arms, Rugeley, on 23 February 1832 to make a first and final dividend.

During this period, and indeed afterwards, Woodward kept the position of deputy postmaster. As limited liability in business did not come into being until the 1850s, those declared bankrupt were required by law to declare all their assets, not just those in the business affected by bankruptcy. Technically, therefore, the income derived from Woodward’s position in the post office would have been taken into consideration by the bankruptcy commissioners. They may have decided that the best and quickest way to ensure that Woodward’s creditors received a dividend was to allow him to continue to operate as the deputy postmaster. Indeed, it may be surmised that despite the bankruptcy proceedings, Woodward was not fundamentally poor at business. In a credit-dependent era, it is likely that his bankruptcy was occasioned by demand for payment by another person in the credit chain who was in difficulty. Whatever the cause, the outcome was that Woodward ceased to operate as a draper. White’s 1834 directory lists his only occupation as that of postmaster in Horse Fair, as does the 1841 Census (in a property owned by William Otty according to the tithe award). The 1844 Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons list Woodward as one of the people to whom ‘half-sheets of postage free paper will be sent for sale’. He resigned from his position in 1847; bookbinder Samuel Cheshire the younger was appointed in his stead.

Woodward married Jane Fortescue by licence at St Augustine’s, Rugeley, on 23 December 1823. The ceremony was witnessed by Rebecca Hart and Samuel Fortescue. All were literate. Samuel Fortescue was a surgeon in Horse Fair.

In the Census returns of 1841, 1851 and 1861 no children of Matthew and Jane Woodward are recorded. The 1851 Census records the pair as having a house servant, Elizabeth Marlow, aged 23. Intriguingly, the 1851 Census lists Woodward as a maltster, but he does not appear as such in any trade directory of the 1820s or ‘30s. In White’s 1851 directory, however, Woodward is listed as a maltster in Heron’s Nest Street. How Woodward moved from being a draper to post master to maltster is unknown, but he must have made or acquired money somewhere along the line to set up or take over a malthouse because malting was an expensive, highly regulated and heavily taxed trade. The law required commercial maltsters to be registered and to take out annual licences backed by guarantors. Few could afford the costs involved. Furthermore, the complexity of the malting process meant that it was not a business easily accessible to newcomers.

Woodward died in 1857. His funeral took place on 14 December at St Augustine’s, Rugeley. His widow, aged 70, was living alone by the time of the 1861 Census.


HMSO, Accounts and Papers of the House of Commons, 20 vols (1844), vol. XLV

Henry D. Barton, Analytical Digest of Cases Published in the Law Journal Reports, vol. XI, new series vol. II (London:  James Holmes, 1833)

British Postal Museum, POST 58/39, Appointments Register for Deputy Postmasters, 1777–1849

Peter Collinge, ‘A Genteel Hand in the Malt Business: Barbara Ford (1755–1841) of Ashbourne’, Midland History 39:1 (2014), 110–132

George Elwick, The Bankrupt Directory being a complete register of all the bankrupts with their residences, trades and dates when they appeared in the London Gazette December 1820–April 1843 (1843)

London Gazette, vol. 1 (London: 1833), 212

William Parson and Thomas Bradshaw, Staffordshire General and Commercial Directory, (1818)

Pigot, Directory of Staffordshire (1828)

Staffordshire Name Index, B/A/15/644, Tithe awards, 1836–1845

SRO, D24/A/PO/1496, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 17 Nov 1826

SRO, D24/A/PO/1510, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 27 Mar 1827

SRO, D24/A/PO/1705, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 7 April 1831

SRO, D24/A/PO/1816b, Colwich Overseers’ Vouchers, 19 Jul 1832

SRO, D1454/1/12–17, St Augustine’s, Rugeley, Parish Register

TNA, HO 107/973/18, Census 1841

TNA, HO 107/2015, Census 1851

TNA, RG 9/1978, Census 1861

William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire (Sheffield: 1834)

William White, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Staffordshire (Sheffield: 1851)

This is a work in progress, subject to change as new research becomes available.

George Fieldstaff (c.1789-1864)

George Fieldstaff was someone who benefited from the Old Poor Law as a labourer who was employed for his strength but also as a supplier of accommodation.  Unusually, for histories of the Old Poor Law, he spans the boundary of pauper-ratepayer.

He was baptised George Fieldstead in 1796, the son of James and Sarah Fieldstead, but all later census entries suggest that he was up to ten years old at the time of baptism.  The family’s surname is given variously as Fieldstad and Fieldstid before finally settling on Fieldstaff in the 1820s.  George married Elizabeth Bacon in 1820 and the couple had at least two children (Elizabeth and William), but he became a widower in 1824.  He then married Maria Brough (born c. 1786), who was herself a widow, on 17 January 1825, for which event neither spouse signed their name.  The second marriage produced at least one daughter, Martha, although not until 1835.

Censuses later describe Fieldstaff as an agricultural labourer and hawker, but after the death of his first wife he needed to turn to the parish for help and spent time as an inmate of the Uttoxeter workhouse.  By 1829 he was being employed in the workhouse brickyard, presumably cutting clay or hefting bricks in the manner of an industrial labourer, because he was paid for his work in May 1829.  In July 1829 was prosecuted at the Staffordshire quarter sessions for refusing to work while in the house but was paid again after he had resumed work in September of the same year.

Census labels notwithstanding, the most characteristic and persistent aspect of his employment history (discernible at this distance) is his keeping of a lodging house.  George Fieldstaff had escaped the workhouse by 1832, as between August 1832 and March 1833 Uttoxeter parish paid repeatedly to lodge itinerant people at his house on Smithy Lane, later Smithfield Road.  He charged three pence per night for an adult and one penny for a child.  By 1834 he was paying poor rate on the property as an occupier, on the basis of a presumed rental value of £1 15s per year.  This value was downgraded for subsequent years to less than half this sum, namely 13s 4d.

This level of rent value does not suggest that the Fieldstaffs offered a high standard of accommodation.  Lodgers from 1841 onwards were occasionally listed as women of independent means, but this might have been disingenuous or even sardonic as most of the occupants of the house were labourers, or even beggars.  At the time of the 1861 census, George and Maria were playing host to their grand-daughter Mary Ann Fieldhouse (who should properly have been identified as Mary Ann Hughes), but also housed eleven boarders aged from their teens to the seventies, born nearby (Ashborne) or much further away (Ireland).

Fieldhouse’s eldest daughter Elizabeth decamped to Burton on Trent with brazier Thomas Hughes and although they probably did not marry, they had numerous children together.  They may have been itinerant workers themselves for a time, as the birthplaces of the children are given variously as Ashby in Leicestershire, Stafford, Rugby, and Cheadle as well as Burton.  Maria ‘Fieldstaff’ baptised 1839 was probably the oldest illegitimate daughter of Elizabeth and Thomas (rather than the youngest daughter of George and Maria), because when she married she gave her father’s name as Thomas ‘Ewers’, a brazier (thereby claiming mother’s common-law husband as her father for the purposes of marriage registration).

George Fieldstaff was buried at St Mary’s church in Uttoxeter apparently aged 75, and left no will.  His only known descendants arise from the union of his daughter Elizabeth with Thomas Hughes, and who took the surname Fieldstaff-Hughes.

NB: this biography is a work in progress subject to change as new research is conducted.

Sources: Staffordshire Record Office Q/SB 1829 M/20a; D3891/6/34/2/32 overseers’ voucher 1829; D3891/6/34/6/27; D3891/6/35/2/29 overseers’ voucher 1830; D3891/6/38/3/6 overseers’ voucher 1832; D3891/6/39/8/52a overseers’ voucher 1833; D3891/6/70-75 Uttoxeter poor rate books 1832-1838; 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses; baptisms of 9 November 1796,  27 March 1821, 11 December 1823, 13 May 1835, 30  August 1839, Uttoxeter, and 1860 Roman Catholic church, Burton on Trent; marriages of 2 November 1820, Milwich, 17 January 1825, Uttoxeter, and 1863, Burton on Trent; burials of 30 August 1824 and 23 August 1864, Uttoxeter; http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?topic=500878.msg3577237#msg3577237; with thanks to Dave Marriott for information about Smithy Lane/Smithfield Road.