Settlement & Removal in Rural Devon Parishes
Dartmoor Press (Archived Copy)
This article is not intended to be a comprehensive examination of the complex laws of settlement & removal. Rather, the notes which are provided are intended more by way of giving Devon GENUKI visitors an outline understanding of the basic principles of settlement & removal, an insight into how the systems of poor law administration operated, and an indication of what might be gleaned from the related documents. The article could, perhaps, be best described as an overview of this intriguing subject. The discussions are purposely confined to the pre-1834 Poor Law Amendment Act era, for the grouping of parishes into poor law unions made the issue of settlement slightly more complicated after that date - rather than easing it, as presumably was the intent of the new legislation!
My own research interests cover the rural parishes in the Dartmoor, West Devon and South Hams areas of the county - and the Dartmoor area most especially - and it is from the archives of some of those parishes that transcripts of a number of documents have been selected in order to illustrate the text. But the general observations and commentaries are more widely applicable. And, of course, the laws of settlement & removal were universal throughout the whole country, and were applied equally rigorously everywhere. Or were they?...
Learned historians have claimed that the introduction of the 1662 Act of Settlement onto the statute books had the immediate effect of totally immobilising the poor throughout the nation. Tate had this to say on the subject - 'Meanwhile it had become almost impossible for the poor working labourer to move at all'. This is because the act empowered overseers everywhere to evict non-settled strangers, even those who had found work and were therefore not claiming poor relief, merely on the premise that they 'might in the future become chargeable' to the poor rates. But in my own research experience the broad generalisation that the act immobilised the poor has been demonstrated to have not been so.
At least, not in the more isolated rural districts of Devon. In the parishes on high Dartmoor, for example, jobbing labourers and itinerant craftsmen appear to have gone about their business much as before, moving around from place to place seeking work were they could find it, and lodging with others for a few weeks here and there whilst they completed longer contracts. Indeed, it is fair to suggest that the rural ecomony in many places would have ground to a halt if overseers everywhere had strictly applied the laws of the day.
The little parish of Buckland in the Moor is a case in point. The parish often had to call on outside labour for skilled work such as extensive building and renovation work, thatching jobs, the grinding and installation of new millstones, and so on. A large mobile unskilled labour force was also needed in the plantations almost annually during the main timber-cutting season and when the coppice sales were held (although it should also be stated in respect of this type of work that the 1662 act did in fact absolve seasonal labourers from having to adhere to its decrees during harvest time).
A certain class of both unskilled and skilled workers also appear to have been generally excused from interference by the overseers - even although they were not actually absolved from such attentions by the terms of the statute - a large group of persons which are particularly relevant to Dartmoor and West Devon local history. I expect that many Devon family history researchers have been vexed by being unable to discover the whereabouts of, and/or keep track of, some of their ancestors, purely because of their somewhat nomadic lifestyle! These were the tin and copper miners, large gangs of whom, many of Cornish extraction, roamed the Devon countryside in search of work, and positively swarmed into parishes once they had found it. It was often the case that after only a few months they were on the road again, often travelling great distances in search of their next employment - which is why they are often so elusive for present day researchers.
They were all poor, of course - few miners ever made any real money from a lifetime of toil underground in appalling conditions - and wherever they lived they could never have afforded to rent accommodation which was valued at more than £10 per annum - which was the property valuation threshold which determined settlement. However, despite the fact that in some places the population was swollen considerably by the sudden influx of non-settled miners and their families, overseers everywhere generally left them alone. Knowing full well, perhaps, that most of them would soon move on again if they could not find suitable work, or once their employment ceased.
These suggestions are borne out by the fact that amongst the many hundreds of settlement examinations and removal orders which I have studied, those connected with miners and/or their families are less than a dozen. The following is an interesting example -
'...this deponent saith he was born in the Parish of Whythyam in the County of Cornwall About the age of ten Years he went to live with Francis Hockin of the parish of Cambor in the said County...where he lived at three Different times for About two years then he Return'd to live with his father about ten weeks then he went to work at the Stamping Mills in the Parish of Cambor with James Vivian esqr...for two years and Received his wages but He had his Diet and Sleept constantly with his father in the parish of Whythyam then he went to work at Another Mine in...Cambor...A bout two years...then his Father Came in the parish of Cambor to Reside...for About four years...then his Father Died and he still lived in the parish of Cambor and keept House with his sisters for About two or three years then he went to live with his brother in...Cambor and then went to Live in the parish of Beer Ferris in the County of Devon Where he lived two years and Seven Months and Worked in the Mine in the said parish some times by the Month and at Other Times by the Jobb but allways Looked upon himself to be free at Any month's End then...went to live in the parish of Lidford and Worked in a Mine...for Eleven Months...then Worked at Different Mines but never Done any Act to Gain Any Settlement...'
This was what John Rule of Thrushelton had to say for himself in his settlement examination held at Lifton on 5th May 1791. The basic details in the examination provide researchers, family historians especially, with some important clues, although they also have to be alert to the possibility of misspellings of placenames etc in early documents of all types. The place where John Rule is said to have been born will doubtless at first confuse many, but a careful consideration indicates that Gwithian was probably meant. This indeed proves to be so, and a search of the registers of that parish reveals that John Rule was born there on 9th September 1753, the son of John & Catherine Rule.
Having thereby positively identified John Rule of Thrushelton, the 1791 deponent, this information now helps researchers to discover when he worked at the stamping mills in Cambor(ne), which would have been about 1765, as indicated by the settlement examination statement - John Rule said that he worked there two years after he was about ten years old. Dating of his exact movements over the succeeding 25 years are a little more sketchy, but can be broadly inferred.
Note that John Rule drew attention to the fact that he had always worked by the month or job. Researchers studying these classes of records - both family historians and local historians alike - will at the outset need to understand that a person's place of legal settlement was subject to change during his or her own lifetime, depending upon what he or she had or had not done. One way of gaining a new settlement was by working continuously for more than a year for a single employer. This rarely, if ever, applied to miners, for tutworkers, tributors and mine labourers alike were invariably paid by the month or job.
It is important to understand this aspect of the settlement laws, for an individual could have worked for the same employer, or company, for decades on end, but never have gained a settlement in the parish in which he had lived all of his adult life, purely because of the way he was contracted and paid. This was almost certainly the case with Zach Williams. Born in Crowan, Cornwall, towards the close of the eighteenth century, he worked nearly all of his adult life at Wheal Friendship in Mary Tavy. He was still a mine captain there when that company went into liquidation in 1871. His headstone stands in the churchyard at Mary Tavy, surrounded by those to so many others with generations of Cornish and Devon mining blood in their veins. Zach Williams never fell foul of the poor laws, but if he had he would almost certainly have been removed back to Crowan, for he had probably never gained a legal settlement in Mary Tavy.
Back with John Rule, no removal order for him survives in the archives. And it is in such cases that a basic understanding of the laws of settlement and removal needs to be acquired by family historians, otherwise they will not know where to pick up the story of an individual and his or her family. In this case it is nearly certain that he would have been sent back to Gwithian, the place where he was born, but where he had not lived for nigh on 25 years. For he had gained a settlement there merely by virtue of his birth, but had not done anything since to gain a settlement elsewhere. Indeed, John Rule admitted as much in the closing remarks of his examination, saying that he had 'never Done any Act to Gain Any Settlement'.
Comments, or statements, such as the latter are a particular feature of many settlement examinations. The persons caught up in this aspect of the poor laws might have been poor and paupers, the vast majority of whom were uneducated and illiterate. But they were certainly not stupid. They knew exactly what was required of them at such examinations, and were fully aware of what actions could or could not have gained them a settlement in a particular place.
Continuing with the mining theme, the example of Thomas Gregory and his family should be cited in order to further demonstrate some of the foregoing remarks. As already noted, records of the type concerning miners and their families are very few and far between, and this example is in fact the only one of this particular type which I have found, so it should be considered, even though it takes the discussions into the post-1834 Poor Law Amendment Act era. For it provides a useful illustration of the system in operation - and also of the supreme idiocy and extreme insensitivity which resulted from a strict adherence to the poor laws of the day.
The headstone to Thomas Gregory stands in the graveyard at Walkhampton, a stone which the epitaph records was -
'erected by J H Deacon Esqr as a token of respect to the memory of the deceased who for the last 27 years of his life had been the faithful agent and servant in his employ'
Thomas Gregory had been a captain at Eylesbarrow Mine in neighbouring Sheepstor, but had lived in Walkhampton for most of his adult life. Indeed, he married a local girl, Mary Giles, in that parish on 4th December 1816, and all of their children were born in Walkhampton. The marriage had the effect of overriding or nullifying Mary Giles' own place of legal settlement, which was Walkhampton, where she had been born, and afterwards she automatically took the settlement of her husband. This did not matter, of course, for the issue of Thomas Gregory's settlement did not arise. He was a working miner, and his family did not need to claim poor relief.
At least, this was the situation until Thomas Gregory died in 1843, after having lived in Walkhampton for 27 years. This necessitated that his widow Mary Gregory, and their two youngest children, then teenagers but still living at home, had to seek poor relief from Walkhampton, a parish which was then part of the Tavistock Poor Law Union. During the mid 1840s they were forced to eek out a miserable existence on 2s 6d (12½p) and a couple of loaves of bread a week. The matter of settlement did not in fact arise for some considerable time - perhaps because Thomas Gregory had lived in Walkhampton for so long it was overlooked. But a few years after his death an over-zealous official siezed upon the opportunity of evicting Mary Gregory from Walkhampton.
For Thomas Gregory was born in Bere Ferrers and, as indicated above, because of the way that miners were paid had never gained a legal settlement anywhere else during his entire life. He had also never rented a property with a nominal value of over £10 per annum, had never been assessed to pay church rates or poor rates, and had never served as a parish official, either or any of which would have also gained him a settlement in his chosen parish of residence. And, of course, because of the rules regarding married women, widow Mary Gregory then held the same settlement as her deceased husband.
So it came to pass that the unfortunate widow and the two children were evicted from Walkhampton and sent to Bere Ferrers many miles away. A place where they had never lived, had probably never even visited, and where Mary Gregory had no kinsfolk of her own (Giles) family to provide any support, and very probably where few in-laws lived either. And where she and the children would probably have been treated as unwelcome outsiders by the overseers and inhabitants alike, unwanted paupers dumped in the parish thereby increasing the pressures on their own poor rates.
As suggested in the opening remarks, even after 1662 throughout much of rural Devon the movements of the poorer working classes appear to have continued much as before. Habitual vagrants and the unemployed were unwelcome everywhere, of course, but those who tried to do their best to at least eek out a grim existence for themselves and their families outside the poor relief system, living as best they were able on the meagre wages of the day, appear in general to have escepaed the attentions of the overseers.
However, in particular places itinerant workers and jobbing labourers were prevented from moving about as freely as they might because of a stricter adherence to the poor laws, and in particular the ruling that any non-settled person(s) could be immediately evicted from a parish merely on the premise that they 'might become chargeable' to the poor rates of that parish. This particularly harsh edict of the settlement laws was not abolished until at late as 1794, from whence no person could become the subject of a removal order unless, and until, he or she actually claimed poor relief.
In my own research experience the rural parishes where the rules of settlement were adhered to much more closely, almost to the letter, by their overseers and other parish officers were those where there were particular problems in having to cope with large numbers of poor and paupers. Caused not only by their own indigenous large populations - in parishes such as Tavistock and Okehampton, with large urban populations in their main towns - but also many which, like the two last named, suffered problems merely because of their geographical positions.
One such example was the parish of Ugborough which, although large in physical extent, had a very scattered almost wholly rural population, and only a little village at its centre. However, its geographical position meant that it sat astride what was - and remains - the principal and most important arterial route in the entire county. The fact that the Plymouth-Exeter highway ran through the heart of the parish meant that it had for long experienced problems with large numbers of poor and paupers passing through the place, and/or seeking to take up residence and/or work there, amongst others who were much less welcome, the habitual outlaws and brigands of the road, and others with no legal means of support intent on carrying out criminal actitivites. That travellers on this major thoroughfare were often subjected to hold-ups and other threats is indicated by a docket which survives in the archives which records that in 1785 one of the Ugborough parish constables managed to detain a highwayman - for which action he was paid the princely sum of just over thirty-one shillings (£1.55p)!
Interestingly, concerns about the numbers of pauper 'foreigners' living in the parish were being expressed in the Ugborough vestry minutes long before the 1662 Act of Settlement came onto the statute books, and even before the Poor Law Act of 1601 introduced compulsory poor rates. The long passage expressing these concerns, written in 1587, deserves to be transcribed here in full. Not only for the fact that its very date makes it of particular interest, but also for the illustration which it provides of contemporary writing and spelling. It was witnessed by no less than 82 of the inhabitants of the parish, of whom only 22 were able to actually sign, the rest making their 'marks' against their names. The text reads as follows -
'Whear as dyvers parsons within the parrishe of Ugborowghe more affectinge their present Comodytye then Regardinge the Contynewall Charge that ys Lyke to Inseue therby have of Late Dayes taken into thear tenementes or dwellinge howses within this parrishe Dyvers and Sondrye persons with the Reteneue of thear wyves Children & servantes To the full number of fyftye and above who for the moste parte beinge pore unable & Insufficient have not as yeat geven any securitye for the dyscharge of themselves & thear Retenewe agenste the sayd parishe But under the Culler of thear stayinge as Under tenants Do furder pretende to Incrotche to them Selves the benefycte of ther Laste thrye yeares Dwellinge heare and So by that meane to Intytell them Selves to the sayd parishe as a daylye Charge for ever to Continue not onlye to the greate dysquiet and burden of all the welle affected inhabitance of this parishe but also to the Importible hurte of the native pore people of the Same wherby ther dayly mentenance and Relyffe ys Lyken to be utterlye dekayed, the gentilmen, yeomen, and alle other Inhabytance of this parishe, havinge ryplye considered heareof and now seinge and well persevinge the present myschife with the furder Inconvenience that herby ys Lyke to Insew, have in ye churtche of this parishe this daye and yeare fyrste above wrytten for quiet & Spedye Reformation amongste them Selves hearin to be hade, assembled togeather, who generalye for them Selves & particulerly for everye one of them (to the Ende that no parishioner hearafter, throghe Ignorance shalbe excused for not knowinge or not perfurmynge Sutche order as heare after enseuethe) Dowe therfore of ther one motion, and by one free Consente amonste them all Establyshe make and seat downe in that behalfe Such fynall Order to Contyneue for ever permanent amonste them Selves as heare after followeth...for the better mentenance of our own natyve pore people yt ys ordered that everye parishioner within this parishe now having or keepinge anye insufficient under tenant or other person Lyklye to burden or Charge the parishe, not borne within this parish nor worthe in goodes and levinges to the vallewe of tene poundes, shall avoyde Remove & dysplace Everye Sutche Insufficient under tenante and person Lyklye to burden or charge this parishe on this syde the fyrste daye of aguste nexte Commynge unlesse Suffycient securytye by oblygation in the meanetyme by the fulle Consente & agreement thereunto firste be had of the Syde men and Collector of the pore of this parrishe or the moste parte of them be made and delyvered frome tyme to tyme to the town Churtche wardons of this parishe for the tyme being to the usse of the wholle parishe for the Cleare dyscharge or savinge harmles from tyme to tyme of the holle paryshe and inhabitances therin agenste Everye Sutche Insufficient under tenant & other unable person for or Consernynge his her or thear dwellinge or abydinge within this parryshe wheerby the parrishioners of this parrishe by not in anye wyse hurted bourdoned or Charged by meane or ockasion of any sutche Dwellinge or abydinge uppon payne that Everye parishioner nowe havinge or keppinge anye Sutche under tenant or other person or persons as aforesayd and Refusinge or omyttinge the dewe acomplyshment of this order, shalle not onlye for his defawte therin be taken and Reputed as an Enemye to the holle paryshe and good order of the same but as a Contempteus and obstenate person Iniuryous to his native poore neghbores & shalbe allso broughte before the nexte Justes of peace adioyninge by the Churtche wardons syde men and Collector for the poore of this parrishe ther to be detected of his mysdemayner in that behalfe peayinge that Sutche person or persons for his her or thear Contempte and obstynacye therin...Maye be bonde to his her or thear good behavior or otherwyse (withoute delaye) Severlye ordered by the dyscression of the Sayd Justes as the Casse shalle Requier untill Sutche tyme as the Sayd person or persons so offendinge hathe or have thorghlye performed as well the dyrection of the sayd Justes as this present order accordinge to the teneure trewe purposse & menynge thereof.
And by the Same Jenerall consent yt is Lykwys furder ordered that no inhabitant or parrishioner of this parrishe shall by anye waye or meanes from hensforthe have take or receve into his her or thear tenement howse or howses within this parrishe anye Insufficient undertenant borne owte of this parryshe, not worthe in goodes and Levinges tenne pondes, nor other person or persons Lyklye to burden or charge the Sayd parrishe withowte the privetye Consent and good Lykinge of alle the Churtch wardens, Syde men & Collector for the pore of this parryshe for the tyme beinge in wrytinge to be fyrste hade and the same the nexte Sondaye followinge to be by the mynester of this parrishe for the tyme beinge puplycklye Rede in the parrishe Churtche upon payne of sutche Severe ponyshment & reprotche as ys before mentioned in whome anye Defaute herin to be Contrarye shalle happen to be made.
In wytnes whearof gentilmen yemenes and inhabitances of this parrishe Consentinge & agreinge to this present order in maner and forme afforesayd have here unto Subscrybed thear names & singnes with ther owne proper handes Geven the daye and yeare fyrste before wryten'.
So it was that the parochial officers of Ugborough and the neighbouring parishes were keen to ensure that no unsettled strangers ever tarried long in their parishes, and they must have kept a vigilant watch out for new arrivals. At the same time they also tried to get rid of their own settled poor, by encouraging them to move on, the overseers doubtless hoping that the persons concerned would escape the notice of their contemporaries elsewhere, and therefore become the responsibility of another parish in the future.
An alternative method of getting rid of their settled poor - at least in the short term - was for overseers to issue people with settlement certificates. Instituted in 1697, they allowed persons to dwell in places where they were not settled, upon condition that if they ever became chargeable to the poor rates of their adopted parish then their parish of legal settlement would take them back and pay for their future upkeep. Most certificates were issued to permit persons to take on paid work, although a few which I have found allowed persons to take up apprenticeships in a neighbouring parish. Such certificates were often phrased slightly differently to the standard ones, for they were often issued for the term of the apprenticeship only, as was the case in that given to John Clarke of Holbeton in 1699, the principal clauses of which read as follows -
'Whereas Andrew Clarke of Holbeton hath by an agreement put his son John Clarke to dwell with John Farley of Ugborough weaver for the space of two years...that he may attaine the Art and Trade of Weaving We the Minister Churchwardens & Overseers...of Holbeton doe hereby promise that att the end of the said two years we will quietly suffer the said John Clarke to come and reside within our said Parish or att any time before if he shall come Chargeable to the said Parish of Ugborough...'
It appears upon initial considerations to be a curious circumstance that whilst settlement examinations and removal orders are to be found in relative abundance in the archive collections of many parishes - the Ugborough collection alone has many hundreds of them - settlement certificates are very much rarer. Certainly, rather more of them might be expected. Their rarity is at once explained by recourse to a working example of their use, which provides an interesting insight into the thinking behind the practices which were soon adopted with regard to this aspect of settlement and removal. For, no sooner had a piece of poor law legislation been enacted, than ingenious overseers and other parish officers devised ways of subverting its true intent!
The following settlement certificate was issued to William Creeper and his family on 20th June 1740, permitting them to live in nearby Denbury where, it must be supposed, William Creeper had managed to find work -
'Devonshire to witt. Whereas William Creeper of our parish of Ugborough in the County aforesaid Taylor (being legally settled in our said parish) is desirous for the better maintenance benefit & advantage of himselfe Grace his wife & William & Grace their Son & Daughter to take up their abode in the parish of Denbury in the said County. Wee therefore the Minister Churchwardens & Overseers of the poor & other Inhabitants of Ugborough aforesaid (whose hands & seals are hereunto set) do hereby agree & promise for ourselves Successors & other Inhabitants of our said parish to receive the said William Creeper Grace his wife & William & Grace their Children & every & either of them again into our said parish at any time or times hereafter & then to take care for them as Inhabitants & Parishioners of our siad parish Witness our hands & Seals (this paper being stamp'd with Three Six penny Stamps) the Twentieth day of June in the year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred & fforty'.
This was the more or less standard terminology used in settlement certificates of the period, which were signed by the representatives of the parish and also signed and sealed by two local justices - the latter requirement having been enacted in 1730 in order to counteract the large number of forged certificates which were by then in circulation throughout the country. The issuing of this certificate obviously ensured that the Denbury overseers would not immediately evict the Creeper family on the spurious charge that they 'might become chargeable'. Which was, of course, the purpose of such documents.
Interestingly, however, it was only issued after the family had already been removed from Denbury! That this is so is proven by the fact that the original Denbury removal order also survives. Dated 10th April 1740, it predates the settlement certificate by some two months. It is transcribed in full below, for it is a standard - and very long-winded! - removal order of the period, the text of which was broadly the same everywhere (by this time these documents were printed forms, with spaces left for inserting the handwritten details such as the parishes, personal names and dates etc) -
'Devon to wit. Between the Inhabitants of Denbury in the County aforesaid, and so forth, and the Inhabitants of Ugborough in the County aforesaid, and so forth, Be it remember'd That on the Tenth Day of April in the Thirteenth Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Second over Great Britain, and so forth, King Defender of the Faith, and so forth, the Church-wardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Denbury aforesd came and made their Complaint to Us Two of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the said County (One of the Quorum) That William Creper, Grace his wife, William their son and Grace their Daughter lately intruded into their Parish, and are likely to become Chargeable there; and whereas upon Examination and hearing of all Parties, it appears unto us that the said Allegation is true, and that the said William Creper, Grace his wife, William their son and Grace their Daughter were last legally settled in the Parish of Ugborough aforesd it is therefore this Day adjudged by us the said Justices, That the said William Creper, Grace his wife, William their son and Grace their daughter are likely to become Chargeable to the said Parish of Denbury and that the said Parish of Ugborough is the Place of their last legal Settlement, and to be removed to the said Parish of Ugborough as the Law in the Case made and provided directs and apppoints.
To the Church-wardens and Overseers of the poor of the Parish of Denbury aforesd as also to the Church-wardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Ugborough aforesd and to every of them, Whereas we whose Names are subscribed Two of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the said County (One of the Quorum) have this Day made an Order for the Removal of William Creper, Grace his wife, William their son and Grace their Daughter from the said Parish of Denbury to the said Parish of Ugborough as being Persons likely to become Chargeable to the said Parish of Denbury and to be removed to the Parish of Ugborough aforesaid, being the Place of their last legal Settlement: These are therefore in His Majesty's Name to will and require you to remove and convey the said William Creper, Grace his wife, William their son and Grace their Daughter from the Parish of Denbury aforesaid, to the Parish of Ugborough aforesaid, and them deliver to the Church-wardens and Overseers of the Poor there, who are also required to receive the said William Creper, Grace his wife, William their son and Grace their Daughter and provide for them as Persons legally settled in their said Parish. And hereof fail not at your Perils. Given under our Hands and Seals...[10th April 1740]...'
From the dating of these documents the real intent of the Ugborough overseers is perfectly clear. They had hoped that the presence of William Creeper and his family would be overlooked by their contemporaries in Denbury - or wherever else William Creeper happened to find work - and that they would in due course by some means or other gain a settlement elsewhere, so that Ugborough would then be absolved from its responsibilities towards them for ever. The Denbury overseers, on the other hand, were equally determined that the family would not gain a settlement in their parish, so upon their first arrival there immediately set the wheels in motion which led to their removal.
So it was that the Ugborough overseers afterwards - probably somewhat reluctantly - issued the settlement certificate. Which, of course, had an altogether different effect to their real intent. For it obliged Ugborough to take any members of the family back if they became chargeable to the poor rates of Denbury at any time in the future. This virtually had the effect of Ugborough being ultimately responsible for them in perpetuity. For, as has already been demonstrated, persons in the lower echelons of society rarely gained settlements elsewhere, purely because of their particular status. And also because overseers everywhere tried to ensure that strangers did not gain settlements within their jurisdiction.
Methods which the latter adopted by which to overcome various possibilities of gaining settlements extended to not charging non-settled strangers of these classes to the church rates or poor rates, not appointing them as parochial officers, and also ensuring that members of the local gentry, yeomen farmers and other landowners never employed their agrarian or domestic servants for more than 51 weeks. This overcame the employment rule, already touched upon, and the comments made respecting the miners apply equally to all sorts of people in the working classes, and those engaged in all kinds of waged employment could have worked for the same person or family for very many years, and yet never have gained a settlement in the parish where they worked. For any longer term contracts were always terminated after 51 weeks, and were not renewed until the suitable interval of another (unwaged) week had alapsed.
The foregoing example indicates why settlement certificates are such rarities - when considered against the very much larger numbers of settlement examinations and removal orders which survive. For they were only issued as a last resort. I have never, by the way, discovered a documented instance of a certificate having been overridden by the person named gaining a new settlement elsewhere. But that this could occur is a reasonable assumption. For in any questions over settlement it was always the latest act or thing which had been done by the person concerned which overrode all previous considerations.
The fairly long time interval between the dates of the removal order and the settlement certificate of William Creeper might lead researchers to not unreasonably suppose that the cogs of local administration turned very slowly in those days, and that the contemporary legal processes involved were long and dilatory affairs. So they were in many instances, especially when removal orders were challenged, or when illegitimacy was involved. But the speed at which even some quite involved cases were executed is quite amazing, especially when one considers the primitive modes of communication and transport of the time, and the fact that all messages had to be conveyed by foot runner or post rider.
For example, on 22nd June 1780 Mary Tippett appeared before the magistrates at Ashprington to be examined respecting her place of legal settlement, as is indicated by her examination statement of that date. The very next day she and her child had already been installed in the Ugborough workhouse, as per an entry dated 23rd June 1780 which appears in the workhouse committee minutes book of that parish.
In another instance, on 3rd February 1792 an apprehension order was issued to all of the constables in the district for the arrest of Nathaniel Trist, who had been named in a bastardy and settlement case. Two days later he was arrested in Plymouth, but was released again the very next day, 6th February 1792, upon production of a signed and dated bond issued in the sum of £10 by one of his friends, as surety against his subsequent appearance before the magistrates. It should perhaps be stated that is this case the person concerned was not trying to evade arrest - after a rather protracted legal case, he was in fact later found not guilty of the charges brought against him. But even so, that the issuing of a summons by the Modbury magistrates, the copying of it by hand to all of the parish constables in the district, the conveyance of a copy to one of the Plymouth constables by post rider, the seeking out and arrest of the person concerned, and the bond of surety issued by one of his friends, should only take four days in the late eighteenth century, is quite remarkable.
As many readers will doubtless be only too well aware, in the modern hi-tech computerised world of instant communication the cogs of local administration turn rather more slowly!
One thing which could not be easily achieved in those days, of course, was establishing what habitual vagrants had done in the past. Indeed, it was impossible for justices in distant places to even know whether a person brought before them was an habitual vagrant - or a 'rogue and vagabond' as they were described by the contemporary poor laws - unless the persons revealed as much during their settlement exminations. Which, of course, the most experienced 'travellers of the highways' did not. So it was with Thomasine Burch of Ugborough, who whenever (and wherever) she was arrested on charges of vagrancy was simply removed back to Ugborough under the settlement laws - although she was on one occasion also ordered to spend a short stay in a house of correction (prison).
The story of Thomasine Burch is a quite extraordinary one, which I have not yet fully unravelled. I first came across her during my studies of the Ugborough poor law records, and I am certain that she must have been born locally (she claimed in two settlement examinations that she was born in Scotland) - otherwise I cannot see how she could have gained a settlement in Ugborough - although I have not yet discovered a record of her baptism. All that can be said on this aspect of the research is that the surname appears in the registers of both neighbouring Harford and Cornwood, and I am fairly sure that she is connected with one of those families, although her precise ancestry remains elusive. As, too, does anything about her early life. What is certain is that by the end of the 1750s she had been consigned to a life of misery in the squalid confines of the Ugborough workhouse. Her earliest appearance in the records of that institution are in these entries in the workhouse committee minutes, amongst others named as recipients of various items of clothing etc -
|1758||July 22nd...Clothing for Thomazin Burch...|
|Sept 15th...Thomazin Burch a Change...|
|Oct 13th...Thomazin Burch a pair of Shoes...|
|Nov 10th...Thomazin Burch a Change...|
In later years Thomasine Burch, however, became determined to see something of the world before she was given her pauper's funeral by the Ugborough overseers. And so at various intervals she set out on the road to see where it might take her, whilst also being careful not to cover the same routes each time. This ensured that she would not risk an encounter with any local constables or justices with whom she had previously crossed paths. And, as indicated above, the officials in different places would have had no idea or intimation of any previous wanderings of habitual 'rogues and vagabonds', for there was no way that they could easily discover such facts, unless from the witness in the examination as to their place of legal settlement.
After a few years Thomasine Burch became an experienced witness at such proceedings, carefully avoiding the revelation of any facts about her past history which might have resulted in her long term imprisonment as an 'incorrigible rogue' - ie. an habitual vagrant. She even resorted to using various aliases, such as Tamar Bertch, Patience Burch, Elizabeth Burch and Mary Dilton. Remarkably, on some of her wanderings from Ugborough in the South Hams of Devon she got as far afield as London, Hungerford in Berkshire, Wellington in Somerset, and Lostwithiel in Cornwall! In all of which places her wandering ways were temporarily curtailed by her arrest and subsequent removal back to Ugborough. The settlement examination and removal order issued from the last known place which she visited are transcribed below for their interest -
'The Examination of Thomasin Burch Taken this 26th Day of April 1775 on Oath. This Examinant Apprehends She was Born in Scotland but what County Shire or town She Cannot tell She further says her father was A Soldier in General Handysaydes Regiment And that he is at this time An Invalid And living in the parrish of Obber [Ugborough] in the County of Devon In Which sd parrish She was bound by the officers of the sd parrish An Apprentice to One Hocking of the said parrish where she lived one Year And then Eloped Since which time She has Never Gaind Any Other settlement but has been a Straggler home to the time of her Commitment'.
'Cornwall, to wit. At the General Quarter-Sessions of the peace, of our Lord the King, held at Truro in and for the said County of Cornwall, the 26th Day of April 1775 Before John Buller Thos. Vyvyan the Younger Esquires and Others their Companions, Justices of our said Lord the King, assigned to keep the Peace, in and for the said County: And also to Hear and Determine Divers Felonies, Trespasses, and other Misdemeanors Committed in the said County. Whereas it appears unto this Court that Thomasin Burch of the Borough, Parish, or Precinct of Ubbear als Obber [Ugborough] in the County of Devon now in the Custody of Thos. Roberts Governor or Master of the House of Correction, at Bodmin, in and for the said County of Cornwall, now lately Committed to the said House of Correction, by a Warrant under the hand and Seal of Saml. Hext Esq Mayor of the Borough of Lostwithiell in Cornwall aforesd, one of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace of and for the said Borough, as Rogue and Vagabond and apprehended as such in the sd Boro of Lostwithiell in the said County of Cornwall. And Whereas it appears likewise unto this Court upon Examination of the said Thomasin Burch taken upon Oath, that her last legal Settlement was and is in the Borough, Parish, or Precinct of Ubbear als Obber in the said County of Devon aforesaid, It is Ordered by this Court, that the said Governor, or Master of the said House of Correction, at Bodmin, in the County of Cornwall, aforesaid, do convey the said Thomasin Burch to the Parish of Lifton in the County of Devon, that being the first such Parish in the next County, through which she ought to pass, and there to deliver her to the Constable of the said Parish of Lifton in the said County of Devon, with this Pass, and Duplicate of her Examination hereunto annexed, Commanding you the said Constable of the said Parish of Lifton to receive the said Thomasin Burch and give receipt for the same, and also Commanding and Requiring you the said Constable of the Parish of Lifton to convey the said Thomasin Burch on in like manner to the said Borough, Parish, or Precinct of Ubbear als Obber in the County of Devon aforesaid, there to be delivered to some Church-warden, Chapel-warden, or Overseer of the Poor, of the said Borough, Parish, or Precinct of Ubbear als Obber in the County of Devon aforesaid, to be provided for according to Law. And you the said Church-wardens, Chapel-wardens, or Overseers of the poor, are hereby required to receive the said Person, and provide for her as aforesaid'.
The particulars given in the foregoing examination differ in various details from earlier ones. In particular, the suggestion that she had been apprenticed to a Mr Hocking is not borne out by the Ugborough apprenticeship records, for her name does not appear in the very full records of parish apprenticeships recorded in the back of the workhouse committee minutes ledger, and no apprenticeship indenture in her name has been found.
Regarding the precise terms of this removal order, if the local justices had some intimation that the examinant might have been a regular offender, they could order parish constables to accompany the person during the removal process and, as in this case, hand the person over to constables in the nearest parish in the next county. The latter would have been responsible for conveying the person to another parish in the county, usually in the neighbouring hundred, and so on until the person was conducted by this method back to their place of legal settlement. Interestingly, two small dockets signed by two of the constables who had the previous year taken Thomasine Burch over parts of the way back from Hungerford survive in the archives, and quoting them further illustrates the method of conveying persons across more than one county boundary -
'Wilts to wit. To the Tythingman of Charnham Street in the said County. Convey the within named Vagrant to Bathford in the county of Somerset Given under my hand this 18th day of June 1774.
County of Somerset'.
'To the Tythingman of Bathford in the sd County. Convey the within named Vagrant to Burlescombe in the County of Devon (in order to her being conveyed on as the pass directs) and deliver her to a proper officer there together with this pass and Examination taking his Receipt for the same. Given under my Hand this 21st day of June 1774.
The pass referred to in the second docket was that which identified the place to which the person had to be ultimately conveyed. However, most usually the removed persons themselves were given the passes, so that they could make their own way back to their place of legal settlement, such passes or permits also allowing them to beg for alms in order to help them on their way. These types of documents also usually stipulated the number of days to be taken on the journey, in order to prevent the persons concerned from tarrying too long in any place or diverting from the most direct route.
Following Thomasine Burch's removal from Cornwall, the Ugborough workhouse committee minutes record various items of clothing being given to her from time to time, although it is not perfectly clear what happened to her, or where she might have gone, during the final years of her life. All that can be said is that one day in 1776 the members of the Ugborough workhouse committee made a grave error of judgment -
1776 Feb 9th...Thomasin Burch a pr of Shoes...
Given her previous behaviour it seems very likely that Thomasine Burch might have put these new shoes to good use! However, following her disappearance from the Ugborough records for a few years, it is also known that she spent her final days there. Given her wandering ways, she could so easily have been found dead at the roadside in some remote place, whereupon her burial entry somewhere would read something like 'a woman found dead on the highway whose name is unknown'. But it is perhaps fitting that Thomasine Burch was finally given her pauper's funeral in her place of legal settlement, the parish from which she so frequently sought to escape, so that at least her final resting place is known, and is part of the written documentary record, as per the relevant entry in the Ugborough burials register -
Decr 1st 1780 Thomasine Burch
Few who found themselves caught up in the poor law system managed to escape from its clutches, but another Ugborough inhabitant who did so, by rather more conventional methods, was Robert Getsius. His mother, Elizabeth Getsius, was herself an inmate of the Ugborough workhouse, and so her illegitimate son Robert Getsius, baptised in that parish on 30th November 1794, was consigned almost from birth to a life of misery within its squalid confines. And in his case, also without any motherly care or attention, for Elizabeth Getsius shortly afterwards abandoned her children, and left them in the care of the overseers and others.
But despite his ignominious start in life, Robert Getsius later made good - or, more correctly, he made the best of his life that he was able to. He was later apprenticed to John Widdicombe - his apprenticeship indenture survives in the parish archives - and later became a farm labourer. He married Grace Spry in Ugborough on 29th October 1820, and some of his own male children later worked in the mines in the Tavistock and Callington areas. And descendants of Robert Getsius - or Gatches, as he later spelt his name - now live in Australia, Canada, USA, and other places around the world. His headstone stands in the graveyard at Ugborough, recording that he died there on 2nd April 1858, aged 65.
What became of other illegitimate children born to paupers is often much more difficult to ascertain, for want of surviving records. Such is the case with the unknown illegitimate child born to Mary Windeatt of Walkhampton in 1705. As with a number of cases, it was this secondary event which prompted a consideration of the issue of settlement in the first place - the untimely death of Thomas Gregory, already discussed, being an example, for the issue of his and his family's settlement would not have arisen but for his early demise.
So it was with Mary Windeatt, of whom next to nothing is known until the anticipated birth of a child prompts her appearance in the surviving records, when it also appears that, although a Walkhampton resident, she was legally settled elsewhere. In this particular instance no bastardy, settlement or removal documents have survived in the archives, but the case has been selected for inclusion in order to illustrate the point that even in the absence of such records something, at least, might sometimes be discovered from contemporary sources. Which in this case are the overseers' accounts of the principal parish concerned.
Although in this instance the outline details provided by these entries only give researchers some faint clues, and precious little else, and the ultimate result of the case, and even the name of the infant, are wanting. Notwithstanding these facts, the example deserves to be briefly discussed, for these are the kinds of (incomplete) records which many will doubtless encounter from time to time during their quest for information about members of the family name which they are researching.
Mary Windeatt's first appearance in the 1705 overseers' records of Walkhampton concern the expenses of 'journeys' being conducted about her 'business' and, although it can be surmised that these concerned a bastardy case - the journeys being to the local courts where both pre-birth and after-birth bastardy examinations would have been held - it is only after about half a dozen or so entries in her name that this is confirmed absolutely, with the reference to relief payments being made -
2 weeks pay for Mary Windeatt child - 3s
2 weeks pay for Mary Windeatt child - 3s
During the bastardy examinations the issue of her settlement must have arisen, and from the following entries it appears that she was found to have been legally settled in Lamerton -
mary Williams for keeping mary windeatt 3 days & for her going att Lamerton - 2s
Josias ffoot for 2 journeys att Newton one att Exeter touching Mary Windeatt & one att Lamerton - 9s
Edward Williams for Expenses in carrying Mary Windeatt att Lamerton & at the churchouse with Lamerton officers - 4s 6d
Unfortunately, the contemporary Lamerton overseers' accounts do not survive, and so researchers do not have the benefit of being able to read anything about that end of the story. But at least it appears from the foregoing records that Mary Windeatt must have lived there after the removal order had been issued. Possibly not so! For a few weeks or months later the Lamerton overseers dumped her and the infant back in Walkhampton! And entries along the following lines once again make their appearance in the records of the latter parish -
mary windett for her child relief - 2s
This is where the records respecting her unfortunately end. For the overseers of Walkhampton who were appointed in succeeding years were rather sloppy with their record-keeping, and to whom further entries refer for relief paid for the maintenance of what was simply named by them as the 'windett child' cannot be ascertained. For in 1705 it is known that a Rose Windeatt and a Joan Windeatt had also been receiving relief for their children, and so the later records could refer to any one or more of three mother-and-child pairs.
These kinds of records illustrate the more oppressive and inhumane aspects of the poor laws of the day, recording the carting of the pregnant Mary Windeat - and later her and the infant - around the countryside to attend various examinations (of which there would have been at least four appearances before the justices in her case) and then the two journeys (at least) to and back from Lamerton. The following remarkable entry from the burial registers of Mary Tavy provides a further demonstration. It records the untimely death and subsequent burial of William Warden of Hertfordshire shortly after setting out on a long journey under a sentence of removal issued in nearby Whitchurch, an entry which also highlights a couple of points already made, about the conveyance by various constables in turn across the country, and the fact that time limits were also laid down for such long journeys -
'1691 12 Mar. One William Warden (as he sayd A Currier) brought to the house of Rd: Reddicliffe One of the Constables of this pish March 12 1691 on horse backe by three men from White Church with a Testimonial under the hands & Seales of Digory Polewheele minr Stephen Chubbe & Edm: Drake Constables & Ri: Doidge & Rich: Wickett Ovseers & pishioners of White Church aforesd Certifying that he was openly Whipt there for a Wandring Rogue the said 12 day of march & was Assigned to passe from pish to pish by the Officers the next straite way to Cheston in the County of Hartford in six & twenty dayes next ensuing the said date where he confessed he was borne, dyed on Horsebacke on Blacke-Down the said 12th day of March as Roger Harris, John Scoble of Ley, & Tho: Harmer were conveying him to the officers of the Outle-Downe Quarter of Lamerton & was buried the same day att night'.
Only after 1794 could a removal order be temporarily suspended until the person concerned was deemed fit to travel. From henceforth printed removal orders had two extra clauses printed on the rear, with blank spaces for the insertion of the personal details -
'Whereas it appears unto us the Justices within named, that [name] the pauper within ordered to be removed, is at present unable to travel by sickness or infirmity...the within Order of Removal is suspended...'
'...it is now made to appear to us the Justices within named that we are fully satisfied that the within Order of Removal may now be executed...'
These extra clauses were used when a removal order was issued against Robert & Martha Woodley of Moretonhampstead in 1797. A doctor's note attached to the removal order records his opinion that Martha Woodley, then pregnant, was at that time unfit to travel. So that, although the removal order against her husband and their children was put into immediate effect, that against herself was temporarily suspended. Another note records that the doctor deemed her fit to travel very soon afterwards, in fact only ten days after the birth of the infant, so the family were soon reunited. The doctor also charged a guinea for his attendance and a shilling for travelling expenses, which sums he claimed from the overseers.
Another case about which the only surviving documentary evidence comes from the overseers' accounts is that of John Smith of Brentor and his family. In this particular example it appears that it was the illness of his wife which prompted John Smith to seek poor relief - a disease which perhaps also incapacitated John Smith himself, so that he was unable to work - and it was this fact which alone prompted the question of his settlement to be raised. This occurred in 1737, and as the records respecting this case are much more informative than those about Mary Windeatt, the entries from the Brentor accounts are transcribed in extenso below, the contents of which are largely self-explanatory, and so will require little in the way of further commentary -
June the 2 for our going to haine with John Smith & a horse for him - 3s 6d
The same time for a warrant for the Officer of Buckland ffilly - 1s for our going to buckland ffilly with the warrant to the Constabel - 5s
for our going to Liffton to meet the offic of buck Land ffilly - 3s 6d for our going to haine againe by the Justices order to meet the master of John Smith Concerning the Indenture - 3s 6d
June the 26 paid to Elizabeth the wife of John Smith for Releife - 6s paid the 7 day of July to mr Edgcombe for drawing the Case and the Councel Jeffery oppining - 16s 6d
the 26 of July for one pecke of wheate for John Smith - 1s 7½d
more one peck of wheat for John Smith - 1s 7½d
for my going to haine the 8 day of July to Seek for a order - 1s 4d
July the 24 & the 28 paid to Elizabeth Smith for Reliefe - 6s
August the 11 and 22 paid to Elizabeth Smith for Reliefe - 7s 6d
September the 5 paid to Elizabeth Smith for Reliefe - 5s
September the 12 for going to bradston and for two warrants - 3s
for my Jorney and Expence to Carrey the warrant to ye Constibles - 7s
paid the 15 day of September for the order - 6s 8d
paid the same time for his Examminastion - 1s
paid the same time for my going to Sshons & expense be ye parrishnors consent - 2s 6d
paid to Elizabeth Smith the same time for releefe - 2s 6d
September the 17 to John Smith towards the funerall of his wife - 3s
paid for a Coffing for his wiffe - 8s
paid to Elizabeth grigory for putting her fourth & for wool & wood & affadit - 5s 6d
paid to ye Saxxon for making the Grave - 2s
paid to William Batten & Richard Glyne for thire Jorney & Expence and a horse for John Smith & his Chilld & thire Expence to Carry Them with the order to St Gilleses - 15s
The one aspect of John Smith's case which should be clarified is the reason for his removal. Although not stated in as many words, in this case the place of legal settlement appears to have been established by an apprenticeship - the fifth entry refers to the (former) master of John Smith and an (apprenticeship) indenture. One of the methods by which settlement could be gained in another parish was by serving as an apprentice. This part of the original act gave rise to the situation whereby persons would assign themselves as an apprentice merely to gain settlement and then relinquish their apprenticeship the very next day. So in 1684 it was enacted that apprentices only gained a settlement in their new parish after having served for a period of forty days.
This necessary revision was the case with so many of the original clauses of the act. And after 1662 updates came onto the statute books thick and fast - no less than fourteen principal shorter acts or revisions between this date and 1830. The £10 property clause, for instance, already briefly alluded to, needed to be revised in 1673, to prevent people gaining clandestine settlements by renting properties of a higher value for just a couple of weeks and then disappearing into the general population - probably also without actually having paid the rent on the high value property!
These constant revisions mean that, from the researchers' point of view, the whole issue of settlement becomes embroiled in a tangled web of legislation, from which it is often difficult to extract the true legal situation in complicated cases. Even the local lawyers of the day found the question of settlement vexing in certain cases, as is indicated by this request for counsel's opinion written in 1815, which also concerns an apprenticeship issue -
'Case. Richard Legg a Pauper now resident in Ugborough was boudn an Apprentice by Private Indenture to Robert Hannaford of Halwill, Mason, to serve him till he was 21 years old.
Frequently during the Time of his Apprenticeship when his Masters work was scarce Pauper went into other Parishes and worked for different people and paid his Master his wages until he had Employment for him again.
Eight weeks before the end of his Apprenticeship his Master not having any work for Pauper gave him leave to go away and work wherever he could get Employment and...one barnes of Ugborough a Mason...agreed to employ him...and...Pauper...went to Ugborough and worked for Barnes during the remaining 8 weeks of his Apprenticeship and slept during the whole Time at his Mother's in Ugborough...
Your opinion is therefore desired whether the Settlement of the Pauper is in Hallwill under his Indenture or in Ugborough by his working there with Barnes'.
Note, first of all, the bigoted attitude towards paupers which this document reveals - following the formality of recording his identity in the opening clause, the person concerned does not have a personal name, he is simply 'pauper'.
The reason for counsel's opinion having been sought was that the situation respecting apprentices was slightly confused by the fact that they could be reassigned from one master to another - just as common goods or property could be traded. So that, during that period of a poor person's young life (between the ages of 8 and 21) as an unwaged apprentice he or she could have served under different masters, and so their place of legal settlement could also have changed, depending where each new master lived.
In this case, however, the place of settlement of 'pauper' was clearly Halwill. For, although Richard Legg had served the final 56 days of his term of apprenticeship in Ugborough, no formal assignment had taken place between Hannaford and Barnes - who in fact stated in their witness examinations that they did not even know each other. So that Richard Legg was still legally apprenticed to the former, who lived in Halwill, and so was legally settled there.
Although there are many far more complicated cases which have been discovered, they will not bear relating here, for most settlement issues were reasonably straightforward. And most family historians will not need to grapple with the more complex issues of settlement and removal, for their concern will be to discover from the documentary evidence the place of settlement of the person or family concerned, as indicated by the removal order, so that they will know where to pursue their enquiries. A broad understanding of the basic principles involved will still be necessary, of course, so that they will be able to follow up those cases in which no removal order survives.
Those engaged in studying the poor laws will have a different approach. But the very fact of the survival of so many pairs of related settlement examinations and removal orders will aid their understanding and interpretation of the laws as they applied to particular situations. For, of course, the very existence of a removal order forearms such investigators with a knowledge of the end result of a case. Which in complex or less than straightforward situations then just leaves them with the task of unravelling the precise reason for it being issued, and how the place of settlement was decided upon, from the details revealed in the corresponding examination statement.
And researchers of all kinds can be reasonably assured that the terms stated in any removal order do indeed represent the ultimate result of the case concerned. For, although overseers everywhere squandered vast sums of money challenging removal orders to try and avoid paupers being conveyed back to their parishes - and even sometimes, as in the case of Mary Windeatt, resorted to taking people back to the opposing parish - extremely few of these orders were ever overturned apon appeal. The following judgement, issued on 10th July 1722, was the typical result of such futile and costly pursuits -
'Upon hearing the difference betweene the Overseers of the poor of Ermington and of Ugborough in this county concerning the settlement of John Woolacot and his wife and John Henry Robert and Richard their children poor persons And upon the appeal of the said officers of Ermington from an order lately made by Sir John Rogers Bart. Courtenay Crocker and James Bulteel Esqr. for removing the said six poor psons from the said pish of Ugborough & setling them in Ermington aforsd This Court upon full hearing of both parties and their Councell and witnesses doth ratify and confirme the said order'.
Of course, whilst it is removal orders - or in their absence the deduction of the researcher as to the outcome of the cases concerned - which indicate where further research should be sensibly conducted, it is the settlement examinations which often provide the most valuable and interesting details from the researchers' point of view. These documents can, quite literally, be regarded as the 'voices of the poor', what the latter had to say for themselves in their own words - although the documents themselves were of course written by the court clerks. Their value for researchers cannot be understated, for many of them provide detailed accounts of the life and times of people whose very status means that they have left very little else in documented history about themselves.
So to bring this article to a close just a few examples are quoted without further commentary, in order to illustrate the kinds of things which some of them can reveal, and to entice and encourage researchers everywhere to seek them out. It should be emphasised, however, that not all settlement examinations reveal as much information as the following examples, for some deponents had very little to say for themselves.
5th March 1789. Settlement Examination of Richard Luscombe of Ugborough -
'The Examination of Richard Luscombe Concerning the place of his last legal Settlement...born...in the parish of South Brent...when in the 14th year of his age bound himself Apprentice till his age of 21 years to the Revd Mr Walter Taylor & served the whole of his said Apprenticeship with him...in South Brent. That the Paper by which he was bound was, as he believes, a proper Indenture, there being a Stamp and Seal on it, & it was made by John Trist, a Schoolmaster. That he never was hired a Servant or otherwise than by the week, nor ever occupied Lands or tenements to the value of £10 a year nor executed any Public office or paid any Rates or taxes. That John Gullett, late of the parish of Ugborough...Thatcher died in or about 1766, intestate being at the time of his Death siezed in fee simple (as the Deponent believes) of a House & garden in...Ugborough & on his Decease, Ann, his widow conceiving herself entitled to the said House and Garden for her life, entered therein & enjoyed the same till the year 1768 when this Deponent married her & they enjoyed the said premises without interruption about 17 years till the Time of her Death when John Gullett her son took Possession thereof & still recieves the Rents & profits of the same as this Deponent believes...'
6th Aug 1802. Settlement Examination of Andrew Silley of Sheepstor -
'...Andrew Silley now residing in Sheepstor...saith That he was born in... Stoke Damerell...in...1756 That at the age of seven or Eight years was Bound an Apprentice by his Uncle (Mark Spear) to William Brown...of Stoke Damerell...a Baker that his Uncle gave with him the sum of Ten Pounds to the said William Brown to Teach him (the said Andrew Silley) the art of Baking Bread...lived with...William Brown as his Apprentice for about a Year and Half, That then his said Master was taken Ill, and he the said Andrew Silley was Assigned over...(with the consent and approbation of him the said Andrew Silley) to John Foot...of Sampford Spiney...for the Remainder of the said Term...Sum of Ten Pounds was given...with the said Andrew Silley to the said John Foot...lived with the said John Foot as an Apprentice untill...Age of Twenty four Years. That after...he Hired himself as Covenant Servant for One Whole Year with Joseph Tolcher...of Sampford Spiney...at the Wages of Eight Pounds a Year, that he lived with the said Joseph Tolcher the Whole Year, and Receieved his Wages...lived with the said Joseph Tolcher the succeeding year and Received his wages...then he hired himself as Covenant Servant with Richard Worth of Whitchurch...lived with the said Richard Worth for Two Whole Years and Received his Wages...at...Six guineas a year That he then went into...Tavistock...and Hired himself a Covenant Servant with Walter Cole...for one whole year...wages of Seven Pounds...That then he Hired himself by the Week with Elizabeth Knighton...of Walkhampton...wages of Four Shillings and Sixpence a week, and lived with the said Elizabeth Knighton One Whole year...then Hired himself a Covenant Servant with James Creber...of Walkhampton...one Whole year ...wages...six guineas a year...then...a Covenant Servant with Edward Worth...of Walkhampton...one whole year...Six pounds and ten Shillings a year...lived with him...the Whole Year...Receieved his Wages...And lived with the said Edward Worth Two succeeding years...Received his Wages...then...a Covenant Servant with James Creber...of Walkhampton...six Pounds Ten shillings a year...lived with the said James Creber...the Whole Year...and... Two succeding years...Received his Wages...then...a Covenant Servant with Richard Worth...of Walkhampton...Receieved his Wages...and further says...That he is a single man and never was Married...'
4th March 1807. Settlement Examination of Mary Stentiford of Ugborough -
'...Mary Stentiford Sojourner in the Parish of Ugborough single woman... born...in...Ugborough...when she was about seventeen years old she went to service and hired herself to John Savery of...Ermington Yeoman for one year at the Wages of One Shilling a Week that she served out the year & received the Wages as she wanted it. And at the end of the year settled up the Account. And then hired herself to him for another year at the Wages of three Pounds - that she served out the year & received the Wages and then hired herself to him for another year at the same Wages and served out the year...then hired herself to Philip Edgcombe (who had taken the Estate the said Mr Savery had) for One Year at the Wages of Three pounds & served out the year & received the Wages & hired herself to him again for the Wages of three pounds & ten shillings...and continued to live with him four years at the same Wages - that then she parted from her Master & returned to Ugborough again & went out by the Day or Job for a few Months & then hired herself to One Mr Phillips of...Modbury Farmer for One Month at the Wages of fourteen pence a Week and lived under this hiring about a Quarter of a Year & then hired herself to Capt Crispins widow for One year at the Wages of three pounds & three shillings that she served out the year & received the Wages and then returned to Ugborough again & lived there about a Quarter of a year & went out to work as before & then hired herself to Mr Widdecombe of that Parish for a year but to come a Month upon Trial at the Wages of three Guineas...received the Wages and continued a year longer under the same hiring and then went to live as a visitor with her Brother in the Parish of Ermington her Parents being Dead about a Quarter of a year & then hired herself to a Person at St Budeaux for one Month at the Wages of five shillings & being taken ill was obliged to leave her Place & go to her Brothers again until she was able to work again that soon afterwards she went to live with Mr Hodge of Ugborough...but being again taken ill she staid but two Days with him & was then removed to the Poors House in Ugborough & remained there about a Quarter of a year lived with Mr Crocker in Ugborough about a Month & then went into Cornwood & lived there about five Weeks. That she never hired herself for a Year since that Time but the last place she lived was at Mr Jeans a Lieutenant in the Navy residing in the Parish of Holbeton with whom she hired herself by the Month at six shillings a Month...thirteen Months and was paid her Wages every Month as it became due...she looked upon herself to be at Liberty to leave him at the end of any Month and that she said Mr Jeans might turn her off at the end of any Month'.
11th March 1809. Settlement Examination of Susannah Melhuish of Exeter -
'Susannah Melhuish of the City of Exeter Widow on her oath saith That about 48 Years ago she was married to her late Husband Joseph Melhuish a Papermaker at the Parish of Bradninch in the County of Devon where he then lived and said he was born - That shortly afterward she & her Husband removed to the parish of Huxham in the said County & afterwards returned to Bradninch aforesaid & from thence, they went to the parish of Shaugh in the said County, and from thence they removed to the parish of Buckfastleigh in the same County where they lived 6 or 7 Years & her Husband died there about 30 Years ago - That her Husband worked by task work for papermakers in all the above mentioned parishes (except Buckfastleigh) & did not rent more than between £2 and £3 a Year but when he went to Buckfastleigh he took a set of Mills & carried on business for himself for several Years & about a Year before his Death he gave up the Mills in consequence of becoming a Cripple & she afterwards maintained him by her own work - That she does not know with certainty of whom her Husband rented the Mills but believes it was of one Squire Rowe who was in the Fleet prison nor what rent he paid for the same but she believes it was £9 10s a year nor to whom he paid it, but she believes the Landlord used to send his steward to receive the rent - That she believed her Husband paid parish Rates for the Mills and for that reason she believes his settlement was at Buckfastleigh - That she does not know whether he was rated in his own name or not - That about Two years ago she requested her younger son Joseph to apply to the parish of Buckfastleigh for Relief for her she being a cripple and that he did on a Sunday (as her son hath informed her) go to the parish Church after Prayers and applied for Relief & the Parishioners after some consultation & enquiring about the state of his Mother's health gave him a half Guinea which he sent to her at Easter - That about a twelve Month ago she wrote a letter to the Clerk of the parish of Buckfastleigh called Webber for relief & soon after he called upon her at Exeter and gave her half a Guinea but she does not recollect what he said to her, but she understood it to be parochial relief - That she was resident in the City of Exeter when she applied for & recd relief at the respective times above mentd - That neither she or her Husband ever before applied to any parish for relief - That she heard her Husband say he was first bound an Appce to Mr Thos. Bryant a Papermaker at Uffculm but his master became Bankrupt before his time expired & he served the remainder of his Apprenticeship with Mr Abraham Bagnoll a Papermaker at Upex - That he afterwards went to Shaugh and bound himself an Apprentice to Mr Chard a papermaker there & after that he lived as a yearly servant with Mr Godfrey a Papermaker at Newton St Cyres near Exeter - That her Husband was never bound out an apprentice by any parish - That her eldest son Wm. Melhuish lately deceased was born at the said parish of Huxham & lived with his Father until he (the Father) quitted the Mills at Buckfastleigh, at which time her son was about 14 Years of Age - That from that time she understood & believes he went to live at Plymouth & worked for Mr Yearby a papermaker there sometime after he went to Eggbuckland & work'd for W Stiddover several years He then went to Countess Wear near Exeter and work'd for a Mr Evans about a Twelvemonth, from thence he went to Huxham to live & afterwards went up the Country to live & sometime after he went to Abbotskerswell & worked for Mr Surn several Years & lastly he went to Ermington & work'd for Mr Dunsterville at his Mills in Harford, & was married at Ermington as she has heard and believes - That she does not know whether her son worked by the Year or by task work at the several places above mentioned'.
9th June 1817. Settlement Examination of William Glanvill of Plymstock -
'Devon to wit. The Examination of William Glanvill now residing in the Parish of Plymstock in the said County taken on oath before me John Harris Esquire on of his Majesty's Justices of the peace in and for the said County this 9th day of June 1817, touching the place of his last legal settlement, Who said that he was born in the Parish of Meavy in the said County, where his Father was legally settled, when seven years old his Father died, and this deponent was put (by his Mother) with his Grandfather, who then rented an Estate in the Parish of Bickley, with whom he remained until he was nineteen years of age, when his Grandfather died, he then lived as a yearly servant with John Berryball of the Parish of Whitchurch in the County aforesaid for one year, then lived as a yearly servant with one John King of the Parish of Sampford Spiney for one year and afterwards lived as a yearly Servant to John Willcocks of the Parish of Buckland Monachorum for one year & three quarters, he then made a hiring with one Samuel Pearse of the Parish of Ermington in the said County for a year and remained with him ten months when he and his master parted by consent, he afterwards lived as a yearly Servant to Edward Damerell in the Parish of Shaugh for about four years. That he then hired himself to Thomas Lakeman of the said Parish of Ermington for a year, he lived with him the whole of that year and seven or eight weeks afterwards, when he was married to his present wife by whom he has had six children, he remained in that Parish afterwards for about six months, he then went to Plymouth and rented a house for ten months at the rent of £2 10s a year, then lived in a small house at Meavy rent free, for one year, he then rented a house in the Parish of Shaugh for one year at the rent of 30/- and afterwards lived in a house belonging to Thomas Lilliycrap Junr in the same Parish rent free for twelve years, then lived one year in a house belonging to Edward Damerell in the same Parish rent free, saith that the value of each of these premises which he occupied in the Parish of Shaugh was not more than 40/- a year, he then came at Pomphlett Farm in the Parish of Plymstock & there rented a house and Garden of the said Edward Damerell at the rent of Four Pounds a year, he continued it two years at that rent and then made a further agreement for the same premises at the rent of Five Pounds a year, and has continued it at that rent up to Lady day 1817, saith that he hath also rented a field of Eleazer Start in the same Parish from Michaelmas 1814 to Lady day 1817 at the Rent of Four Guineas a year, he hath since remained in the same Parish but done no other act to gain a settlement than above. Taken and sworn the day and year above, before me, John Harris'.
2nd June 1832. Deposition by Margaret Saunder regarding the settlement of Charlotte Langmead of Ashburton -
'The Deposition of Margaret Saunder...now residing at Newhouse in Ugborough...concerning the last legal Settlement of Charlotte Langmead, singlewoman, her daughter...born in Sampford Courtenay...now about 30 years old...my husband was a labourer and settled in that Parish; my daughter resided with me until she was 8 years of age when William Yeo my brother in law took her to live with him at Buckfastleigh he was then a labourer. My daughter lived with him about 4 years when the Overseers of Sampford Courtenay bound her Apprentice to him he was then a Hind to Mr Browse of Farleycombe in the Parish of Bickington. About year after this Yeo removed to Westabrook in the Parish of Ashburton and became Hind to Mr Edwards of the London Inn, Ashburton. Charlotte resided at Westabrook 4 years with her uncle when he removed to Ashburton...kept a shop and went to work with his Horse and Cart my daughter went to Ashburton with him but got employment soon afterwards in the Factory at Bickington and worked there 4 years the last 2 years she resided at Travellers Rest in Ashburton. When she was 20 years old she...made an agreement with Grace French a Mantica Maker to learn Neeedlework was working with French when her term of Apprenticeship expired. She slept at her uncle's in Ashburton and had her meat from him. Further saith when my daughter was bound to Yeo I took one part of the Indenture which was delivered to me by the Overseers of Sampford Courtenay to William Yeo he was then living down in Bickington I gave it to him in the presence of his wife and my daughter is now very ill and confined to her bed. She is in the last stage of Consumption and unable to travel'.
Selected Further Reading (General Guides)
BROWN, M. Notebook Guide to Pre-1834 Poor Law Acts & Statutes (&c), Dartmoor Presss (1998).
BROWN, M. Guide to Orders & Certificates &c in Parish Archives Vol 1: Settlement & Removal Documents, Dartmoor Press (1998).
BROWN, M. Transcripts of Acts & Statutes Vol 3: 1662 Act of Settlement, Dartmoor Press (2000).
HOLDSWORTH. The Handy Book of Parish Law, Wiltshire FHS (Reprint 1995).
JACOB, G. The Compleat Parish Officer, Wiltshire FHS (Reprint 1996).
TATE, W E. The Parish Chest, Phillimore & Co (1983).
Brian Randell, 1 Jul 2008