Sunday, 22 January 2017

News from the West Country .................. more records from Ancestry and a bit of a story from me

Now it did occur to me that someone might accuse me of being in the paid employment of Ancestry. 

St Clements Church Chorlton-cum-Hardy, circa 1860s-1880s
But then I also subscribe to Findmypast as well, and both have featured regularly on the blog,

So that just leaves me to announce that Ancestry have released or updated a shed load of new records from the West country.

They include in no particular order Somerset Goal Registers, 1807-1879, Dorset Bastardy Records 1725-1853, Gloucestershire Prison Records 1728 -1914 and marriage, baptism and burial records from Somerset, piles of stuff from Jersey and more England & Wales Christening records.

Bastardy Order, 1807
Of these e Bastardy Records for where I live are particularly interesting.

“Some of these have survived from Stretford, and include the Orders for Maintenance of Bastard Children, 1702-1811 and Bastardy Bonds from 1715-94 which identified the adult male who would support the child as well as other miscellaneous Orders Relating to Bastardy, for the period 1716-1756, and across the country many of these records have survived in greater quantities.

They reveal a straightforward system designed to identify the father and bring him to court.  This might begin with an examination of the mother by a magistrate or if she was already in labour by a midwife.  

These Bastardy Examinations were common in the early eighteenth century.    Having achieved the information a Bastardy Warrant was issued ordering a Constable to bring the father before the Magistrate.  If the case was successfully made then a Bastardy Order was issued which identified the man and stipulated the amount he was to pay.

BastardyOrder 1807
The documents were pre-printed with spaces for the magistrates to write the names of the mother and father and the amount that had to be paid.  Some of the Stretford ones for the years 1702-1811 reveal the estimated costs which the father was expected to pay.  

Often the sum was decided on a yearly basis which would then be paid quarterly.  This amount varied and may have been based on circumstances.  

The figure of 26 shillings [£1.30p] for the year payable until the child was fourteen appears in some of the Stretford documents but others set an initial payment to cover the birth ranging from £2 down to 10s. [50p] and specify that further payments should be made weekly.  

These also varied from 30d [7p] to 7d [3p].   In some cases the mother was expected to contribute and this could be 18d [7p].

Attempting to make sense of these awards is fraught, but some idea of their monetary worth can be gauged by making a comparison with wage rates and some examples of the cost of living.  Just twenty years later in 1830 Mary Bailey and Higginbotham the farmer  agreed an annual salary of £7.10s [£7.50] from which she bought  in January a pair of stays which cost 10s.6d, [52p], in May a new cap worth  1s.8d [7p] and in July repaired her shoes for 2s.8d [14p].  The cost of renting on the Row for a farm labourer varied from 10d [8p] to 5s [25p] a week.  

Looking out from Higginbotham's farm circa 1880s
Finally the day rate for women workers in the south west was between 7-10d [3p].

Against this backdrop of wages, and spending the magistrates determined that the cost of maintaining an illegitimate child was 7d [3p] a day, and this was slightly more generous than the 26 shillings [£1.30p].

But the system was flawed and there were many in the early nineteenth century who said so.    The moralists argued that payments to a single mother only encouraged illegitimacy and they may even be evidence to suggest they were partly right.  

Both here in the township and in the Parish of Ironville in Derbyshire and no doubt many other areas,  some woman gave birth to a number of children out of wedlock."

From the The Story of Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Andrew Simpson, 2012

Location; Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Stretford and the West Country

Pictures; Bastardy Order, Hannah Hodkinson, and John Barrow St Matthews Church, Stretford, 1807 & St Clements Church Chorlton-cum-Hardy circa 1860s-1880s and looking out from Higginbotham's farm, circa 1880s from the collection of Tony Walker

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