And The Surrounding District

Castlemorton was a small parish of 879 people in 1831, with 45 paupers receiving parish relief. It still had common land, which may have influenced relief figures, making it atypical in contrast to other locally enclosed areas. The ability to keep livestock on common land was, for example, estimated to be worth 5-6 shilling s a week, potentially enough to keep families off poor relief. In 1835, the parish had become part of the Upton Union under the New Poor Law. Thereafter records of outdoor relief gradually cease as paupers were sent to the new workhouse erected during 1836 instead of receiving relief from the parish.

Quarterly lists of recipients have survived from 1836, which detail names, ages and status of those who received both weekly dole and payments in kind. The paupers that were listed in the overseers accounts of 1836 were either ‘past work’, disabled, injured in some way, illegitimate children or widowed. They had received clothing from the parish over several years and most also received the weekly dole, with clothing a supplement to this payment. These claimants accounted for the bulk of the parish’s clothing purchases, which varied between a quarter and third of the total budget. For example, in 1825, sixteen application for clothing were made to the vestry. Eleven were requests for children either as part of a family or children being looked after by another party, two of which were refused. Two other entries related to Richard Symonds, described as of ‘week intellect’ in 1836 and seeming needing much care, including lodging, washing and mending. The account show a similar pattern of clothing distribution in other years.

In Castlemorton it seems that relief in form of clothing was only granted to those who could not otherwise earn money, either through disability or old age, or children, who often seem to have pushed family budgets to breaking point. Historians who have studied economic life cycles note that hardship was worst for individual adults when their dependent children were young, and when they reached old age. The usage of parish clothing provision n Castlemorton reflected this pattern. It may have been local practice simply to grant clothing to those who were unable to work. This system may have influenced the way in which claims were then put to the overseers. For example, Applications may only have been made for particular family members. Women used the Poor Law as only one strand of a make-shift economy, alongside waged work. If women were able to find work, they were likely to be deemed ‘respectable’ by the overseers. Thus they could obtain casual relief for their children, the attempt at self sufficiency making them ‘morally deserving’.

Overseers purchased most of the clothing and fabric from shops in Upton upon Severn, the nearest market town, four or five miles away. The draper’s shops used to include Charles and Henry Nash, Henry Cowley and William Barnard. Local women, who perhaps would otherwise have had to rely on relief, were paid to make up shirts, shirts and smocks. The Old Poor Law often created female labour where they had previously been one. The employment of women in this way also became more imp-0ortant with the decline of women in the agricultural labour force. Elizabeth Beale, for example, was paid 5s 9 ½ d for making and mending’ clothes in February 1825. Later in October the same year, she applied to the overseers for clothing for ‘Nuttings child’ who was seemingly in her care. Beale continued to receive irregular payments for making up smocks and shirts. This cheap out-work, organised and subsidised by poor law officials, was found in many other parishes across England, creating employment whilst providing a cheap service for the parish. Other men’s clothes which were more complicated to make, such as breeches or jackets, were supplied by local tailors, although presumably not made to measure.

The Clothing Trade in Provincial England 1800-1850

By Alison Toplis