Poor and charities - Ogbourne St Andrew History Group

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The Eighteenth Century and Poverty
This encompassed a period of dramatic change which laid the foundations for the  Industrial Revolution with commerce & industry centred on major towns e.g. Birmingham.  It covered a phase of British overseas expansion with striking growth in worldwide interests, such that, by 1820 Britain governed 25% of the world's population.

This study covers, for convenience, 1689 - 1815.  The start in 1689 saw the "Glorious Revolution" which ensured "the liberty of the British", although as we shall see it depended very much on your position within society.  The finish in 1815 Waterloo saw the last battle with France in a series of wars which had started in 1689.  There was a sharp change of tempo in the mid 1700's when the British Empire started to take off, despite the Seven Year’s War, the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary War and the Napoleonic Wars.

At the time of the 1801 Census (probably underestimated), officials estimated that there had been an increase of 77% in the preceding 100 years. In each county women were in the majority.

After the Restoration, farms expanded in size with large scale tenant farmers flourishing.  This was due in part to inegalitarian property rights (and the effect of Enclosures).  Surplus funds from rents and agricultural profits financed the construction of towns, transport (turnpike & canal building) and ports, supporting industry and trading economy.  By the end of the 17th Century industrialisation and urbanisation of the workforce had proceeded further than anywhere else on the Continent (except the Netherlands) and provided the springboard for 18th Century expansion.

The introduction of fertilisation, nitrogen fixing crops, seed-drill, mixed husbandry, land saving crop rotations, improved drainage, all gave rise to increased crop yields resulting in greater output per worker.  This progressive agriculture allowed or forced the release of workers into the cities.  Prior to Seven Years War, (1755) surplus grain was exported to the Dutch and Portuguese.   Post War, Britain became small net importer of food.

These changes led to poor conditions for agricultural workers, together with rapidly rising food prices between 1750 and 1820.  In addition, taxes were levied on: salt, candles, beer, cider, soap, starch, leather.  These were offset ("calibrated") against lower taxes on necessities consumed by poor (needs more info).  Weather conditions did not help, with harsh winters & occasionally poor summers.  Periods of significant volcanic activity (1752 - 1840's) helped to cause disruption in the weather patterns and are reflected in the Overseer’s disbursements (see graph in appendices).

The Poor of the Parish
The conditions outlined above gave rise to greater suffering for poor people in this period, especially agricultural workers, but this was nothing new and over the centuries attempts had been made to alleviate their plight.  The various enactments are loosely termed the "Poor Laws" and were in existence from the 14 th Century to the inception  of the NHS in 1948, and some provisions were not extinguished until 1967.


Parochial Poor relief was extant in the 14 th & 15 th centuries, but with the Dissolution of the Monastries in 1536 and the increasing breakdown of the mediaeval way of life, traditional voluntary help gave way to a compulsory tax administered at local level.


There were two distinct periods:
  "Old Poor Law"  codified in 1601
                        rooted in Biblical inevitability ("For the   poor always ye have with you")
                        personal Christian duty to aid Poor.
                        centred on Parish
                        haphazard
                        voluntary


In 1834 a fundamental change in approach occurred, shifting the emphasis from a Christian duty to relieve the suffering of the indigenous Poor to a more puritanical view which held that they were responsible for their own plight and were capable of escaping themselves from their position in life.


"New Poor Law"  1834 amendment
                       poor held to be responsible for their   plight, could choose to change
                       regimented (introduction of Poor Law   Unions - Workhouses)
                       rigidly and harshly enforced
                       standard system based on Workhouse

Extreme hardship and brutality were engendered by this Act, which only allowed for relief within a workhouse.  The Times, 30 th April 1834 called this Act "a disgrace to the Statute Book".  The Act lead directly to the discontinuation of the Parish houses (although there is some evidence they continued as "Children’s Houses" or a Dame’s school until the 1850’s (see later).


Poor Law & Charities within Ogbourne St Andrew Parish

Details of two elements of the Parish system have been found: references to the Parish houses and the donation of "Poor’s Gorse" - 5 acres of land for the poor to gather wood and gorse.  The details of the first are sketchy, but "Poor’s Gorse" resulted in a modern day battle by the Parish to recover the value of the land.  In addition, details of the Methodist charity which ran the "Zion Chapel" in Ogbourne St Andrew have also been recorded.


1. Parish Houses

April 14th 1776.  "At a Vestery (sic) held this day it was agreed to purchase the House belonging to the late Henry Gale on the Account of the Parish to be always deemed a Parish House for the Accommodation of such Poor Peoples as shall not be able to pay House-Rent for themselves and for such only.  And that Thomas J?een shall purchase the said House in his name and charge the Sum of the Purchase shall amount to being 20£ to his present rate. (£1,938 at today’s prices).   Witness our hands being present at the said Vestery:  W. S(?) Liddiard; Wm. Pratton(?); Robert Jenings; Thomas ?ggren; Henry Sawyer; Robert Bichans(?); Giles Norris; Robert Large; John Pithmore(?).]

It is not clear where this particular house was situated, but by 1842 (according to the Tithe Apportionment) the Parish owned 3 houses and the Poors Gorse.  These three houses still exist, and are on the Main Road at Maizey (they are now called Southside, Kelmscott and Keeper’s Cottage).  The fourth cottage in this terrace (Bramley) is older, of different construction and in 1842 was owned by Anne Lanfear who received money from the Parish, but at a far higher rate than any of the widows or poor.  It is presumed that she was acting as a "manager" for the other three cottages, although they might at this time have been the "Childrens cottages", so she could have been running what was effectively a Dames School.  Further details are sketchy, but eventually the houses were sold:

11 / 12 / 1839  Paymasters agreed to exonerate all cottages from Poor Rates
25 / 01 / 1844  Approach to Poor Law Commission re sale of cottages owned by Parish
28 / 02 / 1851  Resolution to sell 3 tenements
22 / 12 / 1853  Meeting re sale proceeds: £20 to heat Church, residue to M.Boro Savings Bank.

2.   Poor’s Gorse
A plot of land was owned by the Parish for use by the Poor . Note that Poor’s Gorse was beyond Four Mile Clump, not far from Barbury Castle Farm. Not exactly convenient for anyone living in Maisey or St Andrew to access or cultivate.  The land was allotted to the poor in the reign of George III (1760 – 1820) by a Private Act  of Parliament dated 19th December 1780.  Five acres of land called Sheep Down were detailed for the raising of furze (gorse) or other fuel.

By 1905 , when a Paliamentary Inquiry into endowed charities was held, it was recorded:  "...the land was many years ago ploughed up, but was afterwards laid down as pasture."  The distance from the village (3 miles) "makes the land of practically no value for the purpose of a fuel allotment."  The Inquiry went on to report that the land had been let by the Parish Officers, although this was in contravention of the Commons Act of 1876.

Lady Meux (Barbury Castle Estate) was leasing the land in 1905, for £4 p.a. George Long (churchwarden) had agreed to take over the land for 10/- p.a., plus £1 p.a. for the shooting rights.  It seems that Mr  Long had leased the land in the past, since a vestry meeting on the 24th March 1893:  "Notice was received from Mr George Long of his intention to Vacate his holding of ground at Four Mile Clump known as the "Poor’s Gorse" at Michaelmas next and the above Notice was accepted by the meeting."

The Parish Officers tried to sell the land but the Charity Commissioners refused permission on 31st May 1919.  The land continued to be leased until well after the Second World War, but on the sale of the Margesson farm to Cadbury Schweppes in about 1978, the existence of the land as a separate entity was effectively lost.  Bill Turner took up the campaign to recover the land for the Parish in 1985, finally achieving success in 1992 when the land was sold for £2,500, which was credited to the Parish charity.  

3. The Ogbourne St. Andrew Particular Baptist Charity.

In 1860 a trust was set up to order the running of a Baptist chapel in Ogbourne St Andrew.  The building and land lay between and behind what is now Southview and Crowlynch.  The "Zion Chapel" as it was known had wrought iron gates leading onto the road and can be clearly seen in the postcard from the 1920 / 30’s (see appendices).  For 10/- (!) a "cottage ….and premises, commonly known by the name of " Popes," ….. and the ground, together with the joint use of the well in ..(Southview) then late in the occupation of Simon Sawyer" was transferred to the trust.


One of the cottages was intended for a schoolroom and the other for the residence of a caretaker.  The chapel itself was on the high ground behind.  It would seem from the wording of the trust that the chapel had been in existence for some time, and that this was an attempt to regularise the situation.

By 1903 there was no congregation left, and the surviving trustee wished to sell off the properties.  The property was offered for sale by auction in March 1904, but no bid was made.  The chapel premises were in a bad state of repair, and the two cottages, which were very small, had no gardens.

A Mr. W. Gale, of High Street, MarIborough, had for some years looked after the cottages and let them, for the best rents obtainable (6d. and 11d per week) which went in the upkeep of the cottages.  Gale was requested to look after the property by Mr. Edmund Pocock, who was the surviving trustee of the deed of 1860, and was still a trustee of the Charity

The trustees hoped to effect a sale at the price of 150 guineas, and Dicky Brown comments that his Grandfather bought the chapel and cottages for £208.  The cottage next to Southview was always very wet and Dicky had it pulled down in the 1950’s.


 
 
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