(Part 2, Chapter 3, Section 1) ( Bk. Index )

[ Civil Parish ]

1. Poverty and Overseers


[ Refer also to the General Article – Wealth and Poverty in Angmering ]

Throughout history the prevailing ethic has been based on one thing - the freedom of personal property.  Property is good - more is better – while those without property serve those with it, and are thereby deserving of charity.

There are many people more versed than the present author in the general subject of English Local History. They will know that the Elizabethan Poor Laws created the office of Overseer of the Poor in 1572, with a Poor Rate levied from 1597, and then the great Act of 1601 establishing a system of relief, or provision of work, that continued for the next two centuries based on the parish.  Workhouses could also be set up, where employment was provided for inmates and others.  The establishment of Union workhouses, that is central houses for groups of parishes, was given a fillip by the Gilbert Act of 1782, housing waifs and impotent poor. Then came the draconian 1834 Act, which tried to prohibit relief outside the house to anyone capable of working, and made conditions in the house punitive.

Three Eras of Poor Relief

Poor relief in Angmering before the 20th century falls into three distinct periods:

1 - Two whole centuries to 1806, during which the parish looked after its own.
2 - Then from 1806 to 1869 as part of the Gilbert Union with a central workhouse at East Preston.
3 - And finally as part of the reformed Union that continued until 1930, with the Welfare State taking over.

The great feature of this is that East Preston Union resisted the 1834 Act and continued as a Gilbert Union until 1869, although by then all genuine substance to this had been lost.

17th Century

It is impossible to reconstruct medieval Angmering in any detail, and how the manor and later the parish treated its poor families can only be inferred from a knowledge of general local history.  Parish records belatedly come to light in the late 18th century, apart from what little may be gleaned from earlier Quarter Sessions records. And most of what has been obtained from the latter source consists of ‘removal orders’ deriving from the settlement law of 1662, permitting parish officers to send back to their native parish anyone who had become chargeable to the rates, or in need of assistance.

The earliest  case is from 1663 when James Fuller and wife were moved back to Angmering from Brighton, where they had been married a few years previously.  In many instances where people refused to go, orders were made committing them to the nearest House of Correction - in Arundel or elsewhere - a prison where they were worked and fed in due proportion.

In those days a spade was called a spade, and likewise any child born out of wedlock was a bastard.  

In 1733, “Sarah Hill, singlewoman of Angmering was delivered of a female bastard there and William Guile of same had carnal knowledge of her several times and is adjudged to be the putative father and to pay £5 towards her lying in and 2s.6d every Monday …”

Unless the father managed to abscond, it may be assumed these payments were exacted by the parish overseer.

There were also instances of poor people being assisted. John Manning had been a soldier “in the late wars” and in 1684 was awarded 30 shillings and £3 per annum.  Presumably this followed the Anglo-Dutch wars, but was not a sum adequate to live on.

On the other hand, the poverty of Christopher Tillier, rector for thirty years until his decease in 1710 when his estate was worth nearly £200, is questionable.  Why Peter Price, his servant, had to get a court settlement for seven weeks unpaid wages in 1702 is obscure. He was awarded the amount owed, 7 shillings a week.  That widow Tillier needed relief after 1710 is more understandable, being awarded ten pounds in 1713 and 1714.

When a boy was apprenticed to a trade, a premium had to be paid to the master. Not the other way round, as an extraordinary dramatisation of Olliver Twist had it. This was approved by the magistrates, and the apprentice became a member of the master’s household. A market village like Angmering needed many tradesmen but many would have been poor, without secondary employment or ownership of a smallholding.  In 1711, the tailor John Buckwell was allowed to discharge his boy due to poverty and inability to keep him.  Quite a contrary case in 1718 was that of Edward Holland, who did an Olliver Twist, by running away from his master, John Barnard, cordwainer or shoemaker. Accused of stealing goods, it may be feared he was discharged into prison.

All of this took place on the fringes of village life. For the bulk of people, it was a story of three ages, with the enjoyment of fair prosperity whilst young and employed, followed by the burden of a family and subsistence, sinking into impotent old age. As village population increased, so did the poor rate increase as a supplement to wages kept at a market low.

Before Gilbert – the 18th century

Parish records do not survive prior to a loose leaf overseer's account for 1776 which seems to show a predilection for assisting females by direct aid, but not men and boys. The village had several shoemakers, using leather which rapidly wore out, and there is little or no mention of wooden clogs or pattens being made or used. If these accounts are typical, not even those on parish pay were allowed to go barefoot.  A parish bill of 48 shillings covers 33 repairs of shoes including some new shoes at around 3s, and totalling 48s 7d for the half year.  Those assisted were all female according to their names, and were probably in ten families presumably lacking wage earning husbands and fathers.

There is also a more substantial survival, providing detailed accounts of relief provided by the Overseer.  ‘Disbursements’ made by him for the half year from April to October 1779. [Par6/31/5]

The most striking feature of these accounts is that these also have more to say about women and children than the men.

Total disbursements for the six months came to £211. 17s   7 1/2d
Disborstments               £34.      18s       5d
Ditto to Weekly pay       £50.      5s         6d
Ditto to Bills                  £126.    13s       8 1/2d
This was noted as being entered in the Church  Book, which has not survived.

The first category of general ‘disborstments’ was a diverse parcel of expenditure. A substantial portion went to elderly women such as Dame Upperton, for spinning hemp and knitting stockings. With incidental provision for allowances to girls nursing sick parents, whole families in temporary unemployment, and ‘close’ or clothes for various children.  Meadison’ for John Drewett. And finally burial expenses as in the case of Old Rd Gracemarke, collecting him from Arundel 6d, his bier 2s, bread 1s, two women laying him forth 6s‘.  Other items included a midwife for 5s, and a sick woman pampered in the usual way with a little mutton and cakes

Weekly pay, was represented by regular payments or doles of between 1s and 6s each week to individuals including men, who can be deduced as either having been old and incapable of work, or to widows and families in temporary difficulty.  This ‘weekly pay’ totalling over £50 for the half year, involved doles to around sixteen individuals and families. Without information on the number in each family, their ages and circumstances, it is impossible to say how generous the assistance was.  But it is probable that two shillings was the rate for a single person, for basic living expenses. Abigail Godward or Gothard for instance received 2s each week but also about 8s for various spinning and knitting tasks. The rate of pay was not entirely in the hands of the vestry, with local magistrates having the final word.

The last category of ‘Bills’ is not listed in detail in this book, but accounts for the early 19th century are in similar form and these show what happened to the boys and some girls. They were placed out in service to local farmers and tradesmen, at least nominally, with their masters paid for their keep out of the rates – these rates paid by the very same farmers and tradesmen.  It can only be assumed that most of the children had lost their fathers, or they were sick and ‘on the dole’.

A list for weekly pay in October 1779, is representative:
at 1s John Chisman senior
1s 6d Dame Upperton, Widow Green, Eliz Tie
2s John Parham, Abb Gothard, Sarah Lock, John Buckwell, Eliz Shelley, Sarah Clark
3s Thos Harden, Robt Hills  
4s Susan Gracemarke, John Drewett   
6s Mrs Cunningham
6s 6d Thos Green for adopted children perhaps
An earlier list for April was similar but with several individuals at only 1s

With the Napoleonic Wars in the offing, price and rates inflation would soon cause concern. In 1776 the rate bill for Angmering was £475, which accords well with the poor accounts for 1779 at £212 for the half year.  By 1783-5 the average for the three years was £512. Increasing to £700 in1789-91 but by the turn of the century as much was being charged for some half years with totals in four figures. However, a rural wheat growing economy had its inbuilt protection, other than in crop failure years, with the price of a load of wheat rising from around £10 to around £30 by 1800, which meant farmers could afford to pay the inflated rates needed to offset inadequate wages,

If indeed Angmering had sixteen families in receipt or relief in 1779, this could not have been more than the same percentage of the population, or families in the village.  But by 1801 some thirty per cent of the population was on relief, which is as much as to say most labouring families had to receive supplements to their wages. In that census year the population was over 700, consisting of 112 families.

It is not immediately clear what was done with the able bodied men who were ‘unemployed’. A report on the workhouse sixty years later is far removed in time, but a system is mentioned that probably had its antecedent in the 18th century. 
“The Roundsman system had been used in Angmering, until the late Twenties” [1820s].
This involved farmers and others, who found it expedient to refuse employment to these men on normal wages, taking then on in a rota as parish labourers paid partly out of the rates. 

In the 19th century a continuous run of account books survive, with some gaps, and the first of these begins in 1801 at the height of the war years, and when expenditure was also at a height. [Par6/31/1]  A  summary for the half year to October 1801, has amounts for weekly pay and general disbursements, followed by ‘bills’ to various landowners for the children in their tender care.

In brief the ‘pay’ for each of the six months to the nearest higher pound amounted to:
May £132,  June £141,  July £158,   August £188,  August again £185,  Sept £149,  October one week £31.
This is followed by the ‘bills’ from landowners or tenants:
Jn Holmwoods Bill                                  £6         14s       6d
Jn Penfolds Bill                                      £8          7s        0d
Thos Woods Bill                                     £4         3s         6d
Wm Ollivers Do                                      £1         11s       6d
Thos Dukes Do                                     £25        17s       0d
Jas Sayers for Cole Rent                        £3          7s        9d
H Mills Bill                                             £4         10s       0d
Thos Amoores Do                                  £15       13s        0d
H Bakers Do                                          £1         2s         0d
Wm Amoores Do                                   £2        16s        6d
Thos Lauds Do                                      £4         10s       0d
Geo Frenchs Do                                   £18         0s         0d
Thos Ollivers Do                                   £13         6s         0d
Geo Markwicks Do                               £11        18s        0d
Thos Amoores Bill                                  £1         14s       0d
 Thos Ollivers Do                                    £3         17s       7d

  Total Expenditure (1801)                   £1110       11s        8d

Although not all the tenant farmers in Angmering at the time are in this list, most are. So far as can be determined from tax and rate returns, John Holmwood had Church House, Thomas Amoore was at Old Place, John Penfold at Avenals, the Olliver family of the Pound and Preston Place in East Preston, George Markwick at Pigeon House, and George French was of Barpham.

What exactly induced Angmering, or any other parish, to join the Union with its workhouse at East Preston, is unknown. Effectively the workhouse served as a central poorhouse for a few waifs and elderly people unable to work. The bulk of poor relief remained with each parish, the main difference being that now a Guardian supervised, and regular meeting of the Board at the workhouse under the supervising Visitor, meant that some exchange of ideas may have taken place. The Guardians were elected by the ratepayers, but only those assessed for £5 or more, which placed parish government in the hands of the great and good over the deserving poor.

In 1806 Angmering, together with Rustington and Poling, brought the Gilbert Union up to its final complement of nineteen parishes. 

RWS 3/10/2009 RWS