Richard Hutton's Complaints Book the Notebook of the Steward of the Quaker Workhouse At Clerkenwell, 1711-1737. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1987.
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Whereas our friend Daniel Cooper having acquainted us of his intention, if the Lord permit, to remove himself & family to reside in your city and requesting a certificate of the conversations while amongst us:
Therefore these are to certify whom it may concern that after due enquiry made concerning them we do not find but they have been of sober and orderly conversation during their residence amongst us. And we sincerely desire the Lord's comfortable presence may accompany these our friends and that they may be preserved in the blessed truth to the end of . . . their days.
39. [p. 38] It is ordered that all the children come down (at meal times) together as soon as called and sit down at the table orderly; keeping silence and not any to go from the table on any account whatsoever. And if anything be wanting one to stand up and speak modestly to their master or mistress or any that may be there to have the care over them. And none to carry porringers, spoons or any thing else into the kitchen or pantry; only such as may be ordered so to do. That no boy or girl talk of any thing they hear or see in the workroom, school or family, either abroad or to the ancient friends or servants of the house.
Memorandum. That it is my mind and will that my house which is in Pennington Street and [which] in my last will, bearing equal date with this, I have given after the expiration of seven years, from the first quarter day that shall be next after my decease or [upon the] death of Henry Worster if that happen before the expiration of the seven years, unto John Field of London, haberdasher, for him to dispose of as he or his executors, administrators or assignees shall see meet, shall be disposed of by him or them or the rents or profits thereof for the remainder of the lease of ninety-nine years that shall be unexpired for and towards the relief of the poor at the workhouse of the people called Quakers near Clerkenwell, and that he or they shall assign over the said house to the overseers thereof as the Six Weeks Meeting of the said people in London shall direct for the benefit only of the said poor. In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand this twenty third day of the second month called April, 1708.
I have your letter before me, which I am very much troubled to see the case so much altered with you since . . . your father left you; for you told him you were well done by and did not want for anything, which makes me to strange that in so small a time you should be so hardly used. What is thy master worse for thy father's being kind to him? What was the reason John was so whipped and beat with a cane, or what had he done? Let me know. Why did not you let your uncle John know, that he might have taken care about you, for you shall not be hardly used if that I do but know it. Thy Father intends to write to your uncle John about you. Frank, I am not pleased . . . [that] thee should write so as you intend . . . to go out of the workhouse. Where would you go to seek your living, or what could you do? Thy talking so is a means to displease all thy friends. Thou told thy father that thou had a mind to learn all that thy master could learn thee in arithmetic; and as soon as thou is fit for business we intend to take thee home. Therefore mind and do not displease thy best friends. I pray God give you grace to fear him and then you will be good boys, so shall I have comfort in you. So my dear children let me hear from you how things go with you, for if your master be not kind to you, you shall be put to some place else. If that you had let thy Uncle John know, he would not a suffered you to have been abused no more, but I hope to hear better from you. I remain your very loving mother.
Having occasion to desire Elizabeth Rand to clean two pairs of the boys' breeches she had neglected two or three weeks, she answered she would not, neither would she carry them out of the room though desired. Saying, as she was paid for wherefore should she do more than they. I told her the meetings required everyone in this house to be helpful according to their ability, and she being an able woman, the committee for her encouragement had given her something for so doing. To which she slightingly answered, ah, four shillings for a whole year, and bid me do my worst and turn her out as soon as I would, for she would not stay if she begged her bread from door to door, but she would not go till the cold weather was gone. She talking, or rather scolding both loud and fast in a passionate way of expression, the girls being in the same room at the same time at breakfast, it was to them a bad example. And upon signifying to her the end of friends' charity to poor friends, here was answered, as they were thankful and willing to assist one another according to their ability and occasion required, she told me, she received no charity but worked hard for her maintenance and at many times saith she has not so much as she deserves considering her service in the house; and saith, she is a mother in the family notwithstanding her ill example to the children & unwillingness to assist the aged or helpless unless when and how she pleases. And having let a wrong mind so much prevail scarce anything of diet I give her (though at her request other ways than the bill of [fare] directs) pleaseth, but some reflection will be cast as if the poor had not sufficient. And in a very unhandsome manner said to me, holding up her hands in the public workroom at breakfast, my heart pities those poor creatures that are under thy care, for thou wilt pinch them.
And such treatment as this we meet with often from her, especially when we desire anything of her for the service of the house, which I have borne long with as some friends of her quarter know. But for the quiet of the family & the good of the children who hear the authority of the house frequently undervalued, which is a great hindrance to their education:
We desire the committee would please to use their authority discouraging such disorderly spirits, who are so resolutely bent, if their wasteful humours are not answered, to run down and make void all manner of government in the family, which we think is very hard on us who have given our bond to the [p. 42] committee. And also our reputation lies at stake for honest discharge of our trust under you. And there being several who upon slight occasions have given us the like treatment, which we have cause to think is the more by the example and strengthening each other.
There was disorderly persons in the house when we first came, yet they were so prudently dealt with as that I never heard (as I remember) such unhandsome expressions as from some now in this house, nor so slightly valued the committee and monthly meetings.
And sometimes she calls some of the children to evidence for her, and if they do not speak just as she would have them, she fiercely calls them wicked lying children and saith they are countenanced in it.
I, having some time since been charitably provided for at friends' workhouse with a comfortable maintenance, did not put such a value thereon as I am now sensible I ought to have done. But by my disorderly behaviour and ill example became an exercise to the government of the family, so that for the peace of the house the committee were obliged to discharge me the same. All which I willingly and openly acknowledge and am sorry for my said misbehaviours, desiring friends would favourably accept this, my acknowledgement and that it may be read in the said family as caution to them. And I humbly request the committee would please to admit me the house again and desire through the Lord's assistance to be of a more peaceable behaviour and better example for the time to come. Witness my hand this 12th day of July 1717.
45. [p. 43] To the adjourned meeting at the Bull and Mouth, 10 July 1717. Hearing that [it] is proposed . . . Elizabeth Rand . . . come to this house and understanding that she is not willing to accept thereof unless she can have relief no other way, and that I and my wife will come under some engagement that she should be better used than formerly; to which I have this to observe to the meeting, that when she was here she had privileges that none (that I know of) have had the like before. She being helpful in the family at her first coming and . . . seemed content . . . we were kind to her in many respects & had more money given her as encouragement than any poor friend in the house, but after some time she began to set a great value upon her service and what money was given her by the committee or otherways she looked upon far short of what she deserved. What our provision is, is generally known, with which she was not easy, though my wife did . . . endeavour to please her by not keeping her to the bill of fare as the rest of the poor friends were. And as to the business she did we can easily make it appear it was inconsiderable, so that she spent a great part of her time in walking abroad, and would frequently go out and come in in a resolute frame of mind contrary to the orders of the house, which introduced a liberty & disorder in the same which with her undue and frequent provocations and bad behaviour was a great disadvantage in the family, especially amongst the children (who ought not to hear and see they who have the care over them lessened in their authority) who we find by experience should have better examples. Those circumstances considered, we are careful lest she may prove a more troublesome woman than formerly if she be admitted again contrary to her inclinations and upon her own terms, and thereby render herself unworthy of so good a provision as this house, be an ill example to the family & an exercise to us. From your loving friend.
Note: the gain of the wool account and interest of the stock in the treasurer's hands hath exceeded the same for the year 1715 by upwards of £84, which is the occasion of the advance of yarn &c. And the moderate price of bread and few repairs the occasion of not running out the £84.
There has been given within this two years by sundry benefactors about £800. And it may be observed that in the first ten years to the year 1712 only seventeen boys were put out apprentice, but since 1712, to 1716, 26 children have been put out.
It's our opinion it would be great advantage to the youth of this family if the ancient friends were strictly charged by their respective monthly meetings from whence they are sent into the house, that they forbear all murmuring, contention and that the plain language be faithfully kept to by them, and that they may willingly be subject to the orders of the committee and not to carry reports out of the house that tend to lessening so good a provision in any branch of it. And as these great disadvantages are removed we hope to find it much easier to bring our children up in that innocence and good order which faithful friends desire they may be brought into, and preserved in. Which satisfaction we desire friends may have, who have willingly and cheerfully gone through the great charge and labour in their tender care. For preserving the youth of their poor brethren and sisters, whose children as they grow up in a sense of the holy truth may prove serviceable in a succeeding generation. . . we do believe is all that is in the view of &c.
2. And that he be diligent in school time in order to let the children have time to do their work, play &c and attend the children out of school time or when at work, in case the man that looks after them be otherwise engaged that the children may be kept out of disorder and make good work.
When there were several helpful hands in the house and all were taken off from their constant employ in order the able amongst them might have a better opportunity to attend the aged, sick, weak &c, notwithstanding all this, still complaints were carried out of the house: the poor were oppressed, and the sick and aged wanted due tendance. Which proved to the disadvantage of the house by discouraging several poor honest friends who might have been helpful and also thankful for so good and comfortable a provision.
And about that time we had 22 boys 5 girls and the looking after the boys' linen, woollen clothes, washing their rooms, making the beds and combing their heads had been, . . . and then were, done by two of the ancient women who were then able and now by age and weakness are made incapable.
Now we have 50 children, viz: 32 boys and 17 girls [sic]. 18 Men and 10 Women who are generally aged and weak, two lame & one blind. Two of them have mostly kept their beds and none of late have been sent into the house, especially women, except such as are scarcely able to help themselves, and but one woman in the house at this time that can stir about well and in many respects she very unfit for a nurse.
The ancient friend recommended by minute from your monthly meeting dated [blank], to be taken into friends' workhouse was this day before us who appeared in a very weak condition and under several infirmities, as he saith, unable to help himself without assistance. And the able in this house not being sufficient to help and attend the aged and weak already here at such times when weakness or sickness happens, we therefore cannot admit him unless the meeting would please to send some able friend into the house with him for his attendance. Otherways he may want necessary assistance, and may prove hurtful to the reputation of the house.
These are to acquaint thee that I am safe arrived at my uncle's house where I was kindly received. My love to thee and thy wife, also to all the friends of the committee and to my master that taught me to write. My love to all the ancient friends and all the children of the workhouse which were my school fellows. And I should be very glad to hear of any of their welfare, as well as for my own. I thank thee and the committee for all I have received. My uncle is about placing me at Exeter to Arthur Purchas, a tucker. I am in all due respects thy friend,
We being under a sense of the great providence of God to us and of your kindness, whom he hath made instrumental in making so necessary a provision for us in our old age, where we are eased and disentangled from those cares & difficulties which several of our circumstances formerly laid us under; we are willing to make this acknowledgement in gratitude that you may be more encouraged to continue your favours . . . to such others as hereafter age and poverty may bring into such a necessitous condition, none knowing what disappointments may reduce them to.
We do verily believe that in no private lodgings we can be so cheap and so easily provided for with the same accommodation as we have in this hospital. Whilst in particular lodgings there are many things that we must do for ourselves, . . . here [they] may be done for us.
For in such lodgings we must have been penned up in less room and not so airy. And we find this house is very well situated, affording us good airy rooms, several of us having had our health much better since we came here than we had before.
Also if any friends remain dissatisfied with this house we desire they would come and see the manner and order [of] it and those objects of charity that are in it. We hoping their frequent visiting of us would dissipate their offences.
We conceive it would be for a more general information and satisfaction if the women friends would please to have a meeting here once a month, or some times when they think fit, whose oversight and advice may be of service to some in this house and family.
[p. 54] We are several of us aged men & women, some of us fourscore years old and upwards, and here are 28 boys and 12 girls employed in work, as well as taught to read and write and cast accounts, whom we hope to prove useful men and women in the succeeding age, answerable to the care and charge you are at for them.
Also here are two meetings a week, first days & fifth days in the mornings, which is a great privilege and benefit to our family and especially to the aged, and is of service to strangers that frequently come to our meetings, we being well visited by public friends.
4th When there were many ancient friends in the house who were able and helpful, then working and tending each other was thought an oppression, upon which the work was all laid aside in order to give better opportunity at that time to be serviceable to each other, though there were 34 aged people about 29 children to look after and mend for &c.
5th And now there are but 20 ancient friends who are mostly aged and weak, one blind and another lame who has kept his bed about six months together and come not down stairs in that time as we know of, and now we have 49 children, 17 of them girls, and takes up both time and care to keep them in order as combing, washing, mending linen &c.
6th It hath been the inclination of some friends in the house to work for themselves, but the orders of the committee and the design of the house being so contrary to their desire, and as they were made sensible of it, put a stop to any public practice thereof.
7th And may discourage others from coming into the house they imagining the allowance of the house not to be sufficient, hearing the poor already in the house are allowed to work to supply themselves with what they may suppose the house doth not allow.
8th And the committee having allowed what the quarterly meeting judges sufficient in diet and lodging and the monthly meetings find clothes, and several small helps in money given them by diverse hands, makes less occasion to cumber themselves and the house by laying tasks upon themselves to so little purpose.
Yet, every[one] in this case should take prudent care that an injury do not make them lose their temper, and draw them into an indecency and so betray them into a discovery either of a weak judgement or intemperate passions; that they do not help to destroy a reputation which the false accusations of their enemies could never hurt if they had not lent them their own assistance. When they betray perverseness and ill humour, a morose nature and a revengeful temper . . . they are sure to meet with scorn instead of respect, whereas if under the severest provocations a man can preserve that kindness and humanity which shall add a reputation to his other abilities, and use no other severity than what a just defence makes necessary, he has an opportunity to show the brightest character, that he is completely master of himself and of his own conduct, that he knows what he should be, and yet more knows how to be what he should. This must heighten a man's reputation with his friends and force an inward respect even from enemies themselves.
At the time the children were clothed they were 49 in number, and 31 of them were clothed at the charge of Thomas Coxe's legacy, they being maintained at the direct charge of the monthly meetings. The other 18 of them were, most of them, clothed by their parents and friends who generally were satisfied to be at the charge themselves. And upon examination we conclude that 8 of the said 18 children must have fallen to the same charge with [the] first 31 had not the parents of some and the relations of others taken the same upon themselves. So . . . the case of them runs almost parallel with this now depending.
Please to consider, if this case be made a precedent and admitted to after the method of clothing agreed to by the committee, as being supposed to differ but little from being directly at the charge of the monthly meeting, if there may not be room and there is occasion to suppose it's intended for others to apply who esteem themselves to have . . . [the same] right and expect the same privileges as much as others may do from them, and so the first being admitted to open a way for a second and lastly for all without distinction. And thereby the charity which might have been intended for the ease of the monthly meetings' charge will be bestowed for the advantage of particular persons of whom some seem to be in good ability.
We intend no profit to the house by not clothing all the children without distinction, but to save about £32 for the monthly meetings' use, of which about £10 16s. would have been laid out for the clothing of such children whose friends seem to be in good ability as is before observed.
This is the second time I have set to write to thee. Both my hands and eyes sometimes fail me that I cannot do as I would, yet, I thank the Lord, am content. I received thy lines sometimes since and was glad of it, but was sorry that thy wife continues indisposed. I had a letter from thy father a little before I had thine, did not hear but they were all pretty well. I am often suddenly ill. I take it to be the companion of old age. I have been six months at home, save in Chester two weeks. I am like to be at home the reversion of the winter - if I do live, which I sometimes question. As in times of suffering, I never feared them, nor do I fear death. Three things I have desired with submission, to wit: a short visitation, my understanding, and an easy passage. Now dear cousin I seem weary with this short scribble. Remember me to friends who would be too many to name, also to John Bills and his good wife, and I conclude in the same to thee and thine in which I am thy loving uncle.
John Conyers and John Gorden came to our meeting at the Peel this day and after the meeting followed the children home. Came not in but stayed near the tenements. And we being come home and the door shut, I went from home again and as I was passing by where they were standing, John Conyers called and asked me where I was going. I told him, about a little business. He said, I want to speak with thee but I suppose thou has not time. I told him, I had time to answer any reasonable question. Then said he, I want to know how Elizabeth Gorden behaves herself in the house. I considered a little, and desired to know of him if he was sent by order of the meeting to enquire. He said, no matter for that, I can tell the meeting if I please. I told him short, I would not tell him anything of her behaviour. So he seemed to go away very much displeased and threatening said, I will tell of thee then.
This is what passed at that bout, and as soon as I had acquainted my wife what had past, somebody knocked at the door. My wife went and opened the door and John Conyer and John Gorden were both there, and John Conyer said, where is thy husband. Did thou not see him but just now? He made no answer to that, but said, where is Elizabeth Gorden? I want to speak with her. My wife told him, she came from her home but yesterday and she came but now from the meeting, and further said, I know no business thou hast with her. Therefore don't intend thou shalt see her. Then he began to be more troublesome, and I coming out of the parlour desired him to go about his business, and told him, we would not be thus insulted. He thereupon called aloud and said, thou art in a passion, and now I see you are guilty. You'll not let me see the girl. But I will tell the meeting, and threatened much, saying, you tell John Constantine your stories but John Constantine may not always rule the meeting. I told him he was a saucy boy & bid him go about his business and asked him if John Gorden had given him a pocket full of apples for coming this errand. He said, we were but servants and maintained by friends. I told him, we were servants, but not his servant. He said, he was a member of the meeting and came on the meeting's business, and said aloud, you are impudent, several times over, standing in the house, and went out of the door calling aloud as he went along the alley, you are impudent and friends maintain you and I will give the meeting an account of you.
True wisdom crowns all the accomplishments of man, but tis a flower which grows not in nature's garden; and great is their number who might have attained true wisdom, had they not already thought themselves too wise.
Grace is a bud, which in the summer of eternity becomes a flower of glory. Grace is a stream, flowing from the fountain of divine love. Serious meditations are the conduits through which this celestial stream flows to the soul.
Holy affections are the cisterns wherein the soul is bathed with heavenly joys. Heavenly joys are the springs of life flowing from Christ the fountain of life, which alone can satisfy the appetite of a thirsty soul.
The soul, being a spiritual substance, requires spiritual food. Therefore, all elementary bodies being contrary to its nature fall short of giving it the least nourishment, for every animal receives nutriment from that which is coherent with its own nature.
As the soul cannot partake of such nourishment that is not homogenial to its spirituality, so neither can it be the receptacle of any pollution by any thing that is contrary to its essentiality, for the soul being a spirit, can receive neither good, nor evil, by anything that's inanimate or corporeal.
They who enjoy not the God of love cannot obtain the love of God, for our love of God is nothing but our reflection of God's love to us. So that, till God is pleased to love us, our love can never please him.
God being the first and the last in the great world, it's our duty to make him so in the little world (viz. man). Practise therefore to make Him thy last thoughts at night when thou sleepest and thy first in the morning when thou wakest. So shall thy fancy be sanctified in the night and thy understanding rectified in the day. Then shall thy rest be peaceful, thy labour prosperous, thy life pious & thy death glorious.
[p. 61] Love thy neighbour for God's sake, and God for thy sake, and [be] redeemed . . . for his mercy's sake. If thy love hath any other object, it is false love. If thy object have any other end, it is self-love.
Things temporal are sweeter in the expectation than in the fruition. Things eternal are sweeter in the fruition than in the expectation. Vain is that journey whose end affords less pleasure than the way to it.
Tis an evil knowledge to know that thou shouldst embrace, unless thou likewise embrace the good thou knows. The breath of divine knowledge is the bellows of divine love; and the flame of divine love is the perfection of knowledge.
If thou are not willing that thy time should pass too fast thou must beware of using too much pastime, for thy life of voluptuousness blazeth away like a taper in the wind. The blast of honour waste it, and the heat of pleasure melts it.
In all outward calamities, tis necessary . . . we should eye the hand that sent them, and the sin for which they were sent . . . If we thankfully receive the message, he that sent it will discharge the messenger, but whilst we delight in the pleasure of sin, we must of necessity taste the bitterness of misery.
If thou desire rest to thy soul, be just, fear not to suffer injury. Tis the unjust mind that is always in labour, for it . . . practises the evil it hath projected to avoid the evil it hath deserved.
If thou desires knowledge, examine the end of thy desire. Is it only to know, then tis curiosity; is it because thou mayst be known, then it is vanity; but because thou mayst edify, it is charity; if because thou mayst be edified, it is wisdom: for that knowledge turns to excrement that hath not some heat of divine wisdom to digest it.
If thou findst thy self ignorant, be not ashamed to learn, for he that is so fondly modest not to acknowledge his own defects of knowledge shall in time be foully impudent to justify his ignorance. [p. 62] And as ignorance is the greatest of all infirmities, if justified, the chiefest of all follies.
If any one hath wounded thee with injuries, meet him with patience. Hasty words rankle the wound, soft language dresses it, forgiving cures it, forgetfulness takes away the scar. Tis more noble by silence to avoid an injury, than by argument to overcome it, for much arguing doth oftentimes kindle the sparks of contention into a flame of revenge.
At whatsoever time thou dost remember thy sins without grief, so often thou repeatest thy sins for not grieving. He that will not mourn for the evil he hath done gives earnest for the evil he intends to do. Nothing can assuage that fire which sin hath made, but only that water which repentance hath drawn.
Let the ground of all thy religious actions be obedience, which is better than sacrifice. True religion consists rather of well doing than opinion. So the question is not whether this or that opinion be right, but whether the conversation be good, for such as we sow so shall we reap.
Be not unstable in thy resolutions, nor various in thy actions, nor inconsistent in thy affections, but use deliberation, lest thou repent the acting of what thy resolved and knit such a knot in thy affections which thou canst . . . have loosed. Consider therefore what thou dost resolve, that thou mayst without sorrow perform thy resolution.
Let not the profits, pleasures or honours of this world dispossess thee of the enjoyments of the other world. Consider that all momentary enjoyments pass away as soon as received, the other, once received, never passeth away.
Keep thy soul in action, lest her faculties rust for want of motion. To eat, sleep, or sport too long stops the natural course of . . . her natural actions. To dwell too long in the employments of the body is both the cause and sign of a dull spirit.
Consider what thou wert, what thou art, and what thou shall be. Also consider what's within thee, what's above thee, what's beneath thee, what's against thee, what was before thee, and what shall be after thee. This will bring to thyself humility, to thy neighbour charity, to the world contempt, and to thy God true obedience. By these considerations thou shalt be able to see through most things in the world.
[p. 63] Let not a good intention flatter thee in a bad action, for what is essentially evil no circumstance can make good; matters not with what mind thou dost that which being done is unlawful. If thy act be good thy intention crowns it. If bad, it deposes thy intention. In short, no evil action can be well done.
In thy discourse take heed what thou speakest, to whom thou speakest, how thou speakest, what thou speakest. Speak truly. When thou speakest, speak wisely. A fool's heart is in his tongue, but a wise man's tongue is in his heart.