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.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying and sponsored by London Record Society. All rights reserved.
This day I was informed that the children under your care have not a sufficient allowance of food to fill their bellies . . . I am sorry that such a report should be raised among your people for I did think you always took the best of care amongst your poor. Children are hungry and growing and require more food, but hungry bellies and cold water betwixt meals do not agree, and raising them at five a clock in . . . the morning and making them work without their clothes is very hard for children to bear. If the allowance is too little there ought to be complaint made to the committee. I know none of the committee or else I would lay it before them. I have the care of a great many children myself and my comfort is I discharge a good conscience to them. I desire you to look into those things for fear there should come a sickness among them.
I received thine of the 19th instant, which brought us very unwelcome news concerning the trouble my son and daughter are involved in. The grief it hath occasioned amongst us is scarce to be expressed. My son concealed it from us when in the country so that it was the greater surprise. The sorrowful tidings which we had not long ago, filled us with . . . grief, but this exceeds it, her death (I mean my daughter Mary) being what we are liable to sooner or later. But, that my son should be so unkind to a sister that ever had too great respect for him as to ruin herself, is hard to be borne. I did, according to thy desire (though unwilling, being sure of a flat denial), show thy letter to their uncles who are worth a great deal as is supposed, and no child, the younger no wife. I was with them and my wife also, which is their own sister, but all in vain, my son, they reflect upon for former miscarriages and blame him for this also (i.e.) for bringing his sister into trouble. She they seem to pity and that's all the assistance they will afford whatever the event be. I am sorry I can send thee no better answer. For my part I am not able to do anything in it. If I were I should readily do it. Tell my daughter Elizabeth we are all pretty well, only we are troubled to think of the calamity [that] may come on them. Give the remembrance of our kind love to yours, also with my kind love to self, I rest.
It may be observed that in the first ten years of this house's settlement the improvement of the stock and income from the monthly meetings were not sufficient to defray the expense of the house by £1200, which is £120 per year, and about 17 children were put out apprentices within that time, whereby the principal stock became lessened from year to year to the discouragement of benefactors. Which, with the many lessening reports spread abroad in reference to the orders, diet, work &c, has generally hindered its improvement. It may also be observed that as the stock was lessened £120 a year from year to year as aforesaid, so for this 5 or 6 last year past the stock is almost £2000 advanced and 42 put out in that time. Also the income on such a settlement as to amount unto about £100 a year more than the ordinary expense and legacies frequently happening, doth advance the stock yet more. And though there are not so many ancient friends as formerly to live on this plentiful provision, experience showing they are more content with a little managed after their own inclinations and in private & provided by themselves than greater plenty which may come more nearly under the observations of a family, yet the house is better filled with children to whom it is an extraordinary advantage. But, the number of children not increasing this 4 or 5 years last past is the occasion of this memorandum. For we find their sober education and habit of industry renders them more acceptable to masters than children who have not such advantage. So that often times there are more children sought after for apprentices than are in the house of bigness to put out. We suppose the reason why children are so slowly sent in is because so many false reports are carried about and received tending to the discouragement of poor friends who might willingly place their children here were they sensible how naturally children are contented to be doing what they see all their fellows employed about (as experience doth daily show). Such parents conclude the orders of the house are not indulgent enough and thereby prevent their children's education and themselves the advantage of having their [p. 66] children maintained at so low a price as 12d. per week. There has lately been many false stories spread abroad to the defaming of the house and those who have the care thereof and hurt of the children already here, to whom such reports have been privately brought. Which to prevent for the future we see no way at present . . . unless . . . a minute . . . from the committee be . . . directed to each monthly meeting requesting such reports may be discouraged so often as they are related. And also that at the taking children into the house the parents have both orders and bill of fare read to them and report thereof made to the committee before such child be admitted into the house and that no child be taken in who is not willing or cannot comply with both orders and bill of fare.
69. Note: the countenances of the children show they have no want of victuals and their work is no more than what they may finish . . . against dinner time (which several of them doth an hour or two sooner than dinner), having the afternoon for learning and play.
70. The director of the orphan house at Halle in Germany, without any stock (or knowledge of any), built an house and since much enlarged it, wherein are maintained [blank] persons; begun in the year 1696.
71. This house having been regulated by much industry . . . of the most noted amongst friends (as appears by the first minute book), having £1888 subscribed towards it, . . . after 17 years continuance hath 75 persons maintained in it (including steward & servant). May 1718.
About seven years since there were several helpful hands in the house who were taken from their work they were then employed in, that the able amongst them should have better opportunity to attend the aged, sick and weak. But notwithstanding this, still complaints were carried out of the house that the poor were oppressed, the aged and sick wanted due tendance. Which complaints were a disadvantage to the house in discouraging friends from coming in who might have been helpful and likewise thankful for so comfortable a provision . . . About this time there was in the house about 22 [boys] & 4 girls and the looking after the children's linen and woollen clothes, washing their chambers, making their beds, combing the children's heads &c; had been and then were done by two of the ancient women who then were able and now by reason of age and weakness are grown incapable.
And now we have in the house about 28 [boys] and 17 girls, 11 men and 11 women. Two of them, a man and the other a woman, are lame and use crutches, and another woman friend is blind. The rest are mostly aged and weak, of whom several have kept their beds pretty much this last winter and three of the women friends who are usually sent into the house now are not of ability to be nurses as formerly they were. And our children are generally now small and several of them have been sickly and weak most part of last winter. One girl in particular was ill near six months, who had been sorely afflicted with convulsion fits to such a degree as has made her incapable of walking but by use of crutches; and she had a fire in her chamber constantly for several weeks and one to sit up or to be with her in her chamber all the time, the fits being often upon her and suddenly taken.
In the year 1714 the committee gave leave by minute to hire a nurse into the house as occasion required. But upon enquiry found a nurse could not be had under 4s. per week & victuals and that if 5 or 6 of the family should be unwell at the same time a nurse would scarcely be willing to tend the sick in several places in the house, especially [p. 68] when they sit up all night. And if we have not suitable assistants who may be helpful from one place to another in the house as occasion requires, the sick & aged cannot have that due tendance they ought to have. These things, with how little work nurses do in the house and some of them wasteful withal, being considered made us very unwilling to take a nurse in the house. But in winter season it has been very hard for my wife and the servants, especially the servant maid who spent most of her time in that service and tending the children . . .
She has lately left this place alleging the hardness of her service here had impaired her health. She was a very good servant and would willingly have stayed with us, but could not go through the business. She used to mend the children's woollen clothes, which are generally but very ordinary and if they were put out to mend would cost more than they are worth and might make the monthly meetings very uneasy. She makes their beds and cleans their rooms, takes in and gives out their woollen and linen clothes, combs their heads, and dresses their sore hands and feet in the winter season, having many of them sores, which business alone takes several hours every day as may reasonably . . . be supposed where there are so many small children and 17 or 18 of them are girls, who are more trouble than boys. Which with the weak and aged and when sickness, lameness happens in the family we find pretty much uneasiness, the sick and weak complaining for want of tendance on the one hand and the servants, not being able to do the business, complain on the other hand, so that we find a real necessity for another maid servant, which my wife can better make appear to any of the committee who will please to inspect into the business of each servant . . . [than] I can demonstrate in writing. And it being expected my wife should see the provision &c orderly managed and seasonably distributed with frugality towards the house and a sufficiency towards the poor, and also to see the aged and weak have no just cause to complain for assistance, these particulars cannot be answered with ease to the family's satisfaction, to the helpless, and we who have the direction of the affairs under you, without the assistance herein mentioned.
Then fill the copper with water and light a fire under it 2 or 3 hours before the casks are begun to be washed (remembering to have them brought out of the cellar into the brewhouse in season, that no time may be lost while the fire is burning). Wash the casks once with cold water, hardly blood warm and twice more with hot water.
Let the liquor, when whole, be put into the mash tun & stand there till the steam of it be mostly gone. Then put in all the malt and keep stirring it with the mashing staff. Then cover it close with a cloth and let it stand three hours upon the malt. Then let the wort be speedily let down into the under back; from thence pumped into the upper back.
Then, having a copper of liquor full to the first curb made as hot as thou can (if this liquor with second following copper liquor should boil it is not damaged) put it on the malt and let it stay on two hours, if more no harm.
Then let it into the little working tun and take half a part full and put to all the yeast, and when it hath worked and been beat down pretty well let half of it be put to the ale, the rest reserved for the small beer. Mind to beat the ale up well in the working and let it work in the tun till it becomes a little sharp in taste, then barrel it up.
[p. 70] After the second wort is drawn off the malt, boil it two hours and then convey it into the coolers. Let it be there till it's near cold. Then let it be put into the great working tun before it's too cold lest it should not work, and set it to working as soon as it's in the tun. So do a third and fourth mashing.
The monthly meetings seem . . . now inclinable to send friends into the house, such who are mostly aged and attended with such weakness as immediately want fire in their chambers and constant attendance therein, which is contrary to the direction of the quarterly meeting . . . If such as aforesaid be admitted (unless with due consideration) this may prove the consequence: either the house run to a very great charge for nurses (who heretofore were sent by the monthly meetings) or the poor, aged & sick want due attendance and also bring a bad report upon the house.
We suppose if an infirmary were made for the sick and weak friends one nurse would be able to attend 5 or 6 friends, having them together in one room, with more ease & better than 2 or 3 that are sick in separate rooms.
And if we had a sick ward and an order made by the committee that no nursing or separate diet should be allowed in the family, only to such as are removed into the sick ward, it may prevent craving disorderly persons who have resolutely kept their rooms contrary to the orders of the committee, also telling us they are not able to come down, neither [p. 71] eat the diet of the house, saying if we will not send up their victuals we may let them starve there, it will lay at our door, when at the same time it seems plain to us their stomachs were good and they were as able to come down as some that attended them. Some such persons as those we are seldom without, and if such were sensible they must leave their rooms and go into the sick ward, it might be a means to bring them willingly down to their victuals while able. We observe such as aforesaid loves to be by themselves, not being sociable in conversation.
75. A copy of Richard Richardson's letter to the . . . committee, not to be opened till after his decease. 17 December 1717, as followeth: Whereas in my last will and testament bearing even date with this writing I have given two of my houses in Thames Street to Richard Partridge and Richard Hutton, it is my intent the rents of them shall be paid to the committee of the workhouse for the use and benefit of the poor. Although in my will I say for Richard Partridge and Richard Hutton to dispose of as they shall see meet . . . it's my mind and intent that my daughter shall have her maintenance at the workhouse and table with the steward and his wife & such good accommodations as shall be meet during her life for the rent of the said two houses. But if my daughter's husband should refuse to let her live there, then it's my mind and intent that the committee of the workhouse shall, out of what they receive of the rents of my houses, pay into my daughter's own hands any sum not exceeding eight pounds per year towards her clothing.
[p. 72] The lease of all my houses in Thames Street is from the Dean and Canon of Windsor and pays £4 10s. the year and there is about 30 years to come . . . When there is but 6 or 7 to come it may be good time to renew, which I desire my executors or heirs to do without putting the committee to any charges . . .
Item, I give and bequeath unto Richard Hutton and Richard Partridge all those my two messuages and tenements with their and every of their appurtenances situate and being in Thames Street, London, in several occupations of the Widow Steward and Thomas Hutchins, and all my right, title and interest in them or either of them for all the rest, residue and remainder of the several terms of years and time that at the time of my death shall be to come and unexpired, for them to dispose of as they shall think fit, freed and discharged of and from all ground rent that may be due or payable for the said two messuages. Which said ground rent: I order and appoint shall be paid out of the rents and profits of my four other messuages in Thames Street hereafter mentioned.
Before William Townsend came to dwell here he was several times at the house and ate of the provision, heard the orders and the bill of fare read and expressed his satisfaction with them. Also consented to them before the committee. But not long after he was admitted he began to be uneasy, for there being an ancient man that lay very weak near William Townsend's room he said, to let friends assist one another in case of weakness &c is great cruelty, and the meetings ought to send attendance in or pay them of the family who do it.
Being once denied some ale for a particular and a sufficient reason he said, it was great cruelty in my wife in denying them it, although they have had ale more frequently than any of the ancient friends. And said, this house, which ought to be better than other charity houses, was worse in that the orders and bill of fare prevented them from giving away or selling their provision if they cannot eat it. And calls it cruelty to observe the bill of fare without exception, yet owns my wife is cautious therein and cannot allow a different diet to him because all the rest of the family will expect the same.
Being often abroad thinks it reasonable he should have the value of his allowance for that absent time in something more agreeable to his mind than the common allowance is, which is directly opposite to the orders and bill of fare and would occasion confusion and much contention about computing the value of such allowances.
He objects the beef is salt and the pork and mutton tough and not of a good kind and little of the provision of the house gives content. He concluding, such provision is bought for cheapness and says, what need we be so saving in laying out others folks' money since we got nothing by it as we say.
He often mentions his wife cannot eat the diet of the house and he sometimes, going to the cooks, desires his wife may have something prepared for her. Yet the ancient woman friend who lodgeth in the same room, also his maid, doth say, his wife is a quiet and contented woman, which appears the same to us and has a good appetite. [p. 75] My wife acquainted William Townsend that if his wife could not eat beef, pork &c she would provide several sorts of diet for her instead thereof, mentioning each particular sort of diet, which he willingly agreed to, but in a few days his mind altered alleging what my wife provided was of a cheap sort and was not good and did not answer his wife's time, and was uneasy. Then he said he would have the whole allowance of the house for himself, wife and maid, and he would provide what he thought fit, and accordingly they had it. And yet still uneasy, and told my wife that, since he had been here he had laid out 18d. or 2s. per week of his own money for other sorts of diet, which may very much tend to the lessening the good and plentiful provision of the house when reported abroad.
24 November. And being often abroad at dinner time as aforesaid and returning about 3 or 4 a clock and demanding his dinner and being reminded that the orders and bill of fare directs that absent persons must have no allowance, he will not understand the same with relation to himself which occasions many words, and at last he concludes saying he doth not believe the committee will be against their having their allowance, and selling or giving away or doing what they thought fit with their own allowance, saying, other charity houses allow the same, and has several times told us he will appear before the committee any time.
My wife acquainted me she went this day to give them a visit in their lodging room as she usually doth, he then, as he hath frequently done, began to contend about the provision, showing his uneasiness with one thing or another, and my wife told him she doth what lies in her power to make him easy and cuts him the best of any provision that comes under her hands and he tells her, he will not believe it . . . What to do further in this case we know not.
Now, it is our opinion from the best of our observation that what would make him easy is that he and his wife might have such diet provided for them as would suit their minds, without any [p. 76] regard to the orders or the bill of fare or what a general uneasiness it may cause amongst the rest of the poor friends of the family, several of them being worthy and thankful; neither considering the cost of such provision as would give content. He often objects against the cheapness of what we buy, though he knows not the price of it. And if the committee should adhere and give way to any discontented person or persons in this respect it would effectually set aside the management of the house as it's now settled by the orders and bill of fare. And what poor friends for the future may come to be maintained in this house may reasonably be supposed to expect the same accommodation, which will require more servants, which, with a different diet, will consequently much advance the expense of the house.
This being our present case and there seems to be a necessity the same should be deliberately considered and enquired into and things made easy on both sides, which cannot be unless the committee discourage any in the house who disregard their orders. Otherwise, the house may, if it hath not, suffer in its reputation and may sustain loss thereby. Also I and my wife disquieted and our reputation lessened in being thought unkind to the poor who are under our care, but a faithful discharge of our trust under you with regard to frugality toward the house, and condescension as much as can be allowed towards the poor.
Some of this affair hath been already mentioned to some of the committee, but finding the uneasiness not likely to cease inasmuch as all we can say leaves the friend as unsatisfied as the first, therefore we earnestly desire and entreat the committee would please do therein, as for the quiet family and well ordering the same, as they may see meet, that . . . a stop may in some measure be put to whispering, murmuring, backbiting and contentions which are directly opposite to us, my wife in particular, who undergoes the daily fatigue of it, and will be thankful to have a peaceable life not desiring to give any just occasion of uneasiness to the poorest friend in the house, but willing to assist them day or night as occasion requires and as hitherto she has done.
[He] hurts the reputation of the house. He believes the committee would not be against selling or giving away their own provision (article 3). He is told the best of provision is cut for him in order to make him easy, he saith he will not believe it.
He first appeared before the committee 15 December 1718. Second time 12 January 1719 and then a minute made, page of the minute book 179. (fn. 1)
This day William Townsend told me and my wife, he heard we had money out at interest and he did believe the reason of our being so pinching and sneaking was not only for the interest of the house, but in order that we might put something in our own pockets or advance our salary, and said, others in the family did believe the same, and would say so, as well as he. Upon which my wife desired to know if she did ever give him less than was allowed in the bill of fare and wherein she was so sneaking and pinching. After he had considered a little he answered, thou doth not set a candle on the stairs to light me when I come home at night, and I went one night into the old people's work room and there was no candle, and somebody asked my maid twice or thrice on that day we had pudding if I was at home. I believed thou would have been glad too, if I had been out that thou might have . . . a pound of pudding by me.
And thou made dumplings one day instead of figgy puddings. What did they cost? I suppose thou did it for cheapness, they were not worth above a farthing a piece. This is all he alleged for sneaking and pinching, which though not worth mentioning we are ready to render reasons for, as we this time did to him, but as appeared to us, to little effect.
Then we told him we did expect he should let us know the names of them friends in this family who told him they were of his belief concerning our being so sneaking and pinching and not only for the interest of the house, but that we might put something in our own pockets &c. We perceived he was very unwilling, but we insisted upon knowing their names, telling him such private reflections might ruin our reputation, but, if we were guilty let us now be manifested as such who are not fit for this trust. He said, ah, but thou art such an austere man and rules over the family with such rigour, like the Egyptian task master with clubs and staves and whips, that they dare not speak their minds, but I am not afraid of thee &c.
I desired he would explain himself how I was like an Egyptian task master. He answered, thou tasks the children every day as Pharoah did the children of Israel and rules over them with rods and whips and rigour just as the Egyptians did. Also said, a friend told me there was a boy abused in this house and died here, but we told him we never heard of any such thing, [p. 79] neither believed it, but if it had been so he had no reason to tell us of that there being no such thing in our time. But notwithstanding all these charges we still insisted to know the names as aforesaid. At last he told us, though unwillingly, it was Nathaniel Puckridge and Eleanor Cobb (we admired at that, they having been innocent, contented friends and we had heard from several hands they had given a very good account of the house). But he said, he did suppose they would be afraid to own it they being ruled over with rigour as aforesaid. I told him I was resolved to try that and then desired him to go with me to Nathaniel Puckridge & Eleanor Cobb before the family. Neither was he willing to that, but said, that's the way for every body to know it. Yes, I said, the quarterly meeting shall know it rather than my reputation shall be ruined. And though he was unwilling to go, I was fully intended to hear it out. And accordingly we went in together, and first related the whole matter as aforesaid to Nathaniel Puckridge amongst the men friends. And Nathaniel Puckridge said, I admire at thee William Townsend, thou canst say any such thing of me. I never said or thought any such thing of them in my life, but have given a good account of the house [to] whoever enquired and thou knows I never said any such thing neither do I believe it. And said, I have heard thee say thou did believe they did not pinch so for the good of the house only, but believed some of it went into their own pockets. Then William replied, ah, I told thee they durst not speak the truth. Then I told them of the Egyptian rigour as aforementioned. The men showed a great dislike against such reflections and said they admired at William Townsend, saying, they never knew, spoke or imagined any such thing, & William had very little to say. Then we went into the women's room and spoke to Eleanor Cobb, and she said, I never thought or said any such thing in my life, and have heard William say that he did believe we were not so sneaking for the interest of the house only but to put something in their own pockets, and supposing he wanted to know my mind as he has at other times, I said, I did not know such a thing might be, but I did not believe any such thing. Also said, I admire at thee William Townsend thou has often times been drawing things from me but I hope to be aware of thee for the time to come. Then I spoke to the rest of the women friends about rigours and Egyptian slavery &c and desired them to be free and tell me now, before William Townsend, if ever they [p. 80] saw any such thing. Speaking quite the contrary, [they] expressed their satisfaction, saying they admired at William Townsend and did not think him to be such a man. He had little to say but as aforesaid: they dare not speak their minds, they are afraid of thee. Carry[ing] it off with a sort of a laugh, saying, now you have got a feast have you not.