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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Went away 8 October 1722. Boys gave the paper 16 November 1722, [which] is 5 weeks 4 days. Sent a letter to come again 26 November 1722, 7 weeks. Appeared to answer 12 December 1722, [which] is 9 weeks 2 days. Brought a paper owning the fact, 7 January 1723, 13 weeks.
Was then ordered by the committee to prepare a paper against the next committee in order to give the steward satisfaction for his revilings and false charges which he could not make out. But William Ladd went into the country and it was 2 months before he came again . . . The committee met at the house 4 March 1723, 17 weeks, then William Ladd appeared, but instead of giving satisfaction he said, he came to demand satisfaction, and his appearance and behaviour gave so great an offence to the committee they recorded it and advised me to take no satisfaction at all, esteeming by his appearance not worth notice, concluding that he wanted to be from under the censure in order to preach or deceive some persons &c and then told him it would be best for him to be gone over sea.
|. . . Deductions of allowance for timber in the old roof||£30|
|For the old pantiles||£14|
|The difference between sashes and common windows||£13||13s.||£57||13s.|
It would be tedious, also unpleasant, to hear the whole of the provocations rehearsed; also here are too many to mention the particulars of those who in their turns are addicted thereunto. But, the ground of it all is their being under any obligation, either with respect to the orders of the house, bill of fare and the diet as therein mentioned.
And when we have the advantage of very honest servants, who, equal and just in their places and not willing to comply with some in the family in answering requests that are not reasonable nor according to the orders and bill of fare, also contrary to our knowledge, then such servants are liable to be misrepresented, also frequently insinuating against them to us & notwithstanding we know such complaints &c to be without any cause. Therefore cannot take such notice of complaints as aforesaid as they may expect. Then what follows from them is that we hold with and incense the servants against them, when on the contrary it's very well known our frequent practice hath been and still is to give the cook-maid a thorough understanding of the orders and bill of fare, the allowances &c, also do advise and desire her and the rest to give no just occasion to any but to give each their just allowance, especially such who have an appetite to dispense therewith.
And being willing to gratify any in the family who desire spoon victuals for breakfast &c, instead of their allowance in butter and cheese, then we make them water gruel, put butter and sugar in it and when we have rice milk, furmenty we give them that, and then they will take up beer perhaps drink a little of it and set the rest aside in their pots, so that great waste has been made by taking up more beer than is drunk, in throwing it away, or giving it to the children unknown to us, which has been very inconvenient for them, also putting it at other times into the children's mugs, where it has been spoiled, and then laying the blame upon the children, saying, they left it there, notwithstanding we are certain they either drink their beer or return it . . . If we prevent their taking beer as aforesaid, which my wife on the 1st instant did, and was treated by Henery West in particular as follows:
[p. 121] 30 March 1720. Henery West said to my wife, what, will thou take my beer. Then she told him, he had water gruel with butter and sugar in it. Also told him, she thought he had no occasion for beer in the morning except he took out his allowance in butter and cheese as the rest did. And she further said, thou sees I have taken John Knoll's beer likewise. Then Henery said, oh, thou only took his beer for an excuse because thou would take mine, and it's barbarous & cruel indeed of thee to take the beer away, and more of this sort. Also said, I came home last night at seven a clock and the maid would give me no supper, but all the city shall know it. My wife said, if thou tells the whole town it was nothing to her. Also said, she did nothing to him but what was just & according to order. Then Henery said that, indeed here is a great deal of justice but here is no mercy, and I have been very barbarously and cruelly used since I came here, and said, Quakers! And one that stood near him . . . [said] over again, Quakers! . . .
But Henery West will not allow us liberty to speak about the orders and the bill of fare, but he will be very abusive and give us very undue treatment, calling us lying, envious creatures, proud, arrogant, barbarous, cruel &c, saying, we made them orders on purpose for him, and them that put him here would have had him better entertained here and we hindered him, and he valued us not, but will go before our committee with us at any time, and that very instant spread abroad his hands and declared himself an innocent, peaceable man, also in very rash manner calls aloud upon the name of God to witness for him and against us, likewise calling upon the family to witness the same.
Now we desire it may be considered how liable we are to be abused and misrepresented abroad when without any occasion it is so frequently done at home in the hearing of the ancient people, servants and children, also how difficult it may be to have common justice from people who give themselves such liberty, and then immediately to vindicate their own innocence, and account themselves altogether the injured persons. It seems not only difficult to us as aforesaid, but almost impossible to have right done us, and such . . . [p. 122] persons brought into good order.
And as their violent and fierce accusations, and several of them secretly holding together therein, also denying their abusing of us as soon as it is done, seems plain to us by their threatening it's intended to awe us, or bring us in fear, as if we could not be capable to make our complaint appear just against so many who . . . are so resolute in what they assert or deny as aforesaid.
And if the family goes on as they have for some time past we shall be liable both ourselves and the rest of the servants to be abused as aforesaid and obliged to give up more of time than other business will allow, in order to clear ourselves of so frequent insinuations, for the family having nothing to employ themselves constantly with, most of their time is spent in going . . . abroad, and pretty much of their conversation at home consists in strife and contention, the women especially. And at other times when they are a little more easy amongst themselves, then are they incident to whisper and contrive together against the house and those who have care thereof.
The orders have been read once by the committee to the ancient people since they are altered, and the little regard that appeared to them by several, though seemed quite otherwise before you, has discouraged me from reading the orders since to them though [I] frequently remind them what are therein contained. A passage relating to this is in pages 126 & 127 .
People who are brought into adversity by their own mistaken conduct, either in the management of their affairs or living above their abilities, are for the most part pretty much cast down, and whilst under this state of constrained humility seem very willing to comply in promise with a more regular and orderly way of living, though never so repugnant to their former practice, on condition their indigence be supplied. But as soon as plenty is enjoyed and that taken away which caused such an alteration of mind, their former ill humours & disposition, that was not taken away or changed, but only confined and depressed, begins again to manifest and discover themselves [in] contention against order.
The truth of this too evidently appears among the ancient people in this house, for several of them being at their coming in under the aforesaid circumstances, viz: in want, in which condition, when . . . the orders and bill of fare are read, condescend enough in promise with whatsoever is therein contained. But these resolutions hold not long, for when they once come to sufficiency the want whereof produced the aforesaid condescension, they then forget their former condition and neglect the performance of the promise . . . Their natural dispositions begin unseemly to manifest themselves in opposition to good order and with disturbance to those that are concerned to contend for it. They, indeed very openly, and that too frequently, declare a dissatisfaction with the victuals in very railing and unsavoury expressions, even in the presence of the children, servants &c. And because they [are] living in plenty their desires begin to wander and their humours crave for such things as are not according to the bill of fare, nor could be prepared without a considerable addition of servants. For who can suit everyone's humours in respect of diet, unless each at every meal have according to their own appointment. And commonly when such are sent them contrary to their desire though according to the bill of fare they fail not to show . . . [p 124] their dissatisfaction therewith, either at home or abroad; at home in sending it back or else in contending with those that bring it or by some such like unseemly deportment at the reception thereof, or else shortly after will signify it one to another abroad by telling false reports to those whom they imagine may possibly adhere and so endeavour to bring a public scandal upon the house.
Now as [to] their behaviour and carriage, one towards another, it is often as it ought not to be, for many times there is contention, ill evils and disrespect showed and are unwilling to help and assist one another in weakness.
Thus having given a brief hint of things partly as they are, it comes now in course to consider of their consequence (which seems chiefly to relate to three particulars) and also of the improbability of their amendment.
1st To the governors of steward and stewardess, who are first and chiefly and most frequently concerned against such appearances and so liable to undergo the greatest exercise, for who can maintain their post meeting with resistance without cause of disquiet and uneasiness when one discharges their duty and trust faithfully and administers in their office justly, and yet meet with little but displeasure, finding fault, discontent & uneasiness from those they administer to, must certainly have but small encouragement to persevere nor much comfort in their places.
2d To the children, for the effect thereof we are sensible of an ill consequence to them when they see ancient people (whom they are incident to take for example especially in such matters) find fault, murmur and dissatisfied with their victuals &c. What may they most reasonably think and incline to? Surely this disorder which so obviously appears in ancient people will raise no good dispositions nor inclinations in children nor beget any respect in them towards their governors nor values and good thoughts of the place, neither content with the fare nor gratitude toward those that maintain them.
3d And children thus vitiated, ill affected & prejudiced [p. 125] by precedents have as often as they see their relations the advantage of being further injurious, for they will readily tell whatsoever they see transacted and likewise their own sentiments of things and promulgate false reports, so become very active to discourage others.
To the house such must needs be of very bad consequence, for when those that so liberally participate of such benevolence and large extent of charity convey (instead of gratitude) false and scandalous reports concerning the administration & management thereof amongst those that are benefactors or any way concerned in contribution to the same, will undoubtedly very much diminish friends' satisfaction they might justly expect in the dispense and bestowing of their charity and tend to discourage and prevent others that might be disposed for the advance of the house.
Now the amendment of these things seems very improbable whilst the house remains under the same circumstances. If the committee should bring them in question about these doings they would directly deny them, for I [have] both heard and seen some find fault with the victuals in a very contemptible way & shortly after of his own accord utterly denied it, saying, there was no better victuals in the kingdom, or in words to that purpose. Or if they should use some sharpness to those most addicted to disorder, by displacing them they would account themselves to those that probably believe them misrepresented and severely dealt by. So would they more vigorously endeavour to publish the above named reports, and those left behind would not be heartily reformed, but only under a little awe and fear, for its a very difficult task to produce order where the contrary is implanted and sprung up. And most know that it's no easy matter to bring aged people, that love nothing worse than to be under government, from their accustomed habits.
This committee having been diverse times and from sundry persons informed of several persons in this family who have been and it's to be feared still are very disorderly and refractory therein, likewise we ourselves have now as at other times seen the undue liberty some in this house have taken:
1. In contempt of the provision which we know to be very good and well ordered and not inferior to [that] which many worthy honest friends are thankful for, who work hard for their families and are contributors in order to maintain you here; and all that is desired for the charge and labour bestowed is that you be helpful to each other & thankful which is the trust of holiness, but its our present exercise to see the contrary so much appear.
2. In condemning and lightly esteeming the good and reasonable orders of the house without which such a family as this cannot long subsist, and we do conclude such who treat the orders as aforesaid will not cheerfully comply with the same according to their promise before the committee when admitted, otherwise could not have been taken into this house.
3. In the frequent and undue treatment (and that before the servants and children) which is given to the steward, and stewardess who . . . the committee has placed here and are satisfied with them as suitable persons to govern and be entrusted with the affairs relating to this family. And we do hereby give you to understand that they shall not be imposed upon for the future as hitherto they have been.
4. In frequent going abroad spending much of your time out of the house contrary to the aforesaid orders, and thereby having opportunity to murmur and complain, likewise carry false reports against the house (also those who have the care thereof) to such persons who are not well disposed towards the said house, and thereby are liable to be imposed upon in hearing bad reports which several of us have heard of abroad. And if we hear reports of this nature . . . [p. 127] for the future [we] may think it necessary to find some constant employ suitable for the ancient people as well now as formerly which may tend to the reputation of the house, also be an advantage to such persons in preventing them for the future from such idle wandering habits in carrying stories & whereby they injure themselves and likewise the house.
These are to acquaint you that we are inclinable to part with our present school mistress, also desire your assistance in recommending &c some suitable person to us in order to supply her place, if you incline that the sewing school may be continued for the future, there being but few girls in the house.
We have not hitherto much disputed the charge and considerable loss the sewing school has been to the house (for near 5 years) in taking up the whole of the girls' time, which they have worked for so small earnings. Yet with you we esteem it necessary that they should have some education of this nature, though we conclude it has not yet so fully as could be desired answered the good intent therein proposed by you, to wit, a more thorough qualification for good servants.
The girls come into the house about the eighth year of their age, commonly stay until about 13 or 14 years old, and part of that time is spent in learning to read, write & cypher. And as to the sewing work, it has generally been sent in pretty fine, therefore the children are scarcely brought to finish any work. And notwithstanding that, when any friends that are good housekeepers would take a girl out in order to bring up to housewifery, then several of their parents, mothers especially, have not been easy therewith, esteeming their children qualified for better business (as shop maids, seamstry &c) by reason of the education, and also has been incident to influence their children not to comply willingly therewith.
And we are of opinion that if the sewing work were not of the finest sort, but such sent in as the children might in a reasonable time learn to begin and end their work, it might the better qualify the girls for your aforesaid intention.
Also if the girls do not spend so much of their time at the sewing school it might possibly prevent their parents from so much disesteeming the station of household servant, though in good families; for now it is too common amongst our young women who are servants who cannot much use their needle, to learn any business whereby they may live at their own hands, though [this] often proves to their disadvantage in diverse respects. And we do suppose you may have experienced that . . . [p. 129] when young women come out of the country who may have had but little education of this nature, yet have been very good servants and not so incident to be unsettled in their places as some who are more instructed in learning as aforesaid. We mention not these things to prevent the girls from having a suitable education in order to qualify them for good servants, but rather friends, that both you and we may in a friendly manner consult together in this weighty affair in order they . . . may not only be qualified for good servants but also tenderly be made sensible how reasonable it is for them to comply therewith in serving friends who have had a tender care over them.
And we are obliged to let you understand we are now very sensible that unless a very conscientious person be placed here for a school mistress who may be free from perplexing circumstances, also exemplary and diligent in order that a good behaviour and an industrious disposition may be early . . . cultivated into our children, otherwise the good intention proposed by you and us may not be answered.
Our house is a house of charity for aged, sick, lame, blind &c, also for poor children whose parents are not in ability to maintain them, and some who are fatherless and motherless children and would come to the parish if we did not take care of them. And in-as-much as we do not only maintain those but also the rest of our poor at our own charge, also pay proportionally towards maintaining the parish poor, therefore we esteem ourselves aggrieved by taxing the same house &c so high and do conclude the like is scarce known to be done by any houses of this nature.
Answer: we are informed it is lawful for us or any protestant dissenters to set up houses of industry in order to educate their children therein. And inasmuch as we maintain our own poor and pay our equal proportion of the poor's rates. Through mistake carried to 132. [p. 132: pages 130-1 contain the house's general accounts for 1721.] Also then with submission we do conclude it to be consistent with justice &c in doing as we would be done unto, by allowing the like privilege and indulgence to a work of so general a benefit as the education of children in sobriety and an habit of industry.
Answer: because we have not been incident to complain of our charges, therefore strange things have and still may be supposed. But several of our children are very small and scarcely earn an half penny per day, and them that are bigger spend pretty much of their time every day in learning reading, writing &c which, with the time allowed them for play, makes smaller earnings than may be supposed; and the principal advantage proposed by that little work the children do is in order to inure them in an habit of industry and they are well provided for respecting victuals, clothes &c. We also keep a school master, likewise a school mistress to teach the girls sewing, therefore it may be reasonably thought or however, easily made appear, that there is a great disproportion between the children's earnings and the charge that maintains them.