Richard Hutton's Complaints Book: 1719 (nos 84-101)

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. All rights reserved.


'Richard Hutton's Complaints Book: 1719 (nos 84-101)', in Richard Hutton's Complaints Book: The Notebook of the Steward of the Quaker Workhouse At Clerkenwell, 1711-1737, ed. Timothy V Hitchcock( London, 1987), British History Online [accessed 19 July 2024].

'Richard Hutton's Complaints Book: 1719 (nos 84-101)', in Richard Hutton's Complaints Book: The Notebook of the Steward of the Quaker Workhouse At Clerkenwell, 1711-1737. Edited by Timothy V Hitchcock( London, 1987), British History Online, accessed July 19, 2024,

"Richard Hutton's Complaints Book: 1719 (nos 84-101)". Richard Hutton's Complaints Book: The Notebook of the Steward of the Quaker Workhouse At Clerkenwell, 1711-1737. Ed. Timothy V Hitchcock(London, 1987), , British History Online. Web. 19 July 2024.

84. [p. 82] 16 January 1719.

This day William Townsend wanted a wafer to seal a letter and I told him I had none but a sort of white wafer and I had not seen any such before then and told him he was welcome to them if he pleased. Then he desired to see them and accordingly I showed them. Then William held up his hands saying, well, this . . . is saving indeed, you are saving folks indeed. I never saw such saving in all my life, as is in this house. And after William had it over several times, then I told him, my sister gave them to me and I did not get them for savingness. Then I said, William, I believe if thou had been a little more saving thou would not have been blamed for it. Then William said, I have faith in my God that I shall never want. I said, I desire thou may never want. Then he said, ay, but you send us sprats instead of figgy pudding, you did it for cheapness and they were not worth above a penny. I told him, the committee was here and saw the sprats and thought them very good. He said, ah, the committee is thy cloak, they uphold thee, and began to clap his hands upon his breast and said but there is consciences! consciences! consciences! and also said, the family complained because they had sprats. Said, there were no such thing, they loved sprats too well to complain, saying, they would rather have them oftener, but if any of the family do not love them we give them other victuals.

20 February. William said to my wife, what does thou make furmenty for us instead of rice milk for thou doth it for cheapness. She said, it was rather dearer. He said, how doth thou make that out? And after other discourse of that nature William said, you would not have had me come into the house at first. Then I told him, it was a pity he did come for he had done us no good nor himself neither. Then he said, it would do the house no good either. This was spoke at dinner time in the hearing of several of the family, also further said, the friends I was with last night would have me stay in the house, but I will not stay. I told him, if the friends did but know his behaviour, I did believe they would not be for his staying in this house. Then he said, aye, but the committee shall have the honour of turning me out.

[p. 83] 1719. His maid has been not well and has taken liberty to be very abusive, and we have often told her when she was well that if at any time she wanted ale or any other thing the house afforded, if she would let us know she should have it. And now she being unwell will not let us know what she would have, but saith, I do . . . not love to hear talk of things but to have them. Then her master said to my wife, what doth thou ask her what she'll have for that is but your cloak, make two or three good things and send them up and let her take which she likes of them. But thou sent a sick man a great dish of pottage stuffed with bread, was that fit for a sick man? But my wife told him, the man was not sick but had a very good appetite. Then William said, it's true, I do love good eating and drinking but I have been cruelly used since I came here and I shall not give the house a good word.

William frequently speaks slightingly of the provision to the children when they carry it up to him, and they have complained how he calls it pinching, saving &c. And when William perceives they are not easy with these reflections he has spoke harshly to them, saying, you are all alike & hold together.

I was informed William went to a friend's house and told him (before the servant maid that was not a friend), the allowance of the house and how they had sprats once a year when they were cheap about a penceworth each, but no other fish.

William Townsend went into the stable and the young man that looks after the children and brews &c asked William why he found fault with the beer, it being very good. William told him, he loved to find fault when he saw faults for he had been cruelly used since he came here. The young man asked him wherein he had been so cruelly used, and if he had not his allowance? Aye, William said, but I pay more than the rest. The young man said, but if thou should have a different diet from the rest it would breed contention in the family. Then William said, but if they had been prudent managers they might have given us different from the rest and none of them have known it.

7 March. William having given frequent reflections in the family as aforesaid, and my wife saw William go into the workroom amongst the children when at work and [p. 84] she was not easy therewith, and said, William, what makes thee come here? And [he said], he had liberty to go all over the house if he pleased and would come there for all her and stay as long as he pleased. She said, if thou had done good with going about in the family I should not have been against it but thou has done hurt. He said, in what have I done hurt? She said, in lessening us before the family and setting thyself up, and I do not intend to bear it as I have hitherto done, for if the commitee see but one half of thy behaviour to us I think it would make thee ashamed. He said, I will go before the committee at any time. I have been at war with you this twenty weeks, and the committee has had it in hand near this several or two months, and what have they made of it? But they shall have the honour of turning me out, and then began again to reflect upon the provision, only said, indeed the meat was pretty good, but told my wife she knew not how to manage it, and told her she ought to salt it and not just put it in nasty sour pickle to spoil it. Also said, I know what belongs to good house-keeping. But William did never charge my wife with spoiling the meat until now, but on the contrary has said, she was as fit for the business as any in London, only she was too sneaking and pinching &c. He also said, thou has been here seven years, and thou has learned thy trade. She said, yes, I hope to be here seven years longer in order to stand against such disorderly persons and think it will be as good a service as I can do for friends.

About this time William's maid missed her coal basket and she told my wife some of us had stole it. My wife said to William who then stood by, why doth thou suffer this maid to go on thus? He said, we have lost the basket. Then the maid answered again and said to my wife, thou are a cruel, bad woman, also said, pray God send us out of this house or else we shall be starved to death, and we had been starved before now had it not been for my master's pocket and my own, and she said, so would all the family if they did not buy victuals. And William's maid told one of our [p. 85] servant maids, [who] is not a friend, how she had told a great lie today and she was very sorry for it, saying, when she was out somebody asked her where she lived and she told them at the Quakers. But that was a great lie, for they were all devils or devil's people, and there was no Quakers in the house but in their room. And said, if thy mistress do not send up my victuals presently I will go out about five a clock and make such a rattle in the neighbourhood as shall make them all ashamed.

These are the consequences of having persons in the house who rule as masters in the family by having servants to themselves and doth not think herself accountable to any but her master, speaking unbecoming things about all things relating to the house or the government of it. Committee 9th [March] 1719, see page 184 and 187. (fn. 1)

16 April 1719. William Townsend said to my wife, thou doth not give our weight. I asked him in what I did not send him weight. He said, in meat, there wanted two ounces once and another time he thought 4 ounces, and another time 6 ounces. Then I said, William I can truly say I never gave thee less than thy weight nor any in the house I weigh to. Then he said, thou keeps bad weights then. I desired him to go down with me and take his brass weights and try my weights by his . . . (Note: he bought weights after [being] discharged the house on purpose to find something to expose &c.) Accordingly he did, and my pound weight was exact, and the half pound, his had rather the turn, but so little there was no room for William to take the least advantage in the weights. And the next day at noon I sent three pounds of pudding and William weighed it and said, it was two ounces too much, but, he said, it would help to make up the rest. And to the best of my knowledge it was as exactly weighed as any I ever sent him. Again at night I sent one of the maids up with William's butter and cheese and another of the maids went up with her unknown to me and came down and told me what William and his maid said to them which was as followeth:

The maid said, we have seen this half year how the poor has been cheated. I have heard of it four years ago but now I see it. It's a painted sepulchre, it's fair without but it's foul enough within, and it has been more craft than honesty or else they had not been here so long and this knavery will all come out. [p. 86] Then William said, they had never had their weight in anything but in pudding since they came, also said twice over, he could take his affirmation of it and it was base doings the poor should be put upon so. Then his maid said, aye, we may take our affirmation of it well enough, and a great deal more very bad of this sort.

Another time Hannah Newton went up and William's maid said, she would witness they had not their weight. And Hannah said, what signifies thy being a witness, thy master says thou art a liar, and if thou tells a lie in one thing thou will in another. Then William said, Hannah, I will tell thee, being a sober girl, we have made that up. And some time after that William's maid was railing as usual, and her master said to his maid, say no more now Mary till thou comes before the committee and it will have some service. Then the maid said, aye, but they are too cunning for that, they will not let me come before the committee.

85. (In the beginning belongs to 76 page [80]). William once began a discourse thus with me and said, thy wife is a near, sneaking, stingy woman, doth not thou know she is a near, sneaking, stingy woman. I said, no, I know she is not so. He still insisted I did. Then I was displeased at his insinuation and further said, I know her no more to be so than myself to be a robber. Yes, he said, she is a sneaking, stingy fool. I desired him to explain himself what he meant by the word fool. He said, she was such a fool as Christ spoke on in the gospel who built his barns bigger and scraped riches together and knew not who would enjoy it. Also said, we had but one child what need we be so near. I told him, what he called near on this account was no advantage to us only a just discharge of our trust. He said, he did not know that, could I say we got nothing by what we bought? I told him we did not directly or indirectly. But, to prevent such insinuations we desired of the committee that the friend Benjamin Mason might continue to see the provision bought, and accordingly he has seen it & also the receipts from one time to another. [p. 87] But afterwards I asked him what made him call my wife a fool and apply such an unapplicable or strange comparison to it. He answered & said, it was the sense that was then upon him. I told him, I thought it was a very dark sense. William also upbraided us and said, we got many a dinner by him, meaning when he dined abroad at friend's houses.

(Belongs to 76 page [80]). William told us there was others in the family complained of provision as well as he. I desired to know who, he said, Elinour [sic] Cobb. This friend lodged in the room with William's maid. Then I spoke to Elinour Cobb and asked her why she complained of her victuals to William Townsend and did not let me know. The said William Townsend frequently looked over her meat and asked her questions about it and once she said when she was eating her dinner he came again and asked and she told him, there was a little bit not very tender, but she would be careful of him in the future. Elinour pays for her own board, she has been very contented and given as good a character of the house as any I ever heard. But at other times before that time, William Townsend had told my wife he was not so well served with victuals as Elinour Cobb.

My wife bought a calves foot for his wife, and William cut it open and smelled at it and said, it was not sweet and it [was] bought for cheapness. And my wife told him, they should not have it if it was not sweet, and brought [it] to me and I advised her to show it to the women of the family & all agreed it was very fresh and good, and it was really good. And they will freely own, I mean the family, that what my wife buys for them is very good. And when William Townsend was told what the family said William's answer was, he would believe his nose before any in the family.

86. [p. 88] Having a poor craving man in the family who has been incident to complain and thereby get money of several friends who come to see him to pay what he had run in debt when his money was spent, and my wife went to see him one day and asked what money the friend gave him. He evaded it and was not willing to let her know, but at last owned one shilling. And William Townsend stood unknown, to hearken as appeared. About two weeks after, when my wife went to see them, William began to contend and asked her in a sort of commanding manner to tell him, what business she had to ask the poor man for his money. Thou loves to get the poor folk's money from them. My wife told William, she did not ask him for his money. William said, thou will not tell me such a lie wilt thou. My wife said, no, I scorn to tell thee a lie, I only asked him and I had good reason for it. Oh, he said, thou loves to get the old people's money from them. I told him, I never kept one farthing of their money from them in my life. This and other reflections he gave at that time.

Another time a friend and his wife came to see the house who had a great respect for William Townsend and had been very respectful and loving to us. But when the friends came in it happened well I was then at home and soon did perceive the friends did not seem to me as at other times. But I took no notice, only seeing myself under some difficulty. But the friend went up with William into his room and stayed some time there. Then William carried them into the children's workroom to see them at work and to see the lodgings &c and I waited till the friends came down and desired they would please to see the provision. They seemed shy and dissatisfied. However I overpersuaded them so we showed the provision. And the friend's wife looked up at the cheese shelves [p. 89] and said, what is that, I think there is some Suffolk cheese. I told the friend, we had none of that sort since we came to the house, neither was there any before as we knew or ever heard of. Oh, said the friend's wife, but why do you not get them some pork, you have [had] pork but once since William came. Then my wife showed them the beef, pork, butter, cheese &c and brought the friends into the parlour and desired them to taste the house beer, ale, bread, butter and cheese. And putting a loaf that came first to hand, the friend's husband spoke low to William Townsend saying, this is special bread William, do you all eat of this sort. William said, again speaking very low, no, no, this is another sort of bread. I happened to be nearer William than he was aware of and heard him and so turned quick upon him and said, how, William, does thou say its another sort of bread, thou has had no other sort of us since thou came into this house, neither have we, save now and then a half quartern course loaf. William seemed hard of belief. Then I fetched several of the loaves and put them before the friends and it plainly appeared to be all of one sort of bread, and several friends was in the parlour at that time who admired at William Townsend, saying, they could not have believed had they not seen it. But the friends were all well satisfied at last and desired William to be content and easy. So the friends went away and very loving and we were glad of it. Also that we had opportunity to inform them.

87. [p. 90] The 7th day before William Townsend's coals were to be sent &c, Edward Carr went up with their coals and William Townsend's maid began as follows:

Saying, I do not care if I went out of this house this day if my master and mistress go with me that they may not be murdered as the rest has. The young man asked her who was murdered. She said, several or most had been murdered, and Elizabeth Stanton in particular, and said, when she was laid out she was as hot as that little cat. The man said, this is like the stuff thou used to say, thou called us all devils. She said, so you are, I can see little else except in our chamber. We have never had our weight or measure in any thing and if I go but into the yard I hear the old people say some of them has not their weight and some of them has good shares, but especially Elinour Cobb because she is with friend Claridge.

88. Lastly with some observations upon the whole &c.

William Townsend having dined at the house several times, and was very diligent in seeing the allowances cut both for the ancient friends and children and esteemed it very sufficient. Then I told William what exercise we sometimes had notwithstanding the allowances was so large, provision so good &c. William made answer and said we ought to have some in the family that might take part of the care from us. Also said it was very weighty and too much for us, referring to that passage relating to Jethro, Moses' father in law.

But soon afterwards when William could not prevail with me to turn the friend out of her room in order to give place to him without first acquainting the committee, he began to be very much displeased. [p. 91] So then William came before the committee, who did not comply with the aforesaid request though he afterwards acknowledged that he was better placed than if it had been granted him. But when William was admitted he owned before the committee how he was well satisfied both with the orders and bill of fare. Yet soon after he came into the house he began to insist on a different diet [from] the rest. Several times saying the rest of the family need not know it. And he was then of the mind the provision was very well for the poor of the family, yet concluded it was not reasonable that he and his family should be kept to the same diet, allowance &c. And about this time William began to have pretty much discourse with us and the tendency of it was (seeming in a very friendly manner) to prevail with us to go different from the orders and bill of fare relating to himself &c. And then I told him I was obliged to go according to the orders otherwise I should give a just occasion to the rest.

So then William began to try what rough treatment would do and especially to my wife, carrying himself towards her very unlike what might reasonably have been expected of him. But when none of this could gain what was then desired, his uneasiness soon took air in the family who was then in a quiet, contented frame generally speaking, so far as we could perceive. But William, in a great warmth of mind, made several undue reflections upon the orders and the cruelty of them, also on the bill of fare, and the meanness of the provision, and this was before his wife, the maid and the friend that lodged in their room, and soon after, the whole family came to know of their uneasiness.

So when I let the family know we went according to the orders and bill of fare and that hitherto we had done . . . [p. 92] the same to all, also told them we did believe none of them could deny the same. And said, I could not answer William's mind in doing otherwise now without partiality. And when the family understood that William endeavoured for something more than the rest, then they freely owned we did equally by them all, and said they had that which was good & enough of it and there was no cause of complaint, and it was well done of us to serve all alike. And they further said it was a pity William Townsend should have come into the family except he could have been content with what the house allowed as well as the rest.

Then when William Townsend appeared before the committee in order to answer to several reflections made on the orders and bill of fare which he both owned and stood by, though he got no encouragement from the committee, and yet after this William Townsend let in a strong belief that we were not so sneaking and pinching for the interest of the house only but in order to augment our own salary and put something in our own pockets. Saying, others in the family was of the same mind and would say so as well as he. But it proved quite the contrary when it was enquired into. Then William Townsend alleged it was the effect of fear in them, we being so cruel as he had told us just before. Also said, but I am not afraid of you. Now after William Townsend had tried several ways to lessen us in our reputations, which he could not bring to bear and his going out of the house being delayed, then he began to say the poor of the family was basely dealt by and has asserted the same to the servants several times. Also twice said he would take his affirmation that he had not his weight in anything except pudding since he came into the house.

And now we do clearly perceive that several in the family sides with him, having an eye to what William may do. They perceiving him very diligent in attending the committee when at the house, which may make it seem to them as if his case were otherwise than it really is or as if the committee . . . [p. 93] had not a sufficient power to deal with him as with others who have been disorderly in the family. They well knowing when any have been found in practices inconsistent with the peace and reputation of the house, such, if they could not be reclaimed, were speedily turned out, and did hope William Townsend would have been removed before this time, and the orders read in the family and some seasonable cautions given in order to put a stop to and expel the inconveniences that those disorders has brought in, before they had come to so great a head.

We do think that if the committee were sensible how hard it is for us, and my wife in particular, to reside constantly amongst a dissatisfied people some of which will give themselves liberty to say almost anything to serve a turn, you would, with us, conclude our post very uncomfortable, and therefore those things ought to be considered and if it appear we are unjust, as of late we have been rendered, then justice ought to be done upon us as such who are unfit for this trust. But & if [it] appear to the contrary, then we ought to have justice done us and none suffered to continue in this house who looks upon things with an evil eye, because their disorderly minds are not answered and therefore gives way to evil surmising and reporting things very wrong and that without a cause in order to injure the reputation of them who makes it their care to have things in good order to give content, that there may be no just cause of complaint. And [we] do hope it may be said we have hitherto served the committee faithfully both for the interest of the house, and the good accommodation of the poor to the best of our understandings and therefore we do with submission conclude it's reasonable to apply to and expect redress from this committee in our present grievances. And I know not one friend who have thoroughly known of our late treatment but who have thought it very unreasonable that we should be thus imposed upon.

89. [pp. 94-5. A short description of Hutton's method for balancing the house's accounts, produced in more detail above, 10.]

90. [p. 96] Upon reading a proposal made to this court by John Bellers, Daniel Vandewall and Joseph Hackney, trustees for the corporation workhouse . . . [of] Clerkenwell in this county held by lease from Sir Thomas Rowe, Knight, granted in the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and eighty five for a term of fifty one years, for ripping and new tiling the whole roof of the said house and for effectually making good all the rafters and carpenters work, and for new laying several floors and mending of others, and for altering the common sewer to prevent an intolerable nuisance that attends it, the performance of which work will upon a moderate . . . [computation] of workmen amount to above three hundred pounds exclusive of painting [&] plastering . . . [or] glazing; providing they may have an addition of thirty-four years added to the present lease, of which about seventeen years are yet to come. It is ordered by this court that it be, and it is hereby recommended and referred to John Milner, Narcissus Luttrell, Alexander Ward, John Offley, William Kingsford, John Ellis, John Shorey, John Law, John Tuller, Doyly Mitchell, John Metcalfe, and William Booth Esquires, twelve of his Majesty's justices of the peace of this county or any five of them, and such other justices of the peace of the said county as will think fit to be present, to take a view of the said workhouse and the other buildings adjoining held by the same lease at thirty pounds per anno. And the said referees are desired to inspect the repairs wanting to be done at the said house and see what in their judgement it will want effectually to make good the said repairs, also how much the said house and buildings will produce at the end of the said term, and to report to his Majesty's justices of the peace next general sessions of the peace to be held for this county, whether in their judgement it will be for the benefit of the said county to add an additional term to the said lease on the terms proposed, or to continue the said premises at the present rent for the remainder of the term of years now to come. And for that purpose the said referees are desired to meet at Hicks . . . [p. 97] Hall in St. John Street on Thursday come sevennight at ten of the clock in the forenoon, and to adjourn from thence to the said workhouse or elsewhere, as occasion shall require, and the cryer of the said court is to attend the said justices from time to time and give notice of their place and times of meeting. (fn. 2)

Per Cur. [Simon] Harcourt.

91. Pursuant to the order of reference above mentioned we whose names are under written do hereby certify that we have viewed and inspected the workhouse in the said order mentioned and the buildings thereto belonging and have received the proposal hereunto annexed which we do approve of, and are of opinion that it will be for the benefit of the said county to grant such a new lease on the terms therein mentioned in regard of the public use . . . [to] which it is applied and [of] the great charge and expense which will be necessary to be laid out to repair the roof and other parts of the said workhouse and buildings. All which we certify and submit to the judgement of the court, dated this 13th day of August anno domini 1718. (fn. 3).

John Milner, William Kingsford, Alexander Ward, John Metcalfe, John Shorey, John Venner, Doyly Mitchell, John Hayns, William Booth.

92. [p. 98] To [his] Majesty's justices of the peace of the county of Middlesex appointed as a committee to view the corporation workhouse at Clerkenwell in the said county, held by lease at thirty pounds per annum granted to Sir Thomas Rowe, Knight, deceased, for the remainder of a term of fifty one years, and to inspect the repairs wanting to be done to the said house, and to see what it will want to make good the repairs and how much the said house and buildings thereto belonging will produce at the end of the said term and whether it will be for the benefit of the county to add an additional term on the terms proposed by John Bellers and others or to continue the premises at the present rent for the remainder of the present term of years now to come &c.

Pursuant to an order of sessions of the 9: day of July last: we whose names are subscribed, do on the behalf of our selves and the rest of the trustees, and persons entrusted and concerned in the said workhouse, propose that a new lease be granted to us or such other sufficient persons as shall be nominated by us from the trustees of this county for the term of ninety-nine years from Michaelmas next at the rent of thirty pounds per annum clear of all taxes and under the like covenants and agreements as in the present lease of the like premises.

That in consideration of such a new lease one hundred pounds shall be paid to the said justices and trustees for this county for the public use thereof as a fine or income upon sealing such a new lease. That in case the said workhouse shall at any time during the term of such new lease be converted or applied to any other use than it is now put to without the consent of the justices of the peace of this county in sessions, that then the leasees in such new lease to be granted shall either pay a further fine of one hundred pounds or surrender the said new lease and term so to be granted, save only that the present tenements (part of the said premises) as now divided and let out may be . . . [p. 99] continued as they are or converted into workhouses or otherwise as the said leasees shall think fit. (fn. 4)

Dated this 13th day of August anno domini 1719.

John Bellers, John Freame, Daniel Vandewall.

93. [p. 100] Concerning spinning cotton &c.

1. Whether the smallness of the children doth not render them incapable of that care and exactness which is required in spinning cotton to advantage?

Note: the general opinion of friends who are tallow chandlers is that they are not capable.

If the committee should agree to make trial it is supposed that one person will be fully employed in instructing and managing the work for 10 or 12 children.

2. Whether the charge of wages and maintenance of such instructors would not exceed what can rationally be supposed . . . [will be] gained by it more than by spinning mop yarn?

3. If the profit of spinning cotton were much more than that of mop yarn why do not so many ingenious young women as now spin mop yarn rather spin cotton; interest leading them to carefulness without the charge of instructors?

4. Whether a woman can earn six shillings per week constantly the year long by spinning cotton, which we are informed industrious women at spinning mop yarn easily do?

5. Whether when spun it will as quickly return into cash as mop yarn, there being at this time as much promised as we can spin in a week, and have also several hundred weight more bespoke and to be delivered as soon as spun?

6. Whether it doth not require a larger trading stock than mop yarn?

7. Whether it requires rooms made warm with fires to work in, in winter time?

8. Whether, if after trial cotton should not answer to expectation, it would not be hard to regain the custom of so many who have at this time a dependence on our yarn and been brought to the house by some time and endeavours?

9. Whether it would not be leaving a certainty for an uncertainty by laying down our trade and taking up another we neither understand nor know where to procure customers for?

[p. 101] 10. Whether, if for want of trade &c, we should have large stocks of cotton in hand it would not sooner receive damage in colour or other ways than mop yarn, and if such damage should happen the loss must needs be more considerable of the one than the other, because of the vast difference in their value?

11. If friends (in good will to the house) should condescend to take our stock of cotton (or part thereof), whether in time it might not make the house as great a burden (especially if not done well) as it lately was in the case of mops, that is, when they lay at the monthly meetings till they were spoiled and good for little?

12. And inasmuch as we receive children into the house at about seven years of age, and can bring them to spin saleable mop yarn in about nine or ten days' time whereas we are informed that children of that age are not capable to spin cotton that [is] saleable.

If it should be objected that only the big boys should spin cotton and the lesser the mop yarn:

We answer, that the big ones are now employed in carding for and instructing the lesser, for we find by experience that carding requires more strength than the lesser children have. Likewise, when we take in children we are obliged to place them with the bigger for instruction so that if they were separated the work of the little children and new beginners (which generally are many) would in great measure be lost, the which would prove a small disadvantage to the house.

Now, we have found for want of that constant care and exactness which cannot be expected of so little children as ours are, that the yarn they now spin hath fallen short an halfpenny per pound of its value when done with care and discretion.

Therefore, what may be expected when they are employed in so difficult a work (with respect to mop yarn) as cotton is . . . may be well considered.

94. [p. 102] Observations on the spinning of worsted, or remarks on the proposals thereof.

1. Proposal: that wool shall be found by the employers provided sufficient allowance be made for the waste.

Observation: the employer finding wool, it appears there will be no gains to the house saving the bare earnings.

2. Proposal: that sufficient allowance shall be made for waste.

Observation: upon enquiry we hear that it will be considerable because the waste consists in the yarn not being drawn out fine to a certain length, as for example, a quantity of wool is given to be made into 12 skeins of yarn, and the children, for want of judgement, often bring in but 10 instead of 12, then 2 skeins is wasted and . . . according to contract must be made good in yarn value and paid for spinning only 10 skeins. And when the waste is allowed and the reeling paid for out of the same earnings (as the custom is) there will remain but little for spinning.

3. Proposal: that it's thought six weeks' time is enough to teach.

Observation: but we are informed otherwise. Yet admit it be enough, then after that time spent, the earnings are to be after the allowance for waste, reeling &c is deducted out of the wages which is sometimes 3d. sometimes 4d. and sometimes 5d. per day, more or less. And if it's intended the whole day or 10 hours, the working part of the day, then what time will the children have to learn reading, writing, arithmetic, play &c. We have done and now do order their work so that half the day, or the working part thereof, is allowed them for as before mentioned, besides the two meetings, one on the 3d and other on the 5th day, and [they] often have [the] afternoon to refresh themselves in the fields. But then, if half their time be allowed them in spinning worsted then consequently half the wages will drop, then it will be some 1½d., some 2d. and 2½d. more or less per day.

4. Proposal: that they shall be instructed at the charge of the house, the proposer to furnish proper persons to that employment.

Observation: with the employer and the instructor's wages (whether diet &c is [included] we do not know) it will [take] considerable charge [p. 103] out of so small and uncertain earnings. Now, in our present work one man looks after all the children that spin and could do it if there were as many more and bring them to spin saleable mop yarn in three days time (without any loss by waste). The same man makes mops, brews and looks after all the horses & [is] ready on all occasions to be helpful about the house to the aged, weak &c. Note: we have found it very inconvenient to have our whole dependence of trade on one man. Whereas at present we are well furnished with variety of customers which have been brought to the house by time and some endeavours.

We have cast up what our children earn one with another and find it 3¼d. per day each. And the earnings and profit together for four years last past has amounted to about £567.

We cannot find that worsted will gain half the profit to the house as mop yarn when rightly considered.

At this juncture there is an extraordinary demand for worsted spinners, weavers' trade being good, but when the contrary they give less prices and [it is] hard to get spinning.

95. [p. 104] Of spinning worsted according to proposal.

1. Please to consider that by spinning of mop yarn we have got considerable profit on the yarn besides 2½d. per pound allowed for spinning, as also considerably by the sale of mops. Together near £5 per year (as we suppose), all which we shall wholly lose by spinning worsted, the manager providing work as by his proposal and we are only to be paid for spinning.

2. We find by experience one big boy and two little ones working together easily earn two shillings in ten hours, that is from six to six, allowing two hours for meal times, whereas it is not proposed they should earn above [blank] per day at worsted.

3. Spinning mop yarn requires but four candles for about 50 children, but it's thought worsted may require a candle to each wheel.

4. One man attends above 40 children and could attend 20 more, make mops, serves the horses, brews &c and it's supposed worsted would require one instructor to 10 or 12 children besides the manager.

5. Spinning worsted is paid for by the length and not by weight, therefore is the more improper for little children who . . . not consulting interest, are apt to follow that method which makes the most riddance of wool in the shortest time.

6. All the girls at certain times on particular occasions are obliged to leave their sewing &c and take to the wheel for a day or two, it may be in two weeks' time. And so much as they can spin mop yarn well we find it profitable, but if we should exchange mop yarn for worsted that profit would be lost. The girls' time for spinning not being sufficient [to] learn worsted to advantage.

7. We have found that for want of that constant care & exactness which cannot reasonably be expected from such small children as ours are (they being taken in at seven years of age) the yarn they now spin hath fallen short an half penny per pound of its value if done with care and discretion. Therefore, we cannot but expect a greater disadvantage by bad work [p. 105] when they are employed in worsted, the one so much exceeding the other in fineness.

8. We do conclude, if worsted were more advantageous than mop yarn, women who now spin mop yarn, and earn thereby (as we are informed) six shillings per week, would rather spin worsted, interest leading them to carefulness without charge of instructors.

9. Worsted being an oil wool therefore may require [more] charge in firing than mop yarn.

10. And it should be well considered if worsted should not answer to expectations, it may be difficult to retain the custom of so many who now have a dependence on our yarn and who have been brought to the house by time and some endeavours.

Note: spinning cotton was under consideration and some of our customers heard of it and if they should of worsted it might prove a disadvantage.

11. We have also found very inconvenient to have our dependence of trade on one man, whereas at present we are pretty well furnished with variety of customers.

12. Whether the proposer would be willing the children should have the best of the day for learning, that is from breakfast time to past 12 at noon and from two till five in the afternoon in the winter and the fore part of the day in the summer, which now they have. And if they should be deprived of that great privilege (the present income of the house affording the same without lessening the principal stock) whether it may not be a great discouragement to the house as likewise to the children, the chief end of spinning being only to inure them to an habit of industry by keeping them out of idleness, and not exert their endeavours to their utmost ability.

96. [p. 106] Spinning linen for sack considered, 25 March 1717.

We have cast up our children's earnings one with another and find it 3¼d. per day each, besides the profit by selling yarn and mops, whereas about half of the day is allowed them for schooling, play &c every day besides an allowance for meeting times on 3d and 5th days, and the whole gains on this account for 4 years last past is about £567.

When our whole dependence of trade was only on one man we were obliged to give long credit and have found it difficult to get the money at last. And the employer finding we had no other dependence has then begun to be uneasy and uncertain, also finding unexpected faults (the children being young and unlearned) as the work not being well, waste of goods &c. And if our children are employed in linen, which I am creditably informed their fingers cannot manage, there may be more demanded than the flax they work upon will produce. Then, if abatements should be required for such deficiencies, the profit to the house may prove very small considering the impossibility of any other advantage than the bare earnings, because the employer finds the work.

Unless the employer be a person [of] credit and great business our children who are now pretty many in number may possibly stand still for want of employ which would be an extraordinary inconveniency and . . . is too often the consequence when depending on one man. It would prevent their habit of industry, also prove a great loss to the house.

If the profit of spinning linen were more than spinning mop yarn would not so many of the ingenious young women who spin mop yarn rather then go to . . . spin linen, interest leading them to carefulness, not having occasion, like children, to be at the charge of instructors.

[p. 107] Whether a woman can earn six shillings per week at linen all the year round which we are informed industrious women at spinning mop yarn can easily do?

Whether it will require more fire places in winter?

Whether it may prove healthful for the children so young as are commonly sent into the house to be confined so much of their time at the linen wheel and the principal part of the rest of their time to sit at the writing school, and its reasonable to suppose but little time must be allowed for play if they make any reasonable earnings and have a suitable education.

Note: We have found it very difficult to manage the girls relating to their health since they have left the stirring exercise of the wheel.

We conclude it [is] much against the interest of the house to change the business in the summer.

By taking notice of new proposals we have been upbraided with uncertainty of depending on our yarn which may be the cause of discouraging the customers (especially if the report should spread) and make them leave the house. And if a new employ should not answer it might prove difficult to regain the custom of so many who now have a dependence on us and have been brought to the house by time and some endeavours.

We are informed that the friend who now makes this proposal was encouraged thereunto by an information that our present employ did not answer our expectations and our goods did not make a quick return and what the same seem more reasonable is, there being several poor people there always would willingly accept of some such business if any would please to employ them.

Richard Hutton

97. [p. 108] Memorandum, 18 October 1711.

The first night we came to settle this house there was an ancient friend sitting in one of the corners by the kitchen fire, and in the other, another friend who dined at our table and expressed himself in a very passionate way saying, do thou judge steward, if this be reasonable for him to sit in a corner when none ought to sit there, but I stand, I who are allowed such privileges by the committee . . . The two friends gave each other very unbecoming treatment.

The friend first settling in the corner alleged he had leave of the former stewardess to eat his victuals in the kitchen, also claimed the same privilege of us, which we dispensed with, though pretty many inconveniences attended it. Too many here to mention.

And the same friend being one day sitting by the fire in the corner, aforesaid, with his dinner on his knee, that being his usual way of dining, the other friend aforesaid came in and immediately seized the friend's chair hauling him & his dinner altogether into the middle of the kitchen, and then took a chair and sat down in the same corner himself. But the heart burning and contention that such work as this made in the family would scarcely be believed were it related, which consequently would not have happened had all been received on the same foot. For the several circumstances of inhabitants occasioned a striving who should govern, but too few were willing to be under government themselves and in this condition we found the family.

Some who have dined at our table have several times told us we were but their servants and maintained there to wait on them, and they paid more than the rest, saying, the house got by them but it got nothing by us. Also said, they had as proper a right to go into the pantry, and to be in the kitchen or parlour when they pleased as we had. And as for the provision, they told us it was none of ours and therefore they would have what they pleased and when they pleased. [p. 109] Now, when such treatment as aforesaid came to be known in the family the same expressions have been repeated by several of the poor maintained at the meetings' charge and frequently when the children have been present.

When my wife has been cutting out roast or boiled meat for the family at noon those who dined at our table would come with a large copper spoon like ladle and stand in her way, taking the gravy out of the great dish where the meat lay, thereby dropping upon and greasing her cloths, they not having patience to stay till we dined, when they might have gravy enough. And she has been cutting pudding into shares, if there was any place in the pudding that had more plums than the rest, they would cut out that piece for themselves. Those things and such like were bad examples in the family, especially when liberty was taken to do them when we was present.

And when my wife provided any diet for the weak or sick that was different from the diet of the house they would sit or stand looking on, asking questions. Saying that, the poor that was maintained at the common allowance had better provision and attendance than they. Saying, why might not they have such things, they paid more than the rest. And when prepared and set out of hand to cool, part of it would be eaten up unless some were placed in the kitchen to watch it.

And because we could not eat the meat quite so fresh as the rest of the family, they would be discontent and say we fed our table with little but salt meat on purpose that they might not eat much of it. And often told us that we grudged them victuals, though we frequently desired them to have a fresher sort of meat but they would not, but some times went from the table displeased and have told us we should hear of it on both sides of our ears. And we, knowing it was another sort of diet that they inclined to, have to keep our peace . . . otherwise they would have eaten nothing, [p. 110] though several sorts of diet for persons that are in health gives a just occasion of uneasiness to servants by hindering their business. Likewise, by such examples the rest of the family would find fault with the saltiness of the beef when it was quite the contrary. Insomuch as salt beef has been so commonly expressed that an ancient friend by way of complaint has said when eating, this beef is so very salt; when at the same time he was eating part of a fresh leg of mutton bought the day before.

And when we have had roast meat, some of our table would run their fingers into the meat while it was roasting and frequently handle the meat at table very indecently, which is offensive to decent, cleanly people; and yet when strangers dined with us they could behave themselves discreetly.

Also under a pretence of visiting and sitting with some of them who dined at our table has come in an intruding sort of people (on first days in the evening especially) who would place themselves in the kitchen and there sit smoking tobacco and keep our servants from the fire. And being told they might be of more service in their own families than to be here keeping our servants from the fire, then such have returned unhandsome language, implying as if they had as good toleration as we, saying, we could not hinder them, or words to that effect.

And when any friends have come to the house about business, I have been obliged to take them into the yard or some private room if the business required to be private, our parlour be so common and such and incidence being in them who claim privilege there, to hear and know all that passeth if possible and would take it amiss if they were desired to withdraw except it were some of the committee. And thus things have been reported amongst the family and thereby the affairs of the house made more common than was convenient.

These and many other difficulties I could mention which we have and do still lay under. And it seems to us very unlike it should be, otherwise, whilst persons are placed [p. 112: the number 111 was omitted in the original pagination] here on a different foot to the rest, who esteem themselves not only equal but superior to us, and we but as their servants, alleging the house gets by them as aforesaid.

So, for reasons already mentioned, we hope it may not be thought unreasonable if, with submission, we desire the little parlour and kitchen to ourselves. The former being fitted up out of the box with the committee's money on purpose for John Powell and his wife had he lived till they had been married . . . We have been told by one that dines at our table that in case John Powell had lived and brought his wife home, then they must not have enjoyed the privilege of the parlour as they now did, also said, but he was disappointed &c.

And when the committee was about placing us in this house they did propose that we should have some private instructions concerning the family and managing the affairs relating thereunto and when the friend brought the said instructions to us in writing also verbally expressed several difficulties that we might expect to meet with (which has proved true); likewise advised not to be discouraged thereat, saying we being young people it was hoped we might continue in the place until the house came to a better settlement. And likewise told us he had something to acquaint us with for our encouragement, which was that we should have the little parlour entire to ourselves as it was intended for the late steward and his wife as aforesaid. Only, he said, perhaps John Heywood might sit to keep us company some times. And some other privileges the friends also spoke of which was enjoyed by the former stewards and in course would come to us, but it proving otherwise therefore I omit mentioning them here.

And now the family is and like to continue pretty large, and [p. 113] various things happen relating to managing the affairs of it. And the parlour also the kitchen stands entire to do the business of the house, which makes our service more effectual, also affords us more satisfaction than if the committee should allow us one of the houses in the tenements for our accommodation.

And we do conclude that any who may or have placed persons in a public concern do allow such persons some suitable entertainment in this respect separate from them who are or may be under their care. For example, in the next house to us which is also a public concern, though quite of a different nature yet there is a suitable accommodation made for persons concerned as aforesaid. In the first place there is a good new house built for the captain or master, and is also a little house built for [the] poor woman that opens the gate and is entire to herself.

Now, for several reasons before mentioned and considering the trust committed to us, our care is or at least ought to be pretty great in such a family as this. We do therefore entreat the committee would with us see the necessity of our having a little place to ourselves and in order thereunto prevent for the future any friend or friends from being put upon us. We desire it not for ostentation, but as aforesaid, . . . that the business which requires privacy may be done accordingly, also to have a place to retire to as occasion requires.

I have lately been informed of several persons, and some of them are supposed to be pretty difficult, who incline to come into the house as boarders, and several are in the house now who are uneasy because they have not the like privileges. Therefore, if our small table were as large as could stand in the meeting room it may be questioned whether it could entertain all who might endeavour to be accommodated there, and yet those who have been gratified therewith and find our diet the same with the house, then [cause] uneasiness, contention and murmuring . . . to take place [p. 114] as aforesaid, saying, they pay more than the rest and have only the same provision. And if occasionally we have at our table a joint of fresh meat, though before we eat any of it, my wife cuts for the sick and weak in the family, and then if we only dine of it yet it will occasion whispering and murmuring in the family and we but conclude few in our place would be easy therewith.

But if the committee see meet to take any friends into the house in order to have a different entertainment we do conclude a large room with a fire place in it may be taken up on that occasion, also a new bill of fare made that differs from the common diet and if it proves to their satisfaction, then possibly we may go on more quietly than hitherto we have.

98. Proposals to &c.

We have found [it] inconvenient when friends have been sent into this house with expectations to be maintained upon a different foot to the rest, which very much tends to making them uneasy and laying waste the present bill of fare and orders of the house.

And if a different entertainment be thought necessary, we do conclude a large room must be fitted up for such friends to dine and be accommodated by themselves. Likewise a bill of fare made for them as may be thought sufficient and such . . . allowances to be paid as may answer the charge of a separate room, a fire by themselves, a different diet and servants to attend &c.

We are sensible, for several reasons (too large here to mention), it is very inconvenient that any who are maintained as pensioners &c should diet and be entertained in that small room allotted for the steward. Also, there being now a school and a school mistress, which formerly was not, and the steward &c finds it necessary for them to be accommodated with them in order to converse with them about matters relating to the family as time and opportunity permits.

[p. 115] N.B. Notwithstanding there may be different entertainment, yet for any to go contrary to the present orders of the house may prove very inconvenient as by experience has already appeared.

Richard Hutton

99. Our family have consisted generally speaking of a sort of dissatisfied persons very unfit for a community, also having amongst us as a people such who are very unskilful in their sentiments relating to the managing such an affair, also will very much resent it if their proposals and requests are not observed and that before them who may have a real sense of the matter as also sincerely desirous and industrious for the good of the house. Yet, when there is a dissatisfied family at home and many unskilful persons abroad, as aforesaid, who are more liable to hear reports than to give such bad reports a due consideration, therefore under those constant circumstances, [we] do conclude it very difficult and uneasy to them who under you has the care of such a family, also has and still may greatly tend to lessening of the house in its good accommodations.

Hitherto a remedy has not been found for those disadvantages that the house has all along and yet labours under, which, if it could, might produce those effects, viz: thankfulness and content in the family, the interest and reputation of the house, also quietness and composure of mind of the governors of it. . . I have had some thoughts on this matter as follows:

Which with submission is that you should have governors you may safely confide in, and the monthly meetings as well as the committee should be made sensible they are such as may be entrusted not in doing justly by the committee only but the family likewise, because doing right by the family has generally by some been the matter of question. Now here comes a passage into my mind may not be improper to mention though it's a little from the matter I am at.

[p. 116] Our new bill of fare was made in the year 1713 and doth considerably exceed the former bill of fare in quantity and so doth all parts of the provision in quality, except bread which was the same sort as now. I remember about that time the trade of the house was grown pretty much better than formerly it had been and soon after legacies frequently dropped in, so we began to get a little forward, which soon after took air and without doubt many honest friends were glad to hear it. But this did not please all, for so soon as our family heard of it I was told by some of them in a very untoward reflecting manner, saying, we heard the house begins now to save money by us every year and you ought not to get or save money by the poor. Also said that, friends gave not their money to the house with the intent but it was given in order to be laid out upon the poor in order to comfort them and not to be hoarded up. And in a small time after those . . . kinds of reflections were made abroad relating to the house saving money every year by pinching of the poor and over working of the children, and I have since been frequently told by the poor in the family that 3s. per week which their monthly meetings allowed for them was more than would maintain them abroad and therefore the house saved money by the poor. I mention these things by the way to show that notwithstanding the provisions are ever so good and the allowance plentiful, yet if our stock increase the poor do conclude that are not well used. Also observe, while here are reporters of stories abroad the house must be liable to be injured in its reputation.

Now to return to what I have thought might tend to remedying those things in a good degree if not quite, especially if it be well considered & rectified by the committee who well knows how to manage affairs of this or any other kind for the good of the house which of late in several cases has been done and has hitherto had good success for the encouragement.

[p. 117] When the monthly meetings as aforesaid do conclude they have such servants in this post, as may be considered in which do manage with as much prudence as they are capable, also with regard to justice in their trust in all respects, then the proper time may be for the monthly meetings unanimously to discourage such weak and unskilful persons as aforesaid, who by giving ear to reports do thereby give encouragement to the reporters of them, not considering how indirect it is for reports to be brought to them who are persons altogether unconcerned, when at the same time it's the care of each monthly meeting to choose suitable friends for their representatives in the committee (before whom all complaints may be laid, heard and if just, redressed) under whose care it is to visit the house every week to see that things are kept in good order and thereby are capable to give quarterly or monthly meetings an account thereof as occasion requires in [order] to maintain a good understanding between the said meetings and . . . the house.

Now, if the aforesaid meetings could be brought into a method and be hearty in discouraging such who incline to hear reports and by renewing general cautions in the . . . meetings from time to time to another when reports are heard, it may be a means to discourage the hearers. And as it comes to be generally known may put a stop to them who carry stories out of the house and do think it would make the family more settled, easy and thankful and consequently thrive better in body and mind.

And when the reputation of the house is thoroughly settled and carefully kept up from time to time, notwithstanding false reports or evil surmisings which hath hitherto been, yet it may be hoped that for the future the monthly meetings need not have so much labour and exercise in prevailing with their poor to accept of so plentiful a maintenance, but rather to advise and admonish them to be orderly in the house, endeavouring to walk worthy of so comfortable an accommodation which may fitly be compared to an estate which they cannot spend.

100. [p. 118] An estimate of the necessary repairs of the workhouse at Clerkenwell, viz:

Ripping and tiling the whole in the same from as it
is now in, being 158 square at 15s. per square
£118  10s.
Materials and carpenter's work shoring and repairing
the rafters and eaves boards
£148  10s.

101. This world's a city full of crooked streets.
Death is the market place where all men meets.
If life were merchandise which men could buy
Rich men would ever live and poor men die.


  • 1. FSSWA, 'Best Minutes, 1714-1724', pp. 184, 187.
  • 2. For the original of this document see GLRO, 'Middlesex Sessions: Orders of Court, vol. i, 1716-1721', f. 78. Also see FSSWA, 'Best Minutes, 1714-1724', pp. 185, 196, 199, 202, 204.
  • 3. For the original of this document see GLRO, 'Middlesex Sessions: Orders of Court, vol. i, 1716-1724', f. 79.
  • 4. For the original document see GLRO, 'Middlesex Sessions: Orders of Court, vol. i, 1716-1724', f. 80.