London Lives Revealed: Catherine Jones
All this week on fifteeneightyfour we are reconstructing the lives of eighteenth century Londoners who feature in, London Lives a new book which examines the daily lives of the poor and criminal in eighteenth century London, including thieves, paupers, prostitutes and highwaymen, and shows how their actions influenced the pace and direction of change in social policy.
Parish Forced to Provide Generous Relief to a Pauper Residing in Wales
Catherine Jones was a disabled woman who received poor relief from the parish of St Dionis Backchurch in the City of London from at least 1757 to at least 1783. For most of this time she was living in Wales. While the effort she was forced to expend in obtaining and maintaining this pauper/parish relationship was considerable, the amount of support she received was also substantial.
The churchwarden’s accounts for the parish mention providing her support in 1757, when they paid her £3 4s. Whether this was their first payment to her is not certain; nor is any reason given as to why she received it. Catherine Jones’ own words in letters written to “her” parish show she was certain of her settlement in St Dionis parish. It may have been her father’s place of birth, and she may have lived there in the past. There is no evidence that she was married, and she does not appear to have had children. The parish must have agreed her settlement in view of their continuing payments.
Catherine demanded relief either in letters written by herself, or in those drafted by a professional scribe. She had her strategy well worked out. One letter, written in June 1758 in a professional hand, was written on her behalf to the churchwarden of St Dionis Backchurch. She explained that she was infirm, suffering great physical pain from two broken arms and a rupture. She requested three guineas to be paid for her at a book-keeper’s at the “Castle and Falcon” in Aldersgate Street in the City of London, who would provide a receipt and forward the money to her in Wrexham. A letter apparently written in her own hand, dated three months later requested a further two guineas. She effectively threatened to return to St Dionis if she was not helped. She said she was trying to “keep countenance”, to avoid having to apply for support to the parish of Llangedwyn in Denbyshire where she was living, since they would almost certainly remove her to London. The parish of Wrexham had already sent her packing. She explained she was suffering greatly and sometimes could not stand owing to her rupture. She was prepared to travel (to Shrewsbury) to secure a reliable witness to her bodily pain and suffering. She required the money to be sent for her to William Morris near Llangedwyn; and so it was.
Another letter was directed by Catherine Jones to Mrs Sarah Parker, the parish sextoness in February 1759. Now she needed 50 shillings for clothes and expressed anxiety that the churchwardens were not responding with the urgency she felt her case deserved. She had found herself a position in an apothecary’s shop, “to sit in the shop and to keep company with some gentlewomen that are disabled”. It was obviously her preference to remain around the Welsh Borders (Llangedwyn, Wrexham, Oswestry) rather than remove to London, and she gave the address of another inn, “The Three Tuns”, from which she would collect her relief money.
A further letter from Jones, dated October 1759 and postmarked Oswestry, to the churchwarden and overseer, Mr Peter Pope, berated the parish, probably unjustly, for forgetting her. This letter was in the name of a Mary Williams, Jones’ father’s former maid who was looking after her. Jones, with her bad arms, could not dress herself, and was in a poor condition; Williams could not go on looking after her if relief was not forthcoming. Jones, writing in her own hand on the same sheet of paper, advised Pope that she had “been before the officers [of the parish of Llangedwyn] to make my affidavit”. In the same letter she made plain her intention of coming to London, with the carriage costs to be paid by St Dionis parish, if she did not receive relief soon. This time her arrangements required the relief to be paid for her at “The Swan” public house in Oswestry.
St Dionis Backchurch paid relief to Catherine Jones through the hands of Peter Pope, the overseer, each year from 1760 until 1772. Sometimes it was sent to her via a grocer’s premises in London, more often by post to Wrexham, paying 4d postage each time. The parish also paid postage on letters sent to them by Jones, perhaps receipts or reminders to pay.
In 1772, for some unknown reason, Catherine Jones did indeed come to London, and was placed in the pauper farm workhouse at Hoxton, run by John Hughes and William Phillips. There is evidence of her presence there in April 1772 when she signed for receipt of an apron. By July 1772, she asked to return to Wrexham. The deal she struck on this occasion, gave her two guineas in hand, a pair of shoes and two guineas a year. The parish paid 12s for her carriage back to Wrexham.
Relief payments were sent for her to Wales for the rest of 1772 and into 1773. It must certainly have been cheaper for the parish to do this rather than pay for her to stay in Hoxton. However, for unknown reasons, she turned up again at the pauper farm in 1773, staying there from 17 August until 13 September, when she again returned to Wales. This time the parish paid for her carriage (at 10s 6d) and equipped her with a new apron, a shift and the promise of 2s a week. For the rest of 1773, 1774 and most of 1775, this arrangement continued, costing the parish around £5 a year.
She returned yet again to the pauper farm in 1775, staying there from 14 October until 8 January 1776. The total amount recorded as paid to her for 1775 was £13 2s 6d. This included her relief while in Wales, her time at the pauper farm in Hoxton, her carriage back to Wales (£2), a pair of shoes, an upper petticoat and a shift given to her on her departure. In 1777, her relief was raised to £8 (£4 each half year), and the churchwardens’ records confirm that they paid her the same amount, sending the money by post to Wrexham, during 1779 and 1780. Finally, as far as the parish records are concerned, on 24 June 1783 a payment covering 18 months (1782-3) was sent to her at Wrexham in the amount of £12. After this date, she disappears from the parish records, probably because she died.
This biography is written by Deirdre Palk for www.londonlives.org