History | Norton Green Workhouses
Poor Relief in the Parish of Norton in the Moors
There is a great deal of documentation relating to the Parish Workhouse in Norton Green, but there are few who are aware that there was an earlier Workhouse within the Parish, as early as 1731.
Other than the Workhouse 1798 on Endon Road, which most people are aware of, within this topic we will be looking into evidence of this earlier Workhouse 1731 and its inmates as well as looking at;
11th - 12th Century Part 1
Up until the early part of the sixteenth century the poor, infirm and sick of the Parish and surrounding area would have been cared for on a voluntary basis by the Cistercian Abbey of St Mary’s at Abbey Hulton - founded 1219.
References to Norton at this time refer to Norton as Norton under Kermond or Keremond (Norton under Carmount) Monasteries such as St Mary’s felt it was their religious duty to care for the sick and poor and to see that the dead had a Christian burial.
Matthew Chapter 25; All Christians shall:
By 1538 King Henry VIII had announced himself as Head of the Church of England and many of the monasteries of the land who denounced his royal proclamation were seized and torn down with the lands and assets seized for the crown.
It was in this year on the 18th of September that St Mary’s was seized by royal command. At the surrender of Hulton Abbey there was 1 Abbot and 8 Monks in the establishment.
The following signatures were present on the ‘Charter of Surrender’
- Edwardu Wilkyns – Abbot
- Wyllm Hashenhurst
- Wyllm Norton
- John Buctnall
- John Smyth
- Willm Chalnar
- Johannem Johnson
- Ricum Cradocke
- Galfrido Heth
An Inherent Problem
The dissolution of the Monasteries forced the sick and poor of England to wander the length of the country in search of charity and means to support themselves. In the 1590’s a series of poor harvests and enclosure acts forced many common folk from the countryside to flock to large cities in search of work and a new life.
The Elizabethan era also saw an increase in the population by 25% and the large cities soon become over run with starving and destitute families, sick, beggars and criminals - the country was quickly falling into moral and social decline. From 1552 the problem had to be dealt with and throughout the Elizabethan period a great number of Poor Law acts were passed in a reaction to the problem. Laws were passed that all 15,000 parishes were to record birth’s deaths and marriages of its inhabitants and to elect overseers of the poor to help the clergy with relief of the poor.
The ‘1601 Poor Law Act’ gave parishes the power to:
- Collect ‘poor relief’ from property owners
- Offer relief for the deserving poor
- To provide working materials for the unemployed
- To provide apprenticeships for orphans and children whose parents were unable to support them
- Set up parish houses for those unable to support themselves
The Act of Settlement
1662 saw the passing of ‘the settlement act’ this act was put in place to return those who fell on hard times and were receiving poor relief in a parish which was not of their origin, to their own parish.
If a family or labourer was to move away from his own parish then the JP would issue them with a ‘certificate of settlement’ saying that if the bearer of the certificate were to fall on hard times and apply for poor relief then his own parish would repay their relief and would repay a charge of their transport to the parish on the certificate - where further relief would be forthcoming.
To qualify for a settlement certificate you had to either:
- Be born in the Parish
- Having worked in the Parish for a year and a day
- In the case of women, marriage to a male of a Parish would give qualification
Although this act was based on evenly distributing poor relief by elevating over burdened and sympathetic towns and Parishes, it also had a negative effect on others. The free movement of labour was hindered by those not prepared to leave the security of their own Parish, as some Parishes began to only offer outsiders short working contracts of only 364 day’s or 51 weeks, so as not give qualification for poor relief or settlement.
Throughout the 17th Century many briefs were issued by the Crown ordering parishes to raise collections of alms for national crisis along with those of local needs. Here are a few examples from the Church records of St Nicholas / St Bartholomew's – Norton Le Moors.
The Church of St Nicholas - Taken down May 3rd 1737 and re-built, renamed as St. Bartholemew’s, Norton le Moors
- 3rd January 1664 - For the losses for the fire in the Strand at London - 3 shillings & 6 pence
- 30th June 1664 - For the church at Sandwich in Kent - 3 shillings & 10 pence
- 12th March 1664 - At Norton for a fire for our own man - 3 shillings
- 13th February 1666 - For a fire at Pelsall in Staffordshire - 3 shillings & 6 pence
- 3rd October 1666 - For the fire at London & for the relief of many thousands of poor people there - £2 - 2 shillings & 8 pence
- 20th October 1678 - Collected for the building of St Pauls Cathedral, London - 4 Shillings & 8 pence
- 6th October 1681 - For the Protestants of lesser Poland - 4 shillings & 3 pence
- May 1682 - For the distressed Protestants in France or rather those that have come over to England - 9 shillings & 5 pence
- 5th October 1682 - For the fire in Wales - 4 shillings & 2 pence
- 1675 - 4 shillings & 3 pence collected for Algiers sailor’s - prisoners there - not called for
– thus distributed:
- Widow Brunt - 6 pence
- Widow Capie - 6 pence
- Widow Wilson - 6 pence
- Widow Mary Flood - 6 pence
- James Lee als Boson - 6 pence
- John Cowper - 6 pence
- Ann Meare - 4 pence
- Margaret Boson - 4 pence
- Ann Blower - 6 pence
Benefactions for the relief of the poor were also left in the hands of the church to invest and use the profits to elevate the suffering of those unable to support themselves – some of these benefactions included:
- Hugh Meare – Late of Norton Hall houses left the use of £5 yearly for the use of the poor – John Sherratt put in trust
- Mr Thomas Sherratt – Left interest of £10 forever for the use of the poor of the parish
- Sir John Bowyer – Knight & Baronet – left £3 – the yearly interest to be distributed in bread
- Hugh Forde – Of Forde Green did in his lifetime give the furthermost pew in Norton Church, situated in the north end of the gallery and all sitting in the arch in the wall, in the middle part of the gallery for the use of the poor inhabitants of the parish
- William Sherratt – left the interest of 50 shillings forever out of a field called ‘Annatts field’ (The yearly interests of sums bequeathed to be distributed to the poor in bread)
Lord Norton Charles Bowyer Adderley 1814-1905
We also find many entries of benefactions from Lord Norton – C B Adderley, such as in 1847- £24 was held for the poor of Norton and again in 1848 – the interest on £50 from the purchase of land from Lord Norton to extend the church yard.
Distribution of these charities was for many years given out on New Years day at the Church. Parishioners would have been given a small amount of money, bread or meat -depending on their circumstances. There was also a monthly distribution of 12 loaves on the first Sunday of every month, either at the church or that of the farm house of Mr J.H. Deane. (Mr Deane’s farm stood adjacent to the church) This practice continued up until 1912 when new schemes for the relief of the poor were set up.
The first documented evidence we can find relating to a Workhouse (at this time known as a ‘Parish House’ ) in the Parish of Norton in the Moors is in the Parish Registers. It is clear from entries in these registers that a Workhouse was in operation as early 1731, as the term ‘ Inmate ’ & ‘ Poor-man or woman ’ follows the entry.
The following selection is taken from the Parish registers for the Parish of Norton in the Moors.
- 1731 - November 29th -Baptized - Ralph -son of Ralph & Lydia Taylor - INMATES
- 1733 - August - 25th - Baptized - John - son of William & Mary Gratton - INMATES *
- 1733 - November 17th – Baptized - William – son of Thomas Isabel Leigh - INMATES
- 1733 - November 24th - Baptized - Sarah - daughter of Ralph & Hannah Holland - INMATES
- 1734 - October 5th - Baptised - Alice - daughter of Thomas & Hannah Richinson - INMATES
- 1734 - October 26th - Baptized - Elizabeth - daughter of Joseph & Hannah Willot - INMATES
- 1735 - April 19th - Baptized - Mary - daughter of Thomas & Alice Wagginson - INMATES
- 1735 - November 2nd - Baptized - William - son of Thomas & Mary Chaddocke - INMATES
- 1735 - November 23rd - Baptized - Anne - daughter of William & Margaret Prince - INMATES
- 1735 - February 3rd - Burial - Sarah Cartlitch - POOR-WOMAN
- 1735 - March 7th - Burial - Richard Austin - POOR-MAN
- 1735 - December 25th - Baptized - Mary - daughter of Thomas & Elizabeth Momeford INMATES
- 1736 - February 11th - Burial - Thomas Tunstall - POOR-MAN
- 1736 - February 17th - Burial - Hannah Bradshawe - POOR-WOMAN
- 1736 - April 8th - Baptized - Thomas - son of William & Mary Gratton - INMATES
( *William & Mary’s first entry was in 1733 - above - giving indication of them living, either intermittently or periodically in the workhouse for at least 3 years)
- 1736 - May 9th - Burial - Thomas Liegh - POOR-MAN
- 1736 - August 29th - Baptized - Hannah - Daughter of Jonathan & Elizabeth Rose - INMATES
- 1736 - October 11th - Baptized - William - son of Daniel & Sarah Becket - INMATES
- 1736 - October 19th -Baptized - Samuel - son of Isaac & Mary Yerdley - INMATES
- 1736 - December 21st - Burial - John Momeford - POOR-MAN
- 1736 - December 31st - Burial - Miss Mary Oakes - POOR-WOMAN
The Church and Parishes sympathy and compassion towards the poor of Norton in the Moors should not go unmentioned, for the building of a ‘Parish House’ (1 of only 600 in England and Wales at this time and pre-dating vast cities such as Birmingham) shows their heart felt commitment to the welfare and well-being of it’s Parishioner’s.
By 1777 we find a reference to Norton in the Moors Workhouse in a Parliamentary report. The report was a survey of the Expenditure of the Poor in England & Wales. It states – Norton in the Moors workhouse capable of accommodating 24 inmates.
At this time there were 1,873 parish workhouses in existence in England and Wales and their total expenditure of poor relief was £1.55million, of which only £80,000 was spent on workhouses. Most of the poor relief being distributed by ‘outdoor relief’.
* Kitty’s Buildings - Norton in the Moors
To date our research is yet to confirm the exact site of this early Workhouse but local sources suggest a couple of possible buildings. Firstly there is ‘Kitty’s Buildings’ later to become Church Works. A large enough and old enough building to accommodate at least 24 inmates and stood off Norton Lane and within 200 yards of the Church. Sadly these buildings were recently demolished and any clues they held to there past uses are lost forever. They are now replaced with 3 dwellings.
* Hargreaves’s Cottage – taken in the 1950’s
The other possible site is that of ‘Hargreaves Cottage’ again of the right age and within close proximity of the Church, standing next to Kitty’s buildings and large enough to house the appropriate number of inmates. Hargreaves cottage is now 2 dwellings but was once one large house with a long corridor stretching the full length of the building and had 2 large fireplaces. Having 2 large fireplaces in a house of this type suggest that there was separation in the house – possibly men in one end of the house and woman and children in the other, or inmates in one end and the living accommodation of the Master and Matron who ran the establishment at the other.
Either explanation was the basic set up for a Parish House of this era up until larger establishments were put into practise in the first half of the 19th century. At the present Hargreaves cottages seems the most probable site and with further research we hope to bring you confirmation of this. We can be sure that the original Workhouse was in existence for at least 67 years, as by 1798 a new house for the reception of the poor was built at Norton Green ... (*Photos Courtesy of Michael Childs – The Old Nortonian Society)
Endon Road Workhouse 1798
Norton Green Workhouse Endon Rd 1798
Norton Green workhouse Norton in the Moors was built about 1798 almost opposite Norton Hall on Endon Rd. A two storey stone building, originally with just two rooms.
According to old records the Master & the Mistress of the house would have shared the same space as the paupers, with only a partition separating the room upstairs. There was a single large room on both floors, with a central stove.
Historic records also show that an addition to the existing building was made to the East wing in 1824-25.
Numbers could fluctuate: there were 10 in 1814 and only 2 in 1815. The workhouse would have provided accommodation for the temporarily unemployed, unmarried mothers, the elderly and infirm and passing vagrants.
Workhouses were also colloquially known as ‘the spike’ - the origins of this name is somewhat unclear, with some sources suggesting that it was a reference to the poor quality of the mattresses – like sleeping on a spike! While others, suggest it a reference to a spiked tool used by inmates to pick oakum*. (* Oakum was the fibres material obtained by unwinding and unpicking old hemp ropes, which was then sold for caulking of ships and in plumbing).
This laborious practise was common throughout the country in most workhouses and jails as a means for the inmates to work for there keep. Whatever its true origins, as with all topics relating to the workhouses it is clearly not one of endearment!
In the next part of the ‘Poor relief in the parish of Norton In The Moors’ the second part to this topic, we will be looking at life in the new Workhouse at Norton Green by using ‘The Leek Poor Law Union’ minute books as a source of reference. These records give detailed accounts of each Workhouse in the union and begin in 1837.
Poor Law Act 1834
As attitudes hardened, especially after the Poor law Amendment Act of 1834, they were replaced by large institutions forming isolated communities for people from a number of parishes.
After the Poor law Amendment Act, Norton-in-the-Moors became part of the Leek Union, where a new much larger workhouse was built in 1839. In the early 19th century workhouses were still small in scale and basic in facilities.
Some excellent references to the Poor Laws;