The Bednall Archive
Last updated 08/11/2007
Two documents, from the Solicitor’s Waste Bin concern the removal of Ann Robinson, widow and her five children from Ipstones to Greatgate in Staffordshire, in 1809 and in particular to an appeal by the Overseers of the Poor of Greatgate against the removal order. Their content (rephrased, below) briefly outlines the life of a poor Staffordshire day labourer at the turn of the 19th century and illustrates the problems that the sudden death of the head of a family could pose not only for the family but also for local Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor faced with the problem of supporting them.
Robinson was born in Greatgate, Croxden, Staffordshire in or about 1773 and was
illegitimate. When he was about a month old he was put out to nurse to a Cynthia
Tunnicliffe of Alveton (Alton), Staffordshire who was paid by the parish of
Croxden to care for him. Samuel’s working life started at the early age
of seven when he left Cynthia’s home to live with and work for William Cotton
of Alton, as a day labourer. This arrangement continued for more than 17
years “under four separate hirings”. In this he was
fortunate because many farmers at that time, fired their labourers before the
end of each year and rehired them shortly afterwards to prevent them acquiring
legal settlement in the parish.
October 1797 Samuel married, Ipstones born, Ann [?] in the Alton parish church
and afterwards Samuel continued to work for and live with William Cotton while
Ann lived with Cynthia Tunnicliffe in Alton. The following Christmas,
however, Samuel quit the job after a disagreement over wages and hired himself
to two farmers in the neighbouring parish of Bradley, working 2 days a week for
one (Mr Tideswell) and 3 days a week for the other (Mr Gent). This
remained the situation for the next 3 years with Samuel working in Bradley and
returning home every evening to Cynthia Tunnicliffe’s where he and his growing
Christmas1805, Samuel went to work for Mr Cotton of Alton again for half a
guinea a month. This time, however, a small cottage at Micklins, Alton, with a
garden and an orchard of 40 or more large fruit trees, went with the job.
Cotton also agreed to provide Samuel with “the carriage of 2 load of coals
in the year” and allow him to keep a cow,” summer and winter”,
on land adjoining the cottage. Samuel and Ann and their growing
family moved into their first real home together on Lady Day 1806 and in May
bought a cow which they turned onto Mr Cotton’s land at Micklins.
However, the cow was diseased and so, in July, they bought another keeping both
cows on Cotton’s land until Samuel sold the first in November. Ann did the
milking. All went well until Christmas 1807 when Samuel again quit
Mr Cotton’s service but continued to live in the cottage at Micklins and enjoy
all the other privileges for 4 shillings a week rent.
the following year, Samuel worked for various farmers but in February 1808, he
heard of a job in Stoke-on-Trent and after first taking Ann and their children
to stay with her father in Ipstones, went to Stoke to apply for it.
Unfortunately, on his return to his father-in-law’s house Samuel was suddenly
taken ill and after a few days, died.
Samuel’s death and having no means of supporting herself and her children
(James, Mary, Sarah and Joseph, aged 10, 7, 5 and 3 years respectively and Ann
who was just 9 months old) Ann applied to the Overseers of Ipstones for relief.
Relief seems to have been provided and as the JPs later phrased it, the family
became “actually chargeable to the Township of Ipstones” i.e. the
ratepayers had to support them. Unfortunately the family had not acquired
legal settlement in Ipstones nor had they a certificate proving they were
legally settled elsewhere. The Ipstones Overseers therefore began to
investigate Ann’s deceased husband’s place of settlement and subsequently
asked land valuer and farmer, John Tilsley, to assess the value of the cottage
and privileges of Samuel Robinson’s former job with William Cotton in order to
determine whether the Robinsons had obtained settlement by “renting a
tenement of £10 annual value” or more.
assessed the value of Samuel Robinson’s cottage and orchard at £6 and the
keeping of cows on Cotton’s fields £9-8s, making a grand total of £14-8s a
year. His valuation was several pounds more than that of John Ginders, another
farmer, who accompanied him though even he valued it at more than the £10 a
year. Since Robinson had held this tenancy for more than the 40 days, he
appeared to have fulfilled all the legal requirements to acquire settlement in
Alton. Samuel should also have acquired settlement as a result of working
for and living with William Cotton for more than 17 years.
Overseers of Ipstones immediately obtained an order for Ann’s removal to Alton
the order was quashed on appeal. The Justices’ decision was based on the
evidence given by William Cotton who was only able to act as a witness because
the Alton parish officers had struck his name from the ratepayers list so that
he could! (The law then barred anyone likely to derive a financial benefit
from a case from acting as a witness.)
key point in Cotton’s evidence was his statement that the Robinson’s cow was
not confined to any one field but could be moved anywhere that Cotton chose
within the parish. In the Justices’ view this reduced the value of the
Robinson’s tenancy below the statutory £10 needed to acquire legal
settlement. Furthermore, they accepted Cotton’s word and the evidence of
Tilsley and Ginders was not called to rebut it. Had it been, Tilsley would have
informed the court that Cotton had himself pointed out to them the specific
fields he allowed Robinson to depasture their cow in.
failed in their attempt to return Ann and her family to Alton, the Ipstones
churchwardens and the overseer of the poor applied to two JPs for an order to
remove the family to Samuel Robinson’s place of birth, Greatgate, Croxden.
They did so on the grounds that on marrying Ann’s place of settlement (and
that of their children) became that of her husband even if her own place of
settlement was known.
On 1 December 1808, the JPs issued the order and the family were immediately
removed from Ipstones “and delivered to the Church Wardens and Overseers of
the Poor” of Croxden.
they agreed (initially) that Samuel Robinson’s “primitive settlement”
was in Greatgate, the Croxden Overseers nevertheless held that he had acquired
settlement in Alton when working for William Cotton and on the 3rd of January
1809 appealed the removal order. However, because of the result in the
Ipstones v Alton case, the Croxden Overseer’s solicitors sought further
reply from the first barrister approached was not encouraging, he was
non-committal on their chances of success, agreed the Justices in the Alton v
Ipstones case that the winter keep of a cow should not be taken into account and
emphasised the lack of proof of Samuel’s birth. They may have been slightly
encouraged, however, by his statement that they were not constrained in any way
by the previous decision and that which field the cow was kept in was of no
few weeks later, a second barrister commented much more favourably on their
case, quoting a recent, similar, case in which the decision was “diametrically
opposite” to the Alton v Ipstones case. In his view, Samuel Robinson
gained settlement in Alton by hiring and service. With regard to
Samuel’s so called “primitive settlement” in Croxden, he did not
believe it could be proved and recommended that the only witness, “a man of
very loose character … who has been excommunicated” to it should be
the story ends as far as the two documents are concerned and what finally
happened to Ann Robinson and her children I leave for her descendants to
Draft brief for appellants. Greatgate- Appellants, Ipstones-
Respondents. Staffordshire Epiphany Sessions 1809. Cruso, Jones & Porter,
Ipstones v Croxden. Draft case for the opinion of Mr Clarke. Cruso, Jones
& Porter, Leek.23 December 1808.
The Justice of the Peace and Parish Officer by Richard Burn LL.D, 21st
Edition, London, 1810, Vol. IV. p.369.
 Ibid p.204.
 Ibid p.150