In 1925, when describing the sources of Ardingly history, Mary Holgate mentioned the following books as belonging to the Church:- “3 Vols of Overseers’ Accounts from 1711 — 1811, and one sheet for 1673, 12 vols. of Relief Books from 1811- 1824 and, finally, 1 sheet of Churchwarden’s accounts for 1673.”(1) In her “Notes for the 18th Century” however, she mentions an item in the “parish” accounts for 1732 (see page 13) and in the description of Ardingly Church by the Rev. J.H.L. Booker there are extracts from the “churchwardens” accounts for 1719-1720 (see page 11).(2) In addition, there are “Extracts from Ardingly Parish Accounts” taken from Mr. Booker’s notes and reprinted in Loder’s book on Wakehurst. These include an item for 1671, one for 1673 and then give extracts from 1713 to 1740. There are then the words “Nothing further until 1789”, and then extracts from 1789 until 1821.(3)
It is not clear whether these extracts include items from the “Overseers” Accounts mentioned by Mary Holgate, but as will be seen they include many items concerned with the relief of the poor. Unfortunately the original books have not been available for this study and the information for this chapter has been taken mainly from the “Extracts from the Parish Accounts” mentioned above, and from Mary Holgate’s notes on the 18th and 19th Centuries, where she is clearly quoting from the Overseers’ Accounts.
It is perhaps significant that of the “Overseers Accounts” there remains only three volumes for the hundred years between 1711 and 1811 while there are twelve relief books for the years 1811 to 1824. One has the general impression that poverty was not widespread in Ardingly until the early nineteenth century, during and after the Napoleonic wars. The following amounts collected for the poor rate to a certain extent confirm this, even allowing for a change in the value of money:—
1776 . . . . . . . .£218. 14. 4.
1785 . . . . . . . .£311. 19. 9.
1803 . . . . . . . .£959. 19. 9.
1813 . . . . . . . .£1,971. 0. 0.
1837 . . . . . . . .£546. 0. 0. (4)
That there were the poor, sick, aged and children to be cared for at all times is obvious, but it seems, from the extracts of the accounts which are available, that the Parish was well able to shoulder its responsibilities during the 18th century. Possibly the apparent buoyant economy was due to the existence of sources of employment other than agriculture and to the fact that there were several fairly large landowners and farmers in the district, some graced with the title Esq and of Mr. to distinguish them from smallholders.(5) No doubt these more important people were able to support families other than their own by employing servants, keepers, farm-workers, etc.
The following extracts from the accounts give a fair cross section of how the poor rates were expended on the poor, the sick, the aged and the young:~
1721. Pd. John Allingham for rent of the Witheyland House (for small—pox cases): £3. 10. 0.
1724. Pd. John Pilbeam a bill that he paid at Bedlam for the widow Baxell: ….. £ 5. 4. 11.
Pd. Mr. Jackson for his jurney and his man’s jurney to London with the widow Baxell: …. …. …. …. £ 17. 11.
1726. Pd. John Elsey for to pay the smallpox tender.: …. …. ….£1. 0. 0.
1727. Pd. John Tuth for Witheland House: .. £2. 0. 0.
1790. Total expenses of ye two boys bit by a mad dog: …. …. ….. £ 3. 14. 4½
1791. Pd. Sarah Francis for bleeding James Marchant: …. …. . . . . .. 6.
Pd. Mr. Chatfield year: pay for doctoring poor.: …. . . . .£ 6. 0. 0.
1792: Total expences of ye small pox at Whythyland of Wm. Langredge, Thomas Budgen senr. Thomas Budgen jnr. famely Widow Elyst and son in number 19 and William Bottin, a child: . . . … £14. 18. 7.
1796. Pd. Mr. Ward, sirgion years pay: …. £ 6. 6. 0.
1730. Pd. John Francis for a pair of bodys(6) for Mary Bingham. . . . … … 3. 4.
1736. Pd. John Franks which he gave to passengers. . . . . . . . . . .. £0. 1. 0.
Pd. John Wicking for lodging a soldyer at Richard Pilbeam. . . . . £0. 1. 0.
1739. Pd. Wot West for making a pair of briches for John Wale. . . . .. £0. 10.10.
1789. Pd. John Jardin for years rent for workhouse. . . . . . £6. 0. 0.
1796. Pd. a woman with a pass.. ….. £. 1. 0.
1798. Pd. Mr. Thomas Tilts rent for ye old workhouse. . . . . . . . . . . .£6. 0. 0.
1803. Pd. to 6 Sailors with a pass. ….. 6. 0.
1806. Pd. Mr. Tilt, Brighton, rent for 1 year for Jordans (the Workhouse). £5. 4. 0.
1789. Pd. John Pannett for having a mis-fortune with his parish boy with a broken leg. ……. ….. £0. 15. 0.
1795. Pd. Boys and Girls pence money. ….. £0. 3. 4.
(Also see separate section on the care of the children by the parish.)
1733. Pd. the Clarke for the nell and the grave for Robert Hills. ……. 2. 0.
Pd. for bread and beare at his funeral. 3. 0.
1739. Pd. for laying forth of ould Wheast… 4. 6.
Pd. ye clarke for digin of ould Wheast‘s grave and ringing of ye nell….. 2. 0.
1740. Pd. John Tooth for bred and beare at (7) John Whalls funeral. . . . . . . . . … 4. 0.
The Workhouse was at Jordans (or Jardin’s) near the Church, and there may have been two buildings as one is mentioned in the accounts as the “old” poor house. Perhaps it did not look as grim as might be imagined for there is an item in 1789, “Pd. Jackson for gathering cherries at Work—House, 5. 1½d.”(8) and the cost of sawing the tree was noted in 1823.
The people in the Workhouse worked chiefly at spinning for there are many entries recording the purchase of tier, tow and wool. The yarn was then sent to Fulling Mill to be woven and dyed. The food of the inmates consisted of bacon, cheese, and sometimes beef, in addition to bread, presumably baked on the premises, since there were large flour bills, amounting £92 for two months on one occasion. There are some entries for potatoes and one of “Red Herrings” and carriage £5. 0. 0. in 1801.(9)
As was common practice, the children of the poor were boarded out with farmers, to whom certain payments were made. Although this was open to abuse, the children on the whole appear to have received kindly treatment. Between 1784 and 1816 the number of children placed in this way varied between 9 and 23, including, in 1786 and 1787, Mary Ridley:—
Feb. 15. 1786. Mr. Richard Comber to keep Mary Ridley from Lady Day 1786 to Lady Day 1787, the Parish to clothe her and to pay Richard Comber £1. 5. 0.
1787. Mary Ridley, aged 14 yrs. stays again with Rcd. Comber from L.D. 1787 to L.D. 1788, Parish to cloath her and pay Rchd. Comber £1. 1. 0. Lady Day 1788,”off for herself”(10)
There are one or two entries showing that children had run away but many more where the words “off for himself” occur, and, judging from the extracts given by Miss Holgate from the accounts, these children were quite well equipped by the Parish before they started off on their own. Two extracts from the clothing account of the Parish Children are given below:— (The entries are for 1798).
Wm. Nicholas. “off for himself””
Pare of Leather Breeches . . . ……. 5s. 6d.
New Hat and Pare of stockings …….. 3s..6d.
New Pare of high choues ………. 9s. 6d.
2 shirts and a frock, 9½ ells………. 16s. 9d.
1 wascot. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . … 17s. 0.
Rebecca Ridley, “off for herself”.
A tuck apron and coat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . … 10s. 6d
2 shifts. 4½ ells . . . . . . . . . ……….. 8s. 3d.
Gowne, Caps and handkerciefs . . . . . . . … 9s. 85d
Shoes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . … 5s. 0d.
Making the Gowne …………………. 1s. 0d
Undercoat . . . . . . . . . . . . . …. . . . . . . . . . … 3s. 4d. (11)
Items included in other bills for children were “para leather stays at 6s. 0d” and a “pair of Pattins at 3s 7½d.” (11). These last were no doubt very necessary on the deplorable roads of the Sussex Weald. There is a friendly air about an entry in 1789:-
Feb. 16. 1789:— Jas. Merchant “off for himself” but to have his clothes mended one year in the Workhouse. ladyDay,1790.”Off for himself”.(11)
Even then, James was apparently not left entirely to his own devices since there is an entry in the Parish Account for 1791, when Sarah Francis was paid 6d. for “bleeding James Marchant”(12)
It is at the beginning of the 19th Century that the picture changes. In 1813, without counting the children, the number of persons relieved outside the Workhouse was 348 and within the Workhouse 51, out of a total population of about 560. Eleven men were serving in the Militia and practically the whole parish was on the rates at a cost of £1,913.(13). Obviously matters had been deteriorating for sometime, as the extract from The Courier and Evening Gazette of 22nd April, 1800, shows.
By 1829 feelings had risen very high, and as has already been mentioned in Chapter 3, they were concentrated against the collection of tithes operated by a collector, a Mr. Rogers. The Tithe barn was burnt down, the amount of damage being estimated at between £1,200 and £1,400. The relevant extract quoted by The News of Oct. 18th 1829 continues:—
“We are sorry that a different line of conduct had not been pursued towards these unhappy creatures, who, we have no doubt, have been driven to these acts of despair by the operation of the pernicious tything system, as well as by their scant means of subsistence and the dearth of employment. We noticed…. that the tythes were exacted to the very cabbage in the poor man’s garden, and even the elder berries ln his hedge could not escape the clutches of the contractor____” (14)
However, although haggling over the tithes was still going on between the farmers and the Rector in 1835(15) by 1837 the condition of the poor does seem to have improved, judging by the figure of £546. collected for the poor rate in that year. Of course this drop may have been due to the grouping of Parishes into Unions under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1832. No doubt the Union Workhouse at Cuckfield was as hated an institution here as elsewhere, but at any rate after 1835, the copious extracts from newspapers to be found in the Booker Ms. and reprinted in “Wakehurst Place” do not give any hint of further trouble. They are chiefly concerned with games lists, sale notices, convictions for poaching, reports of accidents, cricket matches, etc. By 1841 the building of the Railway to Brighton in general and the Ouse Viaduct in particular (lying as it does very close to the parish of Ardingly) must have given added stability to the economy of the parish by providing another source of employment. In 1864 the building of Ardingly College must have brought further prosperity and it sill provides a substantial prop to village life in this respect. It would certainly seem that the prosperity sometimes associated with Victoria’s reign was at any rate shared by the people of Ardingly and that by about 1850 the poverty and bitterness of the first quarter of the Century had been forgotten.
(1). Holgate, Sources of Ard. History, July 1925.
(2) Loder P.234.
(3). Ibid, P.219-223
(4) These figures were taken from the Booker Ms. Vol.1, .P.57. The Rev. Booker quotes the 1803 figure from Carlisle’s Topographical Dictionary, the 1813 figure from Horseﬁeld’s History of Sussex , Vol . 1 , published in 1835, and the 1837 figure from the Parliamentary Gazetteer, 1840-43. He does not mention his sources for the years 1776 and 1785.
(5) See 1727 map.
(6) Loder, P. 219-223.
(7) Loder, P. 219-223.
(8) Mary Holgate, “The 19th c. (2) “
(9) Holgate, From Generation to Generation, The 19th C.
(10) Ibid. The 18th C. The Children Of the Parish.
(11) Holgate, The 18th C. The Children Of the Parish
(12) See Page 18
(14) Loder, P.247.
(15) Ibid, P. 248.