Saffron Walden




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The worthy ladies of Saffron Walden translated their Christian concern into the activist form of the Saffron Walden Benevolent Society, founded in 1828 at a time of increasing distress among the poor. The archives of this organisation contain much fascinating material of family and community history – and reveal a great deal about the mindset of the rich towards the poor – for a discussion of this, see The Well-ordered Town: a story of Saffron Walden 1792-1862, pages 171-4.

© Research notes by Jacqueline Cooper, from Recorders of Uttlesford History website. 2008.

© Archives of Saffron Walden Museum.

Saffron Walden BENEVOLENT SOCIETY for visiting and relieving the aged,
afflicted and distressed poor, of every denomination
(Museum 40424)

Established 1828. Lady Braybrooke President.

Aims - people paying 2d-6d per week or more could be members; committee of 12; AGM first Thursday in Jan at Girls national school room when subs paid; committee met once a month for report of visitors; urgent cases Gold Street be relieved up to 5s worth; ‘As the assistance afforded by the society is not intended to supersede the relief provided by law, but to be the means of procuring additional comfort for the distressed, the visitors and members are requested to ascertain before they relieve or recommend a case, whether application has been made to the parish officers and what parochial relief has been given’. Everyone to pay one fourth of price of garments; to prevent abuses visitors give no money but objects such as meat, oatmeal, rice, flour, coals, wood, clothing etc. Donations and subs. Aim to get a stock of linen to be lent out to bedridden or afflicted with lingering illness. Not intended that anyone further out than Mount Pleasant, Copthall Hall Buildings and Lime Kilns should be relieved or visited (so excluding Sewards end etc).

Rules: Everyone who subscribed became a member. Committee met first Thursday of month, 12.30 a.m. to receive visitors report. Visitors gave out relief to people who had lived in town one year. Must find out what means of support person had before giving relief. ‘That all poor persons pay one-fourth price of every garment before they receive it’.In order to prevent abuses it is recommended that the visitors give no money, but supply the objects with such articles as may appear most necessary’ - but if there was a fever, a doctors ticket would do. Relief was to be in the form of ‘meat, oatmeal, rice, flour, coals, wood, clothing’ or other articles at visitors discretion. Also had stock of linen to lend ‘to persons who are afflicted with lingering illness’. Geographical limits were Mount Pleasant, Copt-Hall Buildings and Lime Kiln.

First committee: Lady Braybrooke president, Mrs Gibson treasurer, Miss Hall secretary + Mesdames Archer, Bull, Clark, Emson, Fiske and S Fiske, J Gibson, Miss Green, Mrs. Hayward, Mrs. Robson, Mrs. S Spicer, Wilkinson, Youngman. Other visitors Mrs. Bull, Miss Bull, Miss Clark, Miss Cleaver, Miss B Cleaver, Mrs. J Collin, Mrs. Gibson, Miss Hall, Mesdames Robson, Smith, (and Miss Smith), Miss Leverett, Mrs. James Spicer, Miss Spicer, Mrs. Starling - monthly rota for visiting. First committee 3 Jan 1828. Member missing committee meetings fined 1s.

Numbers relieved each month went up from 9 in first month, 30 in March but were generally around 14. Generally there were 2 visitors per month, and mostly things given to women. 5s given to Mrs. Purdie for preparing school room for monthly meetings. Sheets to be purchased costing £3.19.10 as workhouse sheets were only lent out for fever. Special attention to infirm and widows during cold weather. Blankets distributed to poor in Jan 1830.

1828: those relieved and/or visited in the first year (number of visits):

    1.         Adams - Roast Lane (2)
    2.         Adams J Wife - Castle Street (2)
    3.         Adams Stephen - Castle Street (3)
    4.         Adams Widow - East Street (3)
    5.         Ashby Elizabeth - Butter Market
    6.         Barker Charles - Castle Street (2)
    7.          Barker James - Castle Street(2)

8.            Barker Maria - Castle Street

9.            Barker Widow - Castle Street

10.                       Barker William - Castle Street (2)

11.                       Barkers Wife of Robert - Castle Street

12.                       Basset Jane - Castle Street

13.                       Bird - Horn Lane

14.                       Brand - Horn Lane

15.                       Burrows B - off Castle St Square

16.                       Burrows Son - Abbey Lane (2)

17.                       Byatt Widow - Abbey Lane

18.                       Chapman's Wife - Castle Street

19.                       Cornell Bridget - Copthall Buildings

20.                       Cornell Sarah - Roast Lane (2)

21.                       Day Widow - Gold Street (2)

22.                       Dear Widow - Church Street

23.                       Debenham Ann - Church Street Yard

24.                       Debrey Anne - Churchyard (3)

25.                       Deer Widows Grandson

26.                       Douce Wife 1s. p.w. during Anne Debney's Illness For Attending Her

27.                       Doughty James - Castle Street (3)

28.                       Downham - Castle

29.                       Duberry Widow - Cats Corner (2)

30.                       Eldred's Wife - Copthall Buildings

31.                       Erswell Thomas - Castle Street (3)

32.                       Erswell Js Wife - Castle Street

33.                       Erswell Widow - opposite Roose Lane (2)

34.                       Esland Charles

35.                       Esland William - Roast Lane

36.                       Esland William - Copthall Buildings

37.                       Finton - Bridge End

38.                       Freeman William - Copthall Buildings (4)

39.                       George Widow - Almshouse

40.                       Goodwin Edward - Castle Street

41.                       Goodwin Widow - Castle Street (3)

42.                       Grainger William - Foundry Lane (2)

43.                       Hodson Isaac - Castle Street

44.                       Hodson Widow - Castle Street

45.                       Horsey Mr - Rogers Yard

46.                       Housden Elizabeth - Foundry Lane (8)

47.                       Housden James - Catlins Cottage

48.                       Housden John - Horn Lane

49.                       Housden Martha Widow - Rost Lane

50.                       Housden Richard - Cats Corner (2)

51.                       Housden Widow - Roose Lane (2)

52.                       Howard Widow - Copthall Buildings

53.                       Hunny’s Wife - East Street

54.                       Husey - Castle Street

55.                       Jeffery James - Cains Buildings (3)

56.                       Jeffreys Widow - Castle Street.

57.                       Jeffries Hanna - Plantation

58.                       Kitteridge - Abbey Lane (4)

59.                       Kittridge Widow - Castle Street

60.                       Levi Hannah - Top Of Town

61.                       Lindsell's Wife - Castle Street

62.                       Ling Hannah - Top Of Town

63.                       Lings Wife - Opposite Roast Lane

64.                       Lord Mary - Castle Street (5)

65.                       Lucas - Castle Street (2)

66.                       Mason’s Son - Butter Market

67.                       Miller - Plantation

68.                       Miller William - Castle Street

69.                       Moore John - Butter Market (8)

70.                       Morris Son - Butter Market

71.                       Mynott Henry - Castle Street (2)

72.                       Parmenter John - Abbey Lane

73.                       Pettit John - Castle Street (2)

74.                       Pettit Widow - East Street (3)

75.                       Plucks Wife - Castle Street St

76.                       Rand James - Copthall Buildings

77.                       Reader Widow - Church Street (2)

78.                       Rice Anne - Butter Market (4)

79.                       Richardson Susan - Gold Street (9)

80.                       Richardson Sarah - East Street (2)

81.                       Richardson Elizabeth - High St

82.                       Richardson George - Church Street (3)

83.                       Richardson James - Abbey Lane

84.                       Richardson Sarah - Gold Street (3)

85.                       Richardson Susanna - Foundry Lane ( 7)

86.                       Richardson Susannah - Castle Street

87.                       Richardson William Wife - Gold Street

88.                       Richardson's Boy - Church Street

89.                       Richardson’s wife - Castle Street

90.                       Saggers Mary (9)

91.                       Scott Mary - Cats Corner (5)

92.                       Smith Sarah - High Street

93.                       Stacey’s Wife - East Street (2)

94.                       Start James - Castle Street (2)

95.                       Stock William - Horn Lane

96.                       Stubbings - Castle Street

97.                       Suddy Sarah - Corner

98.                       Swan - East Street

99.                       Symonds - Grove Place

100.                  Truman Anne - Gold Street

101.                  Wallis Widow - Gold Street

102.                  Ward John - Castle Street

103.                  Watson Sarah - Top Of Town (5)

104.                  Willis Widow - Gold Street

1829 Annual Report: 24 more cases needed relief than in 1828 = 139 in 1829, but ‘the visitors have observed a considerable increase of cleanliness amongst the poor and in many instances a disposition gratefully to appreciate the benefits afforded.’Mostly sickness and infirmity, but also 103 blankets given out at quarter of cost to some of most necessitous and considerable efforts made to discover such objects, while demand found to be greater than means for supplying it. Needed new subscribers ‘and earnestly hope that no discouragement will be allowed to prevail, as they are convinced that the efforts of the society are productive of real advantage in ameliorating the condition of a very suffering class of their fellow creatures’.1829 income: £50 in bank, 4 Cains Buildings donations, £57 subs, 17s forfeits, etc. Spent £49 by visitors, £6 linen, £14 blankets, 10s sheets, Perdie got 10s etc.

1830 report: 184 relieved = up by 45 on 1829. Only visited in ‘actual necessity’ - 22 had died. Benefit from visits: ‘an introduction to the kind notice of benevolent individuals... in not a few instances in which relief has been extended to the distressed, an evident feeling of thankfulness has been raised for the acceptable addition to their comparatively small comforts.’ 180 blankets given out, appeal for more funds. In 1830 spent about £100 - usually similar each year.The cases of the Widow Barrett, John Augur and Woodley are dismissed, owing to bad character’.

1831 report: most very grateful . .. excellent institution.. spirits revived... visitors had ‘favourable opportunity for the exercise of the benevolent feelings of the heart, and one which is surely calculated to excite a lively sense of our obligations to Him who, in the wise ordering of His providence, has been pleased to make so great a variety in the circumstances of the human family.’ 168 relieved, of whom 15 died. ’not to be wondered at that discouragement’s occasionally arise, from the painful discovery of deception or other disagreeable traits of character confined relief principally to the more deserving ... although all are not placed in situations equally favourable to the growth of virtue’.

127 relieved, 10 died, spent £86.

1834 Committee was Lady Braybrooke, treasurer Mrs Gibson, secretary Miss Smith, asst sec Miss Cleaver, Miss Green, Mesdames Bull, J Gibson, F Gibson, Robson, Shepherd, Spicer, Starling, Wilkinson, Youngman, Dunn, Thorpe and W Burrows. Other visitors Rogers, Collin, Mrs. C Green, Miss E Green and Miss Dunn.

1834 report: new rule - must live in town 1 year unless ill, to get help. 12 nightgowns bought for children of the poor. 180 helped - 13 died. Continue to make ‘distinction between sober and industrious and those of known disreputable character’ but ‘they would discourage none from visiting the abodes of vice and wretchedness’. The advantage was that of ‘connecting more closely the different classes of society, thereby producing a mutual interest and good feeling and a door is thus opened for moral and religious improvement of those in the humbler walks of life.’ Needed more money - severe illness meant they could not afford sustenance and some had suffered because of no help at this time. 24 visitors appointed for 1835. Sheets to Little Walden and Sewers End if they contributed quarter of cost - but this strained the finances.

1835 report: You could only discover need by ‘those who enter the cottages of the poor, inspect their wants’140 helped - some were ‘prone to ingratitude’ - the longer they got favours, the less they appreciated it, but after all they had so little in the first place. The visitors found a variety of feelings when visiting ‘it is far from being always of a cheering character’ but if you helped them it might help them cultivate the right feelings.’ 900 yards of cloth given out.

1836 report: Aged people visited in winter - 37 names (12 dead). Total 123 relieved.

1837 report: 176 helped, a lot with influenza, when whole families needed help.

1838 report: special meeting to divide town into districts with 2 visitors in each to enquire into wants of the poor, and give tickets so they could collect blankets for those with 3+ children. Districts: 1 & 2 Castle St; 3 Church t/bridge End/ Horn lane/ Hogs green;4 High/ London road; 5 Rost Lane/ Hockleys Buildings/ Mount Pleasant; 6 Gold/ Market/ Commons End; 7 East St/ Cats Corner/ Foundry Lane;8 Lime Kilns/ Grove Place/ Copthall Buildings.Most people were grateful - helped 140 and 189 blankets.

1839 report: 1230 helped ‘the general character of the poor is improving’ - the Society had contributed to this through weekly inspection of dwellings which made them cleaner.

1840 report - 143 helped.

1841 committee was Lady Braybrooke, Mrs. Gibson as treasurer, Miss Smith as secretary, Miss Bull as assistant and committee Mrs. Brightwen, Bull, Burrows, Catlin, Dobson, Dunn, Emson, Forster, J Gibson, F Gibson, Robson, Starling, Wilkinson, Youngman. Other visitors Miss E Davies, Mrs Portway, J Green, W Burrows, Miss Bull, Miss Brightwen, Fiske, W Thurgood, L Archer and others.200 relieved, 24 died - fever prevalent so spent more. It attacked whole families and left them week, but still spending under £100 pa - about half of this on the relief itself.

1842 – 100 relieved, 12 died

1843 – 127 relieved, 8 died

1844 - 135 relieved - 11 died

1845 - 120 relieved, 15 died

1846 - 160 relieved, 19 died (fever)

1847 - 144 relieved, 13 died

1848 - 135 blankets to outlying homes - they contributed 1s 6d each, 200 calico sheets brought to lend to
           smallpox suffers.

1849 - 120 relieved, 12 died

1850 - 140 relieved, 19 died.

[not noted beyond this]