Annex to Chapter 2

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Chapter 8

There is a mysterious William - papermaker who must have been born around 1806, noted on the census of 1841, though curiously, the letter "I" in the final column of the census indicates that he was born in Ireland! Without a baptismal record, we shall never know his parentage.

Then another (or was it the same ?) William - papermaker had a daughter baptised Mary Ann at St Stephen's, Redditch, on January 17th 1821, mother's name Catherine. If this is the same William, and if the 1841 census birth details are correct, he was a father at age 15 (!). However, the 1841 census often has ages rounded down (or only guessed), so a hypothesis that the 1806 William is the same William with a daughter in 1821, is still plausible. An entry in 'Dr Taylor's List of Women Delivered' unusually records this event as "Cath'n Webb of Redditch was delivered of a child on January 15th 1821", when the lists commonly refer to the woman as so-and-so's wife. Beneath the entry is a tantalising word that is difficult to read. It is such mysteries that make family history so rewarding, yet equally frustrating.

We are certainly indebted to Dr Taylor for his lists. This dedicated doctor,was extremely busy attending births over a wide area around Redditch and Beoley, and was enthusiastic about record keeping, although he was not obliged to do so. His list spans the years 1790 to 1828, and although we might wish that he had stated whether the child was male or female, his lists provide an actual date of birth, which is a rarity in the years before general registration (1837).

Edward Webb's wife.........................Edward Webb's wife...............................William Webb's wife

click to enlarge
Catharine Webb...................................Mrs Webb shop

While on the subject of mysteries, Dr Taylor's lists show birth number 807 on 30th March 1812, the mother being Mrs Webb, abode: shop, Redditch. While we could speculate as to which child this might be, we have no other record of a Webb shop at this early date, and wonder whether the lack of reference to the mother as a wife, means that the father (William?) was dead by then (but if so, why does the record not state "widow"?) Of course the word "shop" may not mean "retail premises"; the term was also used at this date to mean a workshop. Sarah Maria, daughter of William & Mary (nee Bate) was thought a possibility, but when she was christened as an adult in 1832, her date of birth was given as April 20th 1812, so the mystery remains.

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The Needlemaking Process (see also list of local history books click here)

Various improvements and developments in technique were pioneered in Redditch, such as the use of water power for the scouring process, which meant that four million needles could be "finished" per week, and the result was of such high quality that rival enterprises could not compete. Many Welsh needlemakers moved into the area around Redditch from 1790, and in 1844 an entire community moved from Long Crendon to Astwood Bank, transporting their goods, chattels and families in covered waggons in a journey which took three days. Needlemakers from that town continued to relocate to the Redditch area - the last firm to do so was in 1862.

As the demand for good quality needles and fish hook grew, water-powered corn mills, such as Forge Mill, were converted to needle mills - at one time there were 16 mills within the ten miles between Alcester and Feckenham. From 1835, new larger mills could be powered by steam, and these new mills were concentrated not in the valleys where the streams ran, but in the township of Redditch itself. This marked the transition from cottage industry to factory, although outworking (that is, processes being undertaken in the home) remained a common practice in Redditch until well into the mid 20th century. A worker (usually a woman) would be supplied with a small machine and raw materials would be delivered to her, with the finished product being collected, perhaps to be taken to another outworker for further stage in the process.
These tasks, though skilled, were very repetitive, but could be undertaken whenever the housewife and mother had a free moment, and provided a welcome additional source of income. See Forge Mill Needle Museum and Bordesley Abbey Visitor Centre

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A description of life in the town may be gleaned from a poem of about 1820, written by John Hollis of Tardebigge:

Of all the towns on England's ground,
Few like Redditch are to be found:
For situation, money and trade,
A finer village was never made.

The houses are elegant and fine,
With windows sash'd, O how they shine:
With gravel walks and a pleasant green,
A finer village was never seen.

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Pigots Directory of 1822 informs the reader that Redditch was:

"A very respectable and thriving hamlet in the parish of Tardebigge, delightfully situated on an eminence which commands a short but pleasing view of its environs. The seat of the Earl of Plymouth (Hewell Grange), a building admired for the simple elegance which it displays, is situated about one and a half mile from this place, in the parish of Tardebigge. It has an extensive and well-wooded park, and displays considerable taste and rustic elegance. There is a chapel of ease (in Redditch) , a neat and convenient stone edifice, a Methodist meeting house, a Lancasterian school; indeed the hamlet displays a considerable neatness; it is clean and regularly built. The manufacture of needles is here carried on with spirit and to a considerable extent. The manufacture of that article alone employs in this place and its immediate neighbourhood, about 3,000."

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E. Elliot, about 1822, charts the short life of a needle-pointer:

"There draws the grinder his laborious breath.
There, coughing at his deadly trade he bends,
Born to die young, he fears no man nor death,
Scorning the future, what he earns he spends.
Yet Abraham and Elliot both in vain
Bid science on his cheek prolong the bloom:
He would not live! He seems in haste to gain
The undisturbed asylum of the tomb,
And, old at two-and-thirty, meets his doom."

Abraham and Elliot were the inventors of devices to remove some of the fine particles which the pointers breathed in, causing "pointer's rot" from which they usually died. The pointers resisted such inovations for some time, fearing a reduction in their wages.It should be noted that needle pointers earned high wages at this date - between £2 and £5 per week, when the average weekly wage for an agricultural worker was about ten shillings (50p), but the pointer had little leisure to enjoy his wealth.

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Landor did not spend much of his life in his native area, and his rebellious nature, quick temper and strong political views meant that he did not waste words on an industrial area - he preferred the Romantic view of English country life.

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Cholera had been a rare disease only found around the Ganges before 1800, but it spread to become the world's first global disease in a series of epidemics. Following a festival in 1817, it spread from Calcutta throughout India - there were 10,000 fatalities within the British Army alone. Cholera raged along the trade routes, and was brought to Europe after a trade fair in Russia, but the severe winter of 1823/4 apparently halted its progress into western Europe for a time. Nevertheless, by 1827 it was the most feared disease. In the second pandemic, cholera was brought to England on a ship from Hamburg in 1831, and spread throughout the country. The bacteria thrived in warm, polluted water, and was easily spread as people nursed their relatives without washing their hands, and by sharing plates and cups.

The Industrial Revolution, which had resulted in the erection of slums and urban tenements in all European cities, coupled with the complete lack of workable sewerage systems and poor supplies of fresh water spelt disaster for the poor. In London, for example, there was a riot when a pipe that was to supply 16 packed houses was turned on one Sunday for a mere five minutes. Many cities drew water from contaminated wells and from lakes and pools which were also used for washing bedding and clothing.

Merchants and industrialists with an eye to profits were unwilling to quarantine the ports and this meant that the disease spread quickly throughout Europe and was taken on immigrant ships to the New World. In Canada, in 1831, 1,200 new arrivals were dead within a month of landing in Montreal and 2,200 died in Quebec during the summer of 1832. That same summer in New York, the roads were clogged with people trying to flee the city. In Glasgow between February and May of 1832 there were 1,281 cases, of whom 660 died, and in the month of August there were 1,200 deaths.

It wasn't until the disease spread to the middle and upper classes that efforts were made to understand the causes of the spread of disease. In the pandemic of the 1850s a London doctor John Snow was able to prove the connection with contaminated water - he found 500 cases centred on a pump in Broad Street, yet a workhouse nearby, which had its own private well, reported only 5 deaths among the 500 inmates, and a brewery with 70 workers which never used the pump, had no cases at all. When the pump was taken out of service the outbreak ceased. Eventually public health was taken seriously by the authorities and by the 1880s, mains water and sewerage systems were introduced to cities and towns world-wide.

But none of this was known when, in the summer and autumn of 1832 Redditch found itself in the grip of this terrible disease, which was later attributed to the dreadful pools of stagnant water around Pool Place. Patients were suffering severe muscle cramps and fatigue caused by low blood pressure; they were cold and clammy with blue lips and an excessive thirst and some of them died within 12 hours from dehydration (the result of severe fluid loss from watery diarrhoea). The weakest, children and the elderly, were most susceptible, although grown men were also struck down. A man could be well one evening, but dead by the next morning (and buried immediately, mainly at the old burial ground at Bordesley). According to William Avery, the townspeople used some cottages in the Old Hop Gardens as a rudimentary hospital, but later petitioned the government for advice. The reply was to set up a Local Board of Health, and this was formed at once. By September the Board of Health was keeping a daily journal of events and copies of its reports can still be viewed at Redditch library.

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Details of sums paid out by the Board "John Aston to be paid the sum of four pounds sixteen shillings - the value of articles destroyed with the recommendation of the Board and belonging to the late widow Aston who died of cholera."

October 6th 1832:
"The Board ordered that the bed now lying in the Old Brickyard which lately belonged to Elizabeth Jones and which, it is reported, communicated the disease to Charles Taylor's son, to be burnt forthwith, and that the constable be instructed to burn it."

Sunday October 7th:
"The Board ordered that Mrs Osborne be paid two shillings per day for the nursing of the Morris children and others."

An avoidable death?
Monday October 8th:
"Widow Milward stated that she sent to Mr Taylor, surgeon to the Board of Health, to attend to her child at half past four o'clock in the morning of the 6th inst., stating that she thought her child was attacked with cholera. That he refused to attend him, but sent her a powder. That she called on him herself at eight and that he said he was going out of town and could call in the course of the day, which he did at three o'clock when the child was dead."
Dr Taylor's version of these events is also reported. He stated that the mother was referred to Mr Pratt, but that she declined and chose Mr Royston; unfortunately the messenger sent to him did not mention that it was a suspected case of cholera.

New initiatives
By October 11th, Mrs Osborne, who had been given the task of nursing children, was ordered to provide gruel and beef tea for distribution to the sick and needy.

On October 13th the situation was considered serious enough to send to Birmingham for "a medical gentleman of experience in cholera cases."
A Mr Parsons arrived from Birmingham the very next day, and was able to give more information about the disease. It had been found in Birmingham, as also in Edinburgh and Glasgow, that if treated in the very early stages, patients could recover well, and that the first manifestations of the disease were bowel complaints and diahorrea. It was decided to open a dispensary and that the poorer classes were to be encouraged to seek advice as soon as the slightest symptom was noticed. The three surgeons were each to be paid five guineas a week (£5.25p) for advice and immediate attendance upon all cases of bowel disorder. Three more women were engaged as nurses at two shillings (10p) a day, and Dr Pratt was set up as dispenser for which he was to be paid two and a half guineas per week (£2.63p). Avery tells us that the dispensary was set up in the premises of Mr Hall the grocer. More beds were to be burned and stagnant water was to be cleared away.

Further expenses
By November 7th …… the sum allocated to the medical men was reduced to three pounds a week. The outbreak seemed to be contained, but compensation was still being paid out by the Board .

November 13th:
"Thomas Dolphin to be paid twenty three shillings as compensation for the bed destroyed, belonging to his late father." (Authors note: Is this the same Thomas Dolphin, needle hardner, who according to Avery, was burned in effigy in 1840 during the dispute about the new hardening processes?)
And there were other outstanding expenses. William Johnson was owed £1-16s as remuneration for attending the hearse 36 times at the funerals of cholera patients.

Legal disputes
In 1832, with the outbreak finally contained, the Board turned its attention to the matter of reclaiming the costs from the Poor Rate. The secretary John Osborne was now paid a guinea a week (£1.5p), but there was a lot of correspondence to be undertaken as there arose a dispute between the Warwickshire and Worcestershire parts of the parish. The Warwickshire part, having had no cases in its area, refused to pay the quarter of the total expenses which had been assessed as its share. The counter argument was that as it was a single parish, with one parish church and one Rate collected, each part ought to pay its fair share. It was further pointed out that the surgeons were required to attend patients in whatever area the need arose, and that members of the Board had been appointed from each part of the parish, so the decisions had been made not on a county basis but rather for the benefit of the parish as a whole.

The debate became so fraught that a ruling had to be sought from Whitehall - a letter was sent to the Lords of the Privy Council, and the reply on November 29th stated that the Warwickshire part of the parish should pay its share. This it refused to do, and the matter dragged on into the next year. In February 1833 the Board applied again to the Privy Council for powers to enforce the payments, and the last entry in the records which have survived show that on February 20th the chairman of the Board was to attend the Public Office at Alcester (Warwickshire) to make application to the magistrate for an order in respect of sums due. We may wonder how the matter was finally resolved.
The total expenses incurred by the Board during the months of the cholera outbreak amounted to £224-15s, and the Warwickshire share was calculated at £55-0s-6d. The cost in human terms was infinitely greater.

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Details of the Victims
Avery reports that the first victim was John Lead, and the second the wife of John Parsons, but their burial notes are not found in the registers of St Stephen's. He recalls that he personally knew fifty people who were affected, though this is not to say that they all died. Some burial records appear to be missing. In the registers of St Stephen's (which was used even where the burial took place at the old burial ground at Bordesley) the first recorded death from cholera was two year-old Thomas Cook on the 8th of September. Two of the Morris children had died on the 15th and the 18th of September, so presumably the careful nursing by Mrs Osborne saved the others in the family. There followed a further 14 deaths of which 8 were aged under ten years, including two-year old Charles Milward (see October 8th, Ref 8).There were no cholera deaths at Beoley, but in the district of Ipsley (which included parts of Redditch) there were 12, of which only 2 were under ten years old.

Remedies and Treatments
So what was the dispenser to give the patients?
A "prescription" or "recipe" has been kept with the records of the Board of Health ~ Cholera Draught:
"A teaspoon of sprits of lavender; Ditto of Salvolatile; 30 drops of Laudanum; A drachm of soda made into a draught with warm water."

While this would do no harm, it wouldn't have achieved a great deal either. The lavender would soothe, the laudanum (an opiate) would calm the diarrhoea and the soda would help replace lost salts, but not to the extent required. Modern treatments involve large amounts of intravenous fluids and salts, so the patient in 1832 would usually die of dehydration, as it would be impossible for them to retain sufficient fluid.

In Stoke Newington, an area of London which features later in this history (Chapter 8), the local Board of Health produced a leaflet in November 1831 which had sound advice for their citizens -
to remove heaps of dung and rubbish from the immediate neighbourhood of inhabited houses; to scour rooms once a week (if densely inhabited, every third day!); windows to be flung open for a time each day; ceilings and floors to be washed with lime.
As regards personal hygiene, "the best preservative is cheerful mind in a healthy body"; they were told that "temperance and sobriety" were of the greatest importance, and that great attention should be given to personal cleanliness - how this could be achieved when using contaminated water is not discussed. The "intemperate use of Ardent Spirits" was frowned upon, while remedies recommended were "warm medicine - rhubarb for instance, with a little magnesia and ginger, in peppermint water."

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Redditch celebrates the Coronation of Queen Victoria
There were processions of schoolchildren accompanied by bands, and Avery tells us that they were later regaled with roast beef and plum pudding, which might seem rather stodgy fare for a summer's day.
"600 people sat down to a feast of roast oxen served on the Green, the afternoon was taken up with sports and the day concluded with fireworks at midnight." Avery notes that the leading manufacturers of the town were to be seen attending to the guests, and it amused him to see the representatives of the established and non-conformist churches making an attempt to socialise together for once.

Compare this with the description of the Jubilee celebrations in 1887.