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
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.
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.
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
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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."
E. Elliot, about 1822, charts the short life of a needle-pointer:
"There draws the grinder
his laborious breath.
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.
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:
Sunday October 7th:
An avoidable death?
On October 13th the situation
was considered serious enough to send to Birmingham for "a
medical gentleman of experience in cholera cases."
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.
Details of the Victims
Remedies and Treatments
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 -
Redditch celebrates the Coronation
of Queen Victoria