Pages 59 - 61

Wrington Village Records
Studies of the history of a Somerset Village

Village welfare, 18-19C: 18C poor relief: John Green's pocketbook
Pages 59 - 61

Source: original MSS., Wrington Parish Records.

This small book has been called a pocketbook, since it appears to be the rough draft accounts kept for a few years by John Green, an Overseer of the Poor in the parish of Wrington. The date is around the middle of the 18th century .His erratic handwriting, compared with the fine finished product in the volumes of Overseers' Accounts (deposited in Somerset Records Office) suggests that he carried this book round with him and made entries as best he could, as he waited on doorsteps to collect rates or hand out relief. If it is really a pocketbook, then men's pockets must have been larger than they are now! The cream covered cover is grubby, but the paper is strong and the book well made.

The accounts in this book are examined and approved by the Rector, Henry Waterland. The rates to be collected are also approved and signed for, again by the Rector, and also by the churchwardens. The only other signature that recurs is that of Joseph Combes, who signs three times, on 26th March 1751, 14th April 1752 and 5th September 1753, that he has received from John Green, Mrs. Haydon and John Green again, the sums of £1 6s. 0d., £1 6s. 0d. and £2 3s. 0d.-each time as thirteen months' pay for Jane Goodenough : although the reason for the payment is nowhere given.


The sums levied vary quite extensively. The rate to be collected the 4th June 1750 ranges from 7½d. to twelve shillings. These rates were approved and ordered to be collected roughly every quarter, as follows:

" A Rate made the 27th day of May 1751 for the relief of the poor in the Parish of Wrington, to be collected in Broadfield Tything by John Green - £14 1s. 3d. May 28th 1751, this Rate examined and allowed by the Rev. Henry Waterland, F. Smith and Joseph Salmon". "Oct. 9th 1751, the Rate examined and allowed 28th May last ordered to be collected a second time by us :" (usual signatures)

"Dec. 24th 1751, the Rate examined and allowed 28th May last ordered to be collected a third time by us :" (usual signatures)

The previous year, 1750, the Rate was collected 4 times - it seems to have been collected only 3 times for 1751. The record for 1752 seems to be missing, and for 1753 there are again 4 collections. The number varied with the need for relief. Although it is not altogether clear, there appear to be two lots of Rates, i.e. for Wrington and for Broadfield Tything. In 1750 the two are mentioned separately, giving a total of £32 16s. 2d. In 1751 only the Wrington Rate is mentioned, £14 Is. 3d. but judging by the relevant accounts both Rates were involved. The figures for 1752 are missing, as stated above, and then in 1753 we have: A Rate made the 2nd June 1753, plus Broadfield Tything-£32 16s. 2d. (exactly the same figures as in 1750).


John Green enters these details of the Rates in chronological order with the rest of his accounts, i.e., monies outgoing. The book is of course mainly concerned with outgoing money, the actual payments to the poor. He is usually quite careful to give the exact sums, and to whom payable, and why - but he is not altogether consistent in this. In 1752 there are 2 Overseers, Mr. Chapman and Mr. Collings, at work during alternating months, and no details at all are given, simply the sum each month of the payments made.

Over each month the money paid out falls into two categories - the regular monthly payments to such people who were considered, after suitable examination, to be in need of some kind of regular help; and the casual payments for emergencies. These latter were called the Extra-Ordinary Payments. These out-going monies are examined and signed for every 3 months by the Rev. Henry Waterland.

The usual payment seems to be 5s. Od. for those in regular need. There are some payments of 4s. Od. and a few of 3s. Od. A high proportion of the regular payments go to widows, as one might expect, and in John Green's accounts it would seem that there are about 20 regular payments each month. There are payments to people who are caring for other people's children. There are several payments of small sums, a few pennies only, to those who make things, or render neighbourly services. In an attempt to keep the poor occupied a sum was paid into the County Stock for the purchase of materials, with which the poor made blankets, cloaks, etc. These goods and services probably circulated largely among themselves. Examples :

"Paid Sarah Green for making a Cloak for Ann Rumly, June 4th - 4d.
Paid George Back well for mending John Fuller's Shoes - 4d."

All payments and expenses that were not regular monthly payments werecounted as Extra-Ordinary and as well as the above examples include such items as these : "for a warrant 5s. Od. ; paid for 2 examinations 5s. Od. (this would be examination of those applying for Poor Relief) ; Expences at a meeting at Langford 1s. 4d." (there are many of these); and the following in 1751 which John Green quite openly states as his "disbursements since the foregoing account was ballanced and signed by Dr. Waterland":

" April 2nd. Horse Hire and Expence to Bristol to prevent Mr.
Chalenger hiring Mrs. Rocester's Estate              5s.6d.

April 7th. Expence at Churchill to answer Mary Ogborn's
                Warrant and taking her Goods                                3s.0d
Gave Mary Ogbourne in money                              1s.0d.
Gave Mary Noble                                                    1s.0d.

April 8th. Horse Hire to Brent                                              2s. 0d.
Expence at Langford meeting to meet Thomas Cox   6d.
paid Hanah Warly for Mary Nobles Lodging, dew
               Easter Tuesday                                                     2s. Od.

Nomenation Warrant and Examination at Langford             6s. 6d."

This gives a total of £1 1s. 6d. which is about a fifth of the usual regular monthly payment, and as far as I can see John Green does not show how he fits in all these extra payments; however, he does this once or twice and was still in office, so presumably it was in order as far as the Rector was concerned.

It appears however that in 1752 the Overseer John Chapman did not keep himself quite in the clear. There is a note indicating that the Vestry refuses to pay him 1s. 6d. per week, as agreed during the previous month. It is not clear if this has any connection with the fact that he made advance payments to three widows, the ladies Young, Hall and Canterbury. No one else gives indication of advanced payments; perhaps a few were made out of kindness, and from wisdom nothing was put on paper .

John Green's summary of the accounts for the year 1750 reads :

"To the poor in monthly payments                                           £70 10s. Od.
to clothing the poor and other casuall expences in sickness
and disease                                                                                54 10s. 57d.
To the County Stock                                                                        3 1s. 1d.

Totall is                                                                                       128 1s. 6d.
Colected and Received (the Rate)                                               131 4s. 8d. "

There are in fact summaries of annual accounts for the previous three years :

In 1747 Richard Chapman and Edward Ford paid out             £159 6s. 9d.
to a collection of Rates of £164 and 10d.

In 1748 Joseph Combes and John Green paid out                  £163 9s. ½d.
to a Rate of 165 19s. 10½d.

In 1749 Joseph Holbrook & Peter Hill paid out                   £156 6s. 7½d.
to a Rate of 156 12s. 2d.

A great expense occurred in the year 1747, under the plain but abrupt explanation "For 2 bastards and their mothers". Apparently there was a big lawsuit, as the item reads: "To Generall Tryalls at Law in our County Assizes and Sessions in the Superior Courts at London: £40 7s. 6d:' Perhaps parish responsibilities were being disputed. And in the following year, 1748, the annual accounts include the item "Paid to an Attorney at Law for the last year in London £23 18s. 2d." All these items are in the annual summary accounts only, prior to the more detailed accounts that start in 1750.

In March 1752 when John Green hands over his duties to Messrs. Chapman and Collings his accounts mention "smallpox and other sickness" ; he notes that "there is dew to the Parish the sum of 3s. 0½d." (was this the smallpox or errors in his reckonings that caused this discrepancy ?) and at this point the note book is too full for anything other than brief summaries of subsequent payments.