Pages 62 - 64

Wrington Village Records
Studies of the history of a Somerset Village

Wrington poor houses
Pages 62 - 64

Sources: Xerox copies of original papers re. Wrington Poor Houses, and selections from the Poor House Minute Book: Wrington Parish Records (deposited in Somerset Records Office, Ref: D/P/Wri).

The first meeting to discuss the erection of a new Poor House was held on 18th June 1831 when "it was unanimously agreed to employ Robert and James Ashley as masons and to pay them at the rate of 15d. per perch and they agreed to do the work well at this price". It was further resolved that Mr. John Cox should be requested to employ some persons "to quarry 100 tons of stones at the lowest price at which they are to be had".

It is believed that the surviving part of this new Poor House is the row of cottages on the right hand side of the road when approaching Court Farm, and which are now known as "Court Farm Cottages". They are described as the "Poor Houses" in the book of the sale of the estate in 1895, and although there are no valleys in the roofs as described in the specification, there are other features which identify them as the cottages referred to. For instance, the windows of Court Farm Cottages have diamond-shaped panes, and the cupboards undcr the stairs are as in the Poor House specification - one for each room. Then again, the cottages are stone built, with a slate roof, and the plinth course of Downside freestone, as it was specified. Other similarities include the thumb-latches and T-hinges on the doors, the height of the skirting boards, and the brickwork round the fireplaces, with the stone in front of the fireplace on the boarded floor-though it is not possible now to tell whether the flues were "pargetted with horse dung mortar" as required in the document !

Permission was given by a deed dated 1st October, 1842, for one row of cottages to be converted into a girls' school and schoolmistress's residence, as "there was no occasion for more than one row for occupation by the poor of the parish". In a document of the same date it is stated that "the premises now consist of two rows of cottages or tenements and situate opposite each other , having a court between them. The easternmost row of cottagcs, described as the new Poor House being those still used for the poor, and the westernmost cottages described as the old Poor House being those now used and appropriate for the Girls' National School and Schoolmistress's residence". This description makes it quite clear that the school referred to is not the one which is said to have existed "on the left side of the lane to Court Farm " (Scarth - see the paper, The Village School) though it may have been an "annexe" or extension of the older premises. The girls' school, if opposite and west of the present cottages, would have been where the garden wall is now. There is a stone in the wall dated 1811, and the wall itself is thicker in some places than in others, as if it could at some time have been part of a building. There are also places where doorways have obviously been blocked up, in the wall, and a small building with a chimney, at one end, which could have been the school mistress's residence.

The land for the cottages was leased by the Lord of the Manor, then the Duke of Cleveland, to the churchwardens and overseers of the poor of the parish of Wrington, for a term of 1000 years, at an annual rent of 2s. 6d. and subject to a proviso that the cottages should revert to the Lord of the Manor should they become unoccupied for twelve successive months. This happened in 1881, when it was decided that they were no longer beneficial to the interests of the parish, and they were sold with the rest of the estate in 1895.

The Contractors who built the houses were allowed the use of the quarry at Downside belonging to the Marquis of Cleveland, and also the quarry on Wrington Hill called Prestowe, free of any charge except labour. They were not required to haul the stones: the farmers seem to have done this. There is, however, a letter dated 4th October 1831 from Downside Farm, which reads :

"Sir ,

I intend to send my waggon with a load of freestone for the Poor House tomorrow. I am as charitably disposed as most men, but all the same I assure you and the Committee that it is my decided opinion that you are putting the parish to very unnecessary expense - not that I object to the building of a poor house, but there certainly can be no need of these artificial embellishments except it is to ornament your fine town. When I can see Wrington gentlemen more liberal with their own money, and less fond of throwing encumbrances on the farmers, then, and not till then, shall they have the good opinion of

Your very humble servant,

C. H. Coombes."

There are minutes of various Committee meetings held between 1842 and 1881. The rooms seem to have been let separately, and were always re-white-washed before being occupied by a new tenant. In 1842 it was resolved that Celia Ashley and Flower Hollier receive notice that unless they comply with the requirements of the Relieving Officer to assist in the care of the sick, they be expelled from the houses. In 1844 the Committee found that the bedsteads in the Poor Houses were in a very ruinous state, with the exception of one, and they therefore ordered "six double bedsteads of iron to be procured". In 1848 Mr. William Ashley was admitted to the Poor Houses in consequence of his house having fallen down.

On 10th May 1852 Mrs. Down the rent collector, who incidentally was paid 6d. a week, reported that she had paid 8s. 8d. in the last two half-year's accounts which had not been repaid to her by Richard Parsley, and requested that the same be refunded to her. It was resolved that Richard Parsley receive notice to attend at the next committee meeting to explain his conduct in this matter.

There is mention of repairs to a pump, which is probably the one which still stands in the garden of the cottages, though it is no longer in use.

The accounts seem to have been in quite a healthy state over the years. In 1842 there was a balance of £5 7s. 5½d. which was invested in a savings bank, and this was added to from time to time until on 1st March 1881 the balance in the bank, with interest, amounted to £61 16s. 1d. Then on 1st April, at the closing meeting, the Treasurer produced receipted bills from Mr. Tutton and Mr. Derrick, and a statement of accounts up to 28th March, showing a balance due to him of 3s. 11d.