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Harrogate Story 





The "Towns Houses " (c. 1700-1809)

The first mention of a "Cottage and Intack belonging ye township of Bilton-with-Harrogate" is found in a very pleasing document of 1730, which bears the names of Richard Wood. Overseer, and Thomas Boddy, Churchwarden. It records the gift of 6 10s. to the daughter of the late tenant of the cottage, William Marsden, the reasons given being that he "did very much Improve" it and that his daughter "Assisted him and his wife in their sickness and took care to bury them without troubling the township." "Ye Inhabitants taking ye same in good part" had thought fit to make this generous gesture. As it was for those days such a large sum, she was to have thirty shillings at once, the remainder in single pounds at yearly intervals. The Intack was an enclosure, or close, that had been taken in from Forest land.

This cottage may very well have been in township hands for many years before this, and it is possible that there were others. During the next forty years, however, there is only one document concerning them, a contract of 1762 by which William Roberts, Overseer, lets a house belonging to the poor to a certain William Winterburn, who is apparently not a pauper.

In 1774, when the whole Forest of Knaresborough was enclosed, two Incroachments were acknowledged to be the property of the "Harrogate poor." One was near the inn called World's End, in Worlds' End Lane, which has been replaced by Grove House, in Skipton Road. For this a fine (copyhold charge) of 4d had to be paid yearly. The other was in the present Park Parade, the fine in this case being ls. 1d. These fines were to be paid "at the door of Harrogate Chapel on the 25th day of March, for ever." Half of the 1s 5d, and of similar fines, was granted by the Crown to Alexander Wedderburn, "in lieu and discharging of the Tithes of Corn and Grain." The Chapel mentioned was St. John's, where Christ Church now stands. The Overseers' Accounts show that this money was paid for a number of years: for example, in 1783 we find that the ls. 5d. was shared between the Vicar of Knaresborough (who, as patron of the living, owned the other half of the tithes) and Lord Loughborough (as Alexander Wedderburn had then become). Both the "Incroachments" appear to have been sold in 1809; which would explain why there is no record of any payment of the fines after that date.

Bills paid by Overseers between 1780 and 1808 show that there were then at least three township houses. Like much other local cottage property, these were thatched.
1780 Paid John Pearson for Wartring Thack, Theaking the Pour Houses and Spelks 10s.; 24 Threave of Strow El 4s.
1788 4 lights New Glass to a Towns House 5s. 9d.
1792 theaking three pore houses, strove leading and watering is. 6d.; spelks and theaking tow day and a half 5s. 5d.
In 1805, over 15's worth of materials and: labour for the towns houses "included quantities of stone, of lime (from the Union Kilns, owned by the Pullans), of timber, and of bricks; joiner's work, "Glaizing" and thatching. In 1808, Christopher Reynard supplied glass and lead for a "pour haus."

As early as 1803, the township was seriously considering the building of a Workhouse, with the obvious intention of saving the rent of 5 a year that it paid to Pannal for the privilege of sending its paupers there. In that year, William Williamson made a strong protest against. a proposed site. He was a large landowner in Harrogate, but his only possession anywhere near the site was a barn. "It will be a very unpleasant thing." he wrote from his home at Ripon, "to have a Building of that sort so near my Barn," and he declared that the "most proper place" for a Workhouse was the Stray.

It seems that the township had recently acquired another house, with a garden, probably with building in view. The 1803 Rate Book shows a house belonging to the poor and let to John Hardaker, but the township had not yet paid for it in 1805. The 1809 Rate Book shows this house and two others, under the heading of Harrogate Poor. As these three were rated, they must have been let to other than pauper tenants, and it is quite possible that the township had other houses let to paupers and so exempt from Rates.

From 1811 (the 1810 Rate Book is missing), there is no mention of any township houses. The inference is that they had all been sold, presumably to raise funds for the building scheme. Certainly Hardaker's house is shown in 1811 as then the property of Peter Earnshaw. Esq., who, like several others, was busy acquiring an estate in Harrogate. The date of the sale can reasonably be fixed as August 1809 by a bill presented to the Overseer by Francis Haw, landlord of the Queen's Head (Queen). It bears the explanatory note: "At the sale of the Towns property"; and. its items suggest a rather generous encouragement to the bidding: "Wine l 5s., Punch 2 10s."

The Workhouse (1810-1858)

Two facts stand out as we watch the township's officers busy about their plans for a Workhouse in the summer of 1809. One is that they were very business-like; the other, that they found it necessary to spend an unconscionable amount of the township's money on what they called liquor. The Overseers were William. Barker and John Stott, but there seems to have been an. influential group at that time that had much say in township affairs, whether in office or not. This included several inn-keepers: John Greeves, of the Granby; John Dearlove, of the Salutation (County); Jonathan Shutt, of the Swan; Joseph Goodlad, of the. Dragon. Barker, who was the active Overseer for the first half-year, from April to September. 1809, made the following quick-fire entries :

June 1st: Paid for liquor at the meeting choosing a Committee for the Workhouse-13s. 6d.
June 6th: first Committee meeting-18s. 6d.
June 13th: another Committee meeting-8s. 6d.
June 28th: Expences attending the Inspection of Workhouses and Presents to Masters-11.s.

The special Workhouse Committee, thus inaugurated, was to manage Workhouse affairs and a good deal else as long as Poor Relief remained in the hands of the township - that is, until 1854. The twelve or so members were elected annually by the Vestry Meeting; but membership was obviously limited to leading townsmen. They held their business meetings each month, and the liquor consumption, so energetically begun, even increased as time went on. At first a set allowance of 10s a meeting was made but even this limit, generous indeed for those days, was ignored later. In 1829, the bill presented by Joseph Waite, of the Black Swan, for the January meeting reads: Wine and water, ls 4d; Liquer, 12s.; Tobacco:, 6d.; cheese and bread, 3s. 6d.; Rum, 6d. The Committee made a point of going the round of the inns. At the March meeting in the same year, 1 3s. 8d. was spent with Mrs. Kendall, of the Bay Horse (Empress), on "Ale, Spirits and Tobacco." In the township report made to the Poor Law Commissioners in. 1834, when they were enquiring into the administration throughout the country, there is this illuminating comment: "It will be perceived that there is an entry of 8 3s. 9d. for refreshments and Drinkings at the meetings, that has been long established by custom and has on some occasions been a heavy charge. Some of the members of the Committee have been desirous to discontinue the charge. It has continued still although the Magistrates have objected, to it."

The site that was eventually chosen for the Workhouse was obviously not Hardaker's house, but it was one that already had some building on it. William Voackes' estimate submitted in October 1809 includes the item: "Pouling Down the Old Buildings at Star Beck and takeing the Slate's and Tile's off and leing them carefully by." To judge by his solid and impressive Workhouse this stonemason was an. excellent builder, but his knowledge of the construction of the. English language was not quite so expert. He ignores punctuation, inserts capitals merely for the sake of variety and uses his own system of phonetic spelling. If these points are borne in mind, his bill for erecting a pig-sty at the Workhouse in 1811 may yield useful facts about the then cost of materials. and labour. It is also a reminder that free ale was then a perquisite of most manual labourers, a fact that masters had to allow for in submitting estimates.

July 13, 1811, Mr. Lentfort to wm. voackes for worck Doun at harrogate whorck house Bilding peg coate whalen gate Stad up whorcken peg trouff paven helpen to put up Sla ten ponten puting Rode on.
Self and 2 Men 1 Day - 11s 6d
Self 2 Days man 3 Days - 18s 6d
Self 2 Days Backer 3 Days half -  1 6s
hogg 4 Days half - 15s 9d
Lats nales for Slaten - 6d
Stone for peg trouff Stone to Cover peg Spute to BlackBurn - 5s
19 Days 3 per Day for Drenkens - 4s 9d
Total  -  4 2s
Recvd the A Buy By me wm voackes

"Gate-stead" is still used locally for gate-way. "Mr. Lentfort " was the Overseer, Thomas Linforth; hogg was, of course, a workman. The " peg Spute " was a stone culvert for drainage.

The Workhouse site was bought from Francis Pullan, a Bilton bleacher, and was a little more than an acre. Bordering it to the south was a field of about the same size, later called "Workhouse Close." The two are shown as one unit in the "Award" of 1774; and it is possible that both were bought by the township and used for the first few years. There is still visible a walled-up doorway in the boundary wall between the sites, and "plowing" was done at the Workhouse in 1811, which would hardly be necessary on the smaller site. But Pullan was again in possession of Workhouse Close in 1815.

Though no complete financial statement has been found, it is probable that the township was never deeply in debt through the Workhouse. The sale of the "Towns Houses," judging by their rateable value, would realise several hundred pounds, and from 1813 the rents began to come in from the "out-townships" that sent paupers.

The information (such as it is) is as follows : In 1815, Overseer Thomas Emmatt paid 120 to Mr Terry, of the Knaresbro Bank, apparently as repayment of a loan; in 1817, 7 11s. 6d. was paid to Mr. Terry as interest, which suggests a loan still outstanding of about 150. In 1822, the township borrowed 100 from John Eteson; and a further loan of 200 from George Abbey appears in the records from 1825 to 1831. These last may not have been really new borrowings: the Abbey loan may have gone back to 1810, and the Eteson loan may have paid off the debt at the bank, for the Workhouse is the only known liability at that time which might cause the township to run into debt.

The report to the Poor Law Commissioners, referred to previously, states that the capacity of the Workhouse was 100, that it had cost about 2,000, and that it had been built "about 18 years." The last is a bad error - for in 1834 the building was 24 years old. Perhaps the other two statements are no more reliable. Most of the twenty-odd rooms were quite small, and the given capacity would assign four to a room. In view of building costs then current, the estimate of 2,000 is probably excessive.

There is a pathetic side-light on the building of the Workhouse given by a letter from. John Stott, the Overseer whose term of duty was from October 1809 to March 1810. For many Years he was a well-to-do grocer in Harrogate, but when he wrote to the Overseers in 1838, he was living at Halifax in distressed circumstances. "When I was Overseer," he wrote, "I built the Workhouse and when I made up my accounts at the end of the year, the Vestry wished me to stand another year to see the Building finished, and I was to have some compensation for my trouble., to which I agreed on condition that I should have no trouble in collecting rates or paying the poor. It took a great deal of my time and called me often from home to the neglect of my business. But the compensation was never offered me, and I never applied for it." John Stott deserved well of the township: besides his service as Overseer, he had been Constable in 1820 and one of the Surveyors in 1815 and 1823. His Accounts in these offices are model documents, well written, detailed, and extremely well arranged. It is pleasant to record that the township did send him relief in his necessitous old age.

The postscript to this letter of Stott's is of some interest. "When do you form the Union at Harrogate? Can you not give me a situation as relieving officer? I could discharge the duties of the office as well as any person you could appoint, and you will have to appoint someone." Clearly he takes it for granted that Harrogate- would be chosen as the centre of a local Poor Law Union, such as had been authorised by the Act of 1834, seeing that for forty years it had been the head of an unofficial one.

At long last, however, the Knaresborough Poor Law Union was set up in 1854, and into this Union the township of Bilton-with-Harrogate was merged. Yet the Knaresborough Workhouse was quite inadequate for its new task and a fresh Union building had to be started. Till this was ready - from 1854 to 1858 - the Knaresborough Union rented the Harrogate Workhouse at 40 a year net, the Guardians being responsible for repairs.

The last stage was recorded by the Harrogate Advertiser of May 1st, 1858: "Since the erection of the new Union House at Knaresboro', to which the paupers have been removed from the Old Workhouse at Starbeck, that building, which belongs to the township, has become useless for purposes of that kind, and consequently application has been made to the Poor Law Board. . . . for permission to sell the property." Later that same year, the Workhouse was sold to Mr. John Turner and became, as it still remains, Old Starbeck Hall - a not unsightly reminder of a township achievement.





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