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    Cradley Links

    Cradley Workhouse and the Poor Laws

    The Workhouse in Cradley was located at Oldnall and unfortunately very few records survive detailing this. Jill Guest has managed to piece together what she can from various sources. If you have any further information about this please let us know!


    The Poor Law


    Poor Law, in British history, body of laws undertaking to provide relief for the poor, developed in 16th-century England and maintained, with various changes, until after World War II. The Elizabethan Poor Laws, as codified in 1597–98, were administered through parish overseers, who provided relief for the aged, sick, and infant poor, as well as work for the able-bodied in workhouses. (Britannica)


    In 1730 Sir Thomas Lyttelton presented Halesowen with a workhouse, Over the door was this inscription “The ground on which this building was erected: the garden thereunto belonging: together with three houses next adjoining were given by Sir Thomas Lyttelton, Bart. To the Parish of Hales Owen for the accommodation of the poor: in the year of our Lord MDCCXXX. The exact site chosen was the corner of Church Street.


    1813 Workhouse Token

    A Penny token was issued in 1813 payable at the workhouse. (Halas Hales Hales Owen F& KM Somers)


    Sir Thomas Lyttelton was Lord of the Manor of Cradley as well as Hales Owen but there is no evidence that he gave land at Cradley as well


    Workhouses of the Midlands by Peter Higginbotham


    In 1563 the contributions to parish funds by householders for poor relief became compulsory rather than voluntary. A further Act in 1576 stated that every town should set up stocks of materials (wool, flax, hemp, iron, etc.) for the unemployed able-bodied poor to work on, either in their own homes or in a workshop. The 1601 Act (Old Poor Law) laid down that the parish was responsible for poor relief and that relief was to be funded by the local poor rate raised from householders. The poor rate was collected by a parish official called an overseer (an unpaid and often unpopular post) administered by the parish Vestry (a committee comprising the minister, churchwardens, and a number of householders). Most parish poor relief was distributed as ‘out-relief’ – handouts in the form of money, food, fuel, or clothing to people living in their own homes. Introduced as a temporary measure, the 1601 act was not fully rescinded until 1967.

    History of Halesowen by Julian Hunt


    In 1834 the Poor Law amendment Act stated that towns could no longer provide outdoor relief to the able bodied, so that those who could not look after themselves had to attend a workhouse. In 1836 Oldswinford and Stourbridge combined with Kingswinford and Halesowen to form the Stourbridge Union, with its workhouse at Wordsley. The Oldswinford parish workhouse closed about 1837 and Wordsley was enlarged at a cost of £2,179. The affairs of the workhouse were managed by a Board of Guardians (24) who were responsible for the poor from Amblecote, Brierley Hill, Quarry Bank, Cradley, Cakemore, Hasbury, Hawne,Hill, Illey, Lapel,Lutley and Quinton.


    (It is possible that the Cradley workhouse closed around this time although there is no evidence.)


    Halesowen Poor in 1884 (Worcester Record Office 2723/4)


    Hamlet Numbers in Stourbridge Union Workhouse Amount in pounds spent on outdoor relief
    Halesowen Borough 22 257
    Cakemore 8 20
    Cradley 26 329
    Hasbury 9 142
    Hawne 3 22
    Hill 5 180
    Illey 0 19
    Lapal 1 31
    Lutley 0 16
    Ridgacre 3 42
    77 1,058


    1825 Map showing Farm and Workhouse
    1882 map Farm now called Beech Farm and workhouse buildings shown but not marked as Workhouse.

    The site of the Cradley workhouse is shown on the 1825 map of Cradley on the road from Oldswinford to Hales Owen passing through Cradley.


    Pigot & Co. Directory of Halesowen with the village of Cradley 1835


    Workhouse Church St. Halesowen – Sarah Foley governess

    Workhouse Cradley – Moses Reading governor.


    Bentley’s 1840/41 Directory


    Reading Michael Pratt Relieving Officer (an official appointed by a parish or union to administer relief to the poor.)

    Michael Pratt Reading was the son of Moses Reading the family were members of the Baptist Church in Cradley.


    A Short History of Cradley Chapel by Frank Stephens page 9


    The first Clerk and Sexton was Benjamin Fiddian

    Both Benjamin and Richard Fiddian appear in the Cradley Parish records as witnesses to either weddings or births.

    Benjamin and Richard Fiddian were brothers,

    Benjamin Fiddian baptised at Halesowen26th April 1769 parents Richard and Sarah Fiddian

    Richard Fiddian baptised at Halesowen 12th November 1779 parents Richard and Sarah Fiddian.


    Cradley Tithe map& Apportionment 1843


    Number 489 which corresponds with the building on the 1825 map is owned by William Robins and occupied by Richard Fiddian it consists of a house, shop garden and pleck.


    1851 Census Cradley Two Gates (046)


    Fiddian Richard head Widower 71 Groom born in Halesowen

    Fiddian Sarah Daughter unmarried 46 Housekeeper born in Halesowen


    By 1857 in volume one of the Vicars notebooks Richard Fiddian is still living in Two Gates he is described as a Widdower age 78 church irregular was church pew was Parish clerk.


    Billings 1855 Directory of Cradley

    Homer Thomas Parish Clerk


    By 1851 the Workhouse at Oldnall had closed and the farm buildings housed several families.

    1851 Census High Park Cradley numbers 091- 095 5 families living in the Old Workhouse

    091 Worton Israel and Harriot nail forgers and their 12 children and 1 granddaughter.

    092 Wooldridge Richard and Mary nail forgers and 2 children

    093 Round Josh and Martha nail forgers with their son and his family and 2 lodgers

    094 Merideth William coal labourer with his wife and 5 children

    095 Winnall Elizabeth and her children.


    As well as the local Poor Rate there were various charities, where people had left legacies or lands to support the poor.

    In the back of the Vicars notebooks were recorded by Rev. Thompson a conversation he had with a Mr Bloomer concerning gifts and legacies to the poor of Cradley.

    Mr Benjamin Pargeter of Stourbridge pays a pound a year I think from the 3 acres piece called 9 lands- the middle land by the gate I believe. He pays it to the overseer. If he has given up paying it is a desperate wrong thing. There were I think 20 sixpences perhaps 40, left to be given by the overseer to 20 or 40 poor people who do not receive parish relief.

    I have heard Mr Marston blow up Michael Reading about money that had been lost from the poor before Michael’s time. I think Mr Cardale left some money to be given to Cradley for ever, and I almost think Mr Townsend did who lived where Mr Wood does.

    I never knew the tables were taken out of Cradley Church- it is a very wrong thing. I have often read the tables near the little gallery at Halesowen Church about Cradley money and I believe they were there before Cradley Church was built. I hear that Mr Bourn has left a pound a year to Cradley to be paid out of a field in Maple Gap Lane.

    I don’t know for certain whether or not Mr Thomas Cox of the Rod Mill left something for Cradley.

    Joseph Harper in the four dwellings is older than I am and could perhaps give some more information. I think I am 85. Sarah Forrest of Cradley is about 3 years younger and may know something.

    I remember Mr Wilmot coming along with old Fiddian to collect his Easter dues. I don’t think anybody paid more than about seven pence.

    The above is the substance of a conversation I had with My Bloomer aged 85 or 87 and took down in writing in his chamber Oct.1857 JHT


    (The tables- ie the stone tablets kept in perpetuity in the church to record legacies and gifts for the poor)

    (Thomas Cox (1696) left £10, the interest to be paid annually to the poor. See Wills and Inventories page 84 by Margaret Bradley and Barry Blunt.)


    The next page is headed Traditional Accounts of Cradley Charities (collected by JHT)

    Some person of Clent left money mentioned on the tablets.

    There used to be a stone tablet of charities in the church.

    Tablet mentions John Parry of Clent, Nicholas Homer and Thomas Cox.

    Mr James Mason thinks the overseers pay one of the tablet benefactions of 40/- on St. Thomas’s Day-he remembers it being paid in the vestry.

    Mr Laister, when at Mr. Brown’s house, paid £1 to James Mason for Dole Money but next two years it was not applied for.

    Mr James Mason, when overseer, used to distribute the money to the poor, sometimes at the vestry, sometimes elsewhere. There was £1 from Mr King of Netherend and £1 from Mr Benjamin Pargeter of Stourbridge, who paid the money regularly, but not without an application for it. Sometimes there were disputes in the parish on the subject, chiefly among the poor who wanted it. It used to be given to persons in the parish not receiving relief, but afterwards, more indiscriminately.


    “Besides the nine lands there is some on Homer Hill chargeable with money for the poor. Mr Smith gave me 8 ½ d at Homer Hill last year. I have had as much as a shilling.” (Joseph Harper)


    (In the notebooks 1857 James Mason is living at Overend Lane with daughter Rhoda he and his daughter attend church, also living there are David and Caroline Tandy and their 3 children, he is a farmer and Ranter, his wife goes to church.)


    Jill Guest

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