Picture of church


Contents of chapter

The middle class, in parishes like Cranham, is a rather modern development. Before modern development, people belonged to one of only two groups. The larger group was a poor labouring population, dependent on daily wages from the agriculture. What middle class that did exist provided agricultural tools, transport for construction materials, or made implements, and would usually live in market towns. The smaller class held the land either by ownership or rent, and derived profit from it by farming or development.

The two classes have always depended on each other: right down to the early twentieth century, the poor have depended on the rich for employment, and the rich upon the poor for labour. During feudal times, the rich needed the lower classes as labour either directly on the desmesne (the land of the Lord of the Manor) or indirectly for their payments of rents, tithes, fines for conveyances or inheritances (heriots), and sometimes to satisfy their military duties (a condition of holding the land). Whilst the lifestyles of the two classes differed, they were always a symbiosis.

It was the practical dependence of the rich upon the poor which was the basis of charity and assistance. This chapter studies how the rich supported the poor during times of distress. One valuable by-product of that "charity", often dispensed grudgingly by the rich, is that this is one of the few traces left of the ordinary people that have formed the majority of the population of Cranham during previous centuries.


Early feudal villages were quite self-sufficient. The transportation of food, in good condition, over long distances was difficult. Our parish (Chapter 1) is a fertile place, and most of the agricultural parishes in southern Essex were probably net food exporters, especially to London. Imports into the parish were probably limited to leather goods such as harnesses and shoes, and iron implements: hoes, plough shares and horseshoes. Wool could be grown in the fields and woven in the cottages. Cotton was unknown. The church and the rich probably had imported silk.

The mediaeval diet would have consisted of the cereals grown in the parish, bread therefrom, pigmeat, the odd slaughtered ox (who usually powered the ploughs), perhaps an aged cow, or one thought unworthy of maintenance through the forthcoming winter, sheepmeat, milk and cheese from the latter two, and perhaps some blackberry and apple in the autumn; two fieldnames in the parish suggest that pears were of local interest. Rabbits would have to be poached from the desmesne; the whole of Essex was under forest law for long periods in the early mediaeval period, making venison a legally hazardous source of meat. Beer and possibly mead could be made in the dwellings, which have not survived at Cranham, but were doubtless constructed of timber, mud, wattle and hurdles (willow or yew), roofed with turf, thatch or shingles, all of which could be obtained locally. Cranham Hall may be imagined as a typical half-timbered, possibly H-plan, building perhaps of the common Essex type (e.g. Great Tomkyns in northern Upminster), before its rebuilding in the sixteenth century (Chapter 2).

There are no specific records about the Cranham peasants during feudal times, nor whether they received any support during periods of sickness or distress. There is no reason to doubt that the Black Death (1348) did not disrupt the equilibrium between labourers and landholders as profoundly at Cranham as elsewhere in Essex. For the first time, labour became as valuable as land; the peasants could migrate if an employer held out better rewards or fewer onerous duties in return for farming their few acres elsewhere. The old order changed for the survivors of this plague, and this was generally in favour of the peasant (9).

During the feudal era the Lord of the Manor, or his officer the Steward, would hold court. This "Court Baron" would adjudge the passing of leases from father to son, set the terms of those leases, settle disputes and levy fines for every transaction. These courts soon produced a great deal of precedent, leading to large variations in practice between one manor and another. At Cranham, the Court Baron was held once or twice each year until 1929 (49). The practice of the court in modern times (the only era for which documents survive) give clues to the mediaeval practices because the old precedents are used to justify court actions repeatedly down the ages. The Court Baron rolls from 1705 for the manor of Cranham Hall are at the Essex Records Office (117, 118).

The last time that the rights of the Lord of the Manor over the lower classes were definitively stated was in 1853 (117), when the Lord of the Manor was entitled to the following from anyone renting his land:

  • Two year's rent was payable as a fine to the Lord on descent, i.e. when a son inherited a lease from his father;
  • One and a half year's rent was payable as a fine to the Lord on alienation, i.e. if a renter wanted to transfer his lease to some third party.
  • Four days of free labour per year on the Lord of the Manor's own land,
  • One third of any oak timber that was felled in the parish.
  • In 1853, these were very small resources; a manor needed much more from the peasants in the middle ages, and these rights are clearly a small surviving subset from the mediaeval period In 1852, the fines yielded about £ 30 per annum, and the quit rents (i.e. the leases themselves) about another £ 20. At that time, there were about 726 acres left on the Cranham Hall estate, and its land tax was £ 46-8-0d. each year (117). Nonetheless, in the middle of the last century, we have some flavour of what the Cranham peasant had to give and do, in addition to paying his rent, in order to occupy his part of the Manorial lands.

    The Court Baron rolls also record all the changes of land holding, and the old legal procedures were still being practiced early in this century. For example, in 1705, the leasehold for Folkes farm was sold for £ 112, even though the freehold was not granted until 1866, when Gurney broke up the Cranham Hall estate (see chapter 2 and chapter 3).

    In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the manor was clearly unprofitable, and time-consuming to manage. Lords of the manor were inclined to accept lump sum payments in order to discharge annual manorial fees and rights, although, of course, the rents themselves remained. Sometimes, instead of a lump sum, the loss of the rights was compensated by an increase in the annual rent. All this saved a lot of time and argument. The last entry in the Court rolls states (117):

    "2nd February 1929. All rents, fines, heriots, reliefs, and fees payable in respect of the land are now discharged."

    It is possible that the Lord of the Manor had other rights at Cranham, and that these were extinguished as a result of national legislation or for other reasons. Commonly, manors in this part of Essex would be able to levy fines on bread and ale, the view of frankpledge (a primitive criminal court system operated in the manors), rights associated with marriages, and the settlement of strangers from elsewhere in the County. Addy (221) has drawn many parallels between the rights of the manor and that of the parish church, and would claim that the Rector's tithes are another type of manorial right.


    The Elizabethan poor laws represent the beginning of public assistance in England. The system was based upon a poor rate. Landowners were assessed for the value of their holdings, known as the rateable value. The tax was then calculated as a fixed percentage of each owners rateable value. This method allows for frequent changes in the amount of money that can be raised, without the need for time-consuming reassessments of the worth of property.

    In general, the wealthy resented their indirect responsibility for the poor in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and direct control of the system was seen as highly desirable by those who paid for it. The Vicar of Dunmow, for example, wrote of the landowners in 1783 (119):

    "Is there any order of men better acquatinted with the character, conduct, and necessities of the poor ? Is there any order of men so immediately interested to prevent mismanagement and lavish expenditure of parish money ?",

    and did not seek the opinion of his lower class parishioners.

    The Poor Laws, as they evolved from their Elizabethan origin are the subject of much learned research. However, the fundamental point is that they established a system which was very different from the feudal, mutually dependent relationship between the two classes. Labour was again more plentiful; the poor became mere supplicants to the rich, rather than their partner in a stable economic system. The rich held the purse strings tightly.

    Administration of rate collection, and the disbursement of public assistance was under the control of the vestry. Since the vestry was usually composed of the Rector and the more important local landowners, or their representatives, public assistance was controlled mostly by those who funded the system. The Cranham vestry of the eighteenth century was a large body, which met in full on average twice each year. Two Overseers were appointed to administer the poor relief, and to collect the rates.

    Cranham was exceptional because three rates were collected: two were assigned separately to the churchwardens and the highway surveyors (two men), and a third, until 1742, was for the parish constables (of whom there were two from 1646-1660, one or two 1660-1688, and one from 1689-1800). It was the constables who enforced the settlement issues, see below (12). At Cranham in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the rate was usually between 6d. and 1/6d. in the pound, i.e. 2.5 to 7.5 % of values per annum (79, 84). The annual tax for a holding worth £100 (about 10 acres in 1820) was therefore between 50/=d. and £ 7-10-0d. each year.

    A subset of the vestry (the "Select Vestry") met fortnightly to supervise the Overseers, who were the officers who actually managed the dispensing of support for the poor. New applications for assistance were usually made in person before the Select Vestry. A sick or immobile applicant might be visited by one of the Overseers or by the Rector, who could make application on their behalf, but this was exceptional. In dire emergency, an Overseer was empowered to provide immediate relief, sufficient to last until the next meeting of the Select Vestry.

    Various needs were met at Cranham by these rates. Applicants usually qualified by reason of unemployment, yet showing reasonable diligence in seeking work. Long-term sickness, widows, orphans, temporary sickness, and specified leaves of absence from work were also recorded as successful applications in the Vestry minutes. Examples from the minutes of 1820 (120) illustrate:

    "25th March 1820. Weekly allowance for Hardcastle 3/=d."

    "2nd April 1820. Sargett, for wife's nurse 5/=d."

    "20th May 1820. No application for relief."

    "1st October 1820. Wm.Clarke had only worked four days within a fortnight. But it appeared that he had not used his best endeavours to obtain employment. He had not applied to Mr.Rumney who is Overseer and Surveyor and was want of a labourer to dig stones, which it appears that Clarke knew from his brother John. Relief refused. - T.L. [the initials of Revd.Ludbey]"

    "1st October 1820. Geo.Laisell applied for relief having during the last week spent 5 days in thatching his cottage with straw given him by the parishioners. Lent him 7/=d. to be repaid midsummer. Mr.Rumney, overseer received a memorandum to that effect bearing the mark of Geo.Laisell by way of signature. T.L."

    In April 1821, the weekly bill for parish relief came to £ 2-12-0d. This amount was divided between 5 widows, 4 men, 2 women and 2 children.

    A new rule was devised in 1822:

    "13th February 1822. Relief to be in bread only, by written order to the baker stating the name of the pauper and the amount of bread. To be computed by a paper saying that in the county gaol of Hertfordshire 1 ½ pounds of bread per day was found quite adequate for a man in labour, and 1 lb bread per day quite adequate in Clerkenwell for a man not labouring. A quarten loaf weighs 4lb 5oz. Therefore the men need 2 quartens and a half each week. Bread will be of the best quality. Where, from age or sickness, a pauper is unable to work, a small additional allowance in money may be granted. Outside the parish, paupers may still have to be given money."

    Ludbey added the following note in the vestry minutes after this new rule:

    "The beneficial effects of this rule were apparent on the first day of its being put into force. John Clarke applied for relief and was asked how he had expended a shilling given him the previous evening by the Overseer. He evaded the enquiry; but upon being told that in future all relief was to be in bread instead of money, he said that bread did not suit him, that on the preceding evening he supplied at a public house upon bread, fried pork and porter. This pauper was in continual receipt of parochial relief."

    The relief bill for this eventful week in 1822 was 10 quarten loaves and £ 1-5-0d. The tying of relief to bread had begun at Speenhamland, Berkshire in 1795, taking 27 years to reach Cranham. Clearly, the Clarke brothers were "regulars", probably both at the vestry and at The Plough !

    At Cranham, public assistance was dispensed not only in money, but also in the provision of living quarters. These poor houses should not be compared with later workhouses; they were simply places where the poor could be housed at low, or no rent. At Cranham, especially in the summer when there was a lot of work on the land, the poor house was not always needed (see below).

    The powers of the vestry extended beyond the control of financial aid to the poor. One activity was to pay for boys and girls to be apprenticed. This was acceptable when the trade was real, such as payments to carpenters and a mason by the Cranham vestry in 1660-1661, 1710-1711, and 1797 (12). In some cases, however, this was simply a manoeuvre to rid the parish of an orphan. Fortunately, the Cranham vestry does not appear to have indulged in the apprenticeship of girls into the trades of "housekeeping" or "husbandry", essentially providing cheap, unskilled labour, an unpaid servant to somebody who would take from the parish the responsibility for subsistence of the pauper.

    The vestry had considerable, direct powers over the person. If it was deemed more economical, a pauper could be removed to the workhouse (see below). There was no responsibility for the Cranham vestry to support a pauper who, though resident at Cranham, originated from elsewhere. The term "legal settlement" meant the parish of origin, birth or that of the spouse.

    Sometimes a parish would issue a type of passport to its residents. As they travelled in search of work, they would show their Legal Settlement paper to the officers of the parishes they visited. The certificate guaranteed that Cranham remained responsible for their upkeep should they fall upon hard times in faraway parishes. Those without certificates were forcibly removed to the parish boundary by the constables. If one could survive for a year and a day in a parish without forcible removal, then one was entitled to be settled in the new parish. Hence Ludbey's note in the vestry book:

    "19th August 1821. Agreed that the following shall be addressed to each of the Occupiers within the parish whom it may likely affect:

    "In consideration of the heavy additional charges upon the Poor's rate in the parish of Cranham which have, at different times, been made in consequences of the settlement of many strangers therein by hiring and service, the parishioners request and in Vestry do hope, that in future no Occupier in the said parish will hire a person as a servant of any description for a longer period than fifty-one weeks

    [Signed and dated] Thos.Ludbey, Chairman."

    It was common, particularly at harvest time, to hire any vagrant to help gather the crop, and to return them to their vagrant life at the end of the season. One such vagrant family was "Whitby, Mary his wife, and James their child aged eight weeks" who were returned to Cranham from West Malling, Kent in 1732. The grounds for this deportation were that Cranham was the father's birthplace (132). Similarly, on February 21, 1729, the Cranham Overseer had William Morris removed to Stifford (122).

    Nineteenth century behaviour amongst the poor sometimes left much to be desired. The Cranham vestry felt entitled to take action when it thought that such behaviour would eventually lead to charges upon the parish:

    "10th June 1821.

    "On account of a report that Mrs.Beckwith encourages a young man at her house, by whom she already has an illegitimate child, also that she allows her daughter to pursue similar conduct, Mrs. Beckwith was today ordered to appear at the vestry this day. She was cautioned that if she persists in this course, her weekly allowance shall be stopped and that if she has another illegitimate child she will be sent to the house of correction" (120).

    Whether the vestry had powers to demand appearance by the parishioners is doubtful. However, it was probably the best thing for a poor person to do, with no understanding of the law, and dependency upon the more powerful residents in many other ways. This entry has other points of interest: dwelling or cottage was the usual way in which the vestry referred to the places where the poor lived. The use of the term house, and the implication of the two women indulging in the same activities might fall just short of the definition of a brothel.

    The Bastardy Act (1732/3) obliged the mother to state the name of the father to the Vestry. The parish could then obtain a note of indemnification from the alleged father, a considerable accusation as well as financial burden, without having to prove its case any further (181). A good example, in favour of the Cranham Vestry, was handed down by two magistrates from Upminster:

    "Concerning a female bastard child, lately born in the parish of Cranham 27th February 1823, of Lettice Reynolds, single woman.

    "Churchwardens complain that George Childs did beget the said bastard child on the body of the said Lettice Reynolds, and whereas the said George Childs hath appeared before us, in pursuance of our summons for that purpose, but having not shewn any sufficient cause why he, the said George Childs, shall not be the reputed father of the said bastard child.

    " We, therefore, upon examination of the cause and circumstances of the premises, as well as upon the oath of the said Lettice Reynolds, as otherwise, do hereby adjudge him, the said George Childs, to be the reputed father of the said bastard child.

    "George Childs ordered to pay 2s.6d. per week to the Parish, Lettice Reynolds ordered to pay 6d. per week to the parish, to maintain the child for so long as the parish does maintain the child.

    George Childs to pay 12/=d. costs.

    [signed] J.R.Holden, Champion Branfill."

    In the nineteenth century the Poor Rate was also used for parish expenses, other than actual support of the poor. For example (120):

    "23rd December 1821. Resolved that the charge towards the building of a new county gaol shall be paid by the Overseer out of the Poor's rate."

    "8th March 1821. Resolved that an advertisement be drawn up by the vestry clerk offering a reward of two guineas over and above the necessary expenses for the apprehension &c. of Joseph Sargett, who deserted his wife and family on 19th Feby. last. This advertisement to be placed in the County Chronicle (this is not the Essex Chronicle, but a paper printed in London)."

    The Poor Law Amendment Act (1834) stopped relief of paupers in their own homes, and the workhouse became compulsory. This was resented by the poor themselves, leading to riots in Kent and Sussex.


    Since 1585, monetary alms had been forbidden, punishable by a fine of five times the amount given. Almshouses were not monetary, and most were in the gift of a private person. Almshouses belonging to the Church were known as poorhouses, and were first permitted by the Poor Laws of 1601; typically, poorhouse residents were physically incapacitated (184).

    In 1705, another side of the coin may be apparent on the vestry minutes. There is a rather over-emphatic entry stating (117):

    "A second proclamation for the poor to come in and take up for the use of the poor a cottage being upon the waste in the tenancy of Mathew Sock and Robert Williams. But none came."

    It is highly unlikely that there were no poor in Cranham in 1705, and many things could be hidden in this statement. The cottage may have been in a poor state of repair, and refurbishing could have been the aim. Houses upon the waste were the property of the Lord of the Manor, not the vestry, and this might be intended as some demonstrative gesture, with a third party as its intended audience. This is a very rare example of eighteenth century charity apparently emanating from the manor rather than from the vestry. Tangentially, it is also very rare at this time to find a Welsh name, Williams, at Cranham or adjoining parishes.

    In 1722, a law was passed which permitted the parish to buy or build accommodations within which the paupers could be installed and made to work for the benefit of the parish. This was the start of the workhouse.

    At Cranham, Nathan Wright, the Lord of the Manor, gave almshouses for two people, and the building was completed, somewhere in Front Lane, before 1727 (12). There are no other references to these dwellings; they disappeared before 1786.

    Between 1786 and 1827 the parish had many difficulties in housing the poor. From 1786 to 1788, the Cranham vestry was allowed to house up to three paupers in the workhouse at Great Warley, although the fee is unknown (12). Then, until 1797, the vestry rented a house for 1/=d. to house the poor, but again its site is now forgotten (12, 53).

    Between 1797 and 1816, the vestry negotiated an agreement with Upminster, which allowed up to five Cranham paupers in their workhouse; this workhouse is still standing on the north side of Upminster Hill, although is now called the Ingrebourne Cottages. The agreement lapsed in 1825; once again Cranham rented its own poorhouse, but did reach agreement for the maintenance of up to two paupers in South Ockendon's workhouse.

    The vestry was not above lending furniture from this poorhouse rather than giving money to the poor. For example:

    "6th Feby.1820

    Resolved that a stump bedstead shall immediately be bought, also 20 yards of strong cloth with which two bed tilts be made and filled with good chaff; one of those chaff beds and a feather bed now in the poor house and the bedstead above mentioned to be for the use of Sargett and his family in addition to what they already have. Sargett, in consequence of his illness has only earned one shilling since Sunday last." (120).

    This is Joseph Sargett, a regular at the vestry. It is the same man who eventually abandoned his family, leading to the newspaper advertisement mentioned above.

    In 1820, the parish employed Thomas Forster to live in and maintain the poorhouse; he also acted as Overseer. Fairly soon, the parish was having trouble not only with its poor clientele, but also with Forster himself:

    "1st October 1820.

    On 25th September last a notice signed by the parish officers was served upon Thomas Forster, requiring him to quit the premises occupied by him and to give up possession of the same by Christmas day next. In consequence of which he this day attended the vestry. It was stated to him that the person who has charge of the poorhouse must live on the following terms:-

    "He is to have exclusive use of that end of the house now occupied by Forster, together with that part of the garden free of rent; in consideration of which he must take care of all the articles of furniture belonging to the parish which shall at any time be placed in his charge, and shall provide for the washing of bed linen. He also shall undertake the care of those persons resident in the poorhouse who are not able to do what is necessary for themselves.

    "Thomas Forster agreed the reside upon the said premises on the above terms."

    It is not recorded what Forster had done to attract this stern, public warning. One wonders at the state of the residents; Forster and his wife were apparently not obligated to wash their clothes, nor is the frequency of washing the bed linen stated, and yet clearly there were disabled people in the workhouse.


    Early in 1828, the parish decided that the simplest solution to its problems of housing the poor was to have its own workhouse (124). On July 12, 1828 Sir Thomas Apreece, Baronet and Lord of the Manor, was petitioned for a grant of land. The petition was signed by John Humphries and James Noak, churchwardens, Henry Hance and Jeremiah Reynolds, overseers, and numerous other parishioners. The land was granted, but Apreece charged them £ 20, about the going rate for a plot 174 feet frontage by 36 feet deep (125). The land was marked out on the south side of St.Mary's Lane, and held in trust by the petitioners for the use of the poor. The conveyance was completed on August 13, 1828 (125). The Jobber's Rest public house now occupies the site.

    There is no surviving plan or sketch of the workhouse. However, it was described as follows (125):

    "A spacious, sightly, substantial and newly erected building with best stock bricks, and slated. 51 feet long by 20 feet wide, containing numerous airy & well-arranged rooms, which are approached by a centre entrance, most judiciously constructed for any alteration, a capital well of spring water, yard, garden, & premises".

    The principal written record of the workhouse is a small white book (126). This was used to record the comings and goings of inmates, the rules which governed them, notes on the punishments inflicted upon them, and the grocery orders which fed them. The book contains a set of rules.

    Food was not elaborate. Rule no.2 states:

    "The food of the able-bodied men and women of the workhouse shall be of the simplest kind, such as bread and bacon only, or bread and cheese only, with oatmeal gruel, unless some of a better description shall be ordered by the medical attendant in the case of sickness".

    Elsewhere, the menu is described as:

  • Sunday: hot meat
  • Monday: eight pints of soup + 1 pint of split peas
  • Tuesday: cold meat
  • Wednesday: potatoes
  • Thursday: cheese
  • Friday: hot meat
  • Saturday: 8 pints of broth + ½ lb scotch barley
  • It is surprising that fish was not on the menu for Friday, but for an inland parish this might have required extra expense. Table 8 shows the weekly grocery orders per person in the workhouse, together with their cost in 1829. The basis for these precisely measured rations is unknown. Compared to a modern diet, there is much less protein, and after cooking there was probably very little vitamin C. Eggs are noticeably absent from the diet.

    Discipline of the paupers is described in rule nos. 6 and 10 of the workhouse:

    "Rule no.6. Paupers inhabiting the workhouse and willfully violating any of the rules and regulations, or otherwise misbehaving themselves shall be punished by means of subtracting a portion of their food, bread and water excepted, unless the offence shall be of such a nature as to require an application to a magistrate in order that legal punishment may be inflicted.

    "Rule no.10. They [the master and mistress] shall not allow any articles of provision to be brought into the workhouse by friends of the paupers".

    Thus, food was dependent upon good behaviour, and it was forbidden for the pauper to get food by any other means, even by gift.

    The concept was that the pauper was guaranteed subsistence in the workhouse, but was allowed no possessions, or that their possessions belonged to the parish. For example, the entry for May 9, 1831 reads:

    "We have been informed that in direct opposition to the approved orders of vestry, Mrs.Crowe has secretly recovered the clothes of her late husband and given them to one of her sons. On consulting with the two overseers upon the matter, we have agreed to stop Mrs.Crowe's allowance of tea and butter."

    Only as late as March 29, 1833 was it decided at a public vestry that the rules should be clearly displayed in the workhouse. Whether this was an improvement on arbitrary punishment is doubtful: surely the inmates were illiterate ?

    The lifestyle of the pauper in the workhouse was probably very monotonous. Rule no.3 says rather wordily that the paupers could be given work to do for which the parish would collect the wages. Rule no.4 specified that every pauper in the workhouse should attend church twice every Sunday unless sick. Rule no.11 forbade smoking. This was certainly a fire hazard amongst the straw bedding, but it is difficult to understand how tobacco was to be purchased by the destitute.

    The population of the workhouse varied with the year, but not with the season. This would suggest that the inmates were largely the elderly and infirm, because the able-bodied could always support themselves in spring and autumn on the land. Table 9 summarises the census. It was never very great.

    The order book (126) records how various inmates came and left the workhouse; the paupers are documented by name, origin, destination, and reason for moving in or out. There were 7 deaths in the workhouse, 3 girls sent into service, one case of a man sent to Springfield prison for 14 days hard labour, and one birth in the house ("7th January 1835. Sarah Rutter this day delivered of a bastard."). For the most part, though, people entered the workhouse when no longer able to pay rent on their cottages or buy food, and they left when there was a prospect of a job that could pay these costs.

    In May 1834, Cranham joined the Romford Union, which was an agreement between several parishes to jointly run the Romford workhouse. This was an arrangement encouraged by the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. Parts of Oldchurch Hospital incorporate the Romford Union Workhouse; it is quite typical for workhouses to evolve into hospitals in England (another example would be the Brighton General Hospital).

    The last entry in the order book is dated 21st June 1835, being a grocery order for just 1 lb rice, 2 oz. sugar, and 1 lb soap. Presumably this was just before the warden and his wife left, with the paupers sent to Romford, or back to their own homes (Browne (121) has quoted examples where this was found economical in other Essex parishes in the 1830s).

    On July 20, 1835 the parish officers requested the Romford Union to give permission to sell the Cranham Workhouse on St.Mary's Lane. In accordance with the regulations, the Union met in the workhouse on October 14, 1835, and did so agree. This became Cranham's financial contribution to the new Union workhouse.

    On December 15, 1836 George Rowe bought the Cranham Workhouse, and used it as his home. The bill of sale survives (125) and shows that £ 205-0-0d was paid at auction; Rowe deposited £ 40 immediately, and the conveyance was completed on February 25, 1837, after Rowe took out a mortgage. Cranham had had its own workhouse for just eight years.

    Rowe died in 1861, and left the building in his will to his son Alfred, on condition that he gave £ 10 per year to his mother for the rest of her life (125). Rowe had also bought the Upminster workhouse, when that institution was also incorporated into the Romford Union, and Rowe's second son received the Ingrebourne Cottages. In early 1861, the Cranham Workhouse had been converted into four tenements, but by the end of that year, this had been reduced to three.

    On April 15, 1862, Alfred Rowe sold the old workhouse for £ 305 to Samuel Gurney, the Lord of the Manor. Rowe used the proceeds to pay off his mortgage, but was still liable for the £ 10 per year to his mother. There was another sale on June 19, 1867, but the identity of the next owners are unknown. The present Jobber's Rest public house is now on the site, and probably the old workhouse survived as a row of cottages until just after the First World War. No photographs have yet been found.


    It is now a commonplace that many agricultural labourers from poor parishes left the land during the last half of the nineteenth centuries, to work in the factories of the East End. The tenements of the East End are usually viewed dimly. Whether the slums of East London were, in fact, any worse than hovels in places like Cranham is hard to say.

    The first example of an individual from Cranham following this trend has recently been found in the 1881 census returns for Stratford (248). Thomas Bayley, a labourer of 27 years of age, went to London, and married a girl two years his junior. Their 4 year old daughter, and three month old son were both born in Stratford, so Bayley must have left Cranham in or before about 1876, aged 22 or younger. As the East London census transcriptions proceed, they should become a fertile source for research into the migratory patterns of people from the south Essex parishes.


    Illness is frequently mentioned in the parish documents, and must have been a constant pre-occupation of the residents of Cranham in previous centuries. As we have seen above, one's livelihood often depended upon one's health. Whilst there are many examples, often of great interest, no attempt at epidemiology can be made for Cranham: because there is simply insufficient information.

    The earliest medical reference is the acrostic to Susannah Potts on the memorial in All Saints' church (see above), which includes the lines:

  • "Noble Saintes Martirs Angels shall with thee have place
  • No spottes no tears no wrincles shall the deface."
  • This may be simply a piece of poetic allegory. On the other hand it may serve as a description of the baby's final illness. If taken literally then it may describe a painful illness involving spots and scars (or wrincles). Small pox and chicken pox, both prevalent in 1651, would fit the description well.

    In 1748, at Beredens, the ownership of the farm was wrested from its owner (24; see above), when it was noted:

    "Found Stephen Jermyne to be a lunatic, not enjoying lucid intervals and incapable of governing himself, his manors, messuages, lands, tenements, goods and chattels. By what manner the said Stephen Jermyne became of unsound mind the jurors were altogether ignorant unless by the visitation of God."

    This illness came to Jermyne later in his life. Many organic diseases can present as psychiatric disturbance, and in 1748 precious little was understood about the human body. One cannot hazard a guess at the diagnosis from this description. The possible genetic component of his illness is discussed in chapter four.

    The Victoria County History (12) states that until 1783 the parish paid medical bills for the poor on a casual basis. After this, the Cranham vestry made contracts. For example, a contract might pay a doctor to provide all necessary services for a fixed period of time. Nonetheless, when specialists were needed, additional bills arose. During 1803 both a surgeon and an apothecary were needed, in addition to the regular doctor (127).

    On February 8, 1803, Messrs. Penrose and Hawkins charged two guineas for "setting a leg"; on August 30 of the same year they charged the same amount for "setting fractured thigh and knee and plaisterer's journey to Laisell's son"; this is a remarkable, early reference to the treatment of a fracture with immobilisation in a plaster cast. The visit of a doctor, without any treatment, cost a minimum of half a crown in 1805, which was about a week's wage for a labourer at that time.

    In 1803, the year's supply of medicines for the parish cost eight guineas. Few of the potions could have been effective, apart from the foxglove, poppy, and imports such as nightshade, cinchona and preparations of willow bark. Distilled spirits (such as cognac from France, and whisky from Scotland) had medicinal uses. Purgatives were well-understood and effective, but of little use in treating disease. There were no effective treatments for any type of infectious illness, including venereal disease.

    Innoculations were viewed as a good investment by the parish. In 1803 it cost one guinea for three persons (127). In 1821 the Rector, as an act of charity, paid a guinea and a half to innoculate all five of Forster's children and the son of runaway Sargett. These were all cow pox innoculations, which were an effective precaution against small pox, using Jenner's technique.

    The burial registers sometimes noted the mode of death, and these often are confirmed by the bills from the medical men. Burns were a major hazard. Labourers' cottages were highly inflammable with their thatched roofs and straw beds, and open fires were kept day and night inside them for heating and cooking; it was also believed that a constantly burning fire was needed to maintain the building in good condition. The victims usually succumbed some time after the accident itself, suggesting that it was the infectious and metabolic complications of the burn that killed them, rather than trauma, asphyxia and dehydration of the burn itself. Two examples:

    "[Owed] To L.E.Butler, surgeon, 1824. Attendance upon the late Mrs.MacMillan for an extensive burn upon the face, neck, and shoulders from 29th March to June 11th. £ 8-0-0d" (127).

    "Sarah Carson buried 27th June under order of the coroner, she having been accidentally burnt on the 5th of June. She died on the 24th" (99).

    The extraordinary event of 1817 is brought to our attention only by its medical documentation (46). It began with James Kendall, a servant at Cranham Hall, bringing some sort of legal case against Mr.Gould, the occupier. The magistrate, Rev.Woolaston, dismissed the case as spurious. Either frustrated or vengeful, Kendall then took a shotgun to Gould. Some hours later, Sir William Blizzard, a famous surgeon, came to Cranham and extracted some lead shot from Gould's chest. Remarkably, Gould lived to tell the tale. Blizzard was a famous man, having set up the first medical college on modern lines in England, at The London Hospital. The faculty suite in the college is still called the Blizzard Club in his honour. Kendall was sent to Springfield Prison immediately, and is not heard of again. He was probably hanged.

    Sometimes the surgeons understood the pathology of the case very well:

    "1st Feby. 1830. Jay has suffered and severely from stricture of the urethra and was daily attended by Mr.Quennell".

    Jay was a workouse inmate (126), and Quennell, in spite of his Manx surname, was a surgeon at Brentwood. This condition causes retention of urine, and was a common complication of venereal disease. The diagnosis shows considerable sophistication because prostatic disease and renal failure, quite different conditions, can also present with inability to pass urine. The daily attendance probably involved catheterisation, by passing a metal tube into the bladder. This was the only treatment available, although the trauma of doing this repeatedly could only have made the stricture worse. In an era before anesthesia, this would certainly justify the description "suffered and severely".

    The parish often recorded, with some despair, the ineffectiveness of the treatments given:

    "23rd December 1821. Benj. Hazlewood out of work; has the itch; agreed to pay one pound to anyone who will undertake to cure him under the superintendance of Mr.Butler. This sum to pay for the care of his person, board and lodging, during a fortnight, and at the end of a fortnight the overseers to procure for him new clothes and bed linen."(20).

    "The itch" was clearly a serious illness, which also infested the Upminster workhouse (223). The association with clothing suggests lice or scabies; the latter is more itchy. Butler was the surgeon at Brentwood mentioned above, and had overall charge of the medical care of the Cranham workhouse. Clearly "the itch" would not today be regarded as a surgical disorder.

    Food was used as a medical treatment. The workhouse rules specifically mention this (see above), and illness was an exception to the rule of punishment by witholding of rations. There are detailed examples contained in the grocery bills:

    "20th December 1832. Give William McMilan ¼ lb butter- this change for William is on account of his being on a course of medicine for his eyes."

    "20th December 1834. 1 lb of rice has been added on account of Sarah Rutter who will shortly be confined."

    [she delivered January 7th, 1835].

    Travel to London for medical treatment occasionally took place. In 1848, Joseph Flaunch was supported by the Cranham vestry, whilst a patient in St.Bartholomew's. He was probably in London with a Cranham settlement paper when he became ill.

    The rarity of the surname Quennell in Essex probably indicates that the Brentwood surgeon of the same name in the 1890s was the grandson of the Quennell who attended in the Cranham Workhouse. The later Quennell treated the Rector's wife in 1892; Rev.Cooke wrote to the then Lord of the Manor, Richard Benyon (128):

    "I have had a long and protracted anxiety about Mrs.Cooke. She was thrown out violently from our parry carriage three weeks before Christmas and has never recovered and is still in a nursing home in London under our same Brentwood Doctor Quennell."

    There are also examples, as late as the 1890s, where pathology was surprisingly poorly understood. The obituary of Edward Ind (see chapter 15) mentions that he was thought to have died of gout, about 7 to 10 days after seeing Dr.Quennell in March of 1894 (129). This could not have been his mode of death because gout is a slow progressive disease. Again, in 1898 a post mortem was carried out on Alfred Willey of the Mason's Arms. The Cranham burial register (entry no.433) notes that he died after breaking a blood vessel of the heart, and that burial was ordered by the coroner. This is an extremely rare condition, unless the entry actually refers to the rupture of a ventricular or aortic aneurysm.

    In 1898 the parish hired a nurse, to be shared with Upminster. However, she was sacked in mid-1899, halfway through her contract, for allegedly failing in her duties (112).

    Public health measures were few and far between. Most water was from the ground. Presumably, hard experience taught the residents how to separate the drainage of their privies from the places where they drew water from wells. The school (Boyd Hall) was closed in 1905, when it was estimated that a third of the dwellings in the parish had scarlet fever, diphtheria or both (112). At Christmas 1905 it was noted that scarlet fever was still prevalent in the parish after 15 months. The schools were closed again for this reason in November 1906 (112).

    There are now several general practitioners in the parish. Some are shared with Upminster. Patients are typically cared for at hospitals in Romford, Harold Wood or Rush Green. There is considerable disquiet with the National Health Service, and with plans for its alteration in the near future. These changes will be far reaching, including not only changes to the ways that hospitals are administered, but also to the role of the general practitioner in the supply of medical services to the people of Cranham.


    The first council houses were built in Moor Lane in 1931 (12); they were not extended to include indoor bathrooms until about 1976. These buildings mark the beginning of the influence of the welfare state in Cranham. The nationally devised plans, implemented by The London Borough of Havering, no longer depends upon vestry and church. A discourse on "the welfare state" is beyond the scope of this book.

    The great challenge in the parish, or to whomever next inherits its responsibility to the poor, unemployed and infirm, is the age distribution of the population. A national problem, there is serious doubt as to whether a smaller, able-bodied population will be able to support proportionately larger numbers of elderly than ever before. The national policy has not necessarily cared for the life-time of involuntary contributions that these Cranham residents have made to various pension plans, supposedly to ensure their financial security in old age.

    Inflation could make this entirely worthless, and money has devalued by half every seven years, on he average, during the second half of this century. It could be that the closing years of the twentieth century, and the opening years of the twenty-first will see a resurgence of parish-based, self-sufficient efforts to support the people of Cranham, due to lack of support from anywhere else.

    It may be shortly be useful to remember the former role of the vestry, good and bad.