Manuscripts and Special Collections

Poverty in Annesley and Kirkby, 1858-1860

October 25th, 2010 at 09:10

The Chaworth-Musters Collection contains an intriguing diary written by a clergyman, recording his visits to poor and ill parishioners in Annesley, Annesley Woodhouse, Kirkby Woodhouse and Kirkby-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, between 1858 and 1860 (ChM/X/6).

The diary has great potential for detailed research into the lives of the poverty-striken coal miners or framework knitters and elderly people in deprived neighbourhoods including Portland Row and Todd’s Row. The clergyman provides details about their illnesses, the circumstances in which they live, and their opinions on religion and morality, but normally only references them by their surname. Comparison with census returns, church registers and other local records would identify many of these people and allow the creation of a set of biographies for each of the areas in which they lived. Here are some examples from the diary:

“Saw a man, a labourer on the estate named Scarlio, who is severely injured, he has been stabbed and cut in several parts of his body and for some time his life was despaired of. He is now out of danger, he is however not allowed to move, for fear of the wounds again bleeding. This Alas! has been the result of a fight in which he was engaged”.

“The poor woman Taylor living at Felley is slowly recovering, she has been ill with rheumatic fever, she is glad of my visits”.

“I called upon one family [at Bottom Lane] consisting of man wife and three children – the former work in frames, the eldest girl is about 11 years of age, a boy about 7 years and an infant, neither of the parents attend any place of worship. I enquired if the children were sent to any school but alas! no. The girl is employed in seaming stockings and the poor little child the boy in winding the cotton for the parents … [the mother] said that poor folks must work their children as soon as they could … Thus generation after generation are being brought up in ignorance, vice and sin”.

The diary was probably written by the Rev. James D. Vickers, of Norfolk, who according to Crockford’s Clerical Directory of 1860 was appointed curate of Kirkby-in-Ashfield in 1857. It would be fascinating for more research to be done into the life and career of this man himself, who appears from the diary to be shocked by the conditions the people live in, and their ignorance of the Gospels.

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