Notes by Allen Smith of Braithwell, Micklebring and Clifton History and Heritage Group
Parish Councils were not constituted until the last years of the nineteenth century. Before then, Parish matters were in the hands of the clergy, "responsible citizens" and some rate paying householders. This "council", which met regularly, appointed parish officials to carry out the necessary duties of the Township. All, except the vicar and the Parish clerk, were voluntary appointments. This council was known as The Vestry, and, in the case of Braithwell, the Vestry Account Book remains intact, showing balance sheets regarding Parish expenses, the earliest records dating from 1717.
The chief elected officials appointed by the Vestry were the important posts of Constable, Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor.
Each year the Vestry met and submitted names of persons in the Parish eligible for the post. Three lists for Braithwell have survived.
On 16th.February 1849 the following names were submitted;
|Edward Spencer||Micklebring||Constable in 1848|
(any objections to being included on the list had to be made in writing and taken to the Mansion House at Doncaster.)
The list for 1854 gives us the names;
|William Wild||Braithwell||Constable in 1853|
The list for the 24th.February 1860 was as follows:
The Constable had to maintain law and order within the community and he was responsible to the Churchwardens, and J.P's. His was one of the most hated posts in the village, and although when elected, one had to serve, often others were paid to take the job that another did not want! The appointment was for one year - from Michaelmas to Michaelmas - and balance sheets written by the Braithwell Constables are in existance (from 1735 to 1830).
The Balance Sheets usually take the form of a record of "payments out", written on a single sheet of paper. This had obviously been balanced at the end of the term of office and signed by the Churchwardens. Nearly all of the account sheets appear to have been written at the end of the term of office from notes made as the expenses occured - because of this, a great deal of detail is missing, but one can still gain a useful insight into village life at that time.
All the reports deal with the usual business - fetching warrants, attending Brewster Sessions, attendance at Courts Leet and Baron at Conisbrough, and the drawing up of lists. But other items of interest are mentioned.
It would seem that as well as his many regular duties, the Braithwell Constable was also a "pest control officer". The going rate seems to have been;
2d. per dozen sparrows
4d. for a fourmart (polecat)
ls.0d for a fox.
In one instance he was presented with "48 dozen sparrows" - useful ale money for some villager!
In 1751, James Machan, the then Constable, reports "paid to John Tyas for lodging a souljar with a pass 2d.". This is one of the many accounts of soldiers and sailors passing through the village, and being assisted by the Constable. In some cases the servicemen were accompanied by their wives and children. In the same year a record is made of a soldier's wife receiving 6d for 'meal, drink and lodging'.
There is a record of the village pond being "mended" at a cost of 8d, although what this entailed is not stated, and later in the same year, James Wilkinson was paid ls.0d. for "mending the pond gate". 1766 saw 2s.0d. "paid to Robert Low for stones to mend the Town well". John Hicks was paid ls.6d. at the same time for "dressing the Town Dike".
The Village pumps at both Braithwell and Micklebring were in constant need of repair. "paid for wood casing for Braithwell pump 7s.8d. (1819)" "Micklebring pump repaired twice. New bucket and 2 new spouts (1828)"
The entry for 1781 needs little explanation - "for well gutter cleaning 5s.6d ...for ale for men as was cleaning it 1 s.6d." but some entries do leave one to speculate.. "given to sufferers by water 9d." Had there been storms and flooding?
One of the more interesting notes comes in 1782, when the Constable simply states "Braithwell Old Cross setting up 9s.6d." If only he'd given more details! (One wonders if this was when it was "restored" and the inscription re-cut?) The only other mention of the cross was in 1790 when the report simply states " Paint for Cross..5d".
In 1786 Ralph Wild reported "Town well gutter cleaning 5s.8d."
John Coulton's entry in 1773 leads one to wonder whether the Constable had a uniform and regalia of office. His entries read;
Constables staff painting 13s.9d.
Brass ball for same 2s.0d.
For turning the same ls.8d".
National events are mentioned from time to time. A bill for the bell ringers on May 22nd.1782 was attributed to "ringing money when Admiral Rodney beat the West Indies Fleet", and on February 14th.1788 we learn that money was "paid to the Watch at the rejoicing for His Majesty's recovery .. 2s.0d."
It is about this time that Braithwell Fair is mentioned. 1788 seems to have been a year to note. on the 4th May there is an entry for "handbills for Braithwell Fair, and paper .. 3s.6d.", but of more interest is the entry for 9th.July, which simply says.. "paid at Braithwell Feast in quelling a riot 1s.0d." ..an entry which leaves you wondering what really happened!
It seems the custom was to ring the Church bells to publicise the Fair, and there are numerous entries regarding paying the ringers.. the usual price was 3s.0d., again, "paid for ale at Braithwell Fair" appears also to have been a common occurance. On the 3rd.May 1791 John Armitage wrote "Braithwell Fair cried twice 10d.", and in July of the following year we learn that trouble again occured in the area "...paid to the Chief Constable the Parishes proportion of damages on account of Sheffield riots
£11.3s.1 1d." Being a farming village, it would seem safe to assume that the first week in May was selected for the Fair as it comes between the two busy times in the farm calendar. The ploughing and sowing has been completed, and it was not yet time for haymaking and harvest. (Hunter (History of South Yorkshire 1828) says that there was formally an inscription around the bottom of the Cross stating the fact that the village had been granted a Charter to hold a Fair on the first Thursday in May, annually. It was supposed to have been granted because the Township raised money towards the ranson for the release of King Richard I. This theory is doubted on a number of grounds: the villagers at that time were paying many taxes, and most were living in poverty; secondly, if it had been raised, it would have been in the form of another tax, not a voluntary donation; lastly, it is unlikely that such a collection could have been organised with the castle of King John only 5 miles away at Tickhill.
David Hay, in his book, "The making of South Yorkshire" (1979), states that the local Lord, Elias de Hainville, in 1289 obtained a grant allowing a Tuesday market and an eight day fayre to be held "each July on the eve of the feast of St.Margaret, and on the six following days". These markets were held to the South of the village. (One can note that in the area around the cross, the roads are still exceptionally wide). J.Hunter in 1828 bemoaned the fact that the original Norman French inscription had been altered beyond recognition, but an earlier translation of the original reads; "Jesus, son of Mary, think upon the brother of our King, I beseech you."
It is highly unlikely that a village of this size would hold two fairs each year, although the village Constables' records in the eighteenth century do seem to bear out this fact!
In a Parliamentary Survey of 1652 says no mention was made of the May fayre, or the 1191 Charter. The survey however did note that "there hath bine a market everie weeke and also a fayre which hath bine of a long time discontinued soe that none can remember, but that by tradition they have heard their ancestors say so".
It could be that the stone cross was erected by Hameline Plantaganet, of Conisborough Castle, to mark the forgotten event. He was half brother to King Henry II. If so, it would have been erected in the late twelfth century. In that case it is most likely that after the Charter was granted in 1297, it was then used as the Market centre. It should be noted that a similar cross was erected in Doncaster by Oti de Tilli, the Steward of Cdnisborough Castle. The legend linking it with Richard I must have started after 1652. It is also obvious that the annual fairs re-started at sometime between this date and the early days of the eighteenth century.
(When, in 1953, the Parish Council decided to place a new plaque on the Cross to explain its significance, they made the mistake of saying that it concerned Richard III, and not Richard I .... it would seem that mistakes about the origins of the Cross were not just the prerogative of the villagers of 1790!)
The pinfolds at both Braithwell and Micklebring are mentioned frequently, either for repairs to the walls or the gate. In 1752,James Smith reports having bought "meat and ale for the Pinder..6d." There are also references to fetching loads of lime for the pinfold....but most common of all was buying a new lock for the gate..an expense which seemed to occur at least every 2 years. The report for 1830 states "pinfold wall pulled down cost 3s.0d. Ale repairing pinfold 2s.0d."
Village life it seems must certainly have centred around the alehouses. In 1781 the Constables report was brief, and many of the expenses relate to liquor. They must certainly have had a merry Christmas that year. The entry reads;
December 24th, 1 gallon red port 9s.4d.
4 bottles ls.0d.
bread and fetching 10d.
Even on official business, ale seems to be a necessity. On October 18th 1786, the Constable reports taking "3 persons at Conisbrough Court 2s.0d. Liquor at same time 2s.6d."
"Common Day work" is often mentioned. It was the practice that all parishoners would give the community a number of days voluntary work , the tasks being decided by the Vestry, and supervised by the Constable. Although a voluntary task, ale seems always to have been provided in abundance. e.g. In 1752 an entry states "myself for Common Day Work ale 3s.6d." In 1762, Richard Amory took pity on those doing common day work to the extent of paying "John Bayes for ale 3s.0d.
Ann Lockwood for ale 3s.0d., John Jackson for ale 3s.Od.
Samuel Parkin for ale 3s.Od."
1755 saw payments being made for "Moor Lane hedgemaking" and there was also an interesting entry for "moat lining at Grime Riddings". Common Day work seems to generally have been concerned with the boundary fences around the Common field, and the upkeep of access roads.
With the general use of combustible materials for house building, loss by fire was inevitable. In 1756 there is an entry "to a poor man who had a letter of request for loss by fire - 6d.", and in 1758, John Sheppard sadly reports, "given to a poor woman that had loss by fire and her husband and child burned to death - ls.0d."
Another duty of the Constable was to summon a jury to sit when investigating a death due to unnatural causes. There was a need to summon a jury to sit at Crookhill "upon the enquiry of Richard Sailors death", and in 1765, a jury was summoned "upon an inquest relating to Mr.Amory's maid".
The members selected by the Constable were paid for their days work.
Law and order caused the Constable concern. Many journeys were made to Doncaster to fetch warrants, as well as frequent visits to Conisbrough to the Court Leet. On 2nd.March 1797, the Constable reported "going to Sheffield to summon the Militia". Unfortunately he did not say why....but the bill for the Militia was £31.13s.10d. The stocks seem to have been in constant use, and often in need of repair. If it wasn't new stone supports, it was minor expenses for staples and locks. In 1747 the Constable paid for "work done at the new stocks,and ale 7s.6d." also "for leading stones and a new lock 1 s.2d." In 1827 another stone post was fetched for the stocks
at a cost of 2s.6d. We have a record in 1824 of "paid for handcuffs 10s.0d." Fun and games were had in 1752, the Constable being paid 4d. for carrying out a hue and cry.
Something dramatic must have happened in the Spring of 1776 for the Vestry to issue the following statement:
“Be it known, this 21st day of March 1776, that we, the inhabitants of Braithwell and Micklebring, at the General Meeting, do unanimously agree and consent together, that all persons whatsoever who shall commit any petty larceny or theft within the said Township, shall be prosecuted at the publick expense of the whole Parish, to be paid by an equal assessment thereby, and for they, in encouragement of apprehending and convicting all and each offenders, we do agree that any person or persons who can give new information of any such offences so committed, shall receive five shillings reward by due proof thereof for all small crimes…and also for every large offence of felony or theft, upon due conviction shall receive the sum of ten shillings, all of which to be paid by the Constable…in witness thereof, we have here unto set our hands.”
It was signed by all present at the meeting, namely:
George Brooks, John Thompson, John Sheppard, John Heywood, Richard Thompson, Ralph Wild, John Jackson, Richard Bayes, Richard Sheppard, Joshua Birks, Samuel Parkin, John Hawke, William Hawke, Richard Smith, John Hicks, Robert Thompson, William Amery, John Wordsworth, John Gleadall, Samuel Snipe and William Dungworth.
The most time consuming part of the Constables duties appear to have been dealing with the regulations regarding the Militia. This force was organised locally, and was temporary in nature. Militia men lived and worked at home, but had to go when the call came. They had to attend a camp each year for two weeks training, and they were intended specifically for home defence. This force came into being in the thirteenth century...the Dad's Army of its day!
Following the Civil War, a standing army was set up, and many of the Militia men, most suited to a military career, joined it, leaving the Militia with few dedicated officers. The Militia was usually led by sons of the landed gentry...amateurs...and this led to its poor reputation. With the start of the Seven Years War, most of the army was dispatched to France, and the Militia was needed to guard the "Home Front". Then followed the American War of Independance, and the Napoleonic Wars.
Because of the need for manpower, the Militia was organised on better lines. Under the 1757 Act, Parish Constables were ordered annually to record names of all men between the ages of 18 and 50 (excluding Peers, clergy, teachers and apprentices). From this list aballot was held and a given number of men were enlisted (reluctantly) from each Parish. Later the upper age limit was reduced to 45. In 1757, James Sheppard listed the duty of "drawing up a list of all inhabitants from 18 to 50 and perusing the Register...1s.6d.".
This military service was hated by all, in some cases it led to rioting. Opposition steadily grew, and in 1829, service in the Militia was again on a voluntary basis.
Each Braithwell Constable mentions drawing up the lists, organising the ballots, taking the enlisted men to Sheffield for swearing in, along with his expenses for these duties. On February 9th.1810, William Wordsworth,
Constable, reports "going to Sheffield to swear militia men..9s.6d.". Later the account reads, "going to ballot for the militia 2s.0d."
In 1814 Thomas Kay reports "going to Rotherham to lot for lawcal milishaw". It would seem that this was an onerous job, and to curry favour, the enlisted men were well treated by the Constable. A good example of this reads "to Rot4rham to swear them in 2s.0d.
Expenses with them 12s... 0d. .gave Sargent ls.6d."
Richard Smith gave the information that on 21st July 1819, "my day..to Rotherham to hire a militia man in harvest 3s.6d. Paid for militia man £2.2s.0d." He was obviously finding a replacement for a village resident, chosen by lot, who did not wish to serve. This was common practice (as long as you could afford to do it!) In 1822 the same occured.. "paid for a man to serve in the militia £1.5s.0d."
John Sheppard in 1758 spent a day "going to Doncaster with the militia man to be sworn in..and my day's work ls.0d." He then reported fetching a "warrant concerning the men that refused serving upon the militia 4d."
Another major item which appears in all the Constables' reports is that of looking after the welfare of the many people passing through the Parish. Most records take the form of "paying for a man with a pass". James Machan in 1751 repots "paid to Ann Lockwood for seven travellers with a pass...1s.0d." These "passes" or "certificates", were as a result of the Act of Settlement. Movement around from village to village could lead to the Parish being responsible for extra persons dependant on the Poor Rate if they were allowed to settle. Following the passing of the Act in 1697, strangers were allowed to enter a Parish provided they possessed a certificate showing that they would be taken back by their home Parish if they came in need of poor relief. The law clearly stated that parish officials did not relieve a pauper unless he/she was in their own Parish of Settlement. When returning a person to their own Parish of Settlement, it became the practice for the Constable to send them to the next Parish en-route, and so on until they finally reached "home". One entry by the Constable of the day simply says.. "helped a man forad..2d."
Inflation does not seem to have been a problem in the eighteenth century, the rate for help given to people with passes staying constant at 2d.
A note in the Vestry Minute Book of 3rd.July 1727 passed the following ruling. It was this ruling that the Constables were following when making their relief payments. The note was written in very poor handwriting, but it was possible to decypher it with difficulty. It reads ;
“Memorandum. – that it was agreed by the inhabitants of Braithwell no officer shall be allowed to give to any parishioner or person with a letter of request any more than 2d. That officer shall be the Constable for the time being.
Confirmed by Thomas Sheppard
John Sibury, William Amery”
person could gain settlement in a new Parish in several ways;
by working there for at least one year
by serving a full apprenticeship.
by a woman marrying a man from that Parish.
by holding Public Office, or paying rates.
by having 40 days residence, thereafter giving due notice in writing.
If he/she had no certificate, then it was necessary to "examine" the case. Regarding the Parish of Braithwell, there are 35 "Examinations to settlement" documents (1764 - 1846), and 19 removal orders (1736 -1846). There are also 3 settlement certificates in existence for the years 1719, 1752 and 1776.
The payment of "Bull piece money" is noted in each Constable’s yearly report. It was an annual payment of £1 by the occupier of Fordoles farm. The Charity Commissioners looked into this payment and others when they met in the village in 1895. They called it the "Bull Piece Charity", and although identifying the farm, they couldn't locate the specific field on which the money was paid. It is mentioned in the earliest Constable’s report in 1735, and the amount, and the setting up of the Charity is similar to that of Cow Close, which was part of the Waterhouse gift to the Township dating from 1613. The Bull piece money was paid direct to the Constable who used it in performing his village duties. The members present at the 1895 meeting were of the opinion that the payment "is probably made in discharge of an obligation upon the owner or occupier of this field to maintain a bull for the use of the Parish"
A copy of a letter received by the Vestry concerning the Bull Piece money is to be found in the Minute book:
Received this twentieth day of February 1810 of Miss Mary Amery the sum of £20, being the full consideration money agreed to be given by her for the absolute purchase of a certain - out payment of 20s per annum – called the Bull Piece, charged upon certain lands situate in the Township of Braithwell in the County of York, belonging to the said Mary Amery, and payable by her yearly at Michaelmas to the Constable of Braithwell for the use of the said Township lands which said annual payment of 20s per annum is sold in order to raise money for the purpose of building certain houses for the accommodation of the poor of the said Township instead of certain other houses now in a ruinous state and instructed to be taken down.
And we do hereby promise and agree for ourselves and our successors that we or they shall and will at any time or times hereafter, upon the request and at the proper costs and charges in Law of the said Mary Amery her heirs or assigns grant, convey and assure the said outpayment of 20s per annum called Bull Piece Money …as witness our hand
Overseers of the Poor
We, the undersigned, being principal inhabitants and occupiers of messuage, farm and lands within the Township of Braithwell do hereby consent and agree to the within mentioned sale.
Payment of Bull Piece Money continued to be paid until recent times, but the practice has now ceased.