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John S Hartley  2023


WHEN St Michael’s Church closed in the 1960s, a very large collection of parish books and papers was left in a vestry upstairs at the east end of the south gallery.  A large (memory suggests a couple of metres tall, probably a metre and a half wide and perhaps 50cm deep – but memory may exaggerate!) glazed front bookcase contained items like rate books, vestry and poor law minute books.  There were also papers and books which had gathered over many years, sermon notes, forms of service for various occasions and such like covered with the dust of ages! 


There was also a substantial, if not especially old, wooden chest containing several hundred bundles of paper, some neatly wrapped in old sugar paper, most tied up with string.  It was clear that many had not been opened since their contents had been gathered rather more than one hundred years earlier.  There was the occasional loose item, while some key documents, required for reference, had been saved in separate files.  Some of the documents were numbered within bundles.


Every year, after accounts had been presented to what is now called the Annual Church Meeting, those parish officers who had been responsible during the previous year collected the vouchers (often receipted bills) which supported their accounts.  Members of the parish would have been able to check the vouchers against the account books as one means of proving fraud had not taken place.  Once accepted the vouchers would have “become history”, often becoming waste paper unless, perhaps surviving until some energetic soul gathered them into some sort of logical order.  Many probably succumbed to the waste paper drives of the Second World War.  Amazingly hundreds of so-called vouchers, bills and receipts, with the other papers resulting from parochial administration, survived at St Michael’s from the eighteenth century. Before 1834 parishes acted as the unit of local government dealing with such things as the Poor Law, Workhouses, and Highways as well as all the ecclesiastical matters.  So these surviving collected papers of St Michael’s were and are of considerable interest.


The documents quoted below give a very small idea of the personal interest and significance of these papers – which were removed from St Michael’s for safe keeping at the Town Hall.  Subsequently the parish books have been taken to Lincoln to be stored with the Diocesan Archives – hopefully the other papers are safely there also ….


The family name appearing below will be familiar to many Stamfordians. The documents are self-explanatory, showing how people in extreme poverty were helped (perhaps) by the so-called Poor Laws.  The first is dated the day before Christmas Eve (shades of Dickens?)


REMOVAL ORDER   Robert Glen Boughton & Family            

St Michaels PR  56/12



The Town or Borough of              To the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of

       STAMFORD                         the Parish of All Saints in the said Borough, and to the

in the County of Lincoln.              Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Saint Michael there and to each and every of them


UPON the Complaint of the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of All Saints aforesaid, in the said Borough unto us whose Names are hereunto set and Seals affixed, being two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace in and for the said Borough, and one of us of the Quorum, that Robert Glenn Boughton, Sarah his wife and their four children namely Robert aged nine years Sarah aged seven years Henry aged four years and John aged six months


Have come to inhabit in the said Parish of All Saints not gained a legal Settlement there, and that the said        [RGB etc]

Are now chargeable to the said Parish of All Saints…………………  23 December 1824



Vouchers –

16/49                       8 Apr 1826               Boots for Glenn Boughton

16/35                       11 May 1826            G Boughton’s rent paid

16/57                       23 June 1826           G Boughton’s rent paid

16/21                       29 Sept 1826            G Boughton’s rent paid

16/10                       18 Jan 1827             G Boughton’s rent paid


LETTER FROM ABOVE [spelling etc as in original]                      Ibid  26A/2

Stamford  March 26th 1829

My Good Gentlemen,


I sincerely hope and trust that you will pardon the liberty I have taken in troubling you with thease few lines as I can assure you that it is Necessity which compels me so to do.  I beg leave to inform you that I am at this time indebted to Mr Robert Hunt the sum of £2 – 10 – 0 for a half years rent which became Due as Yesterday.  I have been trying my best endeavours to get the money for him but I find it is impossible to get more than £1 – 5 – 0 of it and unless it is paid this Day me and my family shall be turned into the Streets.  I can assure you that in consequence of the severity of the Winter and the Dearness of the Bread me and my family has been almost hined [??pined] and starved out as we have had only Ten Shillings per week to maintain seven of us with and it is constantly cost Seven Shillings per week out of it for Bread alone. Therefore I humbly trust that you will take it into your serious Considerations and Assist me with a trifle in this case and I promise never to trouble you any more and the Goodness shall forever be remembered with thanks and Gratitude by your humble servt.


R. Glenn Boughton

Thursday Afternoon


Vouchers –

48/44                       2 Oct 1829                               Coffin for Boughton’s child



ANOTHER LETTER FROM THE ABOVE                                    Ibid  15/24

Undated but in Overseers Papers for 1833-4


My Good Sir

I sincerely hope and trust that you will pardon the liberty I have taken in troubling you with thease few lines as I can Assure you that I am compeld by Necessity so to do.  I am compeld to ask the goodness of you to let me have a trifle towards buying a pare of Shoes as I can Assure you that I am at this time quite bare foot so bad that I can scarce get to my work.  I realy whould not have applied to you but my Family being so large and my Wages so very small I realy have it not in my power to get them.  I have been measured for a pare at mr Spademans this month past which is to be twelve shillings.  Therefore if you will take it into your consideration and assist me with a trifle for them I shall be very thankfull, and remain

Yours &c


Hunts Yard                                                 Robert Glenn Boughton



You might ask many questions about these letters – could Boughton write or did somebody write these appeals for him?  Did he really have to move from All Saints parish to St Michael’s?  70% of income spent on bread?  What more do we know about Broughton and his family?


But whatever the case may be – there were other letters among St Michael’s papers like these, many much older.  And hundreds of bills and receipts also.  It remains for someone to look at what was happening in each of the parishes in the town (not forgetting across the county boundary into St Martin’s). Poor Law studies, about its administration, used to be popular – but each parish had its own peculiar story to tell about, largely totally forgotten now.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        John S Hartley

A print version can be downloaded HERE

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