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Illegitimacy and Bastardy Bonds

Bastardy Bonds, first introduced during the reign of Elizabeth I, were a means of protecting the parish from the cost of rearing an illegitimate child, which would otherwise be chargeable to the parish.

At the first sign that an unmarried woman was pregnant, she would appear before the Parish Poor Law Overseers or the court, and be questioned under oath for the name of the child's father. The alleged father was then brought before the parish or court and required to "post a bond" for the maintenance of the illegitimate child. The parish constable would implement this order and if the father defaulted, they would also serve him with a warrant and his possessions be sold towards the debt. Known Bastardy bonds, they could either be for a lump sum paid to the parish, usually out of the question for most fathers, or a fixed sum for the lying in and a weekly allowance until the child was 14 years. If he did not have the money, his father could guarantee the bond. If the woman refused to name the father, she, her father, or another person could post the bond. However, if the woman refused to name the father, or to post the bond, she could be imprisoned. Without this Bastardy bond to cover the cost to the parish of rearing the child, the cost of maintaining single mothers or widows was a burden on the parish poor rate and would often have resulted in attempts to remove the 'offending' parties from the parish.

Under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, mothers of illegitimate children could apply to the Petty Sessions for a Bastardy Order against the father, and after 1 July 1837, when an illegitimate child was registered, the father's name was normally omitted.

Ledger of Parish Bastards:

John Scott of Witheridge - mother Mary Lake 1818-1823

William Kingdon of Witheridge - mother Ann Williams 1818-1825

4678 A/PO 3/17: date 1745 - Emlyn Philips, base child of Ann Phillips to Witheridge

4678 A/PO 3/23: date 1757 - Mary Carpenter a base child born in Witheridge to Witheridge:

1710A/PO 12/17: date 1811 - Elizabeth Staddon, pregnant with base child to Witheridge

Bastardy Bonds

4678 A/P0 8/21: date 1806: John Crang of Witheridge, husbandman, father of Mary Bulled's female bastard born 12 July to pay £1 7s 6d and 1s 3d a week

1092A-1/PO 146: date 1821: James Bidgood of Witheridge, father of Ann Thorn's (daughter of William) male bastard:

Maintenance Orders:

814A/PO 1459: date: 1815: John Scott, labourer, of Witheridge ordered to maintain Mary Lake and her base son:
814A/PO 1463: date 1817: William Kingdon, labourer (sic), of Witheridge ordered to maintain Ann Williams and her base daughter:

Bastardy Examinations:

2985 A/PO 13/1: date 1765: Mother: Mary Norish - Putative Father: William Foxford of Witheridge

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Last Edited 03/07/2006    Copyright © 2000-2006 Witheridge

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