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The Church and the Witheridge Poor House's in the Nineteenth Century

The earliest churchwarden's accounts that we have begin in 1817. All of the following information is from those times, and should be read whilst also considering the picture of the church and the poor houses that shows the church spire.

The year 1817 saw the installation of a gallery at the back of the church for the musicians and singers. Subscriptions in that year brought in £26, but the final bill from the local carpenter, John Western, came to £77.12s. The same year new strings for the violin cost 7s.6d. Having the poor houses swept cost 1s. and 'keeping the yard, hedges, and cutting the weed' cost another 1s. 'Drawing' the clock cost a further 10s. Lime was brought from Watchet in Somerset at £4.6d.8d, and a letter from London cost 1s., as in those days the recipient paid for the letter, and not the sender.

The poor houses needed to be re-thatched regularly; on one occasion the reed and spars cost £3.9s, and the work cost £3.4s. The church made regular payments to masons, carpenters, and glaziers.

In 1828 new railings and gates cost £28.8s, whilst in 1830 the churchyard was troubled by moles, so the church spent 10d. getting rid of them. In 1831 there is a record of 'staking and minding trees in the yard 6d' This may mean that the oldest tree in the yard is 170 years old. In 1836 a new church clock was brought and installed for £30.3s.

At the end of the 1830's disaster struck when the wooden spire was struck and destroyed by lightning. Rather than replace it, a third masonry tier was added to the tower, and this resulted to a lot of expense in the next few years.

1840-41: Paid Mr Thomas towards the repair of the tower £150.

1841-42:Paid Mr Bassett for fresh hanging the bells £25.5s.

1842-43: Paid Thomas Western his bill £51.5s.6d.

1842-43: Paid John Brawn Carpenter his bill £47.17.4d.

On the Tithe Map of 1840, which was drawn up just prior to the results of the Turnpike Act taking effect on the ground) are shown the eight houses in Church Lane in the personal ownership of The Rev. W P Thomas, and described in the Churchwarden's Accounts as "The Church House" or "Poor Houses", and used to accommodate the elderly poor of the parish. They were not a charitable foundation, and no mention of them appears in the Charity Commissioners Reports of the period. However, their charitable use was recognised by the inclusion of an annual sum of one shilling in the Churchwarden's Accounts for "sweeping poorhouse chimneys" and by the reference in the Accounts of 1826 to the payments of sums of £2.12s.6d for "reed for poorhouses" and of £1.7s.9d for William Crooke's bill for Thatching, Spars, etc. There is no mention of the poorhouse in these accounts after 1837.

At the time of the 1839 South Molton Turnpike Act the occupiers of the Witheridge poorhouses were listed as:

Thomas Smale
Francis Western
James Fuins
Sarah Hepper
William Clapp
William Davey
George Mortimer
William Western
Francis Western
William Blackmore

February 27th 1872 - Witheridge. Think of the Poor. On Monday a good substantial tea was provided for about one hundred and fifty of the poor by Host Mead, Commercial Hotel. The Ploughing Match Committee supplied the requisite funds, and the whole affair was in every respect a success.

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

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