Worcestershire in the Nineteenth Century / A Complete Digest of Facts Occuring in the County since the Commencement of the year 1800

Worcestershire in the Nineteenth Century / A Complete Digest of Facts Occuring in the County since the Commencement of the year 1800

T. C. Turberville
T. C. Turberville

Author: Turberville, T. C.
Worcester (England) — History
Worcestershire in the Nineteenth Century
A Complete Digest of Facts Occuring in the County since the Commencement of the year 1800


THE YEAR 1800.


In this day the man who writes a useless book, commits a great sin against society.  The aim of this volume is utility; although the word, as applied to it, must be interpreted in a very limited sense.  Beyond a circuit of a few miles it will have no interest; and even in respect to its legitimate sphere it only assumes to be a record of facts by which the man in public life may refresh his memory as to the particulars of past events, or by which those who have lived and moved amongst the occurrences here set down may call up pleasant associations of things and times gone by.  By its means all persons resident in or connected with Worcestershire may possess themselves of a knowledge of the history of the County during the century, besides having at their command a repertory of all the principal events of the locality.  It would in many instances have been more gratifying to the writer to have exchanged the chronicle for the narrative—the annal for something more pretentious as a history, but the “utility” of the book would thereby have been impaired, and he refrained.  To have attempted a continuation of Nash would have been mere pedantry, and the mode would have been wholly unsuitable for a record of modern Worcestershire.  As for the opinions which may be found scattered here and there on the following pages, the writer is no further anxious about them than as being naturally desirous that what he believes to be truth should be accepted and acted upon by others.  But as to the facts professed to be narrated, he hopes that they will be found scrupulously accurate and undistorted by anything like party bias; of the faults of omission, no one can be so conscious as the writer himself, but the book, even now, is larger than he had at first intended.  If errors should be found, those whose censure would be the weightiest will readily be able to suggest abundance of excuses, and to their forbearance he unhesitatingly trusts the following pages.
Worcester, October, 1852.


Introductory Review 1
Parliamentary Elections 20
  County of Worcester 21
  City of Worcester 28
  Evesham 39
  Droitwich 45
  Bewdley 47
  Kidderminster 50
  Dudley 53
Elections of County Coroners 55
Public Meetings 59
The County Magistracy 88
Remarkable Trials 110
  The Oddingley Murder 123
  Executions 144
Railways 150
  Birmingham and Gloucester 150
  Grand Connexion Project 154
  The Schemes of 1845 156
  Oxford, Worcester, and Wolverhampton 158
Improvement of the River Severn 165
Worcester Town Council 177
Worcester Infirmary 197
Worcester Musical Festivals 204
Natural Phenomena 209
Miscellaneous Occurrences 216
The County Aristocracy 312
The Church 318
The Executive 321
Appendix 328


Before entering on a detail of occurrences which possess, comparatively speaking, only an isolated interest, I shall occupy a few pages in the consideration of some general facts and statistics, which may enable the reader to judge of the advance which the County of Worcester has made during a truly remarkable half-century.  No former period in the world’s history ever witnessed such mental activity and progress.
The Increase of Population, though not a perfect test of general prosperity, yet indicates that the employments which engage the attention of the inhabitants of any given district are flourishing, that there is no such apprehended deficiency of the articles of wealth as seriously to check marriage, and that there is an absence of some of those evils which are constantly at work to retard the replenishment of the earth by the human family.  For the statistics of population in this county I refer the reader to Table 1, in the Appendix, from which he will perceive that a continuous, and in some instances a rapid increase has taken place in the manufacturing districts.  Until the last ten years, however, the increase of population in this county, though exceeding that of many counties, did not quite come up to the average increase of the entire kingdom.  The rate of increase from 1801 to 1811, was—

Worcestershire, 15 per cent.  England, 14½ per cent.
1811 to 1821 „ 15 „ „ 17½ „
1821 to 1831 ,, 15 „ „ 16 „
1831 to 1841 „ 10.4 „ „ 14.5 „

From 1841 to 1851, the rate of increase for Worcestershire was slightly above the average, being as nearly as possible 13 per cent., while that of England, as a whole, had declined, and was only about 12.7.  This is a fact upon which no interpretation can be put, except such as is flattering to the condition and prospects of our county.  Emigration has been slowly going on from our manufacturing districts during the last fifteen years, but there has been no remarkable exodus at any particular period.  Many farm labourers and small occupants of land have also been seduced by the Mormons to seek an imaginary paradise in the Far West.  Even this desultory emigration cannot but be beneficial.  Great Britain has yet, however, to acquire the practical wisdom of the ancients in carrying out a systematic colonization, and it still remains for her people to perform the noble mission which their national advantages and insular position seem to assign them—that of peopling the solitudes of the earth with a race which has hitherto proved equal to all difficulties, and who would carry with them the laws of an Alfred, the language of a Shakspere, and, above all, the ennobling influences of the Christian religion.
A tabular statement of Criminals convicted, and of the nature of the sentences inflicted upon them, will also be found in the Appendix.  When the improvement in the machinery for detecting crimes and bringing offenders to justice is taken into account, there would not seem to be any serious increase in the amount of crime committed; but there certainly is no room for believing that the intelligence of the age, or the activity of the police, have been successful in diminishing it.  Neither does the comparative leniency of the punishments inflicted afford any proof that the crimes committed are less heinous than formerly.  The decrease in severity of punishments is to be attributed solely to the amelioration of our criminal code, and the humane desire to reclaim rather than to punish, which now distinguishes our legislature and even pervades the judiciary.  Worcestershire, it must be admitted, holds a bad preëminence both in respect to the number and character of the offences committed within its boundaries: a recent return, made by order of the Privy Council, assigns it the very lowest place amongst the English counties as to the proportion of criminals to the population, and within three of the bottom of the list in degree of crime.
Education is regarded by many as the panacea which is to empty our prisons and render the judge’s office a sinecure; and, without being inclined to attribute to it any such efficacy, it cannot be doubted that it does act as a check to the commission of many of the grosser offences against society.  A private individual has not at his command the means necessary to compile complete statistics on a subject like this; it is a matter of congratulation, however, that Government caused inquiries to be made, at the last census, which will by and by put us in possession of much important information on this head.  Without pretending to accuracy, I believe it will be found that there are in Worcestershire about 550 private and public day and boarding schools, having accommodation for the instruction of 20,000 scholars.  It is not, indeed, want of accommodation that is now so much to be complained of—for few of the school-rooms are filled—as inferiority in the quality of the instruction imparted.  Earnest efforts are, however, being made by all educational societies and the supporters of public schools to remedy the admitted deficiency.  Nearly all the schools now existing in the county, with the exception of the Grammar and Free Schools of which there are some seventy-six, have been founded during the present century, and owe their existence, and in greatest part their continuance, to the voluntary benevolence of persons residing on the spot.  Within the last three or four years, public attention has been much directed to the lax administration of the funds of the various charity schools in the county, and should the gentlemen who have taken the matter so zealously in hand be successful in bringing about the reforms which these institutions so imperatively need, the poor of many future generations will have reason to thank them for their labours.  I must not omit to notice here the means which have been taken in the latter part of this half-century to induce a love and pursuit of knowledge amongst the working classes, by the establishment of Mechanics’ Institutions, one of which is now to be found in almost every town in the county.  The elder born of these societies are, unfortunately, already passing to decay, and, as at present conducted, they do not seem to possess any inherent vitality.  They have undoubtedly been useful in displaying the more attractive results of study and science—the flowers by the wayside, which may tempt triflers to venture a short distance on Learning’s easier paths—but they offer little or no assistance to those who would resolutely dare its difficult ascents.  The efforts of the friends of education should be directed to making these institutions what their projector, Lord Brougham, intended they should be—People’s Colleges.
An estimate of the provision made for Religious Instruction in this county will be found in the Appendix—Table No. 3.  The Established Church, by new buildings or enlargements, has increased the accommodation for attendants on its forms of worship, since the year 1800, by one fifth to one fourth.  Upon looking at the large numbers provided for by Wesleyanism, in its various forms, the thought cannot but occur that if the Church of England could have retained John Wesley and his followers, as Rome did St. Francis D’Assissi, to be its evangelists among the masses of the population, it must have received a vast accession of strength.  The Wesleyans in forsaking their first simple object of evangelism for that of building up a permanent ecclesiastical polity, seem to have mistaken the source of their own power, and during the last two years their numbers have considerably decreased from disaffection in the body.  The Independents and Baptists have been deficient in proselytism, conceiving their special mission to be to keep in purity the faith committed to them from their Puritan forefathers.  The Unitarians and Friends are stationary sects.  The Roman Catholics have built ten small chapels in this county during the present century, and as to numbers, they have barely kept pace with the increase of population.  The annual value of church livings in this county is about £62,000; the income of the See of Worcester is fixed at £5,000; and the net revenue of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester is returned at £8,698.  The various bodies of Protestant Dissenters raise at least £20,000 annually for the support of their ministers, Sabbath schools, missions, and other religious institutions.
This county yields at once the richest fruits of the soil and the most practically valuable mineral productions.  The total acreage of the county, exclusive of roads and rivers, is 431,616; and by far the larger portion of this surface is devoted to Agriculture.  According to Mr. Fowler’s valuation, made in the year 1842, the total value of property assessable to the county rate is £912,863; of which £263,000 may be taken as representing the rental of buildings and land in the towns and manufacturing districts, leaving £650,000 as the annual value of agricultural property.  In this statement the city of Worcester, the rateable rental of which is about £75,000, is, of course, not included.  If it is assumed that 380,000 acres are arable and grass land, that will probably be an approximation to the truth.  In the total absence of agricultural statistics any attempt to compute the present produce of the county would be quite out of the question, but that it has greatly increased of late years cannot be doubted.  A gentleman, upon whose practical knowledge and information the most entire reliance may be placed, informs me that the average yield per acre throughout the Vale of Evesham is now about 27 bushels in wheat, 32 in barley, 40 in oats, 27 in beans; and that there has been an increase of fully 15 per cent. in the wheat and barley crops, and of 10 per cent. in the bean crop, within the last 20 or 25 years.  Hops, however, for which this county has been and still is so famous, have to a great extent gone out of cultivation; and while at the beginning of the century some 6,000 acres were devoted to their growth, there are now not more than 1,625 acres of hop plantation.  With regard to the general progress of agriculture, the half-century may be divided into three periods.  During the war the high prices of provisions stimulated improvement, and much drainage was then done, though in so rude and unscientific a way that it has since been found necessary to replace a great deal of it.  The Earl of Plymouth, the Earl of Coventry, and A. Lechmere, Esq., in this county, very early bestowed great pains on the drainage of their estates.  From 1814 to 1830 agriculture, comparatively speaking, was at a stand still; [6] but during the last twenty years many and signal improvements have been made in its science.  Many persons still living can recollect whole hamlets and villages in this county in which there was scarce an enclosure; and nearly the whole of the land was cultivated in common by the resident farmers, to each one of whom would be assigned a certain quantity in wheat, barley, vetches, and fallow.  Between each ploughed land was left a strip of mere, into which the surface water from the adjoining ridges all sank and rendered it little better than a constant bog, which diseased the few poor sheep grazing upon it and made the ague a common and hereditary ill to farmer and labourer alike.  The amount of unenclosed land now to be found in the county is quite unimportant; thorough drainage is regarded as essential to all cultivation; burnt soil has been much used to lighten the heavy clays; manures of all kinds are extensively employed; and implements of a very improved and economic description are used in almost every farming operation.  The increased cultivation of the turnip, and better management of the clay fallows, are marked features in Worcestershire agricultural improvements.  Clay lands, that formerly were allowed to lie fallow every fourth or fifth year, are now planted with vetches, and sheep-folded.  A remarkable advance, too, has been made in the character of the stock reared, especially in the size and quality of the sheep.  The better drainage of the land has prevented much of the disease which used formerly to thin out the flocks year by year, and there has been no serious rot in the county since 1831.  The local agricultural societies, which have been established during the last fifteen years, have done much by their premiums and annual exhibitions to stimulate improvement, but our chief confidence for progress in the future lies in our being able to number amongst our landowners and occupiers men of intelligence and enterprise, who, in all quarters of the county, are seriously engaged in adjusting the

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Worcestershire in the Nineteenth Century / A Complete Digest of Facts Occuring in the County since the Commencement of the year 1800
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