A Young Apprentice Deserted
As his parents were apparently unable to support him, George Clegg received several forms of parochial relief as a child, culminating in an apprenticeship when he reached the age of 13 or 14. Unfortunately, he was abandoned by his master and left to his own devices.
A George Clegg, his brothers Peter and John and mother Sush, were admitted to the St Martin’s Workhouse on 12 May 1773 but they were ‘pass'd away’ to another parish in August of the same year. There is little other mention of his mother except that she lived on Clements Lane after her husband's death.
The same year, George, along with brothers John Clegg aged 12 and Peter Clegg aged 9, was listed in the parish register for poor children of St. Clement Danes. John and Peter were listed as being sent to the workhouse, whereas George was 'entred amongst the Children Nursed in the County. According to the register George was cared for by Nurse Brown, who was located in Low Layton in 1773, and a year later he was cared for by Nurse Hendry, also located in Low Layton. His care cost 2s 6d a week. The registers also record George’s progress, stating that in 1774 he was unable to read but could say his prayers.
No other information is recorded about George Clegg for over a decade, but in February 1785, aged 13, he appears in the list of workhouse inmates for St Clement Danes. Although George's name is listed as a workhouse inmate it fails to tell us whether he was discharged or not.
There are also instances of George receiving numerous items of clothing from the parish that year. Between the 3rd June and the 12th June George received 3 shirts, and on the 6th of June he also received 1 pair of hose and 2 shoes, followed by another shirt on the 13th of August. There are several more instances of a George Clegg receiving shirts, pairs of hose and shoes, but as no other information other than the name is given, we cannot know for sure whether it is the same George Clegg.
On the 31st March 1786 George's name is listed again in the register for poor children in St Clement Danes, when he is listed as gaining employment under 'mop yarn'. This could suggest that George still remained in the workhouse, as one of the types of work in several workhouses was spinning mop yarn.1
This register also shows that George could now not only say his prayers, but also read. He is also listed as 'bound'. This shows that an apprenticeship had been arranged by the parish, a regular feature of parish poor relief. This could explain why on the 22nd April the parish again provided George with 1 shoe, 2 pairs of hose and 1 coarse apron possibly in preparation for his apprenticeship.
George was bound to his apprenticeship on the 22nd May 1786. He was bound to William Aycrigg of Lilly Street who was a baker. Aycrigg was paid a consideration by the parish for George's subsistence and clothing. £2 was paid at this time and £2 2s would be paid at a later date.
Unfortunately for George the apprenticeship did not last long. On the 29th March 1787 Benjamin Newman, a beadle of St Clement Danes, recorded information about George's apprenticeship in the parish's Pauper Settlement, Vagrancy and Bastardy Exams. Although George was meant to stay with his master until he reached 21 years of age, Newman had been 'credibly informed' that after serving 5 months of his apprenticeship William Aycrigg had deserted George and 'left him Destitute'. It does not state why Acyrigg deserted George, nor does Acyrigg's name come up in any other documents. However, as mentioned before the payment masters of parish apprentices received was split into two payments to 'eliminate abuses by masters who misused or abandoned their apprentices'. Owing to George's abandonment, his master would not receive the extra £2 2s.
A few days later on the 29th March George was removed to the parish of St Andrew's where he had served the last 40 days under Acyrigg. Settlement through apprenticeship was determined by where the apprentice had spent the last forty days of his service.2 So despite having only completed a year of his seven year apprenticeship, George was returned to the parish of his master.
Thereafter George's name disappears from the records on London Lives. It is possible that at such a young age he may have managed to return to his mother on Clements Lane, or having begun to learn a skilled trade he may have found work elsewhere and was therefore not in any need of parish support.
- Taylor, J.S., The Impact of Pauper Settlement 1691-1834. Past and Present, 73 (1976), pp. 42-74.
- www.workhouses.org, consulted 14.02.2012.
2 J. S. Taylor, The Impact of Pauper Settlement 1691-1834. Past and Present, 73 (1976), pp. 42-74. ⇑