Rachel Herbert, b. c. 1716

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A Pauper Without a Settlement in London

Despite the fact she was poor, and did not have a secure settlement, Rachel Herbert was not removed by the parish authorities of St Clement Danes.

Early Life

Rachel Herbert was born around the year 1716 to John and Alice Herbert. Her mother died sometime between 1736 and 1740, by which date her father was also dead. John Herbert had been apprenticed in 1686 to a basket maker in the parish of Great Marlow in Buckinghamshire, and her parents appear to have separated while she was a child. She moved with her father to London sometime before 1726. At the age of ten Rachel was sent to a Mrs Clare Bates in the parish of St Clement Danes to learn plain work (sewing) in exchange for her labour. This was neither a formal apprenticeship, nor a secure form of annual service, and so did not confer a legal settlement. Rachel stayed with Mrs Bates for three years, but continued to live with her father, who provided her with "washing lodging board and clothes" at his room in Essex Street, also in St Clement Danes.

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Pauper Examinations

In 1740 she was taken up as a vagrant, homeless and wandering in St Clement Danes and examined. She reported that she was "poor [and] not able to maintain herself", and provided details about her work history, and the settlement status of her parents. Nine years later she was examined a second time. She was still unmarried, and as with the first examination, marked rather than signed her name. Since her last examination she had served some time as a servant in the Temple (part of the Inns of Court), adjacent to St Clement Danes. But, because the Inns of Court were extra parochial, this service is noted as not conferring a settlement in the parish. On the evidence of these examinations, and strictly speaking, Rachel's settlement appears to have been in Great Marlow in Buckinghamshire, rather than in St Clement Danes, but there is no evidence that she was removed from the parish; and the existence of strong (if legally ambiguous) connections to St Clement meant that any removal could have been subject to appeal.

Rachel does not appear in any other records in London Lives. A woman named Rachel Herbert, living to St Stephens parish in the City, is reported to have been fined £20 in 1752 for receiving embezzled yarn, but beyond the possible coincidence of a shared name, there is no evidence that this was the same person.1 Rachel may have married and taken another name, making it difficult to trace her, but in any case there is no evidence that she was passed back to Buckinghamshire. It is possible that she was able to survive without parish assistance, or that the parish decided it was not worth the risk of legal expense to send her half way across the country to a strange town.

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1 Public Advertiser, Tuesday, December 19, 1752.

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About this Biography

Created by

Charlotte Clapham

Further contributions by

Bob Shoemaker