The Henry Payne Story - Ch 2 Woodville & The Workhouse
Henry Payne (1842-1907) Jack of All Trades
Chapter 2:
Growing Up in Woodville & The Workhouse (1848-1857)

Chapter 1:  Family Origins and Early Childhood (1842-1845) (in preparation)

Henry PAYNE was born at Burton Extra, Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire on 8th May 1842, son of Peter PAYNE (1801-1845) and Ann née TIPPER (1807-1857).  His father Peter was a carpenter, and was born in Church Gresley, Derbyshire.  The PAYNE family were yeoman farmers, owning some 78 acres of land in the parish, after having moved from the nearby parish of Newton Solney in 1799, where they had farmed since the late 1600s.  Henry's mother Ann was born in Alrewas, Staffordshire, but probably grew up in Church Gresley after her father died and her mother was remarried.  By 11 February 1845, when Peter PAYNE died of "asthma - 3 or 4 winters", they were living at Hulme Street, Manchester, where Peter had reputedly been repairing the roof of Manchester Cathedral.

Widowhood & Woodville
On Wednesday 1st March 1848, Henry PAYNE was enrolled among the first intake of day scholars at the then newly built St. Stephen's Daily and Sunday School at Woodville. His Scholar's Admission Certificate shows his god-parents as J(ames) B(radley) SWEET, who was at the time both the incumbent of St Stephen's and parish clerk, and James HALL & Mrs Joseph HOLT, both of Woodville. Less than a fortnight later, on Sunday 12th, Henry was baptised at St. Stephen's, and this time his god-parents were noted as J.B. Sweet and his widowed paternal aunt Harriott BAGNALL, of Church Gresley. His mother Ann is shown as being a resident of Woodville. Both Henry's Scholar's Admission Certificate and his Baptism Card have survived to tell the tale. Although the latter appears to not to have been completely filled in, I have confirmed from the St Stephen's Baptism Register that he was, in fact, baptised there on that date.  I have not been able to ascertain where Ann & Henry had been living in the meantime i.e.since his father died in Manchester.

James HALL (1814-) was a potter (later a packer in the potworks, and later still a grocer) who was born at Round Wolds, Swadlincote, son of Joseph HALL (c1778-1852), brickmaker, and Mary née JOHNSON (c1779-1852).  He appears to have lived in Woodville for most, if not all, of his married life.  James and his first wife Sarah had four children: Mary Ann (1841), Arthur Henry James (1847), Tabitha Ann (1850) and Alfred George (1854).  James remarried a widow Eliza HEADLEY (c1829-) in 1863, and they had a further 7 children: Annie Eliza (1864), Frances Emma (1866), Edgar Evans (1868), George Ernest (1869), Ellen B (1871), Egbert Harold (1873) & William Henry (1875).  I have not yet been able to find a direct relationship between the HALLs and Henry or Ann.

Mrs Joseph HOLT appears to have been the wife of Joseph HO(U)LT (c1804-1869).  The 1861 Census shows Joseph working as a "General Dealer in Potatoes" in Woodville.  He seems to have been married twice, his first at Church Gresley in 1829 to Hannah ORME, resulting in five children: Emma/Emily (1829), Harriott (1831), John (1833), Joseph (1835) & William (1837-1905).  His second wife, Ann, was born between 1812 and 1817 at Hanley in Staffordshire - she was probably the one shown as godmother to Henry in 1848.  Daughter Emma married Thomas SALMON (1828-1873), potter of Woodville, and in 1881 described herself as a retired innkeeper. John (1833-) was a Potter in Sun Street, Ashby in 1881, and married Ann MURPHY.  Joseph junior (1835-) married Julia KENT (c1837-) or Armitage, Staffordshire, and had at least 8 children; he was also a potter, and they lived in California Row, Ashby in 1881.

Harriott BAGNALL née PAYNE (1803-1850) was Henry's paternal aunt i.e. the younger sister of Henry's late father Peter PAYNE (1801-1845).  She married Thomas BAGNALL (1805-c1836), brewer, labourer & carpenter of Burton-upon-Trent, at Church Gresley in 1826, and they had five children: Samuel Payne (1827-), Henry (1828-), Frederick Henry (1830-), Harriott (1832-) and William (c1835-1847).  Harriott was widowed in the mid-1830s, and it probable that only two of her children, Samuel and Henry, survived to adulthood.  Harriott herself died in December 1850 at Church Gresley, a few months after Henry and Ann entered the Workhouse.

Stafford Gaol
On Thursday 25th April 1850, Henry's mother Ann Payne was caught stealing several items in the High Street, Burton-upon-Trent.  She was charged at Stafford County Court with two counts of larceny, to which she pleaded guilty. The first complainant was William BRUNT, a tailor, draper and hatter, from whom she had taken two jackets, worth one pound, and a cloth cap, valued at four shillings. The second was William STANLEY, a butcher, and the theft this time was of three pounds of beef, valued at one shilling. Witnesses included Joseph BRUNT and Thomas WARD, presumably from the firm of Brunt & Ward, shown in an 1857 Directory on the High Street, Charles STANLEY, probably a son of the butcher (since Charles Stanley is shown as a butcher at 58/59 High Street in 187473), Richard ROE, a police officer (shown at Abbey gate in 1846, and probably Burton's first policeman), and Josiah READER.

Ashby Workhouse
Three weeks later, on Tuesday 14th May 1850, Henry was admitted as ‘destitute’ into the Ashby Union Workhouse, at Loughborough Road, Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire.  It was noted that his mother had recently been imprisoned in Stafford County Gaol on a charge of theft.  She was supposedly an epileptic and the crime had reportedly been committed "while in a state of unconsciousness and absence of mind".  Ann joined her son in the Workhouse roughly eight weeks later, on Saturday 6th July, after her release from incarceration, presumably having spent the intervening eleven weeks in gaol.  The parish charged for their upkeep was shown, somewhat surprisingly, as Packington. Although none of the family had any known previous connections with Packington, it is possible that Peter and Ann had lived in the parish in the 1830's or early 1840's, or that Ann’s step-father Henry BENFIELD was now living near there with his second wife. It's also possible that Henry's paternal grandmother, Ann née HARRIS (1773-1839), who has not yet been identified with any certainty, was from Packington.

Henry and Ann appear to have spent most of the next five years in the Ashby Union Workhouse.  Although the Admittance & Discharge Registers for 1852 and 1853 are missing, those for 1854-1855 show a series of comings and goings, with their spells outside the workhouse each being of only a few days’ duration.  Worthy of note is the comment written at the time of Ann's re-admittance on Thursday 8th June 1854, stating that she was still ‘of unsound mind’.  The Ashby workhouse, originally an incorporated House of Industry, was purchased by the Ashby-de-la-Zouch Union in 1836 and had been considerably enlarged, resulting in accommodation for some 800 paupers, while an infirmary was built in 1843.  A large ‘board room’ was also used as a chapel.  The last known register entries for them show Henry still in the Workhouse in October 1854, and Ann as an inmate in July 1855.

During the first half of the 19th Century it was believed that "certain maniacal states were manifestations of epilepsy, and that in such a state the epileptic was dangerous and might even commit murder."  It became necessary, therefore, to diagnose dangerous epileptics as such in court and certify them so that they were not punished for their crimes.  Examples of court proceedings against epileptics have been quoted in the literature, including one in 1808 "when an epileptic murderer was acquitted and sent to a work house".  In 1824, Ernestus Platner proposed "that an epileptic should not be held responsible for a crime even if there were evidence of premeditation and intent to harm and even if at the time of the crime there were no suspicious signs of epilepsy or insanity."  These general opinions concerning epilepsy will perhaps serve to help to explain the reasons for Henry and Ann being "committed" to the work house.

On 20th September 1857, Ann Payne née Tipper died in Hartshorne of accidental burning . The following is a report of the inquest  from the Leicester Chronicle dated 3rd Oct 1857:
HARTSHORNE - An inquest was held on the 22nd ultim at Hartshorne, on the body of Ann Payne, widow, aged 50 years, whose death took place the Sunday morning previous from the effects of burning. The deceased was sitting alone in the workhouse, about nine o'clock at night, when, being suddenly seized with a fit (to which she was a subject), she fell against a table upon which there was a lighted candle, which candle falling upon her set her clothes on fire, the whole of which were consumed. The deceased lingered a few hours in excruciating pain, and the body on being viewed by the jury presented a most frightful sight. A verdict of "Accidental death" was returned.

This kind of accident does not appear to have been particularly uncommon. The following is extracted from an article written in November 1886:
From Falmouth we have a report of the terrible death of a man subject to epileptic fits : he was left seated before a fire, on which he fell, and when he was found, the flesh was burnt to a cinder. At the inquest it transpired that although there were several epileptic patients in the house, there was no one specially appointed to look after them, and that the grates were all open and without fire-guards.

It is ironic, perhaps, that 1857 was the year in which Sir Thomas Laycock, Royal Physician, introduced the use of potassium bromide as a treatment for epilepsy, although it was not to become generally recognised as effective until some years later.

Early Working Life
According to Henry's second son, my gg-uncle Charles Hallam PAYNE (1870-1960), who had a lengthy chat about his father to my father (i.e. Hallam's great-nephew) in 1959, shortly before he died, Henry started work at the age of 9 hauling in a clay pit. Henry was then reputedly bound to a cobbler, but ran away and worked on farm at Smisby, and possibly other farms till he was 18.

It was common practice for workhouses at this time to ‘farm out’ children to various employers, and it is conceivable, therefore, that Henry worked in a pit belonging to one of the several earthenware & fire-brick makers in the Woodville area (Slater's 1850 Trade Directory shows at least seven of them).  The Ashby workhouse had some ten acres of land, most of it under pasture, but about three acres was cultivated, using ‘spade husbandry’, by the inmates.  Smisby was mainly an agricultural community, and Henry could have worked at any of a number of farms in the vicinity.  The fact that Henry briefly tried his hand at farming in the United States some 25 years later lends credibility to the idea that he did indeed have some horticultural or agricultural experience in his youth, albeit probably as a general farm hand.

Other Family Connections in Woodville
Also living in Woodville at around this time was Henrietta Christina BENFIELD (c1843-1912), Henry's half-cousin and wife-to-be (he was to marry her in December 1864).  The 1851 Census shows her (Christina BENFIELD, aged 8) lodging in the household of William ATKIN, retired shoemaker, and his wife and two daughters.  The full story of Henrietta Cristina will be told elsewhere, but I believe her to have been adopted, or at least brought up, by her uncle and aunt, William LUNN (c1814-) and  Dorothy née BENFIELD (1814-). She was born in London, the illegitimate result of an liaison between Burton-upon-Trent barmaid Sarah BENFIELD (1819-), who was Dorothy's younger sister, and a wealthy Jewish American industrialist named GOLD. It is interesting that she was a lodging with a shoemaker! Perhaps William ATKIN was the "cobbler" to whom Henry was bound, although there was another, Adam RIMMINGTON, living in Woodville at the same time. 

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This page last updated 25 February 2001 © Brett Payne