Old Age in Eighteenth Century Paddington

Clearly Paddington was entirely rural at the beginning of the eighteenth century. It was a mere hamlet at the junction of two major roads, with a number of ponds for ducks and grazing animals, public houses serving the passing trade, and most people working on the local farms or walking into London every day to work.

Parishes were organized in Vestries, based on the local church, so the Vestry Minutes will be of help in understanding the society of the time. Each parish was responsible for looking after those too old to work. The Stone reads

'These Almshouses were erected at the expense of the Inhabitants 'for the Poor of this Parish past their labours'.

The parishioners had paid for the almhouses and 'of this Parish', meant exactly what it said. The Parish was responsible for those born within its borders, but not for those born outside, even if they had moved in at an early age and worked there all their lives. Parish accounts and diaries contain descriptions of poor people being sent back to their own parishes when too old to work, and even of a pregnant women being kept outside the parish border until the baby was born, in case the child should become a charge on the parish in later years.1

The Church Wardens' Accounts, 1656-1730, give many interesting details.

The 1713 sheet starts:

'An Account of what Mr Nathaniel King and Mr George Starkey has dispersed for the use of the poor of the Parish of Paddington from 16 of April 1713.'

May was a typical month. The accounts list sums paid out to eight people, varying from 6 to 16 shillings, and also for two coffins and shrouds, one for £11s-6d and the other for 17s-3d. This came to a total of £5-18s-9d for the month.

Most months were like this. Charitable payments and burials, but in 1713 Mr Starkey paid out money for a contract.

Paid to Bricklayer £15 - 12s - 00d

Paid for ye Bricks £18 - 00s - 00d

Paid for Lime £7 - 15s - 00d

This seems to be the only time the churchwardens paid for building materials, so this must have been for the Almshouses. Thus we know that it was a brick building laid in lime - no Portland cement then of course.

The actual cost was £41 - 07s - 0d, plus the cost of carpentry and joinery, tiling, plastering, decoration and fitting out. Presumably the whole total was about £100. Perhaps the other expenses were listed on the 1714 sheet but unfortunately this is missing.


1 The Diary of Thomas Turner 1754–65 Folio Society, ed. David Vaisey (1984)

Thomas Turner was a man of immense energy who ran a general store in a Sussex village, but also bought and sold all kinds of goods, from hay to scrap metal and old clothes.

At the same time he was the agent of the local Vestry (the local council). He supervised the repair of roads by local people, which was a duty they resented because most  hardly moved out of their own village and yet had to repair roads for the use of outsiders. He had the duty of giving help to poor and distressed people of the neighbourhood who had been born in the district and making sure that outsiders were returned to their places of birth for support when they became too old to work. He was the local undertaker, responsible for burying the dead and at the same time, he sold the gloves which were given to all the mourners by the bereaved. He was the Mr Selfridge of the area and his diary is a microcosm of 18th Century village life.


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