Have you seen Thomas Wilmot, the elegantly dressed Nunney tailor – very abusive when sober, more so when in liquor?
According to the Bath Chronicle of Thursday 4 December 1777, Thomas Wilmot had disappeared from the village, leaving his wife and children behind.
Without a breadwinner, they had to rely on poor relief. This was a kind of benefit system paid for out of a local tax. The people in charge of administering the poor relief were the Overseers of the Poor.
The Overseers had considerable power and could order recipients of poor relief to work in the local quarries or mills. If there was any excuse at all to throw people out of the village and thereby reduce the burden on local taxpayers, eviction orders were issued.
A parliamentary report of 1777 records that there was a workhouse at Nunney Catch with space for 60 people. The Bath Chronicle of 28 December 1780 contained a job ad for a childless couple to manage the Nunney workhouse. It set out the responsibilities and perks of the job.
“They must understand something of the Woollen Manufacture. They are to receive the profits of the labour of all in the house, and are to find them in meat, drink, and washing, for which a sufficient weekly pay will be allowed them, as well as a yearly salary.”
“The present Master and Mistress of the Work-House (who are going to leave their places next Easter for a larger house) have served the said parish of Nunney upwards of five years, with the utmost humanity, vigilance, prudence, and fidelity; beloved by the poor, and revered by the whole parish.”
“By inculcating virtuous principles into the minds of the children, [they] have been enabled to place out the greatest part of them into good families, so that the number of the poor, which above four years ago was almost forty, are now reduced to less than twenty.”
Mr Wilmot sounds like a right charmer: “very abusive when sober, more so when in liquor”. Alcoholism became a big problem in Nunney in the 19th century, when child labour, weaving factories and a lack of farm labour jobs caused terrible poverty in the village.
Here is the full story from the Bath Chronicle:
A taylor strayed
Whereas Th. Wilmot, Taylor, hath not only set a few stitches amiss, but hath also for some weeks left his wife and family chargeable to the parish of Nunney, in the county of Somerset; This is to give Notice, that whoever will give intelligence of the said Wilmot, so that he may be apprehended, shall receive, of James Pratten or Edward Burgh, Overseers of Nunney aforesaid, One Guinea reward, and all reasonable charges.
The said Wilmot is a thin, lanky fellow, about 40 years of age, near 5 feet 8 inches high, dark-brown hair, generally tied up in an elegant taylor-like taste; very abusive when sober, more so when in liquor, and in liquor as often as he can find cash or credit; any taylor may nibble a few shreds, and may believe that “a remnant ought to be saved”, and yet be honest enough for his profession, but our conconscionable pricklouse would cabbage the whole cloth and trimmings too, and go through stitch, and convert it into garments for himself; this makes it impossible to describe the dress he strutted off in when he absconded.