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Misconduct in Foleshill

Privacy Level: Open (White)
Date: 1841 [unknown]
Location: Foleshill, Warwickshire, Englandmap
Surname/tag: Buckingham
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Handloom weaver's commission Report 1841 page 76

The following evidence was given me in public, at Foleshill, by Richard Holmes, an intelligent undertaker, and one of the constables:- ' The mass of the people, with the exception of a few young men, are brutally ignorant, and the intelligence which is to be found in the exceptions has manifested itself only within the last half-dozen years. It is not the population which has gone down into ignorance: it has never emerged from it. This is not surprising, for there is not an efficient school in the parish ( which contains upwards of 7000 inhabitants). The people are as ignorant as ever, and, in proportion to their numbers, more immoral. There is more profanity, more Sabbath breaking and more immorality than formerly. Their language is awfully depraved. Independently of their irreligion, they are practically more immoral than formerly. Bastardy is greater than ever, even since the Poor-Law Ammendment Act (and information to the same effect was given me in regard to the City). At any little holiday time, the public houses will be thronged with girls ready for the lowest excesses. Both sexes are great drinkers, chiefly of ale. The place is also notorious for poaching, and robberies, and the Magistrates of Coventry well know that when a desperate case is brought before them it is generally from this neighbourhood. Compared to what they now are, though rude and ignorant, they were formerly a harmless population. The foregoing observations apply to the mass; the latter are only exceptions.

Robert Cantrill, an aged man, of the same class, thinks that, "though the journeyhand weavers' houses, forty years ago, were poor miserable places, which might be called 'hovels' almost, the journeyhands are less well conducted now. There have been several highway robberies, with violence, during the twelve months last past; housebreaking is very frequent: pantries are robbed; and other depredations are committed. There are garden robberies in abundance, but the guilty parties are not generally found out.' Thinks there is more drinking now than there was then. One great cause of the decline was the war, which took the young men out great fools, and brought them home big rogues, to contaminate the rest. A part, certainly, of the general misconduct is brought on by distress. Thinks it makes a man hopeless, and, when hopeless, he becomes desperate, and preys upon society, and careless even of what little honest advantages are in his way; and then comes the last wretchedness. Times of bad trade, in the witness's youth, which were very frequent, then, as now, always led to thieving. Thinks, however, that there was then nothing of the aggravated kind that there now is. 'Now never a night passes without some depredation in this or the neighbouring parishes.' 'One of the most notorious class of depredations is robbing the barges on the canal which passes through the weaving parishes and is part of the Grand Junction line. They are robbed of every kind of goods, which here find plenty of receivers; the abstraction being made either by the bargemen themselves or with their connivance. A principle article is silk, on its passage from London to the North, for the disposal of which, when stolen, it is asserted that there is a very complete organisation. The thieves have their throwsters, their dyers, manufacturers of the class of undertakers, of whom there are many in Foleshill, their warehouse and their travelling agent to sell the goods.

"There are not fewer than twenty benefit clubs in the parish, for mutual assistance in case of affliction, but they are not enrolled. The members subscribe 6d. per week each, meet fortnightly at a public house, each to spend not less than 3d. and divide their stock equally at the end of the year, each member leaving a small sub-scription towards the next year's stock."

Mr. John Slingsby, one of the most respectable undertakers in the trade, and his son-in-law, Joseph Cuthbert, the parish clerk and constable, thus describes the habits of the people at Bulkington:-

"The working in the night injures the sight, injures the health, and injures the habits. It increases crime. A parcel of fellows meeting in the night, without any control, but at liberty to do as they please, encourage each other in small disorders and pilferings, gradually extending to large offences. This liberty in the middle of the night first leads them to 'sprees' and 'larks', in robbing gardens and orchards, and in poaching.."

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