A Nineteenth Century Miscellany

Several sources can be used to gain an impression of Pendeford and its inhabitants during the nineteenth century.

William Pitt included a brief description of his home area in his "Topographical History of Staffordshire", stating that Pendeford is situated on the Penk and consists of the mansion of Thomas Fowler Esq., three farm houses, a few tenements and about 1000 acres of land:  the estate is well timbered and contains free stone.

The 1835 Register of Electors shows that five locals had a vote in Parliamentary elections.  The Reform Bill of 1832 had given the vote to men of property and so Samuel Allsop, owner of freehold lands at Pendeford, though resident at Burton-upon-Trent, was a voter.  Richard Evans was occupier of a house and land at Pendeford Hall, Thomas Evans at Pendeford and John Jones was occupier of Pendeford Mill and farm.  James Shaw-Hellier had a vote through his property qualification at Barnhurst.

The population of Pendeford was given as 328 in White's Directory of Staffordshire for 1851, though the inhabitants of Palmers Cross, Lane Green, Cronk Hall and part of Birches were included in this total.  Thomas Fowler (who died unmarried that year) was still principal landowner and the hall was described as a neat mansion, surrounded by picturesque and well wooded scenery.

Censuses of one kind or another were taken from the beginning of the nineteenth century;  those from 1851 onwards being reliable.  The enumerator visited each house taking information about the inhabitants including age, rank, profession or occupation and place of birth.  The enumerators were obviously very thorough for the 1861 census return shows one Thomas Beady, a 22 year old Irish farm labourer, sleeping in Pendeford on the night of the survey in a barn.

The 1881 Census has information on 140 people listed as living in 23 houses at Pendeford.  Cathcart Boycott and his family were evidently resident at the Hall.  He is listed as being a JP.  The family, Cathcart aged 31, his wife Elizabeth and their three sons and a daughter, were looked after by a staff of fourteen.  Laura Herfoot was Governess and the Butler was William Blake.  The rest of the staff comprised a cook, a lady's maid, a nurse, two housemaids, two footmen and five grooms.  Also presumably connected with the Hall but not living in it were a gardener and gamekeeper

The mill was still in operation with Matthew Woodward aged 53 in charge.  He is described as a miller, maltster and farmer and was assisted by his son Robert.  Nearby lived John Baslow who was also recorded as a miller.

Most of the rest of Pendeford's inhabitants were involved in farming.  James Bennett farmed 350 acres and Henry Wilson 660 while fifteen residents were agricultural labourers. There were two shepherds.  Six people were waggoners while another occupation reflects a newer form of transport.  Edward Hill was a 22 year old engine cleaner, probably at the Great Western Railway’s Stafford Road Works or Engine Shed.

An unusual occupation noted in the 1881 census return was that of gunpowder storekeeper.  The Ballincolig Royal Gunpowder Mills Co. of Liverpool had a powder warehouse on the Shropshire Union Canal at Barnhurst from about 1840 and it was evidently still there in 1881 with Thomas Bosworth in charge.

Later, Gaunt & Hickman, gunpowder manufacturers of Horseley Fields had a powderhouse here.  It was still in use in 1921.

On August 7th 1887 a shocking crime was committed in Pendeford when a policeman, Henry William Browne of the Staffordshire County Constabulary was murdered.  His body was found in the Shropshire Union Canal near Pendeford Bridge.  He had last been seen, about ten o'clock on the previous evening by the landlord of the Woodman Inn at Bilbrook and by some customers of the inn he had passed on the road.  He never returned to Codsall and nothing further was found out about his subsequent movements.  A broken walking stick and the pocket of a man's trousers, obviously torn out in a struggle, were the only clues found.  A nut and bolt maker from Ettingshall was charged with the murder but although he admitted he was away from home at the time of the murder he said he had been fishing that night near Brewood and denied going to Pendeford.  Eventually he was found innocent and released and the murder of Constable Browne remained unsolved.

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