08th February 2021
Stray cows and iron horses: how Francis Bean escaped the Poor Law Union
Our next Zoom talk, on Friday 19 February at 7.30pm, features Elaine Bradshaw. Elaine is a member of our Poverty Research Group project, researching 19th century Poor Law out-relief records of people in our area.
Life was precarious in Victorian York - illness or death could pull a family into poverty at any time. Poverty was an ever-present threat and illness and death could strike anybody. Sadly there are some reflections of this in modern day society.
Francis Bean was from a family of solid York Freemen and tradesmen, employed as curriers and cowkeepers, although Francis's father ran a pub until his health deteriorated. They lived in Swann St and New York St (the old name for parts of Nunnery Lane), and the pub was the old Red Lion at 64 Micklegate, now an estate agent's office. However the family had a long descent into poor relief during his father's illness and death. People put by what they could, thrift agencies existed at every level, from sharing-out clubs to friendly societies, but it was never enough.
Extract from map of York showing the parish of St Mary Bishophill Junior, OS six inch map Yorkshire 174 surveyed 1846-51; pub. 1853. See https://maps.nls.uk/view/102344815
The family used all the resources they could muster to survive - family, savings, charities, and possibly ambiguity in the poor law administration. Navigating the poor law system was complicated for both recipients and the Union, with loopholes for the unwary (or the crafty).
Rescue came from the North Eastern Railway, which offered jobs and training to the right candidates, and Francis was a capable man. The railway had increasingly become a big employer in York, with NER providing jobs on the transport system itself and also the carriage works. The railway offered a great variety of jobs and training, and even poor boys with the right attitude and skills could progress up the ranks. They often recruited within families, so fathers could ensure their sons also had employment.
Model of engine driver 1852 (National Railway Museum, Science Museum Group)
To find out more about the story of Francis Bean follow this link
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