Clements Hall
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Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe, South Bank and Bishophill areas of York

Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe, South Bank and Bishophill areas of York

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Apprentice and domestic servant bindings from York Workhouse 1879 -87

These notes were prepared by Judith Hoyle.

The first thing to note is the discrepancy in numbers between males and females. There are 74 boys listed and only 29 girls. I can think of no reason why this should be the case. Why would boys be admitted in greater numbers than girls in the first place, and where else would the girls go when they reached 13/14 and left the Workhouse except into work? The number of indentures/bindings is greater than the number of people – 82 for boys and 35 for girls – because a small number did not settle in their initial placement and were subsequently reallocated.

The locations to which they were sent varied widely between boys and girls. More than half the girls were placed in York, whereas almost the same proportion of boys went to the North Riding.

Location of employment















North Riding





East Riding





West Riding
















I have looked at eight of the girls to try and establish what took them into the Workhouse and how they fared subsequently. Unfortunately I lost track of all but one of them as they moved from their initial placements and presumably changed their names on marriage. 

Sarah J Pratt

Born q4 1866 to Henry and Naomi Pratt in Stillingfleet. Henry was the village blacksmith and much older than his wife (63 to 34 1871 census). Possibly a second marriage for his wife, as also listed are Mary and Fred Richardson, dtr and son in law but aged only 13 and 9 respectively. Sarah was aged 4 and her only sibling at that time was Charles aged 6.

On the 1881 census Henry was a widower (78) living with son Charles (16). Naomi died q3 1875, age 42 (vol 09d, p43).

On the 1881 census Sarah (14) was an inmate at York Union Workhouse with her siblings Eliza (12), and twins Thomas and John (9). It appears that the death of her mother and the inability of her aged father to cope was what propelled the children into the Workhouse.

Sarah was sent from the Workhouse on 6 October 1881 to work for Mr John Lane (26, coal dealer) at 17 Eldon Street, York. He lived with his wife and two very young children, also his sister in law (30) and a male boarder (62) described as “Chelsea pensioner”.

By the 1891 census Sarah was living as a general domestic servant in the household of Robert Gamble, farmer of Kelfield.

She married William Riley (chimney sweep) in 1895 and appears on the 1901 census with him at 12 Little Shambles. Confusingly she is shown not as wife but as sister. There are two sons listed (William 17 and John H 14) and a daughter (Beatrice 1). Given that Sarah was single and in service on the 1891 census, this suggests that William might have been married before and William and John were sons of that marriage.

On 1911 census Sarah is shown as William’s wife and they are living at St John’s Place, Haver Lane with sons (John H 24, Sydney 2 and Harold 5). Beatrice appears to have died in q3 1909 aged 9.

By 1939 Sarah is widowed and has sadly come full circle, living again as an inmate at the Workhouse at 72 Huntingdon Road.  She appears to have died in York in 1951.

Isabella Cunningham

Born 1867/8 to Robert and Louisa Cunningham in Birkenhead.

(On 1861 census Robert (35 an engine fitter, born in Scotland) and Louisa Cunningham were living with her parents in Walmgate in York.)

On 1871 census Isabella (4) was shown as a pauper and resident in York Workhouse with her mother Louisa (33 nee Belwood) and sister Jane (1y 7m). 

Robert seems to have died in 1872 in Birkenhead at age 45.

On 1881 census Isabella and Jane are still in the Workhouse and appear to have spent the majority of their lives as inmates.

Isabella was sent on 26 January 1882 to work for Mr William Winspear (52, hairdresser) 99 Micklegate, York. On 1881 census he was living with his wife, 2 adult daughters and one domestic servant. 

By 1891 census Isabella has left the Winspear’s but don’t know where. 

Haven’t traced her beyond that and couldn’t find a marriage or a death.

Rose Brown

Born 1869/70. On the 1881 census she was resident at York Workhouse shown with her brother Charles William (8) as orphans.

In the Board of Guardian minutes of 15 May 1884 Rose Brown is described as going “To a home at Leeds for 4/- per wk., under the care of Mr J. W. Foulston”. James Willam Foulston is shown in Kelly’s 1881 directory as running a preparatory school for deaf and dumb children at 2 Oxford Place, Leeds.  Neither J W Foulston not the school appears in the 1891 census.

Haven’t traced her beyond that and couldn’t find a marriage or a death.

Jessie Whitehead

Born April 1868 to John and Elizabeth Whitehead in York.

She was resident in the York Workhouse from at least in 1871 (aged 3) and still there in 1881 (age 11/12). 

She was sent to Mrs Margaret McGuire, 5 Milton Terrace, York on 26 January 1882, but didn’t stay long before being sent instead to Edward Matthews, (32) shopkeeper of Lodge Farm, Harton near York. He lived with his wife, two young children and his mother-in-law Sarah Brown. By 1891 Edward Matthews is dead but his wife is still in Harton and Jessie Whitehead has moved away. 

Haven’t traced her beyond that and couldn’t find a marriage or a death.

Martha Weller

Born q2 1867 in Heworth York. On the 1871 census she was resident in the York Workhouse aged 4, and was still there in 1881. 

She was sent to John Wilson (63), 16 Portland Street, York on 23 March 1883 who lived with his wife and adult daughter.  Interestingly he was the workhouse master in 1871 and his wife and daughter the workhouse matron and daughter assistant matron respectively; and all three are shown on 1881 census as retired from these jobs. By 1891 John Wilson is dead but his widow is living in St John’s Street with daughter and son in law but Martha Weller has moved away.

Haven’t traced her beyond that and couldn’t find a marriage or a death.

Isabella Parker

Born 1868 in Manchester. 

By 1881 Isabella was resident in York Workhouse age 12 with what appear to be her siblings – Mary 11, Martha 8 and George 5. The three girls were born in Manchester but George was born in York, so the family must have moved to the city by 1876.

On 25 October 1883 she was sent to Mr E Theakstone in Hull Road, York but I’ve failed to trace him or Isabella beyond this. 

Mary Ann Lazenby

Born 1869 in Selby but I’ve not managed to track her parents or any mention on the 1871 census. By 1881 she was resident in York Workhouse, age 12. In the Board of Guardians minutes showing Apprentice and Domestic Servant Bindings, she was shown as Annie Lazenby. On 28 February 1884 she was sent to John Rowley of Alne (land owner) who on the 1881 census lived with his wife, daughter (10) and governess (18) and domestic servant (17).

Four months earlier (in 1883) Eliza Pratt was sent from York Workhouse to the same family but presumably this arrangement broke down. So too did Mary Ann’s as she was sent (on 12 June 1884) to David Nicholson (baker and confectioner) of Gillygate, although in the trade directory his business was listed at Blake Street.

Haven’t traced her beyond that and couldn’t find a marriage or a death.

Emily Coussins/Cussons

Born about 1868.  Shown as a resident of the York Workhouse in both 1871 and 1881.  Found a record of baptism for 25 February 1866 to parents Matthew and Sarah Cousins of Burythorpe but can’t trace either of them on either the 1871 or the 1881 census.