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Thomas Bettelley, Governor of Gnosall Workhouse 1823-1836

Thomas Bettelley, 1773-1859, was the last governor of Gnosall Workhouse before the Newport Union took it over in 1836. A chest tomb, no. A-34, on the north side of St Lawrence’s commemorates “the memory of Thomas Bettelley, for many years Govenor [sic] of Gnosall Workhouse …” Thomas Bettelley was born at Church Eaton to parents William and Margaret Bettelley and christened 26 th October 1773. 1 On 15 January 1798 he married Ann Martin at Chebsey, witness Joseph Sedgeley. Both Thomas and Ann could sign their names. Ann Martin was “of Chebsey”. 2 Several children are recorded as born to the Bettelleys at Seighford: James christened at St Chad's, Seighford, 3 March 1799; 3 Ann christened 28 February 1802 at Seighford; 4 and Elizabeth, 25 September 1803. 5 A John Bettelley is shown on the 1851 census as born at Seighford in 1805. In 1807 a Thomas Bettelley of Oldford (a farm near Seighford) was a member of the Seighford Association for the Prosecution of Felons. 6 In 1823 Thomas Bettelley was elected Governor of Gnosall Workhouse, then under the control of the local parish, and agreed “to Farm the poor finding every necessary at 2/6 per head per week excepting clothing and carriage of coals for the use of the Poorhouse.” 7 He is shown as present, or mentioned, in a number of the Gnosall Minutes dealing with the workhouse. Examples of his duties from the Minutes include collecting Bastardy money (from the fathers), sorting out clothing for Sarah Buckley and somewhere to live for James Titley (1834), and buying smock frocks for three men in the Workhouse and one man living outside. On 20 November 1825, a child born to “Elizabeth Bettelley, Single Woman, Gnosall” was baptised as “Elizabeth Meeson”. It seems likely the mother was Thomas Bettelley’s daughter, born in 1803 and the father presumably a Meeson. Elizabeth Bettelley, aged 25, was buried at Gnosall in 1829. The 1841 census shows a 15-year-old girl called Elizabeth Bettelley living with Thomas, relationship unstated but probably Thomas’s illegitimate granddaughter. [In 1836 he proposed a motion to the Board of Governors that no relief should be given “to bastards of able-bodied single women unless they both go in the Workhouse”.] Ann Bettelley, Thomas’s wife, died in July 1826 and was buried in the churchyard. 8 In March 1835 9 Thomas’s eldest son James was working as a clerk for Newport solicitor Henry Heane, who was soon to become Clerk to the Workhouse Guardians. Later that year in his capacity as Assistant Overseer, Thomas Bettelley advertised a reward for the apprehension of two absconding labourers, William Dyke and Edward Dyke. 10 In December, and then January 1836, he advertised for Land Surveyers and Land Valuers – “for making a new Survey, Map and Field Book, of the parish of Gnosall in the County of Stafford; ... and making a new Valuation to be founded on such a survey and to prepare a Poor Rate assessment”. They were to send in their tenders and a surveyor and valuer decided at a Vestry Meeting on 27th January. He states “The parish of Gnosall contains between ten and eleven thousand acres, chiefly divided into large farms, and rather more than 3000 inhabitants, and is intersected by the Birmingham and Liverpool Canal about two miles.” 11 This information will have been for the benefit of the new Poor Law Union centred on Newport. In late 1836 Thomas’s son James Bettelley became Governor of Gnosall Workhouse, with his wife Susanna acting as Matron. They were dismissed in December 1838 following a disagreement and some errors in the accounts, and James evidently returned to his occupation of solicitor’s clerk. 12 On 25 th March 1837 “a genteel house ... situate in the centre of the village of Gnosall, now in the occupation of Mr Thomas Bettelley” was advertised to let with immediate possession. It had a “parlour, three bedrooms, brewhouse and excellent garden”. 13 The Tithe Awards (1838) show him with a house and property at Coton End. On 6 th April 1840 in Gnosall at the age of 67, Thomas , now publican at The Duke’s Head 14 , married again, to Sarah Day from Horsebrook, Brewood , aged about 27, daughter of Thomas Day. The 1841 census shows the family living living at the Duke's Head on Gnosall High Street w ith the Elizabeth mentioned above, aged 15, a baby daughter Sarah Ann, said to be seven months old (born November 1840, baptised 25 th Jan. 1842), Sarah’s 70-year-old father Thomas, and two servants, Sarah Williams and Martha Roschel. Thomas was listed as a publican and on the 1842 baptism, he was listed as a victualler. The Duke’s Head was a venue for furniture auctions in the 1840s. On 13 th August 1843 Joseph Betteley, son of Gnosall single woman Elizabeth Betteley was baptised at St Lawrence. The Bettelley family bible, held by a descendant, gives his date of birth as 10th July 1843. The mother is likely to have been Elizabeth Meeson Bettelley, who would have been aged 17 or 18. Family sources show her marrying John Astbury, a silk hatter, in Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1850 and living there with him, along with son/stepson Joseph in 1851 and 1861. The 1851 census has Thomas now aged 77, as an annuitant, with wife Sarah and daughter Sarah Ann, and 3-year-old “nurse child” (foster child) called John Williams. The family are still living on the High Street though not at the Duke’s Head. On 27 th July 1857 Sarah Ann died, aged 17 and was buried at St Lawrence with Thomas’s first wife Ann. 15 An Australian family history site says she died of typhus fever. 16 Thomas died at Plardiwick 31 st January 1859 and was buried in the same grave. Within a few months his widow married a farmer from Plardiwick called David Machin (April-June quarter 1859). 17 Sarah died in 1873 (the Australian source says she had a stroke) and is buried in churchyard plot, A20. David Machin left £1500 when he died in 1877. He is buried in churchyard plot A23. 18 Felicity Potter 1 Familysearch. 2 Marriage records, Staffordshire Record Office. 3 Familysearch, Freereg 4 Familysearch 5 Ibid 6 Stafford Advertiser 26 December 1807. 7 Gnosall Workhouse Minutes, Staffordshire Record Office 8 Inscription on Bettelley grave. 9 London Gazette, 19248, p. 497. 10 Stafford Advertiser, 4 and 11 July 1835 11 Stafford Advertiser, 26 December 1835, 18 January 1836 12 1841 census; London Gazette 20235, p. 2076, 1843; National Archives Honington Hall Estate 8 April 1844. 13 Stafford Advertiser, 25 March 1837. 14 Wolverhampton Chronicle, 12 February 1840 15 Grave inscription 16 http://www.mundia.com/au/Person/2235732/-1228119584 17 Bob Johnson 18 Ibid.
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