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Elizabeth Sellman, 1781-1863, teacher at Gnosall Poorhouse

Elizabeth Sellman was the eldest sister of Thomas Belcher’s wife Mary Meeson, and the widow of victualler John Sellman. She worked as a schoolmistress at Gnosall Poorhouse and she and her son took over responsibility for the place until its closure after the sacking of two consecutive governors for cruelty to the inmates. Elizabeth Sellman was born to John and Elizabeth Meeson in Gnosall and christened on 29 March 1781 in Gnosall. She married John Sellman in Gnosall, on 2 nd June 1819. The witnesses were Humphrey Sellman and Mary Meeson. A son John was baptised 6 April 1820 at Gnosall. The baptismal register says that his father John Sellman was a victualler. By 1841 John Sr was dead, and Elizabeth was living at Plardiwick with her son. Her occupation is illegible, and John’s is not given. In 1847 Elizabeth was engaged as Schoolmistress at Gnosall Poorhouse, at £20 p.a. “out of the house she finding herself everything”. She is listed as “schmstrss., Workhouse” in the 1851 Gnosall Trades Directory, and “Union Schoolmistress” on the 1851 census. In 1850 her son John had married Mirah Harding in Stafford, and was working as a gardener; the couple were living separately from Elizabeth in Gnosall. The same year the Board of Guardians were looking at ways of educating the boys in the Poorhouse for work, took some land adjacent to the Poorhouse and engaged John Sellman to superintend and teach the boys there, subject to his getting his Certificate of Probation. He would be paid £30 p.a. During the sacking of two governors and their wives over the next few years, the Sellmans remained a constant presence at the Poorhouse, and were asked to take over as Master and Matron shortly before its final closure in 1855. They were given a month’s notice as Schoolmaster and Mistress in December 1854. They were paid £12 and “the Clerk was to sign Certificates of the Board’s approval of Mr and Mrs Sellman’s conduct as Schoolmaster and Schoolmistress of the children of this Union and that the cause of their leaving was in consequence of the children having been sent to board at Stafford Union.” Elizabeth Sellman looked after the empty Poorhouse until its term ran out in 1855. John and Mirah Sellman had four children born in Gnosall: Harriet and John Meeson Sellman, baptised 19 Dec 1852 [father listed as schoolmaster], George Harding, baptised 19 Aug 1855 [father listed as farmer, Gnosall) and Mirah baptised 8 Aug. 1858 [father listed as bailiff] The couple and Elizabeth Sellman then moved to Wolverhampton Road, Wednesfield, where the 1861 census shows John working as a watchman, Mirah as a milliner and Elizabeth as “formerly Schoolmistress”. Elizabeth Sellman died in 1863 aged 82 and was brought back to Gnosall for burial on 2 nd November. Later censuses show John working as a newsagent, and Mirah as a milliner and sewing mistress. He died in 1896 and she died in 1904.
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