John Culley was of a noted dissenting family being descended from
Richard Culley who in 1817 had been the founding
pastor of the Meeting Hill Baptist Church at Worstead, Norfolk.
We first find him farming land in Ringland where he paid tithe to
the Rev. James Woodforde of " The Diary Of A Country
Parson" fame. Several times in the 1790's he was
entertained by ' Parson Woodforde ' at the bucolic
and somewhat Bacchanalian Tithe- Audit feasts. These occasions
were judged a success by the host by the extent to which the
guests went home 'disguised' by drink !
In 1799 dinner for about 25 was - '' two legs of Mutton boiled & Capers, Salt-Fish, a Sur-Loin of beef rosted, with plenty of plumb & plain Puddings etc. Only two Bowls of Punch, four bottles of Wine, four Bottles of Rum - eight Lemons, about three Pounds of Sugar and at least six Gallons of strong Beer besides small (beer). My Nephew gave them a Song. It was the pleasant and most agreeable Tithe-Audit, I ever experienced . Every thing harmonious & agreeable. "
John Culley, a leading Baptist lay man, was married in 1793 to Lucy Paul . In 1811 members of the Culley family subscribed nearly £900, out of the £3,650 total cost of the new St. Mary's Baptist Chapel in Norwich.
10th May 1817, at a sale of the bankrupt estate of Simon
Wilkin of Costessey ( a fellow member of St. Mary's Baptist
Church and his future son-in law ), Culley bought :-
" all those Water Corn Mills and Premises at Costessey in excellent repair and in which a most extensive trade has been carried on for many years by Mr. Wilkin, with about 20 acres of land...... These mills are situate on a fine stream of water, are now capable of manufacturing at least 25 lasts a week and can be made to do nearly as much more". Culley also bought Church Farm, of 94 acres, in Costessey and Drayton Lodge Farm, of 290 acres, in Drayton. The total cost of the mill and lands was £13,000.
In the same year, 1817, Culley joined with other gentlemen of Norwich in subscribing £100 each to Wilkin, to help set him up in business as a Printer, at which he was successful. On 18th July 1825 Simon Wilkin married Culley's daughter Emma.
In 1824 Culley proposed the erection of a Corn Hall ( or Exchange) in Norwich and worked to that end until 1828 when the Corn Exchange was opened in Exchange Street. To honour his efforts the Corn Growers and Buyers arranged for Culley to sit for his portrait by John Jackson R.A.
At that time he was he was involved in local politics , actively supporting the campaigns which resulted in the passing of the 'Lowestoft to Norwich River Navigation Bill in 1827 and the great Reform Bill in 1832.
The fine Baptist Chapel in Costessey , erected about 1830, no doubt owes much to the Culley and Wilkin families prominent in Baptist affairs in Norfolk. Culley started a school for village children in Costessey ( to which his employees' children went free.
In the early 1830's The Poor Law Commisioners issued questioneers on the conditions of the poor relating to the Poor Rates and Relief. These went to a representative number of prominent persons in the counties. John Culley "50 years an Occupant of from 800 to 1600 acres" was the respondent for Costessey.
|Population of parish
1801 ----- 1811 -----1821 ----- 1831
604 ----- 636 ----- 824 ----- 1098
1803 ----- 1813 ----- 1821 ----- 1831
£235 ----- £344 ----- £294 ----- £459
|Expense per head on
the whole Population in
1803 ----- 1813 ----- 1821 ----- 1831
estimated by the nearest Census
7s. 9d. --- 10s. 9d. --- 7s. 1d. --- 8s.4d.
|Q. 3---- Are there many or few Landowners in your parish ?||A. 3---- Much divded; many small Occupiers.|
|Q. 9 ---- Is Piece-work general in your Parish ?||A. 9.---- By good masters only.|
|Q. 10 ---- What, on the whole, might an average and Labourer, obtaining an average amount of Employment both in Day-work and Piece-work expect to earn in in the Year, including Harvest-work and the value of all his other Advantages and Means of living except parish Relief ?|
|A.10 ---- My constant labourers, with families average at least 15s. per week, and £6 for the Harvest. Dat wage is 2s. per day ; where a man's Children work, their earnings are to be added to the 15s. per week. My Men are satisfied and industrious|
|Q. 11 ---- Have you any and what Empoyment for Women and Children ?|
|A.11 ---- None, except in the fields; formerly all the Women and Children had spinning to do, and they brought in as much as a Man; this I well remember. My best day-man when I first became a Farmer ( in 1780 ) had only 12d. per day, and the Wife and Children by spinning, made up the rest to live upon. There was no Relief for such a Labourer. Poor Rate 3d per acre now 5s, and lower than anywhere near.|
|Q. 13 ---- What in the whole might a Labourer's Wife and Four Children, aged 14, 11, 8 and 5 Years respectively ( the eldest a Boy ), expect to earn in the Year, obtaining as in the fomer case, an average amount of Empoyment ?|
|A. 13 ---- The Wife, with such a Family, can earn but little. The Boy of 14, 4s per week ; 11years , 2s.6d.; the 8 and 5 earn nothing.|
|Q. 14 ---- Could the Family subsist on these earnings ?|
| A.14 ---- They live upon the best white bread, with
very little meat * ; plenty of potatoes and salt, with garden plants;
very little beer, drinking tea or water. If the Malt Tax was takn
off, they would all brew as once they did, which would give yeast for
bread as formerly
. * the reverse applied for the rich, see Parson Woodforde's Diary !... T.G.B.
|Q. 15 ---- Could it lay by any thing? and how much ?|
|A. 15 ---- Nothing ; or in a few cases a few pounds.|
|Q. 16 ---- What Class of persons are the usual Owners of Cottages ?|
|A. 16 ---- Generally smal Proprietors, who rent them very high.|
|Q. 17 ---- Are there many Cases in your Parish where the Labourer owns his own Cottage ?|
|A.17 ---- Very few.|
|Q.21 ---- Are the cottages frequenly exempted from Rates ? and is their Rent often paid by the parish ?|
|A.21 ---- Generally all exempted.|
|Q.24 --- Have you any, and how many, able-bodied Labourers in the Employment of individuals receiving Allowance or regular relief from your Parish on theit own Account, or on that of their Fanilies, at what Number of Children does it begin ?|
|A.24 ---- All the year, except at harvest, some are employed on the roads or in the gravel- pits, or at digging upon 16 acres which we hire to employ them; but no part of the men's Wages is paid from the Parish to Labourers upon Farms.|
|Q. 25 ---- Is relief or Allowance given according to any and on what Scale ?|
|A. 25 ---- No particular schedule, but generally according to the number in their Family|
|Q.26 ---- Is any and what attention paid to the Character of the Applicant, or to the Causes of his Distress ?|
|A.26 --- As much as possible. All the best characters are at times taken by the Farmers when they can.|
|Q.29 ---- Is there any and what Difference between the Wages paid by the Employer to the Married and Unmarried, when employed by individuals ?|
|A.29 ---- No difference if they are equally able ; only I strive to give Men with Families the piece-work, that their Children may be employed.|
|Questions 33,34 and 35 answered by John Culley have been omitted as they apply to the collection of the Poor rate.|
|Q.36 ----Is the Amount of Agricultural Capital in your Neighbourhood increasing or diminishing ?-- and do you attribute such increase or diminution to any cause connected with the Administration of the Poor Laws ?|
|A. 36 ---- Diminishing. The Poor laws, as now acted upon, certainly tend to diminish capital. The labourers not being independent, The Farmer cannot get so much work done for the same amount of money.|
|Q.37 ---- Is the Industry of the labourers in your Neighbourhood supposed to be increasing or diminishing; that is, are your labourers supposed to be better or worse Workmen than they formerly were ?|
| A.37 ---- They are
on the whole, much worse, There being too many
labourers, those who are thrown upon the Parish for employment are
generally the worst characters, and from these the evil springs.
The want of Employment, such as where the man knows he is doing good, is the great evil to be removed.
The Poor want only this kind of employment to make them happy and industrious again. ( John Culley raises a interesting point here ! T.G.B.)
Do the labourers in your Neighbourhood change their
Services more frequently than formerly ?-------
and how do you account for that circumstance ?---
|A. 38---- All out-door Servants ( except a Man and a Boy, who stay as long as formerly.) I had for 10 or 12 Servants living with me in my house, but my out-door servantswere generally the best at that time, and therefore, I gave up boarding them.|
|Q.39 ---- Can you state the particulars of any attempt which has been made in your Neighbourhood to discontinue the System ( after it has once prevailed ) of giving to able-bodied Labourers in the Employ of Individuals, Parish Allowance on their own Account, or on that of their Families ?|
|A. 39 ---- We had some formerly who received an allowance with large Families. and it was discontinued by the Farmers employing such families at taken work ; and now no one employed by the Farmer is allowed anything more than his Family earns.|
|Q 40 ---- What do you think would be the Effects, both immediate and ultimate, of an enactment forbidding such Allowance, and thus throwing wholly on Parish Employment all those whose Earnings could not fully support themselves and their families ?|
|A. 40 ---- It would produce much evil without some provision was made for large Families . If enacted then all above two Children coudl have an allowance equal to their support from th Parish. I do not see how the Act could be evaded. If labour could be found, such enactments would not be wanted|
|Q. 42 ---- Would it be advisable that the Parish, instead of giving allowance to the Father, should take charge of , employ, and feed his Children during the day ? and if such a practice has prevailed, has it increased or diminished the Number of able-bodied Applicants for relief ?|
|A.42 ---- If allowance is refused and no work is found, the Man and Children must all be provided for ; they cannot be left to starve or steal.|
|Q. 43 ---- Is Relief or Allowance generally given in consequence of the advice or order of the Magistrates, or under the opinion that the Magistrates would make an Order for it if application were made to them ?|
|A.43 ---- The Magistrates order the Overseer to find employment, or to give relief. This employment the Man knows is only to keep him at work, and the great spurs to work are lost. Every man who works where he thinks his employer is benefited, labours with comparative pleasure, but when the spur is wanted, he works dead-hearted, conscious he is not a free Man. ( Did Culley have too idealistic view of the motives of the Agricultural Labourer ? ....T.G.B.)|
|Q. 45 ---- If an Appeal from the Vestry or Select Vestry shall continue, what do you think would be the effect, immediate and ultimate, of restoring the Law as it stood before the Stat. 36 Geo. III c. 23. was passed, so that in any parish having a Work-house or a Poor-house, the Magistrates should not have the power of ordering relief to be given to persons who should refuse to enter the Work-house or Poor-house ?|
|A. 45 ---- Beneficial, if the plan pursued was just and fair to the Poor.|
|Q 46 ---- What do you think would be the effect of an enactment enabling Parishes to tax themselves in order to facilitate Emigration ?|
|A. 46 ---- While Men are supported by Parishes, they will not emigrate. If they would, I do not see why the parishes should not raise a Loan for that purpose, or to tax themselves. Loss of settlement should be annexed, such being explained before departure ; but they must be supported by Government on first landing.|
|Q. 47 ---- What is the Allowance received by a Woman for a Bastard, and does it generally repay her, the expense of keeping it ? and is the existing law for the punishment of the Mother whose Bastard Child becomes chargeable often executed for the first or the second Offence ?|
|A. 47 ---- Generally not pay her.|
|Q. 51 ---- Can you suggest any and what alteration in the Settlement Laws, for the purpose either of extending the market for labour, or interfering less with contracts, or diminishing Fraud or Litigation ?|
|A. 51 ---- The abolition of Settlement by Service would be good, as also in the other cases here mentioned. I fear that if Settlement is to be gained by residence, Proprietors, who hold in the country the whole or large prportions of any Parish, would not suffer cottages to increase therein. So the burthen of the poor would be thrown upon other places, where no such control existed.|
|Q. 53 ---- Can you give the Commissioners any information respecting the causes and consequences of the agricultural Riots and Burning of 1830 and 1831 ?|
|A. 53 ---- Wholly caused by want of full Employment for the Poor. Men will not be content if their labour be not free,and if that labour is not beneficial to their employer.|
" Far from being accorded that ' title to
public regard ' which perceptive observers from David Davies to
Thomas Hardy have seen as the labourers ' most precious
asset ', the labourer, the simple English countryman was
seen as little more than a work animal, and a statistic for the
Although the Report of 1834 Poor Law Commisssioners principally concerns him, one may search the twenty-two volumes of that massive social document in vain -- endlessly dwelling on the propensity to vice of the lower orders -- for the authentic voice of the labourer himself, or so much as a hint of the pangs of hunger "
From ''The Long Affray " by Harry Hopkins Macmillan, London 1986
Bibliography and sources of reference ;-
The Village Labourer 1760-1832. L.L.Hammond and Barbara Hammond - First publ. 1911 Longmans, London<
Simon Wilkin of Norwich. C.B. Jewson, Centre for East Anglia Studies, - University of East Anglia 1979.<
The History of Costessey by T.B. Norgate publ. by Author , August 1972.
The Appendix to the First Report of the Commissioners of the Poor Laws - British Parliamentary Papers 1834<
Country Parson. 1758-1802. James Woodforde. ed by
- OUP 1978
The Poaching Wars 1790-1914. Harry Hopkins.
- Macmillan (PAPERMAC) London 1985
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