Ridware Study Group


Project 1 : The Whitehalls of Pipe Ridware

by Marty Smith

This article originally appeared in the 2003 Transactions of the Johnson Society and is reprinted here by permission of the Johnson Society


Four household account books, kept by the women of the Whitehall family between 1705 and 1725, survive in the Hatherton Collection at the Stafford Record Office. John Whitehall purchased the manor of Pipe Ridware about 1677. Plot described him as “a most intelligent bee-master”. His half-timbered house, illustrated by Stebbing Shaw, was torn down in the 19th century, but his bee-boles survive in the walled garden of the present farmhouse. His son and heir, James, died in 1704, leaving two small daughters, Frances (b. 1699) and Anne (b.1700), already motherless, orphaned. They were raised by their two aunts, Frances (b. 1668) and Bridget (b. 1670), James’s younger sisters, at Pipe Ridware. Neither sister ever married.

The first account book, kept by Bridget and Frances, details the money they laid out on behalf of the “orphants”. Items include the purchase of ingredients to worm the children, sugar candy and treacle, mittens and gloves and muffs, shoes and clogs and pattens, pocket money for Christmas and Valentines, and more types of cloth, ribbon, edging, tape and lace than can be easily im

Among their entertainments were music, cards, visits to friends and relations, and reading. There is a small series of entries relating to book purchases, which may be of interest to Johnson Society members, as it is certain that at least some of these books were purchased at Michael Johnson’s new bookshop in Lichfield: 
 

 

 

 

£

s

d

 

 

 

 

 

July  19 1706                

pd for thrid and Silk and a little Book           

00

03

01

June 13 1707                

pd for 2 Common prayer Books                  

00

03

00

Jan 2 1709                   

pd for 2 Bibls                                             

00

09

00

Jan 2 1709                    

pd for 2 Practice of Piety a Newyears gift and French Con?ert                          

00

05

06

Jan 2 1709                    

pd for a Book of the present state of England

00

06

00

Jan 2 1709                    

pd for a Reeding desk                                

00

05

00

March 2 1717              

pd for a Coffey taypot and 2 plays Nails & brass locks                               

01

01

00

March 2 1717                

pd for mending Misses watch and for books

00

15

06

May 25 1717                

pd to Misses to buy Books and to pay Mr Johnson

00

15

06

April 26 1718                

pd for silk and brush Letters and wool and book

00

03

06

In 1717 when young Anne and Frances Whitehall went into Michael Johnson’s shop to pay their book bill, young Samuel was seven years old and had just started at Lichfield Grammar School. One can imagine him skulking behind the counter of his father’s shop, and looking with interest at these two teenage girls from the country.

The previous summer, Frances and Anne both had smallpox, and their Aunt Bridget died, perhaps of the same disease. Aunt Frances was left to raise the “orphants” on her own. She died in 1768 and was buried at Pipe Ridware with her sister. There is a monument to them, which says of Frances that “she was successful in the practice of surgery, by which she daily reliev’d great numbers, especially of the poor: so that her death is lamented as a publick loss.” There is no evidence of her doctoring in the account books, but they do not detail her personal expenditure, only what was spent on her nieces.
In 1718 Aunt Frances made an agreement with the two girls that “they shall have the laying out of their Money to buy all things Necessary for them… during the remaining time of their Minority…” I regret to say that after this date no more books are purchased. Instead money is spent on snuff and cosmetics, tipped to servants and lost at cards, and spent on “Brocaded lutestring”, “morocho leather shoes” and wagon-loads of clothing. There are also frequent instances of charity to tenants, neighbours, and money “given to a poor man”. The pace of their social life increases with frequent visits to friends and relations and to assemblies in Cannock, Stafford and Shrewsbury. Anne married Sir Thomas Parker. Her older sister Frances married Fisher Littleton of Pillaton Hall, near Penkridge, and in this way, Pipe Ridware passed to the Littleton family. It is nice to note that Frances Littleton had two little daughters of her own, named Frances and Anna, and the two women’s names seem to have been passed down in the family for many more generations.



















 

 
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