Whilst researching, I stumbled on this Internet book which describes rural Sussex life in Chiddingly in the early 1800s. Not surprisingly, Funnells are mentionned several times as in this passage I’ve extracted to whet your appetite. I found the book captivating and read it from end to end.
Thomas Funnell can be found in the genealogy section. The parish won its bet, he never returned to Chiddingly!
The typical wage of 8s. per week had not increased by 1821. Indeed to anticipate slightly the events of 1830, in that latter year the men of Ringmer, just along the turnpike from Chiddingly, were demanding 9s. per week as a significant increase in wages. Such incomes left no reserve for periods of sickness, unemployment or severe winters, whilst the addition of children to a labourer’s family swiftly pushed him towards pauperism.
In Chiddingly in 1821 sixty-four heads of households were described as “labourers” – which meant “agricultural labourers”. Between them they had two hundred and fifty-nine dependants, not including those children out as servants in other households. Nor do these figures include the three or four men who received no occupational description because, it seems, they were simply permanently unemployed paupers.
Even a skilled craft, however, was no guarantee against being forced to look to the parish for help. Thomas Funnell was a cooper, but in 1821 he had a wife and eight children at home, though two were old enough to earn money when work was available. Eleven years later – by which time the Funnells had two more children to support – the parish paid for the whole family, except the eldest son, to migrate to America on condition that they did not return to be a burden on the Poor Rate for at least five years. None of the family could read or write.
Thomas Funnell, the cooper; was he a relative of Widow Elizabeth Funnell, the largest farmer in the parish? The probability is high that they had, somewhere back along the line, a common ancestor, especially as all told sixteen heads of Chiddingly household were surnamed “Funnell”. Beside Elizabeth, two – Samuel and John – were farmers, though on a considerably smaller scale than the widow. Two Funnells owned shops: John, described as a “grocer and draper” at The Shop House, right in the middle of the parish next to the Church; and James, whose Gunn shop was so named not because of what it sold but because it was at Gun Hill. Two other Funnells were brickmakers and two more lived with another brickmaker (not named Funnell) to whom they may have been assistants; or they may have been paupers, for no occupation is given for either. The remaining seven Funnells were labourers, one of whom, Thomas (36) lived with his wife Sarah (31) and four young children at Stonehill, a house “containing two dwellings” as the Census describes it. The other family at Stonehill was that of 62-year old William Dunk, with his wife Elizabeth (61), daughter Frances (18) and grand-daughter Jane (5).
These families, both sub-tenants of Widow Elizabeth Funnell, who rented the house as part of the Earl of Plymouth’s estate, provide an example of how houses, as well as people, can go up and down in the world. Stonehill, in the words of Sir Nicolas Pevsner, is “a perfect timber-framed house of the 15th century.” It had been built as the home of a prosperous mediaeval yeoman and today, after extensive renovation and modernisation, stands as an almost hidden jewel in a parish not especially distinguished for its architecture. Its modern market price is well into six figures – but in 1821 it housed two labourers’ families!
Did Widow Elizabeth Funnell acknowledge the family relationship with Thomas Funnell at Stonehill or with Thomas Funnell, the cooper, or with any of the other poor Funnells of Chiddingly?
Extracted from “The Poet and the Paupers” by Richard Lower.
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