Thomas Fewkes - 1795-1867

Thomas Fewkes and the Barrow Workhouse

Early History of Thomas Fewkes

The Quorndon Records state that the names of Gamble, Fewkes and Bostock are all old ones in Quorndon, and that representatives of these families still lived in the village in 1912.

Thomas Fewkes was the Clerk to the Barrow Union (the workhouse) from 1834-1867 and was born in 1798 in Leicester, In 1822 he was a schoolmaster in Anstey and by 1825, he had become the Master of theEndowedSchoolat Prestwold, with a salary of 30s a week paid by the Clark Charity of Barrow. He remained in Prestwold until 1840 or thereabouts, when he moved to Barrow, and the dates of his childrens' baptisms are worth noting as they help establish when the family moved to, and eventually from, Barrow :

  • John Merriman, born 1822 (Anstey), died 1890 (Great Glen)
  • Emily, born 1826 (Prestwold), died 1861 (Barrow) aged 35
  • Harriet, born 1830 (Prestwold), died - unknown
  • Eliza, born 1831 (Prestwold), died - unknown
  • Joseph, born 1834 ( Prestwold), died 1866 (Barrow) aged 32
  • Maria, born 1835 (Prestwold), died 1860 (Barrow) aged 25
  • Thomas, born 1840 (Barrow), died 1865 (Barrow) aged 25

Thomas Fewkes and the Barrow Union

In 1837, Thomas was appointed as Clerk to the newly established Barrow Union, which administered the Poor Law provisions in the area. The background to this was that in the 18th and 19th centuries, pauperism was a growing and costly problem in England and in 1783 a law was passed enabling parishes to form Incorporations with neighboring parishes to build "Houses of Industry" for the infirm, the elderly and the poor. Some 67 such In corporations were initially formed, Barrow-upon-Soar being one. Each Incorporation was run by a Board of Guardians, who took over responsibility for raising a poor rate and distributing relief. The Barrow Incorporation was sited in Beveridge Street on property now fronted by nos. 49,49a and51 Beveridge Street and Melton Road. However, the system could not cope with growing pauperism and in 1834 a new Poor Law was enacted establishing the idea of the Poor Law Union, a much harsher form of provision than previously. The Barrow Incorporation was dissolved and a new Barrow Union was set up with 17 local villages in the Union and Barrow as the administrative centre.

Thomas's duties as Clerk were manifold – acting as Clerk to the Board of Guardians, assessing and registering inmates, arranging all forms of supplies, and collecting poor law rates. In 1840 the Union workhouse moved to Mountsorrel in new purpose-built facilities and the old Incorporation property was sold. Thomas himself purchased the old workhouse Master's apartments (now 49, 49a and 51 Beveridge Street) and adjoining property and gardens. The family remained inBeveridge Streetuntil Thomas's and Maria's deaths, both in 1867. Apart from the eldest child, John Merriman, all the Fewkes children died in Barrow before 1865. The graves of Emily, who died after an illness of six years, and Maria, are in the churchyard ofHolyTrinityChurch, Barrow and the records show that both parents and son Thomas are also buried there.

Thomas senior was important and influential person in the parish as a result of his activities as Clerk to the Barrow Union. Besides being Union Clerk, Superintendent Registrar of births, marriages and deaths for the workhouse and 1851 census registrar for Barrow, he also carried on the trade of lime burner and was a land surveyor. How he learned the latter skill is unknown, but it seems to have been put to use when he carried out the valuation of the Poor Law rate to be levied on Barrow in 1843. In 1861 he was elected to the newly formed Town Lighting Committee, formed to bring street lighting to Barrow using gas from the Quorn and Mountsorrel gas works. Also the 1846 and 1862 Leicestershire Directories state that the village Post Office was "at the house of Mr T Fewkes", but it is not clear whether he himself acted as postmaster. At the time of his death, Thomas had become titled "Gentleman".

Thomas and Maria both died in 1867. The only child to survive them was the eldest, John Merriman, who was a surgeon with property in several villages by the time of his death. This included Nos. 49 to51 Beveridge Street which he inherited on the death of his father. The 1885/87 Electoral Register states that he was the owner of Barrow property at Whimsey Close and the Common Nook (an early name for what is now Melton Road) as well as the Beveridge Street property. In 1880 he is recorded as purchasing the five cottages at the south side of the garden which had originally been bought by Joseph Hogg when the old workhouse was sold off. This re-united the whole of the old workhouse property sold by the Barrow Guardians in 1842. He had two children, one of whom, Maria Theresa, acquired the Beveridge Street property and retained it till her death in 1931, although she lived in Glen Magna all her life. She built the corner shop onBeveridge Street in 1905 and rented it to Mr Harry Mee who was a glover.

The record trail indicates that John Merriman moved to Great Glen between 1849 and 1851. He married Mary, born Broughton Astley in 1821, but the date and place of the wedding are unknown. He is described in the 1851 census as "Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries inLondon, of the Faculty of Physicians of Glasgow, and a General Practitioner". There were no other Fewkes living at Great Glen at the time of the 1851 census. At the time, John Merriman's own children (John and Maria Theresa) had not been born, and no record of their baptism exists in Great Glen.

It is interesting to speculate on his friendship with the Packe family of Prestwold. Charles Packe had close links with Glen Magna (Great Glen), being the owner of the Manor House and its church patron, and of course there would be links through father Thomas's early career at Prestwold as schoolmaster, as well as through the Barrow Hospital Charity of which Charles Packe was a Trustee. Perhaps Charles Packe was able to influence his appointment as a doctor in Great Glen and thus further his future career.

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Last Updated. 10-January-2016 By admin