Worn Stories volunteer researcher Tracey Williams has written our latest blog post. She has been using Bradford Local Studies Library and West Yorkshire Archives in both Bradford and Wakefield to continue research begun during project sessions. Thank you Tracey for this fascinating contribution.
‘I was first introduced to The Creed Register during a visit to Bradford Archives. Established in 1869 to record the religious creed of workhouse inmates, it also lists their occupations. I set myself the task of finding any rag sorters, pickers and gatherers living in Bradford during the years 1898-1915. The register is available on microfiche but I prefer the real thing.
A huge tome arrives wrapped in brown paper, tied with ribbon. Once released its dirty and crumbling binding rests upon grey foam, seeming at once out of place. I open the register carefully, stopping to admire the coloured end papers. Haddon Best & Co Printers and Publishers have done a magnificent job.
Turning the pages, I scan the list of occupations and begin to wonder what was involved – clay chopper, yeast hawker and harness cleaner among others. In incredibly small writing, “widow of Jason Egg & Batter Agent”, another “wife of William Lee Ogden (13 years apart) Mason” What was their story?
The writing is truly beautiful but I know how people must feel when they read my own hand, as one in particular is practically illegible. It is often very faint with blots, mistakes and crossings out, together with occasional use of red ink. I think back to handwriting lessons, seeing if, by working out the joins, I can decipher particularly difficult words.
The names of inmates crop up several times a year, others over many years. I start to care for them and wonder what their lives were like. Dates of birth vary and last known residences change with regularity. Patterns begin to emerge. Captain St, George St, Adolphus St – do they still exist? I make a note to look out for them on my travels. Religious denomination varies – Church of England, Wesleyan, Baptist, Salvationist, Congregationalist and huge numbers of Catholics.
In the column “name and address of nearest known relative” I am always sad when I read “no relations or friends”. Sometimes, there is another glimpse into their lives – orphan, mother unfit, mother deserted, parents unfit.
The last column is always very final. Inmates are either discharged, sometimes with a note “To Holbeck”, “To Settle”, “To Menston”, other workhouses and asylums but often it just says “Dead”.’