The Tale of Henry Cramp of Kirby Muxloe

Have you ever wondered what the lives of villagers were like in the past? If they were alive today, what stories could they tell? Well, they can tell us tales, by the records that they leave behind. Here, we reconstruct tales told by a villager for a week in Kirby Muxloe, in the form of a fictitious diary. All the facts in the "diary" are believed to be correct, according to surviving records, but the diary itself never existed.

Henry Cramp, Farmer and Overseer of the Poor: My diary for week ending 4th January 1805

My name is Henry Cramp. I am a farmer and I have been appointed Overseer of the Poor for the Parish of Kirby Muxloe from Easter 1804 to Easter 1805. It is an unpaid position, as are all the offices of the parish, but each of us who are able has to take turns to carry out these jobs. I am, however, entitled to charge for my expenses in carrying out my duties.

I took over from Robert Carver, who, as is the custom, had to account for every penny before he was allowed to relinquish his position. I will have to do the same this Easter coming.

It is true that we will always have the poor with us, and this week I have made payments of 6s (shillings) to Philip Astle, 4s to Edward Spawton, 3s to Edward Bott, 2s to Goddard, 3s 6d to Elizabeth Hutchinson, 3s 6d to Thomas Welton, 2s 6d to widow Castledine, 2s 6d to widow Thurman and 2s each to widows Varnam, Armstrong, Hall, Biggs and Ward. I also paid John Bates’ rent of 1s.

Our Parish Surveyor of Highways, Thomas Bennett, can find work for some of the poor, mostly repairing our roads. Thomas Welton is kept in near full time employment by this means and is paid 3s 6d per week. Others are paid on an ad hoc basis for getting and spreading gravel, and for forming the road. These include Philip Astle, T. Biggs, Tomlin, John Smaley, Joseph Tugby, Thomas Bateman, Sutton, John Brewin and S. Forman.

This week, I had to pay one treble County rate of £1 1s. The clerk’s fees came to 9s and my own charges were 5s. Finally, at the end of the week, I paid 1s for 1 cwt (hundredweight) of coals for widow Thurman.

This is a typical winter week, but come the summer, there will be less need for coals, but I may have to pay some children to bring me dead sparrows and hedgehogs, lest they damage the crops in the fields.

At the end of the year, we will need to pay Dr. Parkinson & son for attendance to the poor (4 guineas) and for midwifery charges (½ guinea).

Another of my duties is to arrange the apprenticeships of children of the poor in our parish. Philip Astle and his wife Jane have a son named John. Last year, when he was aged 11, we arranged for him to be apprenticed to William Newbold, a framework knitter who lives at the south end of Mountsorrell. We paid an apprenticeship fee of £6, but at least he will no longer be chargeable to our parish. The magistrates, Mr. Tyson and Mr. Winstanley, assented to this.

Those who are not paupers will need to pay into the Poor Rate, and I myself shall need to pay around £4 per quarter.

I have recently moved into a house that I have leased from John Moore, named “Kirby Fields”. I live here with my wife, Elizabeth. We hope to start a family soon, if God permits.

Editor’s notes:

The house was later called “Lara House” and then, with the coming of the Wilshere family, it was changed to “The Old House”. The belief that it was a new house constructed in 1801 arises from the jump in Land Tax for the plot. For further information, see Old Kirby (Muxloe) by Jonathan Wilshere.

Henry and Elizabeth would have a son, whom they also named Henry, three years later in 1808. Further sons, Richard and Thomas, arrived in 1811 and 1812 respectively.


Armstrong, widow

Astle, Jane

Astle, John

Astle, Philip

Bateman, Thomas

Bennett, Thomas

Biggs, T.

Biggs, widow

Bott, Edward

Brewin, John

Carver, Robert

Castledine, widow

Cramp, Elizabeth

Cramp, Henry

Cramp, Henry (jnr)

Cramp, Richard

Cramp, Thomas

Forman, S.


Hall, widow

Hutchinson, Elizabeth

Moore, John

Newbold, William

Parkinson, Dr.

Smaley, John

Spawton, Edward


Thurman, widow


Tugby, Joseph

Tyson, Mr.

Varnam, widow

Ward, widow

Welton, Thomas

Winstanley, Mr.


DE 123/62 Kirby Muxloe Overseer of the Poor Account Book 1796 to 1830, repository: Record Office for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

DE 123/65 Kirby Muxloe Overseers Bills and Receipts 1778 to 1824, repository as above

DE 123/66 Kirby Muxloe Poor Rate Assessment Book 1812 to 1824, repository as above

DE 123/75 Kirby Muxloe Indenture Book for Parish Apprentices 1804 to 1815, repository as above

DE 123/81 Kirby Muxloe Surveyor of Highway Accounts 1776 to 1822, repository as above

Old Kirby (Muxloe) – Jonathan Wilshere, pub: Chamberlain Music and Books, 1986

Transcriptions of St. Bartholomew's Parish Registers, Vol II (1702 - 1837) – Jonathan Wilshere, pub as above