Education; Surviving Period Architecture; Non-Surviving Period Buildings – Churchyard House, Ivy House, Brick House Works, The Overhouse, Fountain Works; Other Non-Surviving Buildings; Molly Leigh; Parish Registers – Birth Statistics, Illegitimacy, Pre-Nuptial pregnancy, Marriage Statistics, Burial Statistics.
The first reference to education is an entry in the parish register that records the burial of ‘Richard Daniel of the school house’ on April 24th 1701. Nothing further is known of this school’s existence. A deed dated July 28th and 29th 1749 by John Bourne nominated and appointed seven trustees for a dwelling close to the church to be used ‘for an English schoolmaster to live in’ and ‘a school for teaching in such number of poor children of the parish of Burslem as shall be fixed upon by the Trustees of the Charity School now about to be set up…to read English, write and cast account, and for no other use, intent or purpose whatsoever.’ Having taken down ‘the front part [of the existing dwelling] in order to build an ‘English Charity Schoole’ Bourne entered into an agreement on August 3rd 1749 with Joseph Mansfield, the then owner of the adjoining property to the north which had been acquired by Mansfield eighty years earlier ‘to remove the gable end of Mansfield’s house and to rebuild a new one, a brick and a half in thickness with a fireplace and chimney, but to make good the thatch and all other damage’, and also ‘to enclose from the garden a way or passage 4ft wide exclusive of a brick wall to be built by him, for a way from the intended school to the schoolmaster’s intended house.’[i] These are nos. 107 and 108 on Shaw’s map published by Ward. Two tenancies are therefore mentioned for site no.108, but this is explained in a latter deed of 1759 where the property was described ‘as now in two parts divided, the one in the possession of Ann Oldfield, widow, and the other of one Martha Bourne, widow.’[ii] Why it was not occupied by the schoolmaster is uncertain.
On December 25th 1753 a number of resolutions were drawn up by the trustees. The schoolmaster was to be paid out of the rent of a property at Ipstones Edge in possession of the trustees for ‘teaching forty of the poorest children to read English, write and cast accounts until qualified for a trade.’ The rent of the house adjoining the school was to be partially applied in buying books, paper, quills and ink. The schoolmaster, for his encouragement, was allowed to take in ‘ten more of the better people’s children’ whose parents were to pay 2s 6d per quarter.[iii]
A second school was intended and a subscription fund purchased the land ‘where the maypole did formerly stand’ to erect a school stating that there ‘was but one school in the Town, for which reason two parts of the children out of three were put to work without any learning.’ The piece of land was demised for 500 years at an annual rent of 6d, but the original intention was not adhered to, as the lease gave power to the lessees to erect a public edifice for a market hall, school, or such other public use as should be thought needful, and as a result the first town hall was built upon the site.[iv]
About 1766 an unendowed school was built at Cobridge by subscription to accommodate 120 scholars who were to pay from 6d to 2s per week.[v] This school was recorded in the Burslem Rate Book of 1802, along with the Charity School, and a dame school in Hot Lane run by a Widow Ball. With the exception of The Methodist, or Burslem Sunday School, begun in 1787,[vi] these were the only educational establishments in Burslem at the end of the eighteenth century.
Surviving Period Architecture
Burslem probably has more surviving Georgian architecture than any other of the pottery towns, and building plots have remained virtually unaltered. The most well-known example is ‘The Big House’ named on account of its comparative size. It was built in 1750 by brothers John and Thomas Wedgwood, uncles to Josiah Wedgwood, and later passed into possession of the Wood family. John and Thomas took possession of their father’s[vii] potworks in 1743. Their successful experiments to improve the quality of their wares resulted in a rapid increase in demand for their products. In 1759 they engaged James Brindley to construct a windmill on the field called The Jenkins behind their factory for grinding flint in water. They soon found that the old factory premises was incapable of meeting their production requirements and Simeon Shaw described the reaction to their new factory and house which ‘incurred general censure because of their extravagance in erecting so large a manufactory and covering it with tiles (all others being covered with thatch) and for erecting three ovens (subsequently increased to five)… In 1750 …the brothers erected a dwelling house so durable and on so scale of extent, and a style of magnificence, so far excelling all in the district, that it was called The Big House.’ Immediately behind it stood the factory which has since been demolished. The entrance was immediately to the side of The Big House where the owners could observe movement to and from the works.
The dwelling has a frontage of red brick with stone dressings, with three stories and five bays, the central bay projecting slightly and being surmounted by a pediment. The window lintels are of rusticated stone and the central windows are emphasised by stone architraves. Below them is a pedimented porch supported on Doric columns. The walled forecourt and entrance gates that originally enclosed a garden on two sides of the house were removed in 1956. Internally the house retains much of its original panelling and an impressive oak staircase with three turned balusters to each step.[viii]
On the north side of Market Place no.38 has a bowed mullion window and roof beams made from the reclaimed timbers of Elizabethan ships. The Bull’s Head and The George Hotel, both still in existence, are dealt with in the section under ‘Inns and Alehouses.’ Opposite the George Hotel several late eighteenth century brick frontages have survived at the upper end of Nile Street, until recently the site of Royal Doulton.
To the west of the market place one or two plain buildings of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries survive in St John’s Square. These include the house and shop at the lower end of the square that Arnold Bennett used as the setting of ‘The Old Wives Tale.’ A three-storied brick range at the junction of Westport Road and Pack Horse Lane, although converted into modern shops, is still distinguishable as part of the original frontage of Enoch Wood’s Fountain Place Works of 1789.
The house formerly known as the Hadderidge, built with its attached potworks c1736, still stands at the junction of Wycliffe Street and Lower Hadderidge. An extension of the modern factory that adjoins it has been built across the front of the ground floor, although the appearance of the two upper stories suggests that it was a rather plain brick house of the late eighteenth century.
Non-Surviving Period Buildings
A house with land lying immediately south-east of the church was granted by one of the Audley Barons in the later fifteenth century to Thomas Crockett, and a house had been built there by 1555. By the early sixteenth century it was occupied by Thomas Astbury, the curate of Burslem, who lived in ‘the priest’s chamber’ in the house. It later came into the possession of John Shaw who eventually gave it to his daughter Margaret and her husband Thomas, son of Gilbert Wedgwood, on their marriage in 1653. Thomas built the potworks attached to the house that included a horse-drawn mill, probably for pugging the clay, and which remained in the family for a further three generations, becoming the birthplace of Josiah Wedgwood in 1730. He served his apprenticeship to his eldest brother Thomas at the adjoining works between 1744 and 1751. In 1780 it was sold to Josiah Wedgwood (then of Etruria) and on his death in 1795 the estate was sold to Thomas Green and the original house demolished to allow for the extension of factory buildings. The works were demolished in 1896 when St John’s School was built on the site, the location now being occupied by a colourworks.
Eliza Meteyard, writing 1865, gave a detailed description of the interior of the building. Much of her information was evidentially based upon memories handed down from previous generations and it appears to have been a typical small farmhouse of the late sixteenth century/early seventeenth century. The dwelling was like the rest of the village houses, timber filled with wattle and daub, with leaded casement windows and a thatched roof. A narrow strip of garden divided the cottage from the lane and extended to the churchyard wall, and from this garden the visitor entered a large ‘houseplace’ or entrance hall. In the gable of the houseplace was a large chimney place, while at the other end nearest the church, was partitioned off a parlour. The houseplace would most likely be furnished with a settle by the fire, chairs, tables, a shelved dresser, and probably hooked to the beams of the ceiling a cratch for hanging bacon. Upstairs would have been the ordinary number of two or three bedchambers. Behind the houseplace was the usual back-house where the tasks of brewing, dairy-work, and washing were performed. The pot oven and other areas designated for pottery production were also outside at the rear. The illustration in Meteyard was made from memory and should be treated with caution although it is interesting as it portrays the original church with its thatched roof. The relationship between the lane, house and church differs considerably with the map drawn by McPhayl. Further evidence concerning the dwelling is offered later on with an examination of the probate inventory of Thomas Wedgwood (d.1716).
Upon completion of his training in 1752 Josiah Wedgwood entered into partnership with John Harrison and Thomas Alders at Cliffe Vale. The business dissolved two years later in 1754 and Josiah entered into a junior partnership with Thomas Whieldon at Fenton. In 1759 Josiah returned to Burslem renting the Ivy House and attached potworks from his uncles John and Thomas Wedgwood of the Big House. This appears to have been little more than a cottage, built of brick or stone, with stone mullioned windows, probably dating from the later seventeenth century. It was demolished in 1834 by the market commissioners who incorporated the site into the new market place.
The Brick House Works
The ‘Brick House Works’, located on the east side of what was later St John’s Square, that Josiah Wedgwood occupied from 1762, obtained its name because the house attached to it was supposedly the first to be built entirely of brick in Burslem. It was a small rectangular building with stone mullioned windows and end gables and dormer windows to the attic storey. The house and attached factory was occupied by John Adams in 1757[ix] and leased to Josiah Wedgwood when the Adams heir was a minor.
By 1768 the Brick Houes Works had a total of thirty-one rooms, as well as five ovens or ‘hovels’, each separated for a particular purpose.[x] There were the usual rooms such as the slip house, mill, pressing house, mould chamber and modelling house. Other rooms included the piercing house, engine lathes house, gilding house, glossing house, saggar house and clerk’s chamber. Of the thirty-one rooms two were mentioned as being ‘lower chambers’ and two as ‘upper chambers’, as well as four cellars. However, this was probably an underestimate, as five of the rooms on the list compiled by Josiah Wedgwood had identical sizes to the preceding room, also suggesting upper chambers. Examples were the packing house which is immediately followed by the chamber to the packing house warehouse, both measuring 16ft by 17ft, and the throwing house and the chamber to the throwing house warehouse, both at 17ft by 16ft. The production of red ware also appears to have been separated with the process executed in specific rooms. A nineteenth century illustration of the works depicts a large irregular group of two-storied brick buildings surrounding the five ovens. The name survives in Brick House Street, running north from Queen Street indicating the approximate site of the buildings. It was at The Brick House Works, after Josiah Wedgwood’s departure, as well as at Cobridge, that the Adams family began to decorate their productions with transfer printing in 1775 that helped to revolutionise pottery decoration. It was demolished in 1876 and The Wedgwood Memorial Institute erected upon part of the site.[xi]
Originally in possession of the Burslem family the Overhouse passed to the Wedgwoods through marriage during the early seventeenth century. This was rebuilt in the late eighteenth century/early nineteenth century replacing ‘the site of the old timber-built manor house’. The earlier dwelling is dealt with in greater detail further on with the probate inventories of John Wedgwood (d.1705) and Richard Wedgwood (d.1719). Unfortunately the illustration in Meteyard appears to be a contemporary view of the stone building rather than the earlier timber and no doubt larger one.
Fountain Place Works
As only a tiny portion of the fabric still survives it seems more appropriate to include the Fountain Place Works with non-surviving period architecture. Enoch Wood was born in 1759, the youngest son of master potter Aaron Wood. He served his apprenticeship at The Brick House Works under Josiah Wedgwood and later went into partnership with his cousin Ralph Wood. Enoch Wood occupied The Hill Works (c1784) before building The Fountain Place Works in 1789 (and probably extended in the early nineteenth century), which necessitated the removal of four ancient potworks.[xii] The factory occupied the whole area between Hall Street on the north side and Newcastle Street on the south, and had a long east frontage to Westport Road and Fountain Place. This frontage incorporated the entrance to Pack Horse Lane which served as an access road to part of the works. At the Fountain Place end of the lane it was spanned by a covered bridge and flanked by tall buildings which continued for a considerable distance down the lane. The numerous brick ovens and many of the walls originally had castellated parapets, so that a distant view of the works would have given the impression of a hillside fortification. Some of the complex still exists including a three-storied range with the angled entrance on the corner of Pack Horse Lane and a frontage of nine bays on Westport Road. Despite the insertion of a shop front and mutilation of the upper storeys the original frontage is still recognisable. This originally was the entrance arch flanked by small windows, with a Venetian window to the first floor, and a three-light window above, the whole being surmounted by a pediment and a domed bell turret. Other original features that survive are the base of the windmill at the north east corner of the site and the lodge gates, probably dating from the early nineteenth century, which stand at the blocked end of Pack Horse Lane. The square three-storied house built and occupied by Enoch Wood stood near the centre of the site, with the factory buildings above and behind it, and its gardens stretched westwards down the slope. In addition to his factory Wood also provided money to develop Newcastle Street and build a terrace of brick houses in Newport Lane.[xiii]
Other Non-Surviving Buildings
Before the end of the eighteenth century weekly markets were held on both Saturdays and Mondays, the latter being the larger of the two.[xiv] The first town hall was erected in the centre of the market place in 1761 and was a rectangular brick building of two stories, having open arches to the ground floor and a large room with five sash windows along the front above. It was later coated with cement and surmounted by a balustraded parapet with a central clock turret and a bell cupola. This was eventually replaced by a second town hall during the mid-nineteenth century.
Outside the Red Lion stood the old stocks. It is known that they were in existence before 1680, for the manor court roll of that year recorded that ‘the jury aforesaid do also lay a pain of 6s 8d upon the constable of this court that he repair the stocks in Burslem within the space of six weeks.’[xv]
Birch House, on the west side of what is now Swan Square, was occupied in 1569 by Richard Daniel, and retained within the same family until at least 1677. By 1742 it was tenanted by Urian Leigh and by c1750 by Joshua Ball. Although still standing in 1838 the house no longer exists.[xvi]
The original Burslem mill stood on Scotia Brook in the Sytch, and was being worked from at least 1348. This was probably the mill identifiable with that held by the Audleys in 1273. Other mills instigated for the grinding of raw materials for the pottery industry, with the exception of the windmill built by James Brindley, all date from the nineteenth century.[xvii]
A house adjoining The Crown Inn was formerly given by Mrs Catherine Egerton a short time before her death in 1756 for the curate’s residence and was occupied by two successive curates.[xviii] After several years it was discovered that the gift was void under the Mortmain Act, and the property was reclaimed by her heir, Thomas Wedgwood of The Overhouse.[xix]
A property at Brownhills was in possession of John Burslem of Dale Hall by the end of the sixteenth century. This later passed by marriage to Burslem Wedgwood and remained in the hands of the Wedgwood family until being purchased by the Wood family in the 1780s.[xx] Brownhills House (now part of a girls’ school) dates from about 1782, although with additions from the 1830s. Brownhills Villa, erected by the Haywood family in the 1830s, was situated on the west side of Brownhills.[xxi] Another property at Brownhills had been established by William Littler, and his father in the early eighteenth century, who had been one of the partners in the first porcelain factory at Longton Hall.[xxii]
Bank House was built above the Hamil on the east side of High Lane and occupied by William Stevenson between at least 1598 and his death in 1653. It was replaced in 1828 by a tall square stucco building described as ‘a showy mansion on the summit of a ridge’ and was still standing in 1963.[xxiii]
The Malkin family occupied the Knowle Works at the west end of Hamil Road form 1651 until being demolished during the nineteenth century.[xxiv] Bycars House and farm was the home of Thomas Mitchell in 1658 and of Daniel Nixon in 1742, although had been demolished by the end of the 1830s.[xxv]
William Adams, who purchased Cobridge Gate House, had this demolished about 1780 and built on the site Cobridge Hall, along with gardens, a park, and a drive running up from what is now Vale Place off Waterloo Road, which remained in the family until its demolition in 1913.[xxvi]
The Warburton family had factories in Hot Lane and Cobridge during the eighteenth century.[xxvii] By the 1780s they were executing a substantial amount of Wedgwood’s enamelling work.[xxviii] A works in what is now the Cobridge part of Waterloo Road was held by the Stevenson family from at least 1775 until Ralph Stevenson’s bankruptcy in 1835.[xxix]
Rushton Grange, already mentioned as the site of the plague in 1647, occupied a site at Cobridge to the west of Waterloo Road, until being finally demolished early in the twentieth century.[xxx] After the dissolution it was in possession of the Catholic Biddulph family who by the seventeenth century had leased it to another Catholic family called Bagnall. They were forced to abandon the property for fears of their safety in 1688 during a period of religious unease when the Catholic James I was ousted by the Protestant William of Orange. Shortly after their departure the building was ransacked by a Protestant mob from Burslem. The Bagnall family however returned and were making butter-pots there in the early eighteenth century. A view of the house in 1800 shows a long timber-framed front range with a thatched roof and dormer windows, a massive chimney at one end, and a projecting wing at the rear. At this period the building appears to have been divided into cottages but around 1840 it was referred to as a farm house and had been ‘in a very slight degree modernised.’[xxxi] A single-storey structure, forming part of the front range, was used as a Catholic chapel until the late eighteenth century, although by 1829 this part was described as being ‘a mere thatched shed.’[xxxii] The remains of the building still existed as a farm during the 1920s[xxxiii] but by 1958 the site was occupied by a small demolition works, the disused workings of Grange Colliery and a post-1945 housing estate.
A house and land called Jackfield at Hamil were occupied by Richard Leigh in 1640 and which remained in the family until the death of Margaret ‘Molly’ Leigh in 1748.[xxxiv] She was possibly related to Thomas Leigh of The Hamil, the father of Thomas Wedgwood’s wife of The Churchyard Works, and grandmother of Josiah Wedgwood. Little is known of her life and all the tales surrounding her have begun after her death. She was said to have been hideously ugly and to have sold watered-down milk often in short measures. Parson Spencer, the curate of St John’s at the time, denounced her as a witch for constant absence from church and non-payment of tithes. She was also a cousin of Ralph Leigh, one of the two individuals who John Ward recorded in his ‘Burslem Dialogue’, in which Tellwright confessed to Leigh that as a child he used to pass the grave ‘at a pretty rate’ for fear of seeing her ghost.
After her burial the mourners, having stopped at The Turk’s Head, returned to the dwelling and those that entered the house first claimed that she was sitting in the nook by the fireplace knitting. The following night Parson Spencer, who had conducted the burial service, assisted with his clerk and sexton, the rector of Stoke, the vicar of Wolstanton, and the curate of Newchapel, brought up the coffin and dug the grave crossways in an attempt to lay the ghost and to pacify the locals fears. As it was thought that the evil spirit that communicated with Molly was her pet blackbird, it was agreed that the troubled spirit should be appeased with the offering of one of these birds. The story goes that the four clergymen put on their vestments and formed a procession with the sexton and clerk, the sexton bearing a lantern and spade and the clerk a blackbird in a cage. The sexton reopened the grave when the reading began. As the Revd Spencer continued his three brother clergy fled leaving him alone with the sexton and clerk.[xxxv] According to tradition ‘Spencer was determined to carry the work through and the coffin was laid bare. The coffin lid was opened and the blackbird deposited alive inside and the spirit forbidden to trouble the living any more for the space of seven years.’[xxxvi] The parson next proceeded to The Hamil where prayers were said to cleanse the dwelling and the shape of a coffin built into the wall. An alternative version was that the Wolsanton clergyman was the only one who dared to stay to lay the ghost.
It has been suggested that the first time of Molly Leigh’s burial the coffin did not contain her body, which was the reason why Molly was seen at her cottage, not as a ghost but in the flesh, for she had only pretended to die to spite the parson.[xxxvii] Her burial is entered into the parish register on April 1st as ‘Mrs Margaret Leigh of Jackfield’ and possibly she may have staged her funeral as an April Fool’s Day joke. Ralph’s aunt, Molly, was also interred in the grave twenty years later, after which the present chest tomb was erected.
The house itself was ‘nothing more than a small farmhouse or elongated cottage, with thatched roof and low rooms, in what is now Hamil Road, immediately left of The Jenkins. Downstairs there were two rooms and a dairy. The latter was very dark and led to the stairs and in one corner there was a well. In the wall which separated the kitchen from the dairy just above the well, was the form of a coffin in the brickwork, said to denote that her spirit is laid.’[xxxviii] Henry Wedgwood in his Romance of Staffordshire confirmed the cottage was ‘…long and low, built of half timber and half brick, its ceiling scarcely high enough for an ordinary man to stand upright. The windows are small and those from the bedroom slope from the thatch. In the centre originally there was a porch, though this has long disappeared. Owing to the smallness of the windows and the low roof, the cottage is very dark and sombre.’[xxxix]
In the early twentieth century the cottage was occupied by a Mr Banks, ‘a worn-out collier and his wife. And even now the neighbours will not approach the place after nightfall, so great is the dread yet inspired. Some of this fear is owing to the account which Mrs Banks still gives of the cottage. She affirms, that though she has never seen the ghost of Molly, the place is haunted. One night, when her next-door neighbours, who lived in the other half of the cottage (a husband and wife), lay dead in the house, as she was sitting alone, she plainly saw the husband as if he came from the direction of the dairy. Another instance when a little child lay dying, whose mother was a lunatic in Stafford Asylum, and who had been left in Mrs Banks’s care, she heard a sound as if furniture was being moved about upstairs. Again in the presence of several other women, after the child’s death, when sitting around the fire in the evening, they heard a noise like someone coming down the stairs with heavy boots, and on going to see what was the matter the noise died away in the direction of Molly’s well…’[xl] The cottage was eventually demolished sometime during the early part of the twentieth century.
Parish registers were introduced in 1538 when Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s principal advisor, ordered that all parishes should keep a record of all baptisms, marriages and burials. These were to be completed every Sunday by the parish clerk (or more often one of the churchwardens) and kept in a secure chest within the church. The early registers were often paper, and sometimes just lose sheets. From 1598 it was ordered that parish registers were to be kept on parchment in bound volumes, and that all previous entries (or at least those from 1558, the wording of the order appearing confusing to many clerks) were to be copied into the new book. This helps to explain the under-recording that appears probable in the registers before that date. Each year, within one month of Easter, the clerks were to return a copy of their register to the diocesan registry, these copies being known as ‘bishops’ transcripts.’
During the commonwealth in 1653 civil registration of births (as opposed to baptisms), marriages and deaths (as opposed to burials) was introduced. Parish registers were to be kept by a new official, the parish registrar. Some parishes simply elected their existing minister or parish clerk as the registrar and continued using their existing register, rather than beginning a new one. When Charles II was crowned in 1660 and the commonwealth abolished some of those parishes that had begun a new register seven years earlier simply abandoned them and reverted back to using the old one. This however seems to have had no noticeable effect on the Burslem parish register.
Parish registers were never designed to be used as a source for population analysis and several problems are normally inherent such as under-recording (especially during the Civil War (1642-1648) and the Commonwealth (1649-1660)), the varying methodology of a number of different clerks, and the absence of non-conformists. The slight variations in methodology within the Burslem parish registers suggests that the churchwardens were elected every September. As many parish registers have been published there may also be a small element of transcription errors. However, they remain an unrivalled source for demographic study for the period before the censuses of the nineteenth century.
The original parish registers were destroyed in the fire that consumed the original church in 1717. Fortunately the antiquarian William Kelsall of Balterley, painstakingly transcribed a number of North Staffordshire parish registers, including those of St John’s in 1703 from their beginning in 1578. These are in English until November 1638. They are then recorded in Latin until reverting back to English in November 1653 when civil registration was introduced. They then change back again to Latin in May 1661 until permanently reverting to English in March 1692. Although commencing in 1578 they appear to be sporadic with regards to their content and in all likelihood contain numerous omissions. Certain parts of the register may be reliable while certain parts are not. Marriages for one particular year may seem reliable, while either baptisms or burials for that same year may be deficient. From 1598 however they appear to be fairly consistent with the exception of about a dozen years until 1646, the best consecutive run from this early period being from 1626 to 1637. From 1646 to 1699 they appear largely accurate, as they do for the whole of the eighteenth century, with the exceptions of 1700 to 1701, 1730 and 1732 to 1734. It should also be remembered that until the adoption of the Gregorian calendar in 1752 the new year began on March 25th. In 1913 the Staffordshire Parish Register Society published the complete set of parish registers in three volumes. The Birmingham and Midland SGH has also published a transcript of the memorial inscriptions of St John’s churchyard.
The national population trend was a steady growth from the mid-sixteenth to mid-seventeenth century which then decreased slightly before beginning to increase again from around the beginning of the eighteenth century[xli]. This occurred despite the impact of the Civil War, virulent diseases such as the general plague of the mid 1660s and the influenza epidemic of 1676. At the beginning of the seventeenth century the population of the entire Burslem parish was just over 300. This increased to around 500 by the end of the 1620s although had fallen again to 400 by the beginning of the 1640s. Despite the Civil War, the population of Burslem doubled during the 1640s to reach 900 by the end of the decade. However, this boom was not sustained and the population slowly and steadily declined returning to around 500 by the end of the seventeenth century. During the first decade of the eighteenth century the population doubled to reach over 1,000. This figure doubled again during the next forty years so that by 1750 the population of the whole parish was in excess of 2,000, despite a temporary decrease during the 1730s. This however was a period of defective registration and the decrease is not a true representation of the actual population. During the second half of the eighteenth century the population rapidly expanded to reach almost 7,000 by the end of the century. The huge rise was largely due to immigration, being a reflection of the increased employment opportunities in the pottery and mining industries as remunerated work would be extremely attractive to landless labourers who had no other means of regular payment. The success of the pottery industry allowed the stabilisation of society, generating wealth and allowing the population to rapidly expand.
Two samples from the registers, the consecutive years from 1646 to 1666 and from 1779 to 1799, were used to determine birth seasonality. The seventeenth century sample showed that the larger number of births occurred during the first five months of the year, as well as a peak in October. This reveals, for those births between January and May, that a larger number of successful conceptions occurred between April and August. This would have been a lull in the agricultural year between the time of sowing and harvesting, a period where people were less busy.[xlii] The eighteenth century sample showed a considerably higher number of baptisms for June. This suggests a higher number of successful conceptions for the month of August. With the harvest freshly gathered in, more free time and a healthier diet, resulted in a higher fertility rate. Like the seventeenth century sample, there was a higher number of baptisms during the early months of the year, particularly March and April. The national picture of conception seasonality shows a peak between April and June, with a noticeable decrease from July lasting until rising again in December. [xliii] The fact that many couples were not having children every year also reveals that some form of contraception was being used. Other more drastic methods which couples may have been using to limit family size include abortion and infanticide, although these were rarely recorded.
There were various methods in the registers of highlighting illegitimacy. One method was where only the mother’s name appeared at the child’s baptism. Another was to list the infant with an alias. More direct methods included following the entry with the words ‘bastard’, ‘illegit’ or ‘spuria.’ There is a possibility that illegitimacy went under-recorded due to social pressure as these individuals would have been a drain on parochial resources.
Illegitimacy rates appear to have been recorded fairly consistently in the parish registers, first occurring in 1592. During the seventeenth century and first half of the eighteenth century there are five noticeable gaps, each of about a dozen years, where there was no mention, including the longest gap of forty-three years between 1861 and 1724. From 1752 they appear almost every year. From 1592 to the end of 1799 there are 261 entries relating to bastards, 228 baptisms and 33 burials. Only three of the burials were previously mentioned as a baptism suggesting a total of 258 bastards for the whole period. The remaining thirty burials suggest that the child was born, died, and buried within a short space of time. The total number of bastards against all baptisms that occurred for the whole period suggests a figure of 2.3%. Counting only those from 1752 to 1799 where they appear almost every year against all the baptisms for the same period produces a figure of 2.8%. Where the parents were recorded it was more often the mother’s name only recorded at the baptism. These accounted for 194 of the baptisms. Both parents were recorded for 28 baptisms, but only six where only the father’s name was mentioned. Bastard birth seasonality for the whole period revealed a peak for the month of May, with a slightly higher ratio during the preceding five months of the year. Illegitimacy rates from a sample of ninety-eight parishes nationwide show that between 1680 and 1699 the percentage of bastards of all baptisms ranged from 1.5% to 1.8%. During the eighteenth century the figure steadily rose to reach 5.1% during the last decade.[xliv]
Some appeared to be persistent offenders. Fifteen females, all spinsters, appeared to have given birth to more than one illegitimate child. Two females had four each, one had three, and the remaining twelve two each. Ten of the fifteen mothers with more than one illegitimate child had themselves been baptised within the parish. From this it was possible to determine the ages at which these females gave birth. Only one of the ten, Margaret Heath, was a young girl aged fourteen when she gave birth to her daughter Elizabeth and seventeen at the birth of her son Thomas, in 1777 and 1780 respectively. The remaining nine mothers were all in their twenties and thirties.[xlv] The birth intervals ranged from eleven months to nine years. Mary Shaw gave birth to her daughter Hannah in May 1767, and another daughter Eve eleven months later in April the following year. Her third illegitimate child, William, followed two years later in March 1770. Mary Rainbow had two children relatively close together in her late twenties, followed by a gap of nine years before having a further two during her late thirties. Her first, William, was born in 1770 when Mary was aged twenty-seven, and her second, also baptised William, in 1772 when aged twenty-nine. It is likely that her first son died, although no trace of his burial is recorded in the parish register. Nine years later, aged thirty-eight, she gave birth to William, and the following year, aged thirty-nine, her fourth child Alice. None of the four entries record the father’s name, and all are marked as either ‘bastard’ or ‘illegit’.
Pre-Nuptial pregnancy, as well as conceptual seasonality, rely on two justifiable assumptions – i) that all successful pregnancies last nine months, and ii) that the gap between birth and baptism was no more than one month. During the sixteenth and seventh centuries this interval was typically one to two days, rising to a maximum of a month by the end of the eighteenth century. An examination of the registers between 1656 and 1666 reveal that all (successful) conceptions were in excess of nine months from the date of marriage to the baptismal date of the first child. One couple had a child exactly nine months from the date of their marriage. There were only three clear cases of pre-nuptial pregnancies during this ten-year period, being one example each of eight months, six months and four months. An entry for July 4th, 1592 recorded the baptism of ‘John, bast., of Richard Simpson and Jane Shaw.’ The child died and was buried three days later. The couple eventually married on November 13th the following year. This, despite the death of the child (who remained illegitimate), could be taken as a case of pre-nuptial pregnancy and suggests that some couples may have been living together as man and wife without being married.
Those baptisms within nine months of marriage may have been a continuation of the old custom of bedding, frowned upon by the Church, whereby a husband would ensure that he was not marrying an infertile wife. The engagement, or betrothal, was often the turning point of a relationship, rather than the marriage ceremony itself. Until the introduction of Hardwicke’s Marriage Act in 1753 all that was legally required for a marriage to take place in addition to the couple was the presence of a witness. Before the Act what constituted a marriage was a grey area as marriage was never legally defined. The betrothal often took place in the church porch attended by friends and relatives and it may have been at this point that people considered themselves bonded to each other.
By comparison the occurrences of pre-nuptial pregnancies in Burslem were extremely low. A sample of twelve parishes nationwide revealed that during the second half of the seventeenth century 16% of all baptisms occurred within nine months of marriage. During the first half of the eighteenth century the figure rose to 21%, and again to 29% by the end of the century.[xlvi]
In the neighbouring parish of Norton there were no cases of pre-nuptial pregnancy or repeated offenders in illegitimacy.[xlvii] There was a high rate of illegitimacy in Newcastle[xlviii], possibly reflected as a market town and being on a major route, thereby host to a larger number of travellers and people from outside the town on a temporary basis.
Marriage has always been economically determined and during the sixteenth and seventh centuries between 15% and 20% of women remained spinsters. People lived in small nucleated families. Couples did not marry and live with either set of parents, preferring to wait until they could afford to set up their own homes. For many this meant saving but any economic misfortune, such as investment in cattle which later succumbed to disease would mean the not only the loss of their savings but also their chance to marry.
From at least the medieval period the church discouraged, although did not outlaw, marriage during three periods of the year. These were during Lent (around March), Rogationtide (forty days after Easter) and Advent (December 1st – 24th). These were still adhered to during the sixteenth century, although by the seventeenth century this only applied to Lent, while Advent became a popular time to marry. By the nineteenth century none of the three traditionally prohibitive periods appeared to have any effect. The rise in marriage rates in Burslem from 1647 to 1652 is also reflected in the neighbouring parish of Norton. This coincides with the end of the Civil War and probably reflects that some couples preferred to wait until the war had ended.
As with the exercise on birth seasonality two samples from the registers, again the consecutive years from 1646 to 1666 and from 1779 to 1799, were used to determine marriage seasonality. The seventeenth century sample showed a considerably higher number of marriages for January which is likely to have been reflective of the church’s discouragement of marriage during Advent, especially as December was the lowest figure. The low figures for March and April may again be due to the church’s observance of Lent and Rogationtide. Once these two prohibitive periods had passed May became the second most popular month to marry, then decreasing (with the exception of August), until October and November. Once the harvest was gathered in and foodstocks were higher (and prices lower) there was more opportunities for marriage until once again reaching Advent.[xlix]
Compared to the seventeenth century sample the period of Advent became the most popular month for marriage during the eighteenth. The lowest number of marriages occurred in March suggesting that the period of Lent was still observed, and to a lesser degree, Rogationtide. With the exception of May and August it now appears that a higher number of marriages occurred during the winter season from November to February, suggesting that, with the exception of a peak in August, that marriages were still affected by the agricultural year.
The national picture of marriage seasonality during the second half of the eighteenth century was for a high number between April and June with a peak in May, drastically decreasing throughout the summer months before rising again to figures similar to that of the April – June period in October and November. Both March and December were the months where the least marriages occurred.[l] These peaks were linked to the seasonal demand for agricultural labourers and hiring fairs which usually took place on May 1st, September 29th and November 11th.
A study of marriage seasonality in seventeen Shropshire parishes between 1761 and 1810 revealed that May was by far the most popular month, being almost double that of the next three most popular months of June, December and February. The May peak could be attributed to the large number of fairs held in the county during this month which offered public holidays. The lowest months were March, August and July.[li]
In 1753 Hardwicke’s Marriage Act was introduced to enforce more rigorous standards within the marriage register to help prevent clandestine marriages. This attempted to make marriage a more public act, and the rules still in existence of only being able to marry between the hours of daylight arise from this. With the introduction of the Act marriage partners began to record their birthplace. An analysis of the birthplaces of marriage partners between 1754 and 1799 reveal that the majority of both grooms and brides had been born (or at least baptised) in Burslem. Of the total number of grooms 76% had been born within the parish, while 21% had immigrated from other pottery towns and other parts of Staffordshire. Grooms from Cheshire accounted for 1%, the few remaining emigrating from other parts of England, the furthest being from Whitehaven in Cumberland. Of the total number of Brides 86% had been born in Burslem. Of the remaining 14% those from the neighbouring pottery towns and other parts of Staffordshire accounted for 10%. Like grooms, the only other county that showed a pattern of immigration from was the 1% from Cheshire. The furthest bride was from Chapel Frith in Derbyshire.
Instances of remarriage appeared to be common. Almost a third (32%) of marriage partners appeared to be marrying for a second time. 8% of brides and 3% of grooms had previously been married, and 6% of weddings had partners that had both been married before. This high incidence of remarriage was largely due to marriages not normally lasting beyond thirty years due to the death of the spouse.
The age of marriage is a significant factor in population size. Where the age of marriage decreases it produces the opportunity for more child-bearing years.[lii] The age usually lowers due to local circumstances such as security of employment or availability of dwellings. Even a slight change in the age of marriage has a substantial effect upon population size. If the age of marriage is 27.4 the population will double every 200 years. However if the age of marriage were to drop to 24.1 the population would double every forty years. Unfortunately the registers do not record the ages of marriage partners. In pre-industrial England the average age of marriage was between twenty-six and twenty-eight. The only exception was for a large number of remarriages. A younger man may have married an older woman who had either land or offered financial security. An older widowed male might have married a younger woman to look after any young children. Therefore, it was not uncommon for some people to have more than one family. Some widows would have been reluctant to marry again. Those that had been made financially secure by their husbands would for the first time have independence and status which they may have been reluctant to relinquish.
The introduction of Hardwicke’s Marriage Act began to record the occupation of the groom. For the 316[liii] that gave their occupation from 1754 to 1799 a total of 48% simply stated ‘potter.’ A further five listed a specific pottery trade – modeller, painter, enameller, engraver, pot-seller, cratemaker and carrier/carter, all of which, with the exception of the pot-sellers, cratemakers and carriers/carters appeared during the last decade. 7% were engaged in mining. Those with occupations as craftsmen (blacksmiths, joiners, wheelwrights, brickmakers, stonemasons, cordwainers, etc) and retailers (maltsters, butchers, bakers, grocers, tailors, shoemakers, victuallers, etc) accounted for 11% each. Only 3% were engaged in farming, or 5% if those listed as husbandmen are taken into account, although the latter was a status term rather than an occupation. Occupations from the marriage register can only give a hint at the structure of employment within the parish. Hatmaker John Lowe of Newcastle who married Mary Birks of Burslem on July 22nd 1787 may well have been resident and had his business at Newcastle, to where the couple would have returned.
Discounting occupational information from the marriage register before the introduction of Hardwicke’s Marriage Act in 1753 status and occupations within the parish register were exceedingly rare. The first occurrence of an occupation was the baptism of ‘the butcher’s child’ in 1609. The three appearances of ‘Dr’ Thomas Wedgwood during the first two decades of the eighteenth century were always preceded by his title, the only other occupation (also medical) being the burial of the midwife in 1720. The only other occupations recorded were the four different excise officers in Burslem between 1715 and 1759.
A number of occupations were also recorded in the burial register becoming more frequent towards the end of the eighteenth century and which reflect those occupations from the marriage register although on a much smaller scale. This however may give a more accurate representation of employment as the burials were of those who lived, and therefore probably worked, within the parish, the majority in the town itself. However, the clerks who kept the burial register were more interested in whether the deceased’s funeral would be a drain upon parish resources. Of the 292 occupations listed between 1779 and 1799, 197 were listed as paupers, 64 of which were recorded as infants. These 292 burials recorded with an occupation represent less than 1% of the total number of 3501 burials during the twenty-one year period.
Those recorded with an occupation were all male with the exception of the two females listed. Fifteen simply stated ‘potter’, with a further five in the same industry, being six painters, a modeller and an enameller. Nine were recorded as colliers. Twenty-three were classed as craftsmen, the highest number being the seven joiners and carpenters, followed by three cratemakers and three blacksmiths, two each for coopers, saddlers and weavers, and single occurrences of a brickmaker, bricklayer, chairmaker and a cordwainer. Eighteen could be regarded as being involved with the retail trade. This group consisted of three butchers and three bakers, two tailors, two shoemakers, a grocer, a pigman and six victuallers, one of whom was a female. The only other female was one of the five regarded as having a clerical occupation. These included a schoolmistress and schoolmaster, a minister and two doctors. As well as the two doctors were four barbers. In addition to cutting hair these would probably also have served as surgeons. Three soldiers were also listed as well as a person described as a ‘badger.’ Nine were listed by status rather than by occupation. These included two gentlemen and two yeomen, three strangers, a traveller, and an ‘old man.’
Although the clerks were not concerned with occupations they also recorded those that may have been a drain on parochial resources. In 1599 and 1601 the register records the burials of two ‘medicus’ or beggars. Between 1625 and 1762 there occur fourteen references (6 baptisms and 8 burials) to travellers and strangers. Most of these simply refer to the baptism or burial of ‘a traveller’s child.’ Only one entry in 1722 gives information of where the travellers originated from with the baptism of ‘Martha daughter of John and Alice Walker, travellers of ye Township of Echom, near Lyn, in Norfolke.’ That same year saw the baptism of ‘Hugh, son of Moses and Ruth Williams, travellers.’ Two years later in 1724 it appears the couple were still present in the parish when, still classed as travellers, their daughter Elizabeth was baptised.[liv]
The figure for life expectancy in pre-industrial England, suggested to be forty-two, is exceedingly misleading for it does not take into account infant and childhood deaths which considerably influence the figure. Upon reaching adulthood life expectancy was not dissimilar to that of the late twentieth century.
The two main factors responsible for a decrease in population were disease and dearth. Poor harvests, resulting in rising food prices, had drastic consequences for those living at subsistence level. Famine was prevalent in England during the 1590s and in 1603 when successive poor harvests brought on malnutrition contributed to incidences of disease. Fluctuating temperatures increased the risk of mortality as extreme cold increased the risk of respiratory diseases, especially where fuel was scarce or expensive. High temperatures also brought the threat of airborne and waterborne diseases.
Where high death rates occur and rise in excess of the annual baptismal rate have come to be known as ‘mortality crisis’ years. The first of these was 1591, generally acknowledged to be a decade of famine throughout England. Of the 222 years from 1578 to 1799 there were thirty-nine mortality crisis years. Twenty-eight of these ranged from excesses of between one to nine, and with the exception of four, all of these occurred during the seventeenth century. Eleven of these thirty-nine years contained an excess of ten or more burials, the highest loss being forty-two in 1757[lv]. The three consecutive years of 1729 to 1731 suggests that some prolonged misfortune had visited the parish. The ‘Plague’ of Burslem that occurred in 1647, and whose victims were not recorded in the registers as previously mentioned, had no overall effect on population. According to the parish registers the 1640s was the fasting growing decade of the seventeenth century, rising from less than 400 to over 900 by 1650, and with no temporary decrease towards its end. The national picture of mortality crisis years being followed by a sudden upsurge in marriages and baptisms appears not to have occurred in Burslem.
As with the exercises on birth and marriage seasonality the same two samples, 1646 to 1666, and 1779 to 1799, were used to determine burial seasonality. During the seventeenth century burials increased during the coldest months of February and March, suggesting respiratory diseases. The third highest figure for May is suggestive of airborne virus brought by the warmer climate. Otherwise, burials appear to have been evenly distributed throughout the year. During the eighteenth century there occurred a higher number of burials between the colder months of December and April.[lvi]
Infant mortality appears to have been considerably high in Burslem. Between the years 1779 and 1799 infant mortality ranged from 17% to as much as 58% of the total of all burials within the parish, the figure usually falling between 30% and 40%. The total entries of those recorded as either infant or child in the parish registers account for between 38% to as high as 71%. Poor sanitation, no doubt leading to cholera and dysentery, would have accounted for many of the deaths. The register on May 30th 1749 hints at some family tragedy: ‘Burials. Mar; Ann; Martha, d. d. d. of Roger and Dorothy Heath, Mary aged about 6 years, Ann aged 3 years, and Martha aged 9 mo.’
An example of a childbirth death is found in 1610 where the entry for February 28th records the burial of an unbaptised infant of John Williamson, followed on March 5th with the burial of his wife Margaret. Less than a dozen unbaptised infants were found in the whole of the registers.
The burial register towards the end of the eighteenth century began to list either the birthplace or place of residence of the deceased. During the last two decades of the eighteenth century Burslem accounted for 17% of all those listed in the burial register. Various specific locations were recorded and have been grouped together under this entry. These included Bourne’s Bank, Dale Hall, Hamil, Smallthorne, Abbey Hulton and many others which were listed less than five times each. Cobridge also accounted for 17%, Sneyd Green 16%, Hot Lane 13% and Longport 10%. Greenhead, Brownhills, and Grange combined account for 7%. The 3% listed as being from the poorhouse show that the clerks were concerned with resources. A number of deceased were originally from outside the parish. Etruria formed the largest group (7%), unsurprising as many of the residents had migrated from Burslem when Josiah Wedgwood relocated his business, along with a minority from neighbouring pottery towns and North Staffordshire villages.
From 1782 the burial register infrequently noted the cause of death. For the eighteen years until the end of the century there appeared twenty-three individuals, nineteen male and four female, with an indication as to how they died. Drownings accounted for seven deaths and four occurred in the coal pits. Other accidental deaths included two people ‘killed in a delph’, a person who burned to death, another simply listed as ‘killed.’ James Lowe was ‘killed in fighting’ and buried on June 27th 1785. From the date he may have been a victim of a tragedy at the rowdy wakes. Those who took their own lives included the three individuals recorded as ‘hanged himself’, another that ‘strangled herself’, and another ‘cut her own throat.’ Two were the victims of murder, one of whom, John Wood of Brownhills, was ‘wilfully murdered by _____ Oliver’, and buried on February 2nd 1798.
[ii] Steel, Social Conditions in Burslem, p26-7.
[iii] Steel, Social Conditions in Burslem, p28.
[iv] Ward, History of Stoke Upon Trent, p223-5; Steel, Social Conditions in Burslem, p28.
[v] Ward, History of Stoke Upon Trent, p285; Griffiths, G, The Free Schools and Endowments of Staffordshire, p511.
[vi] Ward, History of Stoke Upon Trent, p240.
[viii] Greenslade, Burslem, p110.
[ix] Greenslade, Burslem, p132.
[x] Wedgwood, Josiah, ‘Dimensions of Workhouses, etc, now in my occupation in Burslem, January 1768.’ WMSS 28630-43.
[xi] Greenslade, Burslem, p117-8
[xii] Steel, Social Conditions in Burslem, p30.
[xiii] Greenslade, Burslem, p136.
[xiv] Greenslade, Burslem, p130.
[xv] Steel, Social Conditions in Burslem, p37.
[xvi] Greenslade, Burslem, p116.
[xvii] Greenslade, Burslem, p131.
[xviii] Ward, History of Stoke Upon Trent, p225; As already stated, the mid-sixteenth century the curate of Burslem, Thomas Asbury, occupied a room in the Churchyard House, known as the priest’s chamber. There seems to be some confusion concerning the dwelling refered to as the house bequeathed by Mrs Egerton. The property was built c1780 as a private residence & did not become the Crown and Mitre public house until 1830. However, Ward was writing during the late 1830s/early 1840s & therefore the property had become a pub at this time. Ward claims that the property, whether a private residence or a public house, was built prior to 1756, twenty-five years earlier than other sources suggest.
[xix] Greenslade, Burslem, p123.
[xx] Ward, History of Stoke Upon Trent, p152.
[xxi] Ward, History of Stoke Upon Trent, p154.
[xxii] Ward, History of Stoke Upon Trent, p50.
[xxiii] Ward, History of Stoke Upon Trent, p210.
[xxiv] Greenslade, Burslem, p132.
[xxv] Greenslade, Burslem, p118.
[xxvi] Greenslade, Burslem, p137.
[xxix] Greenslade, Burslem, p138.
[xxx] Greenslade, Burslem, p113.
[xxxi] Ward, History of Stoke Upon Trent, 280 & plate on 287.
[xxxii] Ward, History of Stoke Upon Trent, p280; Shaw, Staffordshire Potteries, p37.
[xxxv] Adams, Staffordshire Families, p35.
[xxxvi] Wedgwood, Henry, Romance of Staffordshire in Adams, Staffordshire Families, p35.
[xxxvii] Adams, Staffordshire Families, p35.
[xxxviii] Adams, Staffordshire Families, p33-6.
[xxxix] Cooper, Gary, Farmers & Potters, p55-56, quoting Henry Wedgwood in ‘Romance of Staffordshire.
[xl] Adams, Staffordshire Families, p33-6; Wedgwood, Henry, Romance of Staffordshire
[xli] Wrigley, E A & Schofield, R S, The Population History of England 1541-1871 : A Reconstruction. (London, 1981), Table A3.3, p531-4.
[xlii] A similar outcome was also found for the nearby parish of Caverswall. Monthly analysis for a one hundred year period between 1580 and 1680 showed that birth seasonality peaked during February and March with these two months accounting for 28% of all births.
[xliii] Dyer, A, Seasonality of Baptisms: An Urban Approach in ‘Local Population Studies’ no.27 (Autumn, 1981), p26-34.
[xliv] Wyatt, Grace, Bastardy &Pre-NuptialPregnancy in a Cheshire Town During the Eighteenth Century in ‘Local Population Studies’ no.49 (Autumn, 1992), p38-50.
[xlv] One of the nine, Mary Shaw, the mother of three illegitimate children, was impossible to determine her age with accuracy, as there were two females with the same name & it was impossible to differentiate between the two.
[xlvi] Wyatt, Grace, Bastardy &Pre-NuptialPregnancy in a Cheshire Town During the Eighteenth Century in ‘Local Population Studies’ no.49 (Autumn, 1992), p38-50.
[xlvii] Wood, Alma, The Parish Registers of Stoke on Trent.
[xlviii] Wood, Alma, The Parish Registers of Stoke on Trent.
[xlix] Similarly in nearby Caverswall May to July appeared as popular months for marriage before a fall in August and Spetember and increasing again between October to February with the exception of a charp decline during December.
[l] Wrigley, E A & Schofield, R S, The Population History of England 1541-1871 : A Reconstruction. (London, 1989), p229.
[li] Edwards, J W, Marriage Seasonality in Seventeen Shropshire Parishes 1761 – 1810 : An Assessment of Patterns in Seventeen Shropshire Parishes in ‘Local Population Studies’ no.19 (Autumn 1977), p25.
[lii] Example of female age of marriage at Shepshed in Leicestershire:
1700 – 1749 : Age = 27.4. (Result : population will double every 200 years).
1750 – 1624 : Age = 24.1. (Result : population will double every 40 years).
[liii] Of the total of 316 grooms between 1754 & 1799 139 failed to state occupation/status.
[liv] The register actually records Elizabeth being ‘the daughter of Matthew & Ruth Williams, travellers’. Due to the similarity of names & the fact that they were both travellers I have assumed this to be Moses & Ruth Williams, travellers who were also present two years earlier.
[lv] The mortality crisis years where burials show an excess of 10 or more were: 1591(14), 1622(14), 1716(10), 1728(11), 1729(23), 1730(14), 1731(11), 1757(42), 1763(35), 1767(35) & 1787(17).
[lvi] In the nearby parish of Caverswall between 1580 and 1680 the highest number of burials occurred during March and April, possibly due to a poorer diet or airborne diseases brought by the arrival of warmer weather, except for years of high mortality when burials appeared to be evenly distributed throughout the year.