Honouring Lichfield women struggling to earn a living in later-seventeenth century Lichfield.

In 1695 Gregory King, born in Lichfield, and one of England’s first statisticians, organised a census of the inhabitants of his native town. Women, men and children were listed by households, with street addresses and their ages given. As the basic street pattern of our city has not changed this is a rich resource for identifying and locating women-headed households. In 1695 2862 people lived in Lichfield in 623 households; of these, 138 or 22% (more than a fifth) were headed by women, ninety-five of these were widows. A few were prosperous, and described as gentry - Mary Rawlins who lived in Bird Street Mostly small and poor households is one example. From wills and taxation records we can find women who ran inns and taverns, and supervised businesses and industrial enterprise, but then, as now, woman-headed households were disproportionally represented amongst the poor. A third of 145 pauper households were headed by women. Of many examples I have chosen Mary Salt widow, aged 66 and her daughter Mary aged 32 who lived in St John Street within the bars, because I have discovered that Mary had been apprenticed as a bone lace worker in 1678, a ‘female’ trade where she could not earn enough to make a good living.

[From ‘Gregory King’s Census of Lichfield, 1695’, edited Anne Kettle, Collections for a History of Staffordshire 4th Series, 26 (2018); Staffordshire Name Indexes: Apprentices].

St John Street within the bars: 1695: Mary Salt widow and her daughter Mary, paupers lived in this street.