Saturday, 12 July 2014

Ledgers of the Stubbs business in Boroughbridge, 1790-1830

The Stubbs family business has already appeared in this blog in the account of the Five Guinea Note from the Boroughbridge Bank.

Ledgers of the Stubbs business for the years between 1790 and 1830 are held at the North Yorkshire County Record Office [NYCRO ZGB].  What follows are the notes I made for NYCRO in 2008, when the ledgers returned from conservation:-

These ledgers relate to the business established by Thomas Stubbs (1761-1838) at the house and premises known as the Bridge Foot, Boroughbridge. 

Thomas Stubbs was the grandfather of Bishop William Stubbs of Oxford, the eminent historian.   Stubbs “recommended the following up of local and personal history as leading to a connexion with the greater streams and lines of social and political history that is full of direct interest, which a man can have all to himself” [1].  He used his own family history as an example:
“... My grandfather’s house stood on the ground on which Earl Thomas of Lancaster was taken prisoner by Edward II, on the very site of the battle of Boroughbridge; he, too, was churchwarden of the chapel in which the earl was captured....” [2]
The Bridge Foot was a house the Bishop knew well.

Thomas Stubbs  was born in Ripley, the son of Thomas Stubbs (born in Hampsthwaite, 1735-1805) and Elizabeth Walls of Milby (1743-99) [3].  His father had chosen to leave Nidderdale, where the family had lived and farmed for many generations, to become a grocer in Ripley. 

In his turn, Thomas junior left Ripley for the thriving town of Boroughbridge, where he set himself up as a grocer, tea dealer and wine and spirit merchant living and working at the Bridge Foot. 

The town’s prosperity came from its position as an important staging post on the Great North Road and as a major inland port on the River Ure, which had been made navigable up to Ripon in 1770.  The mail coaches, introduced in 1789, stopped here and by the beginning of the 19th century there were at least 150 horses in constant requisition in Boroughbridge alone.  The Scottish drovers also came through the town and it is said that nearly two thousand head of cattle might pass through in a day.  The Bridge Foot was conveniently situated beside the road and the river, near The Crown Inn, which was run in the 19th century by Hugh Stott (1780-1851) and was said to be one of the most comfortable coaching inns in the whole length of the Great North Road, with its own well-chosen library for guests’ use.

On 1 September 1794, in the year in which the ledgers begin, Thomas married Jane Morley (1776-1833) at Aldborough.  She was the daughter of William Morley and Elizabeth Barroby of Dishforth.  They had five children: Thomas (1796-1867); Elizabeth (1798-1858); William Morley (1800-42); Jane (1802-15); and Richard (1809-29).  Elizabeth married the Boroughbridge solicitor William Hirst.  William Morley Stubbs, Bishop Stubbs’ father, became a solicitor in Knaresborough and married Mary Ann Henlock.  Thomas the younger eventually took over the family business at Bridge Foot on his father’s death.

Thomas also owned property in the Boroughbridge and Langthorpe area, and one of the ledgers  records payments to agricultural labourers and records of movement and purchase of livestock.  During the Napoleonic Wars, in partnership with Thomas Dew (uncle of the solicitor William Hirst), Humphrey Fletcher of Minskip and Hugh Stott of The Crown, he established the Boroughbridge Bank, which traded until 1833. 

The earliest date recorded in the ledgers held at NYCRO appears to be 1790 (cash withdrawals for May, June, September and December).  The last entry I could find was made in 1830.

Thomas supplied the needs of customers from all classes, from Lord Grantham at Newby Hall (who could afford 4 ounces of mace at 32 shillings a pound) to the Revd Leonard Sedgwick at Brafferton, who purchased in August 1817
½ lb of sugar at 5s 3d
½ lb of Soap at 5s 1d
½ lb Powder Blue [for laundry] at 1s 6d
½ lb Tea at 3s 6d
2 gallons of Rum for £1-15s
but Thomas could also cater for “John Walker, Boatman”. 

One ledger (the first entry in which is dated 1794, but which contains earlier transactions) relates to a variety of matters: the business, the farm, and sales of hams and hats.  He records his cash drawings and possibly also drawings in kind:
1791     Jan 5th          Velvet & Trimmings     11s 6d
Mar 30th   Cotton & Trimmings       6s
There are notes of agricultural activities:
Ewes went to Mr Smith Tup 26 Oct 1807
1820 Nov 8: 4 ewes from Thos Stubbs Junr
1822 May 9: Cow from Hampsthwaite 3 weeks from Calvn
He records the days worked by agricultural labourers (men and women) and the pay due for “Shearing”, “Haye” etc, from 1807 to 1830:
Paid Old Wales for Work
Paid Mary Wales for work
(also, Mary Pearson, Nan Simpson, Mary Robinson and Richard Simpson)
The expenses of building work are recorded:
1809 Bricks from Mathias Thompson for Barn [lists number of bricks]
Paid Anakins for Ale for Brick Layers
There is the occasional note of local interest:
1820  22nd Decr for hearing appeals at the Oak Tree at 10 O Clock for the Militia
(Thomas junior joined the volunteers at the age of 17, finally resigning from the regiment, then known as the Yorkshire Hussars, in 1833).

There are entries for the sale of bacon, hams and tongues over several years, and Raisin Wine [4], which was much in demand – for example, on 9 July  1793 his father-in-law William Morley of Dishforth bought 2 gallons of raisin wine for eight shillings.  There are the accounts for Jno Abraham & William Clegg of Oldham, Jones & Braddock of Macclesfield, and Beaufoy & Biddle of London.

Pages are taken up recording the sale of hats , including the amount of tax due; at this period hats were subject to stamp duty [5]. Most of the hats are for men and boys, but there are a few ladies’ hats (on 12 December 1791 Mr Roger Buttery of Helperby “paid for a Hatt for Mrs Sedgwick” at £1-0s-8d).

A second ledger records the sales of groceries in the period 1793-6, including such diverse items as: lump sugar, soap, hops, vinegar, treacle, salt, candles, black tea, green tea, blacking balls, brandy, rice, pitch, raisins, oil, paper, coffee, candied orange, mace ... ... Customers came from Boroughbridge, Ellingthorp, Knaresborough, Topcliffe, Norton, Dishforth, Helperby, Langthorpe, Minskip, Aldborough, Branton, Kirby Hill, Cundall, Myton, Broom Close, Melmerby, Brampton, Killinghall, Grafton and Ripley.  Boroughbridge, with its trade and its great fairs, attracted custom from all the neighbouring villages.

Another ledger, beginning in June 1815, includes the list of goods supplied to the customers, cross-referenced by number to the ledger recording the customers’ accounts.  These include sales of red wine, sherry, canary seed, writing paper, sealing wax, beeswax, needles, pins and pack thread.  Customers came from Dunsforth, Roecliffe, Asenby, Linton, Mulwith, Friblesike, Marton le Moor, York, Linton Lock, Aldwark, Baldersby, Burton Leonard, Norton le Clay, Green Hammerton and Staveley. 

The 1818-9 ledger of customers’ purchases makes interesting reading.  There were sales of whale oil, blacking, mustard and starch.  In May 1818, Martin Staplyton Esq. of Myton Hall purchased £22-5s-7d worth of household goods, from three types of sugar, currants, raisins, green and black tea, ginger, mace and allspice, to powder blue, sand and isinglass [a gelatin, used to make jellies, and also to store eggs].  In August, Lord Grantham’s household required £29-8s-1d worth of goods, including green tea, souchong tea, plantation coffee, chocolate and brown candy.  His gamekeeper called for 4 lb gunpowder at 4s a pound, 8 lb of flints at 5d a lb and a bag of shot for 8s.  Captain Barrie of Ripley Hall, in September 1818, had obviously acquired a taste for stronger flavoured food – his shopping list included curry powder and “Turkey Coffee”.  Beneath each list of items to be delivered is recorded the name of the person to collect or deliver the goods (“to Keeper”, “to Daughter”, “to Maid”, “for John”).  Raisin Wine was no longer popular, customers preferring to buy red wine, sherry, rum and gin.

Another ledger, the inside cover of which seems at some point to have been used by the children of the family (“T . Stubbs B + Bridge”), contains customers’ accounts from the 1820s.  A ledger covering 1817 was badly affected by damp and is very fragmentary.

After Thomas’s death, the business was carried on by his son Thomas (1796-1867), who married Mary Henlock of Ouseburn (1803-91). 

Unfortunately, Boroughbridge was badly affected by the arrival of the railways.  The coaching inns were no longer needed and trade moved elsewhere; by 1841 the last coach had run and the river traffic had virtually disappeared.  The Stubbs’ business declined with the town.  Thomas and Mary Stubbs apprenticed their son Thomas to a Liverpool vintner, but he died in London just as he began to make his way in the world.  Two of their daughters [6] married well (Jane to the solicitor Henry Hawkesley Capes, and Elizabeth to William Workman Dunhill of Doncaster), and the youngest son became a Middlesbrough solicitor.  Joseph remained in Boroughbridge and took over the business but by the 1880s it was clear that he would be, in his younger sister’s words, “the poor one of the family”.  He gave up the business in July 1893 [7] and died in 1906.


[1]  Quotation from Bishop Stubbs: In a lecture at Crewe in 1886 [Letters of William Stubbs Bishop of Oxford 1825-1901 ed by William Holden Hutton 1904]

[2]  Quotation from Bishop Stubbs: At a lecture in Reading in 1889 [do.]

[3]  Thomas Stubbs & his family: cf The Genealogical History of the family of the late Bishop William Stubbs, pub. Yorkshire Archaeological Society 1915

[4]  Raisin Wine: For those who did not choose to make their own, a lengthy process:
From A New System of Domestic Cookery; formed upon Principles of Economy: and adapted to the Use of Private Families by A Lady, 1810:
Excellent Raisin Wine. To every gallon of spring-water, put 8 lbs of fresh Smyrnas in a large tub; stir it thoroughly every day for a month; then press the raisins in a horse-hair bag as dry as possible; put the liquor into a cask; and when it has done hissing, pour in a bottle of the best brandy; stop it close for 12 months; then rack it off, but without the dregs; filtre them through a bag of flannel of three or four folds; add the clear to the quantity, and pour one or two quarts of brandy, according to the size of the vessel.  Stop it up, and at the end of three years, you may either bottle it, or drink it from the cask.  Raisin wine would be extremely good, if made rich of the fruit, and kept long, which improves the flavour greatly.
[5]  Stamp duty on hats: From the website of HM Revenue & Customs
Excise (Stamp) duty on hats - 1784-1811
Having a hat was an expensive business even as far back as 1250 (in the time of the Plantagenets), when duty was charged in order to protect wool manufacturers, and later to safeguard the beaver fur industry that was developing in the North American plantations by 1670.
It was Prime Minister William Pitt who added an Excise duty to hats in 1783. Hats were already liable to a Customs duty, so the new licence duty was imposed on the retailer of £2 a year in London and 5s 0d in the country. Duty was collected by means of a stamped ticket fixed to the lining of the hat. The retailer was required to specify separately, in his bill to the purchaser, the cost of the hat and the charge for duty.
The laws gave rise to many debates about what forms of headgear were within or without the dutiable definitions. And in 1804 the statutory definitions were recast to include every description of hat by whatever name it was known, and almost every material from which it could be made. It wasn't until 1811 that the tax was repealed - a happy day for hat-wearers everywhere.
[6]  Thomas Stubbs' daughters: It may be noted that the Genealogical History, p71, incorrectly states that Alice Stubbs died in 1891.  She was at that time seriously, and her mother fatally, ill, but Alice survived until 23 July 1921, living in St James’s Square, Boroughbridge.  This error seems to have escaped family proof-reading. 

[7]  The date when Joseph Stubbs gave up the business is given by George Whitehead in his Journals [ed Helier Hibbs]


  1. Thanks so much for this. We live just outside Boroughbridge and I've just started researching the history of some local businesses.

  2. Lots more Boroughbridge stuff coming!