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English, Joseph, 1798 or 1799–1871
Account book of Joseph English, undertaker.
London, 1829-1837.
Physical Description:
58 pages ; 20 cm
Rare Books and Manuscripts
HD9999.U52 E6 1829
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund
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Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Archives & Manuscripts
In the 1851 Census, Joseph English (aged 52) is listed as an undertaker active at 2 Fuller Street, in Bethnal Green, London. English's business was in one of the poorer areas of London, shown in Edwin Chadwick's infamous Map of Bethnal Green Parish, Shewing the Mortality from four classes of Disease in certain localities during the year ended 31st December 1838. In the census, English's household included his wife and five children, three of whom were scholars, one son a silk weaver, and another a gimp spinner. The National Probate Calendar records English's death on January 27, 1871, with effects under £450.
Mortality rate was high in Bethnal Green. Chadwick noted: “If we take such a district as Bethnal Green, inhabited by weavers and a badly conditioned population, the returns of the proportionate number of deaths to the population (1 in 41) would lead to the supposition of an average vitality of nearly double the real amount, which appears from this year's return to be only 22 years for the whole population. For the working classes in that district it is no more than 18 years. If we carry investigations closer, and into the local causes of the mortality, ... combined with the insufficient supplies of water, the defective drainage and neglect of cleansing which is described in the answers--attended by a reduction of 12 years duration of life to the adult artisans.”
Bound in contemporary vellum, with significant loss of the original vellum from front cover. Some leaves, probably blank, have been removed from the latter half of the volume.
Title devised by cataloger.
Account book (receipts and payments), kept by Joseph English, undertaker at Bethnal Green, London, 1829-1837. The accounts reflect dealings with poor tradesmen and laborers, most (on weekly wages) unable to pay with a single lump sum. The thirty or so arrangements made by English are spread over an eight-year period with a particular concentration from December 1831 to June 1832, coinciding with the arrival of the second cholera pandemic. Costs as tabulated by English include ladies' scarves and hoods, coffins and coffin decoration, gloves, and coffin bearers (in one instance "4 bearers and beer," 7s). Total funeral costs range from 18s to £4 3s 6d.
An account for “Mrs. Smith” is representative, for the funeral of her daughter who died December 25, 1831, aged 2 years and 6 months. Her expenses included a “3ft grey covered coffin finish neat with white nails with 3 pairs of handles and plate, ruffles, tack bed, fine shroud cap and pillow 0-18-0; 4 ladies scarves and hood -0-5-0; silk pall 0-1-6; 'bearrer' 0-1-6; attending the funeral 0-2-6; [total] £1 8s 6d.” From 1832 to 1835, Mrs Smith paid small amounts to English, leaving unpaid a sum of 12s 6d, which English presumably wrote off.
It appears that some of the entries in the volume are copied from accounts previously kept elsewhere. Such earlier accounts (and contracts) are among a dozen sheets loosely inserted.
Subject Terms:
Bethnal Green (London, England) -- Social conditions.
Coffins -- Great Britain.
Death care industry -- Great Britain.
English, Joseph, 1798 or 1799-1871.
Funeral rites and ceremonies -- Great Britain.
Funeral supplies industry -- Great Britain.
Mourning customs -- Great Britain.
Undertakers and undertaking -- Great Britain.
Account books.
IIIF Manifest:

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