Published June 3, 2022 | Version v1
Dataset Open

Small Bills and Petty Finance

  • 1. Keele University
  • 2. Sussex University
  • 3. Independent Scholar


This dataset makes accessible the overseers’ vouchers transcribed by the project Small Bills and Petty Finance: co-creating the history of the Old Poor Law which was funded by the British Arts and Humanities Research Council 2018-2021.  Vouchers are drawn from parishes in three English counties, namely Cumbria, East Sussex, and Staffordshire.  Modern Cumbria includes parishes formerly allocated to Westmorland, and East Sussex is exclusively represented by East Hoathly, located in the historic county of Sussex.  Additional vouchers beyond this database exist in each county; and in East Sussex the sheer volume of surviving vouchers has necessitated transcribing a single parish - East Hoathly - rather than a wider selection of parishes as in Cumbria and Staffordshire.  The data includes a variety of details about goods and services paid for from poor-rate income 1700-1840 such as date, commodity type and cost, payer, and payee.  Additional features can comprise commodity quantities and quality, the names of pauper beneficiaries, and signatures of traders or their deputies.  Where possible, the archival data has been augmented such as by the addition of occupational categories and geolocations.  Additional information about some of the people and themes occurring in this data, and alternative online access to the dataset, can be found at Each of the 41549 entries has up to sixty columns of data, all of which are described in the additional notes.  The original vouchers were generated by a large cohort of traders, professionals, and local-government officers, each with different levels of literacy and accounting competency.  Spellings have not been standardised.  The dataset was created by project staff and a team of archival volunteers between May 2018 and March 2021.  The results are neither consistent nor error-free but do aim to give a clear and comprehensive account of voucher contents line by line. 


The original overseers 'vouchers' which provided the raw material for this database comprise the manuscript bills, receipts and invoices detailing the goods and services supplied to parish paupers under the Old Poor Law. Vouchers range in length from a single line of information to over two hundred lines long and may relate to a single date or cover a period of over a year. Vouchers are distinguished from overseers' accounts by their generally relating to one category of benefit, traceable to one payee (an individual person or multiple people serving one business). Accounts, in contrast, generally feature a variety of benefits and multiple payees. The data covers anonymised information about project volunteers, the content of vouchers, and coded elements of vouchers where possible. Geolocations at street level have been ascribed using decimal co-ordinates on Google Maps, and the location of the parish church has represented the default location where only the parish was known. A variety of trade and street directories were used to assist this process, particularly in Staffordshire and Cumberland. The classification of goods and services is project-specific based on data collected in the pilot project; a taxonomy was created with twelve major and seventy minor fields, described below. id = unique identifier for each entry (numeric) Timestamp = the date (day /month/ year) and time when each line of data was entered timeInMillis = additional time stamp to aid process of archiving emailAddress = anonymised identification number for each contributor (originally email address) repository = the name of the county relevant to this entry, comprising cumbria, eastsussex, or staffordshire as the only options bundleRef = the archival reference for the accession of which this voucher forms a part, typically held in bundles itemNumber = the archival reference for the individual voucher (where sub-numbering a, b, c etc., is given to multiple separate pages of the same bill or separate pieces of a torn bill) entryNumber = the line number where this data is featured in the voucher (and if the voucher consists of more than one page, back and front, then the entry numbers should be continuous on subsequent pages) catRef = a unique identifier for each line of data, for use when referring to entries in publications and other media (can be mapped to CALM) formerlyAttachedTo = Item reference of the document it was formerly attached to – usually pinned (Maps onto CALM catalogue entry) itemTranscriptionTxt = the first line of the voucher (or header) plus the concluding line (or footer), to be repeated for all discrete lines in the same voucher. The transcription is as close to the original as possible, meaning that abbreviations or contractions are not expanded. Uncertain or partially obliterated words and letters, or apothecary marks [ap. mark] might appear in square brackets, as do abbreviated descriptions for non-voucher items. transcriptionTxt = the unique data represented by one line of the voucher totalFlag = marked FALSE/TRUE [TRUE = the sum represents a total for the voucher] subtotalFlag = marked FALSE/TRUE [TRUE = the sum represents a sub-total in the voucher] incomeFlag = marked FALSE/TRUE [TRUE = the sum represents parochial income] printedHeading = marked FALSE/TRUE [TRUE = the voucher features a printed bill head] containsImage = marked FALSE/TRUE [TRUE = the voucher's printed bill head also contains an image rather than solely text] transcriptionRequest = TRUE/FALSE [TRUE = the contributor requires assistance with the transcription. This triggered an email notification to the project staff] transcriptonRequestNote = text of transcription assistance required identified in 'transcriptionRequest' conservationRequest = TRUE/FALSE [TRUE = The contributor notes that the document is fragile or otherwise damaged and may require assessment by the repository conservator. This triggered an email to the project staff.] conservationRequestNote = description of item's physical condition noted in 'ConservationRequest' temType = categorises the document from dropdown menu as one of five types of manuscript: overseers' voucher, churchwardens' voucher, settlement and removal papers, printed handbill, or other – not specified. Items categorised as 'other – not specified' should be briefly described in the 'itemTranscriptionTxt' in square brackets. commoditiesTxt = the commodity being supplied as given in the voucher transcribed as is, where ditto or do should be followed by description of item in square brackets. commoditiesMajorFieldMenu = broad categorisation of commodities and services identified in the bills (twelve fixed categories): relief, conveyance & care of paupers, food & drink, fuel, clothing shoes & textiles, medical services and medicines, goods not identified elsewhere, official fees taxes and insurance, labour or service, building materials, multiple, or other – not specified. commoditiesSubFieldMenu = Sub-categorisation of the major category of goods and services (examples are given in brackets after category – this is not exhaustive): • Building materials o Bricks o Ironmongery (hinges, nails, locks, knobs, hooks, wire NB There is a general ironmongery category in 'Goods' for household goods) o Other or not specified o Wood (planking, deal, larch poles) • Clothing, shoes and textiles o Children's clothing (including babies) o Footwear (boots, half-boots, clogs, shoes, mending shoes, pattens) o Haberdashery (bindings, buttons, fastenings, ribbons, tape, thread, trimmings, yarn, pins) o Men's clothing (shirt, trousers, breeches, waistcoat, hat, socks, stockings) o Other or not specified o Shrouds o Textiles (sheeting, linen, wool, linsey, worsted, canvas, moleskin) o Women's Clothing (shift, stays, skirt, apron, shawl, stockings) • Conveyance and care of paupers o Other not specified o Removal accommodation and subsistence (lodgings for poor on return journey) o Removal transport (horse and cart, tolls) • Food and drink o Beverages(Coffee, tea, beer, ale, gin) o Bread o Condiments, flavouring and preservatives (salt, pepper, vinegar, ginger, parsley, hops, mustard, sugar, yeast, balm, treacle, nutmeg, saffron, saltpetre) o Dairy (milk, butter, cheese) o Fish (herring) o Fruit (oranges, lemons, pears, dried fruits- currants, raisins) o Grains and Flour (barley flour, pease flour, pease meal, barley, bran, oatmeal & malt) o Meat (beef, pork, mutton, suet) o Other or not specified o Pulses (peas and beans) o Rice o Vegetables (radish, lettuce, cress, mustard greens, carrots, turnips, cabbage, onions and potatoes) • Fuel o Coal (slack) o Other or not specified o Wood (logs, kindling, faggots) • Goods (not identified elsewhere) o Candles o Coffin o Furniture o Garden requisites (plants, seeds, bass mats, garden lime, dung) o Hygiene and laundry (soap, starch, blueing, whitening, wood ash, lead blacking, besoms, mops, combs, wash tub, pails) o Ironmongery (sieve, saw, plug, frying pan, scissors NB goods like nails and hinges have their own category in 'Building Materials') o Other or not specified o Religious requisites – new Jun 2019 (communion bread, communion wine) o Tobacco o • Labour or service o Agricultural labour or service (killing a pig, ploughing, raking, mowing the grass, sow to boar, digging a well) o Burial related labour (carrying the corpse, grave digging) o General labouring o Hygiene related service (shaving, laundry, washing the dead, chimney sweep) o Other or not specified (ringing the committee bell) o Repairs, fixing or mending (glazing, fixing a wheel, sharpening tools) o Salaried work o Teaching (tuition) o Textile related labour (spinning, weaving, making clothes or tailoring) • Medical services and medicines o Childbirth (midwifery fees o Lunatics (examinations and boarding-out fees including Bedlam) o Medicines (proprietary and other medicines, wine while sick, brandy) o Nursing care – new Jun 2019 (care out-side of treatment, washing, feeding, dressing) o Other or not specified (certificate for man unable to work, certifying death) o Treatment (examination, surgery, bone-setting) • Multiple (where the account, bill or receipt does not differentiate the cost individual items specified but does mention by name) • Official fees, taxes and insurance o Advertising (paper, ink, legal notices and forms) o Apprentices (binding, drawing up agreement) o Burial fees o Fees for legal services (magistrate's bill, drawing up and issuing legal documents, warrants, issuing legal notices) o Grand Jury/Jury presentments (fees and expenses) o High Constables (expenses, oath taking) o Insurance (premium) o Militia (preparation of returns) o Other or not specified o salaries o Settlement and removal (fees) o Tax (County rate, brick tax, tithes) o Inquests (attendance, serving summons) o Lunatics (returns, fees, warrant to return lunatic) • Other or not specified • Relief o Board and Lodgings (including sums for keeping paupers or maintenance payments for illegitimate children) o Other or not specified o Parish pension (regular weekly sums to settled poor) o Pawn (retrieving goods from pawnbroker – usually clothing) o Payment to casual poor (occasional payments to non-resident poor) o Rent entryDate = indicates day of the month in the range 1 to 31 entryMonth = indicates month of the year in the range 1 to 12 entryYear = indicates year comprising four digits beginning either 17 or 18 entryPounds = indicates number of pounds as an integer entryShillings = indicates number of shillings as an integer entryPence = indicates number of pence as a whole or fractional number totalPence = total of pounds, shillings and pence expressed in pence multiplePaidTo = marked TRUE/FALSE [TRUE = multiple payees] paidToForename = forename of payee where known paidToSurname = surname of payee where known paidToGender = gender of payee where this can be deduced from their forename paidToOccupationTxt = occupation of payee as given in the voucher paidToMajorFieldMenu = categorisation of the occupation of payees under one of twelve economic sectors identified by the Booth-Armstrong classification namely agriculture/fishing, mining, building, manufacturing, transport, dealing, industrial service, domestic service, public service/professional, rentier, multiple, and other – not specified. paidToSubFieldMenu = finer categorisation of the type of occupation being followed by payees identified by the Booth-Armstrong classification namely (under agriculture/fishing) farming/land service, breeding, and fishing; (under building) management, operative, and road making; , (under manufacturing) machinery, tools, ship-building, iron and steel, copper tin and lead, gold silver and jewels, earthenware, coal and gas, chemical, fur and leather, glue and tallow, hair, wood workers, furniture, coaches, paper, floorcloth, woollens, cottons and silk, flax and hemp, lace, dying, dress, dress sundries, food preparation, baking, drink preparation, smoking, watches and instruments, printing, and unspecified; (under transport) warehouses, maritime navigation, inland navigation, railways, and roads; (under dealing) coal, raw materials, clothing materials, dress, food, tobacco, wines spirits and hotels, coffee, furniture, stationery, household utensils, general dealers, and unspecified dealers; (under industrial service) accountants and clerks, and labourers; (under domestic service) indoor service, outdoor service, and other services; (under public service/professional) central administration, local administration, army, navy, police and prison service, law, medicine, graphic arts, performing arts, literature, science, education, and religion; (under rentier) miscellaneous status, gentry, esquires, knights and baronets, and aristocracy. The major categories of mining, multiple, and other – not specified were not further delineated. paidToOccupationCode = codification of payee's occupational type according to the Booth-Armstrong classification paidToLocationTxt = location of payee as given verbatim in the voucher paidToLocationCoord = geolocation [decimal] of payee as given in the voucher multiplePaidBy = marked TRUE/FALSE [TRUE = indication of multiple payers] paidByForname = forename of payer where known paidBySurname = surname of payer where known paidByGender = gender of payer where this can be deduced from their forename paidByOccupationTxt = occupation of payer as given in the voucher paidByMajorFieldMenu = Booth-Armstrong classification [as above] paidBySubFieldMenu = Booth-Armstrong classification [as above] paidByOccupationCode = codification of payer's occupational type according to the Booth-Armstrong classification paidByLocationTxt = location of payer as given in the voucher; where not given, this was presumed to be within the parish retaining the document paidByLocationCoord = geolocation [decimal] of payer as given in the voucher; where not given, this was presumed to be within the parish retaining the document multipleBeneficiaries = marked TRUE/FALSE [TRUE = indication of multiple beneficiaries of this line of expenditure] beneficiaryForname = forename of the beneficiary of the expenditure where known beneficiarySurname = surname of the beneficiary of the expenditure where known beneficiaryGender = gender of the beneficiary of the expenditure where this can be deduced from their forename beneficiaryOccupationTxt = occupation of the beneficiary of the expenditure as given in the voucher beneficiaryStatus = status of the beneficiary of the expenditure under one of eight types namely widow/widower, pensioner, pauper, child, workhouse inmate, vagrant, multiple, and other – not specified. beneficiaryLocationTxt = location of the beneficiary of the expenditure as given in the voucher; where not given, this was presumed to be within the parish retaining the document beneficiaryLocationCoord = geolocation [decimal] of the beneficiary of the expenditure as given in the voucher; where not given, this was presumed to within the parish retaining the document


Small Bill and Petty Finance final dataset.csv

Files (24.3 MB)

Name Size Download all
24.3 MB Preview Download

Additional details


Small bills and petty finance: co-creating the history of the Old Poor Law AH/R003246/1
UK Research and Innovation