William Bolt, Apprentice
This indenture records the binding by the Overseers of the Poor, in Binton, of ten-year-old William Bolt as an apprentice to one William Jerome Millward, a needle maker of Studley.
The indenture stipulates that Bolt:faithfully shall serve in all lawful Businesses, according to his Power, Wit, and Ability; and honestly, orderly, and obediently in all Things demean and behave himself towards his said Master and all his during the said Term.For his part, Millward was to teach:the said Apprentice in the art of needle making which he now useth…in the best Way and Manner that he can.Moreover, Millward:shall and will, during all the Term aforesaid, find provide, and allow unto the said Apprentice, meet, competent, and sufficient Meat, Drink, Apparel, Lodging, Washing, and other things, necessary and fit for an Apprentice.
The Pauper Apprenticeship System
The Elizabethan Poor Law Act of 1601 had given ‘Churchwardens and Overseers…by the assent of any Two Justices of the Peace… [the power] to bind any …children…to be Apprentices, where they shall see convenient’. Girls were to be bound as apprentices until the age of 21, boys till they were 24 (reduced to 21 in 1768). Designed as a means of preventing orphans, bastards, or those who belonged to large families from becoming a burden on the parish ratepayers, apprentices provided a ready supply of cheap labour as servants, shop assistants, and agricultural or factory workers. A large number of paupers were placed as apprentices, often many miles from their place of origin. Some were as young as four. Such children were often overworked and subjected to physical abuse by their masters.
The indenturing of poor children as apprentices was distinct from apprenticeship system established by the Statute of Atificers in 1563, which introduced apprenticeships as a condition of gaining the right to practice a craft.
Apprenticeship indentures and family history
After an apprentice had been settled for 40 days in a parish this became his place of legal settlement. Apprenticeship indentures are therefore especially valuable for family historians seeking to discover an ancestor’s place of origin, often a difficult task in the period before the 1851 Census.
This article was the December 2010 Document of the Month for Warwickshire County Record Office. Further articles can be found on their website.