Hexham Soup Kitchen

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  • #28900 Reply
    Phil Carstairs

    I asking to see if anyone has any information on the Hexham Soup Kitchen which operated from about 1830 to the early 20th century. I have seen the documents in the Northumberland Archives and used the newspapers in the British Newspaper Archives already. The Hexham Soup Kitchen was pretty important during the nineteenth century as it fed over 10% of the town’s population every winter.
    I have completed my PhD on nineteenth century soup kitchens and am in the process of turning it into a book. SO I am doing a bit of further research to tidy up my unanswered questions; I am particularly interested in the buildings.
    In the 1840s the soup kitchen was as Mr Hedley’s premises who I assume was a butcher on Market Place. It then moved briefly in 1847 to the Old School (the Old Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Bankhead) before using the Letters (which I assume was an Inn on Market Place) in 1848. It then moved to the back of Mr Pruddah’s pharmacy on 15 Fore Street/Back Street (renamed St Mary’s Chare) where it stayed until 1880. It then reopened Smith’s tobacco factory at 11 Market Street until about 1930.
    Mr Pruddah’s building is still there (now Scope) although much altered as is Smith’s tobacco factory. Does anyone have any information about Mr Hedley’s premises or The Letters, or any old photographs of these buildings? Ay other information that you may have collected on this would be much appreciated. Thanks

    #28941 Reply

    We know of three establishments known as The Letters, the most likely of which was mentioned as being somewhere in the Market Place/Gilesgate area in 1827 – sadly, the only mention we have of it. A Hannah Hedley was running a butcher’s shop at 21 Market Place in 1873 so the original Mr Hedley was presumably her forerunner. I’m afraid we have no relevant photos in our archive. Although 15 Fore St still exists as a shop (now Sea Salt), the rear of the shop was long ago replaced by a blank wall.

    We’d be very interested in seeing the section of your PhD relating to Hexham once completed. Somewhat embarrassingly, Hexham’s soup kitchen has, to date, escaped our notice! Are you able to be any more precise as to when it was established? We have added Mr Pruddah’s pharmacy to our Shops Index as we were unaware of him; do you have any other details of his occupancy?

    #28958 Reply
    Pete Lee

    Have you checked the Photo Archive on the HLHS website for relevant old photos (e.g. of the old grammar school)? https://www.hexhamhistorian.org//historic-hexham/photograph-archive/photo-archive-choices/hexham-choices/

    We have some notes about Hexham’s Soup Kitchen compiled by a past chairman of the Sociery (Colin Dallison). These notes will eventually apppear somewhere on the website, but for your information:

    There was much poverty in Hexham during the 19th century. Figures are hard to come
    by but a kind of quantitative measure is given by the amount of soup consumed from the
    Soup Kitchen, a charitable venture that came into operation in the very cold weather. The
    Heart of All England, Hexham L.H.S. 2005, p.84.
    1865. Hexham soup kitchen opened to provided(sic) sustenance for the poor, but
    subscriptions to the charity has been so disappointing it was only expected to remain open
    for a short duration. Hex. Cour. 6.2.2015 – 150 Years Ago.
    1871. Hexham soup kitchen open to paupers twice a week. Hex. Cour. Cent. Supp. 1964, p.8.
    1879. After seven weeks of almost continuous frost, the Hexham Soup Kitchen, which
    operated three days per week, was forced to stop giving away bread with broth, reserving it
    for only the most needy cases. Hex. Cour. 23.1.2004 – 125 Years Ago.
    Hexham soup kitchen distributed 22,507 quarts of soup and 16,836 loaves of bread. Hex.
    Cour. Cent. Supp. 1964, p.8.
    1882. A soup kitchen opened in Hexham to help feed families suffering during a severe
    snowstorm. Hex. Cour. 7.12.2007 – 125 Years Ago.
    A total of 1,250 quarts of soup were served by volunteers manning a soup kitchen in
    Hexham. Hex. Cour. 21.12.2007 – 125 Years Ago.
    1886. A soup kitchen was opened in Hexham, providing over 700 quarts of soup, on sale
    at a penny a quart. Hex. Cour. 14.1.2011 – 125 Years Ago.
    As the cold weather showed no sign of relenting, a soup kitchen remained open for a third
    week in Hexham, serving an average of 650 quarts a day. Hex. Cour. 11.2.2011 – 125 Years Ago. Almost 2,000 quarts of soup made in the Hexham soup kitchen were distributed in a week
    as freezing conditions continued. Hex. Cour. 25.2.2011 – 125 Years Ago.
    1887. The soup kitchen in Hexham’s Market Place opened for the first time in the winter,
    serving over 17 gallons of soup to the needy. Hex. Cour. 28.12.2012 – 125 Years Ago.
    1888. The twice weekly Hexham soup kitchen was facing closure because of lack of
    funds. Hex. Cour. 15.2.2013 – 125 Years Ago.
    The soup kitchen opened in Hexham Market Place for the first time in the winter. Hex. Cour.
    27.12.2013 – 125 Years Ago.
    1890. Soup kitchen for unemployed opened in Hexham. Hex. Cour. Cen. Supp. 1964, p.8.
    1891. On Saturday morning the Soup Kitchen in Market Street was opened and between
    600 and 700 quarts of nutritious soup was distributed. On Wednesday morning, the kitchen
    was again opened, the quantity being about 600 quarts. This was rather below the average
    in consequence of the free dinner given the same day by Mr & Mrs C. E. Straker of High
    Warden. The demand was, however, in excess of supply, a few applicants having to be
    sent empty away. The distribution was by ticket so the quantities received by each one
    might bear some proportion to the needs of their respective families. The tickets were
    distributed by Mr J. P. Gibson (who takes a very warm interest in this deserving charitable
    institution), while Mr Thos. Rowell (the hon. Treasurer) took the pence paid for the soup.
    The kitchen will be open again this morning. (HC 3 January 1891) The Heart of All England, Hexham
    L.H.S. 2005, p.84.
    1892. Hexham’s soup kitchen made 640 quarts in one day. The soup was readily disposed
    of at a penny a quart. Hex. Cour. 29.12.2017, p.20 – 125 Years Ago.
    1902. The cold weather was so severe that many outdoor workers had to be laid off and a
    special soup kitchen was opened at Hexham and distributed 750 quarts on one morning, and
    850 quarts the next. Hex. Cour. 15.2.2002 – 100 Years Ago.
    1905. The soup kitchen in Hexham was opened and 684 quarts of soup were prepared.
    There was a great demand and a much larger quantity could have been disposed of. Hex. Cour.
    21.1.2005 – 100 Years Ago.
    More than 750 quarts of soup were distributed from the soup kitchen on Market Street,
    Hexham. Hex. Cour. 28.1.2005 – 100 Years Ago. 1910. Owing to the severe winter weather and growing unemployment, the soup kitchen
    in Market Street, Hexham, was re-opened. Hex. Cour. 5.2.2010 – 100 Years Ago.
    1995. Rowley Charlton, director of Matthew Charlton & Sons, showed me a Soup
    Kitchen token in his museum at Matthew Charlton’s, Station Road. CND, 19 Dec. 1995.
    Hexham Museum staff, Flora Fairbairn, had one token in the Moot Hall museum.
    She had seen a photo of about 7 tokens – ?in the County Record Office? CND, 20 Dec. 1995.

    • This reply was modified 11 months, 2 weeks ago by Pete Lee.
    #28961 Reply
    Pete Lee

    Further to Mark’s comments on the “Letters” Inn, I have found other Colin Dallison files that refers to the Letters, albeit not entirely clearly. The notes state:

    Gilesgate – Letters, 1822
    Market Place – Letters. One in 1822. Three in 1834.
    Quatre Bras – Board 1827. Letters 1846. Board 1855. (Maybe this was a single premesis that changed its name?)
    Tyne Green – Letters 1822. Balls 1827. Letters 1834-1848. Board 1855. Sportsman’s Rest 1864.

    Another file contained:
    Letters, Quatrebras. 1841: William Sharpe, 55, innkeeper Family memories, 2014.
    1847 Feb 9: Tilley, Jas full age (bach) innkeeper Quatre Bras son of Walter tailor married
    Hogarth Mary full age (spinster) Quatre Bras dau of Wm lamb. Marriages Register, Hexham Parish.
    1847 Aug 15: Tilley James son of James innkeeper & Mary of Quatre Bras near Hexham.
    Baptisms Register, Hexham Parish. 1848: Quatreblas, James Tillie. Slater’s p.844.

    And another file contained:
    Letters, Gilesgate. 1822: Mary Oliver. Pigot’s p.583.

    Letters, Market Place. 1822: Ann Phipps. Pigot’s p.583. 1834: Matthew Lee. Pigot’s.

    Letters, Market Place. 1834: Wm. Middleton. Pigot’s.

    Letters, Market Place. 1834: James Wright. Pigot’s.

    Letters, Quatre bras. See The Board.
    Letters, Tyne Green. 1822: Joseph Reed. Pigot’s p.583.
    Balls, Tyne Green. 1827: Joseph Reed. Parson & White’s Directory, p.440.
    Letters. 1834: William Sharp. Pigot’s. 1848: William Short. Slater’s, p.844.
    Board, Tyne Green. 1855: John Gilhespy. Whellan’s p.843. 1858: Porteous Robert, The
    Board, & Market Gardener. Post Office Directory of Northumberland and Durham.
    Sportsman’s Rest, Tyne green. 1864: W. Hamilton. Slater’s Directory, p.742. 1865: Thomas
    Hamilton, public house Tyne Green. General District Rate Assessment, 26 June. 1869: To Let – The
    Full-licensed Public House, “The Sportsman’s Rest” situated on Tyne Green. Hex. Cour.
    19.10.1869. Same premises as Letters in 1822 & 1834?

    Not sure I can see a Letters pub in the Market Place in 1848 from the above.

    #28962 Reply
    Pete Lee

    Phil – By the way, if you’d be interested in writing an article about the Hexham Soup Kitchen for our annual journal, the Hexham Historian, the editor would be pleased to hear from you: email editor@hexhamhistorian.org

    #28963 Reply

    Thank you all for the information and comments. I will follow up the leads. Letters I am told was a farly common pub/inn name for the mid-nineteenth century.
    The Northumberland Archives copies of Pigot are missing the page for Hexham.

    The PhD is finished (at https://figshare.le.ac.uk/articles/thesis/A_generous_helping_The_archaeology_of_soup_kitchens_and_their_role_in_post-medieval_philanthropy_1790-1914/21187117). The way the thesis is structured there is not one single section on Hexham and I have not gone into great detail on it there.

    I am in the process of transcribing several lists of these who attended the soup kitchen between about 1850 and 1900. The transcript will be available through Northumberland Archives when it is finished. There are around 1,000 individuals/heads of households, so a significant proportion of the town. At the moment I am going through the lists linking the people to census records etc which is laborious! Not everyone is easily identifiable as some names are common but I reckon I will eventually have about 80% done. My goal is to look at the demographic of those who attended soup kitchens

    I am working on an article for Northumberland Archive’s blog which I will post a link to when it is finished. These lists are a really unusual survival. I have a few from one or tow other soup kitchens but these are the most extensive. I will contact your journal editor.

    Thanks again Phil

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