The Case of Sarah Brown

“Applicant lives in a very nice house in Ainsworth Street; it is nicely furnished and very clean. The furniture is not all her own, part of it belonging to her mother who is the sister of Mr Hedley on the Mill Road, the Ironfounder. The mother stated that she had property in Cambridge which would, with the furniture, go to her daughter upon her death.”

Helen Weinstein’s research into the case of Sarah Elizabeth Brown – a relative of the Headly family. This case shows a loan of £5 was made to Sarah Elizbeth Brown, who was living in Sturton Town. There are pages of forms and correspondence which run from 1880 for a decade, cataloguing all the families problems with poor health whilst Sarah struggles to pay back the loan.

The forms show Sarah Elizabeth is the Applicant from the household at the top of the listing at 91 Ainsworth Street, saying that she is 44 years old, living in a two-up two-down terraced dwelling housing nine members of her family in this small home.  Her husband, Thomas, also 44, is meant to deliver coal for a Coal Agent but he has been having epileptic fits and unable to work.  Of all the seven children on the application form of 1880, it is only the twelve-year-old called Edward who is bringing in a regular wage, 3 shillings and 3 pence per week from the Soap and Candle Factory, a large factory that in Victorian times was situated nearby St Matthew’s Church on a former street called Gas Lane.

The documentation shows that Sarah Brown is struggling to make payments on the loan over years and years, writing postcard notes and sending in a few shillings at a time, writing about her family circumstances and clearly finding it very hard to pay back the loan. The documents also state that Sarah Brown is a relative of one of the biggest employers in the neighbourhood, the owner of the Eagle Foundry, Mr Headly. The records show us Sarah is struggling in poverty for years, whilst her mother, sister to Joseph Headly, has assets she will inherit.