In which we look at the role of ‘Beadle’ in the City Livery Companies, and consider the Society’s concerns about this office some years after Sotherton’s death.
Sotherton Backler was elected Beadle (or Bedel) to the Society on the quarterly Court Day, 13 October 1757. He succeeded the well-known apothecary, Mr John Pocock, who had resigned his position as Bedel on his appointment as Dispenser to the Royal Hospital at Greenwich. Pocock’s wife, who had been Butler to the Society, also resigned her position, paving the way for Sotherton’s wife Ann to be appointed Butler, ‘in her roome’.
On the day of the election of the Backlers to their new roles, among those on the Court of Assistants was Mr. Daniel Hanchett, with whom Sotherton had served his apprenticeship. Hanchett became Renter Warden in 1759, Upper Warden in 1760, and Master in 1761 – so former Master and Apprentice would have had a very different relationship during this period as a different kind of Master, and Beadle.
I think it likely that Sotherton and Ann lived in the Hall during their time as Bedel and Butler. Court Minutes state:
‘Ordered that the Fixtures left by Mr Pocock the late Beadle in his House amounting to £6 – 7 – 0 be bought by the Company for the use of the present Beadle and that Mr Pocock be paid £2-4-0 towards the repairs done by him to the said House, when he was chosen Beadle, as also £3 for the three Quarters Allowance for a suit of Cloaths, due when he resigned his place.’
Sotherton and Ann’s daughter Ann would have been about 16, and not yet married to John Freeman; young Sotherton would have been only 11 and attending St Paul’s School, conveniently around the corner from Apothecaries’ Hall. If still surviving, Elizabeth would have been about 9.
What was the Bedel?
For someone not familiar with the workings of the City Livery Companies, the role of the Beadle was something of a mystery to me. According to the website of the Beadles of London:
The Livery Companies, as they evolved, needed a point of contact between the Master, Wardens, and Court of Assistants and the Livery in general. They therefore appointed (and paid for) a Beadle, who took care of the Company’s meeting place (‘Hall’), called the Court members and/or Livery together on behalf of the Master, and enforced any disciplinary measures decided by the Court.
The Beadle would also find suitable apprentices, and would organise the social and ceremonial functions. He was, in summary, a policeman, an almoner, a friend, social worker and communicator.
He would be issued with a Staff of Office, often wrongly called a mace, with which to protect the Master and enforce discipline. The Staff is usually a tall one so that it could be used as a rallying point at Common Hall etc. when the Livery was summoned to “Attend upon the Master”. (http://www.thebeadlesoflondon.com/Pages/OurHistory.aspx)
I was interested to find that in 1804 – 38 years after Sotherton’s death – the Court of the Society of Apothecaries heard a report of the Committee which had been set up at the request of the then Beadle, Frederick Kanmacher, to look at the duties of the Beadle. Kanmacher had asked for an increase in his emoluments and for an assistant in performing his duties. The report sheds light on the role of a ‘Beadle’.
Mr Kanmacher had been Beadle for almost 30 years, having assumed office some ten years after Sotherton Snr’s death. His conduct and demeanor had been ‘uniformly attentive and respectful’. The Committee had considered the duties of the Beadle to be [my bullets]:
- ‘to receive and carefully lay before the master and Wardens whatever Precepts may be addressed to the Company
- ‘to deliver Summonses for Attendance to the Members personally
- ‘to attend on the General and Private Courts of the Society and to introduce such Persons as have Transactions therein
- ‘to attend all Meetings of the Society whether collectively assembled or held in Committee and deputations, and to take and carry into Effect whatever Directions & Orders, The Court or the Master or Wardens may think proper to confide to his Care.’
‘The Committee likewise deem his Residence to be requisite & indispensably necessary in the Apartments which are allowed for his use, that Applications or correspondences connected with the Interests of the Company immediate or eventual may be received with Certainty and delivered with Care to the person concerned.
‘As your Beadle unquestionably is an Officer of much Responsibility and his Notoriety is acknowledged in the municipal Concerns and Arrangements of the Corporation of London, it is of further regard that he should be a Person of Decorous Manners and of Gentlemanly Deportment.
‘… Duties of the Beadle are so obviously indentified [sic] with the Respectability and Interests of the Society …’
Given all of the above, the Committee had gone on to examine the annual average fees/duties of the Beadle over the past 5 years. They showed a range of fees and emoluments, which could change from year to year, and which were accompanied by a Salary of just £20. The income was divided into categories which can be summarised as:
Customary and ancient fees of right, in 1799 totalling £27 5s, for attendance at Private and General Courts, Bindings, Admissions to Freedom or Livery or Court; attendances at the Guildhall and St Paul’s; Garden and other Committees; General and Private Herbarizings; Botanical Excursions; Master’s Day; Lord Mayor’s Day; Searches; and Examinations of Dispensers.
Optional payments included £24 3s as annual fees from Members of the Society
Salary and Laboratory gratuities included a gratuity from the Laboratory Stock [Company], £33 12 s for ‘providing assistants’; £9 19s 6d for ‘Appraisements’; Salary £20; and ‘attendance in the Navy Counting House’, £60 4s 6d, this last said to be a one-off emolument, not to be repeated.
The total of all of these was £182 11s.
Two types of income caused the Committee particular concern. The first was the ‘optional fees’ from members of the Society, about which the Committee said it was ‘Disgraceful in the Beadle and discreditable to the Company’ and should never have been permitted and ought to be abolished forthwith. The second was the payment regarding provision of assistants and making appraisements. The Committee said: ‘This Emolument is presumed to arise from concerns not identified with the Company’s transactions. If this Supposition is correct the Company without manifest Impropriety cannot avail themselves of the Fruits of an Industry unconnected with their Bedle’s duty.’
Given all this, the Committee concluded that an annual salary should be paid to the Beadle, as follows:
‘So far from the Beadle’s Emolument having kept pace with the prodigious advance of all the Necessaries of Life within the last Twenty five Years, it is a Fact that the Profits of the Office have been considerably diminished with that Period…The committee report that the Duties of Attendance of the present Beadle justly deserve to be compensated by an annual Emolument of One Hundred and Twenty pounds…and that the Beadle be restrained from accepting Gratuity or tips from Members of the Society without seeking permission from the Court or Master and Wardens.’
All this was accepted by the Court and by Mr. Kanmacher, these proceedings being overseen and written up by the new Deputy Clerk, Sotherton Backler, son of the Beadle of that name. How much of the above would have been relevant 35 years previously remains open to question, but the broad outline of duties and the many attendances required of the Beadle would no doubt have been similar.
Check out this website for a summary of the role of a modern-day Beadle: http://www.londontoastmaster.com/toastmastersblog/the-livery-company-beadle/
Sotherton Backler’s death; Ann remains butler
Courrt Minutes of 28 April 1863 report the death of the Beadle, and the majority election of his successor, Richard Reynell. Ann Backler had petitioned the Court to remain Butler, and this was granted. She was to have a salary of £6 per year and ‘be admitted to the first vacant Pension’. The Society had a fixed number of pensions at its disposal, and Ann Backler would have had to wait until one of these came free. Her term as Butler ended with her death, reported in the Court Minutes of 17 December, 1868.
With Ann’s death we pause to allow Sotherton Jnr to become a member of the Society, and then Deputy Clerk and Clerk. In my next blog I will introduce him and his rise to the role of Clerk.
Minute Book, Court of Assistants, 27 September 1757.
Ibid., 16 March 1758
The following discussion about the Beadle’s role and remuneration is drawn from Court Minutes, 8200/9, 22 August 1804, pp 393-398.