Jim Mayzes – A Life of Poverty in Early Victorian Hadleigh and Daws Heath

Murrell's weatherboarded cottage was nearest the church.
Thanks to Malcolm Brown
Endway (Where Jim was born)

This information came from the Southend Standard and Weekly Advertiser of 14 March 1907 which reported preaching and a lecture by Jim Mayzes (then 63) to Hadleigh Congregationalists.

[Information from the internet has been added in square brackets where appropriate].

Apparently, Jim’s local experiences were published in a booklet by the Rev J J Cooper.

Jim’s parents, Jonas and Mehitabel, were both born of very poor parents in Suffolk.

[It appears that Jonas first married Hannah Coker in Steeple, Essex in 1833, but she died in August 1835. Jonas and Mehitabel married in Steeple just 3 months later in November 1835. It seems that Mehitabel had also been married before and brought two or three children to the marriage. Their first child, Maria, was baptized in 1837 at Steeple, using the Mays spelling of their surname].

Through depression of trade and poverty, they were forced to leave Suffolk and with Mehitabel carrying a baby in her arms they travelled from Clare to Colchester where Jonas had gone to get food for the family.

The family, eventually of 10, were very poor with Jonas working as a farm labourer for about nine shillings {=45p *} a week and Mehitable earning a little by plaiting straw for straw bonnets, bringing in 3 shillings and sixpence {=17.5p *} a week.

They then travelled from Colchester to Leigh where he got a better job and then eventually to Hadleigh where they lived in one of five wooden houses near the castle [possibly Endway].
They lived in the second house of five from the Castle and that is where Jim was born, as their seventh child, in 1844. [If this was in Endway, this was also in the terrace where Cunning Murrell lived].

Things got worse and Jonas had to return to farm labouring. Their eldest son had to leave home and the others had to live on nine shillings a week. It was then that they moved to Daws Heath to live in a thatched house “made of mud”. Here they paid one shilling and sixpence a week rent for two rooms for the whole family.

[In the 1851 Census, the family are found in Daws Heath, not far from the Rivers family (near Rivers Corner?). Jonas, aged 48, was then a clock and watch maker and there were 7 children at home including Jim aged 7. Jim’s teenage sister, Harriet, had been born in Steeple in 1838 and then Ann, 11, was born in Hadleigh in 1840. For some reason, Jonas used the surname Farance, his mother’s maiden name in the 1841 Hadleigh Census, in which he appeared as an agricultural labourer].

Jim recalled sitting in the chimney corner at Daws Heath and looking up to see the stars shining brightly.

Things got harder and bread was eleven and a half pence per loaf. Jim then had the ague [malarial fever] and a lady, hearing of their need, called in to bring him two buns.  Although he was bad, he managed to eat the buns, enjoyed them and got better.   Dr Bias [probably Dr James Byass of Rayleigh] ordered him to be “vaccinated” [ ⇞ presumably with quinine] and said that the fee would be a shilling, but the doctor saw the poverty of the family and did it for nothing.

Under such circumstances of poverty and want, before Jim was five years of age, he had to go with his brother into the fields to scare crows, each earning a penny a day, and using a pair of clappers to frighten the birds.   After a year, they were allowed to go into the fields on their own for twopence per day, which rose the following year to threepence per day.

Their family poverty continued and, “through distress”, they had to move to Kent. Jonas took the furniture from the cottage on a donkey cart to Leigh where it was placed on a barge to be landed at Erith. In Erith, they had the pleasure of seeing their first train, “which we thought was a wonderful sight”.

[By 1861, they were living in Crayford with Jonas, aged 58, working again as a watch and clock maker. Jim (aged 17) had left home by then leaving just five children at home (three of their own and two stepchildren from Mehitabel’s first marriage). With three children aged from 10 to 14 working in the brickfields and stepson George Bareham labouring in the brickfields, they may have been slightly better off by then].

{⇞ No preventative “vaccinations” had been developed at that time and an intravenous  injection of quinine may have been the only way of reducing the malarial fever.}

{* For centuries prior to decimalisation in 1971; 12 pennies equalled 1 shilling, 20 shillings equalled £1. }

[In researching this article, I came across the quite common problem of old census recorders writing down their own versions of what was said to them including, for example, “Rattan, Suffolk” given as the birthplace of Jonas in the 1851 Thundersley Census, whereas “Great Wratting” turned out to be a village 2.3 miles away from Barnardiston, where Jonas was baptised. As for the family surname, that appeared as Mayes, Mays and Mayse in various records].

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