The Ballad of Timothy Nuttall

Early in 2014 a small deposit of papers relating to Peter Pickup, an overseer of the poor for the township of Higher Booths, arrived at Lancashire Archives. Included was an account book (Ref: DDX 502/7) which has lots of information about the collection of poor rates and the provision of relief to the poor of the area, as well as a list of illegitimate children and their parents. However I was particularly interested in a song, reported to have been written by a Gilbert Welsh, telling the life story of Timothy Nuttall.

At Bottomly Bank in Higher Booths First I Received breath I being illegitimate As several People saith

A search of the Lancashire Online Parish Clerk’s site confirmed that Timothy was indeed born illegitimately, the son of Betty Nuttall of Bottomly Bank, and was christened at St Mary and All Saints, Goodshaw on 15 Feb 1767.

It appears that the owner of the book has been equally interested in Timothy, as he adds additional notes at the end of the 10 page song, giving details not only of his baptism but also of his apprenticeship and of dates of service with particular employers. Thus we learn that Timothy was first apprenticed to Lawrence Nuttall of Rakefoot as a weaver in April 1774, and after that date worked for a number of employers both short and long term.

With several Persons afterwards Engaged by the week Thinking that if I did not like New service I could seek

After travelling around the area hoping to make his fortune, Timothy decides that it is time to find a wife.

A Girl at Haslingden I met Who Ann Heys was by name We married where without delay And then to House we came

Again, the online parish clerk confirms the marriage of Timothy and Ann Heys at Haslingden St James on 2 Jun 1791, and also perhaps explains the rush to marry as a child, Abigail, is baptised on 9 Oct 1791, although she sadly dies within a matter of months. However, the couple go on to have another three children, and it is at this point in the song that questions about his settlement are first raised, probably in part due to the expense of supporting such a large family.

Opinions were of course obtained A settlement were gained In Newchurch when with Seedall last I Forty days remained

This settlement likely relates to the only trial record that I have been able to locate in our collections regarding this case. QSP/2400/48 is an order for the removal of Timothy Nuttall, Ann his wife and James, Mary and John their children from Lower Booths to Newchurch, which dates from 22 Jun 1798

However, it seems that the case does not end there as Timothy tries to return to Lower Booths and is placed in Preston Gaol.

To Preston I was sent one month My errors to Correct… Forgotten here did pass my time Till seven years did turn round

Sadly we do not know what fate befell Timothy after his release from prison, but for anyone lucky enough to be interested in the Nuttall family this song contains an enormous amount of information at a time when tracing the movements of ancestors can be particularly difficult.

Keri Nicholson Archivist


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