Past Resident Of Eagle House – Sarah Emery

Sarah and Mary at Eccleshall Workhouse

Eagle House was originally built to be the Eccleshall Parish Workhouse. Sarah Emery lived in the Workhouse from age one.

A Difficult Start

In the small village of Chebsey, just outside Eccleshall, a girl named Sarah Emery was born in the year 1837.  She was the Daughter of Mary Emery who lived with her mother, also Mary Emery.

When Sarah was born, her mother was only 16 years old and records do not list the name of her father.  Sarah was born out of wedlock and her father had no legal obligation or affiliation order to care for her.

The family were unable to support Sarah and had to look to the parish Workhouse for support. Workhouses were intended to provide work and shelter for those who had no means to support themselves. Eccleshall Workhouse was located in the building which is now Eagle House Bed and Breakfast. On the 19th June 1838, Sarah’s grandmother brought her to Eccleshall Workhouse. 

The reforms of the Poor Law (New Poor Law) and formation of Poor Law Unions brought together individual parishes.  As a result, many of the nation’s Workhouses merged. By 1840, all of Eagle House’s residents, including Sarah Emery, had been transferred to the Workhouse in Stone. 

At the time of the 1841 Census, Sarah Emery was listed, along with 99 other residents, as living at the Stone Union Workhouse. Changes in welfare ideology and the introduction of the New Poor Law, changed the nature of Workhouses from safety net to deterrent. Life would have got much harder for Sarah.

Later Life

By the time of the 1851 Census, Sarah was 14 and living in Longton, working as a servant to the Bullock family. Making her way from the Workhouse system and into employment, from such a young age, must have been challenging. Many were consigned to a lifetime of miserable service, as the Workhouse system deteriorated. We were delighted to find that Sarah escaped and survived the experience.

Newspaper reports from 1875 strongly suggest that Sarah, at 38 years old, was still residing in Longton. It is challenging to be certain, as there were multiple Sarah Emerys in the Stoke area.  However articles refer to a Single lady and all the other Sarah Emery’s in the Longton area appear to be married.

Although Sarah’s time at Eagle House was short, we feel it is important to remember her, and the other residents of Eccleshall Workhouse. Looking back on their lives helps us appreciate how lucky we are. There have been significant changes in attitudes towards the role of women, marriage and poverty. We are glad that Workhouses are a thing of the past.

If you know anything about Sarah, or any other past resident of Eagle House, please get in touch. We would love to hear from you.

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