Dodgy Deals

His desk is piled high with business for the new session of Parliament. Before many years are out he would like Gregory to have a seat beside him in the Commons. He must see all aspects of how the realm is governed. A term in Parliament is an exercise in frustration, it is a lesson in patience: whichever way you look at it. They commune of war, peace, strife, contention, debate, murmur, grudges, riches, poverty, truth, falsehood, justice, equity, oppression, treason, murder and the edification and continuance of the commonwealth; then do as their predecessors have done – that is, as well they might – and leave off where they began.

Hilary Mantel, Bring Up The Bodies, p. 178.

It is much the same at the local level, minus war perhaps. In January 1878, Robert DOBSON, a grocer, took Joseph WILSON  to task for his part in the creation of a footpath on the east side of Reynolds Street in Filey. Battle was engaged in the correspondence page of the Scarborough Mercury.


Reynolds Street this morning: it is easy to imagine that carters (and their horses) would have felt freer without the new pavement. (The stable wall of the Packhorse Hotel followed the line of the low walls of the pastel-painted houses. Horseless carriages now take up part of the opposite pavement when at rest.)

Joseph responded robustly to the charge of “defying the ratepayers” but was soon embroiled in the matter of his scavenging contract with the Local Board.

To the Editor of the Scarborough Mercury.

Sir, Mr. Dobson in your last issue mentions the scavengering as an instance of my contracting with the Filey Local Board. I will now state the whole of the circumstances in connection with the question. The late contractor gave it up, and the board then issued a handbill inviting tenders for the scavengering. When they met for the purpose of opening the tenders there were none to open. The board was then placed in a fix what to do, and asked me to lend them a horse and cart and they would engage a man to take the refuse to any part of my farm where I directed it to be put until they could procure a suitable piece of ground to lay it upon and get a horse and cart of their own, and when I consented to find them the horse and cart the board thanked me for helping them out of their difficulty. The wages of the men have always been properly entered in the books and audited by the district auditor, who has always given our clerk credit for accuracy of accounts. About the other small matter of earning £4 9s 6d., that was done at the same price per load as the other ratepayers, and while my carts have earned £4 9s. 6d. others have earned much larger sums. For instance, Mrs. Barker £6 12s., Mrs. J W Bulmer £5 2s., Mrs. Plaskett £6 1s. 6d., Mr. J Bulmer £? lls., Mr. Clinort £12 11s., Mr. Smith £1. 1s. 6d., Mr. Richardson £8 10s., J. Wilson £4 9s. 6d., Mr. Ethell £5 11s. 6d.—I am, yours respectfully,


P.S.–The late contractor for the scavengering received the sum of £30 per annum, and all the night soil, &c.

2 February 1878

Within a week some councillors moved to expel Joseph from his place on the Board, thereby saving the town “a great deal of trouble and expense”. Joseph, a farmer, was known in the town as “a good moral man” and must have felt aggrieved. He responded in a manner considered insulting by one of his antagonists.

Three years later Joseph was re-elected to the Board but in May 1881, during a long discussion about the sale of the town’s horse and cart, the following exchange took place:-

Mr. JOSEPH WILSON said that he used to charge one shilling per load for gravel from the sands.

Mr. AUTON: I think you always got more than one shilling per load. I think, if I am not mistaken, you have had as much, as six shillings per load.

Mr. JOSEPH WILSON: Well, perhaps I had a few times, but it was small and I had a long way to fetch it.

It was eventually decided to retain the horse and cart, the SURVEYOR stating that at one shilling per load there would be about £40 to the credit for the mare and cart after everything connected with her was paid for.

Two of Joseph’s sons were also elected to the Local Board in the 1880s. I began piecing the family together this afternoon. Joseph and Mary née DICKINSON had twelve children (found so far) but Filey Genealogy &Connections hasn’t established spouses for any of them. (Three, perhaps more, died in infancy or childhood.)

Joseph was an agricultural labourer when he married in 1841. At the 1851 census, he is recorded as farming 15 acres of land. Ten years later the Find My Past transcription indicates his holding had grown to 650 acres. The page image shows a more reasonable 150 acres. In 1871, aged 53, he was working 86 acres. The size of the farm isn’t given in 1881 and in 1891 his widow is farming the Wilson land (of unknown extent) with the help of unmarried sons Thomas and Richard.


In all the above-mentioned censuses Joseph and his family are recorded as living in the heart of Old Filey, in King Street (aka Queen Street). I’m not sure where his farm was situated but as Joseph’s list of nightsoil beneficiaries indicates, there was room for several farms in the town and on its edge.

Joseph and Mary’s children are scattered about FamilySearch Tree. The parents have a dozen IDs each, at least. I will have to sort them out so that I can add their headstone as a memory.


In loving memory of JOSEPH WILSON, the beloved husband of MARY WILSON of Filey, who died Dec 16th 1887, aged 70 years.

‘His end was peace’

Also in everlasting memory of my dear mother, the above MARY WILSON, who died Nov 16th 1915, aged 84 years.

Also MARY WILSON youngest daughter of the above died Nov 7th 1928 aged 62.


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