It was the normal practice in the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period for boys [and to a much lesser extent girls] who wished to learn a trade to be formally apprenticed for a period of seven years or more. The Statute of Apprentices of 1563, which forbade anyone to enter a trade without serving an apprenticeship, remained on the statute book until 1814 although it was modified. Apprenticeship served the purpose not only of teaching a trade but of helping to ensure a supply of labour. The apprenticeship indenture was a legal document which bound a boy to a master, with a premium paid to the master by the boy’s parents or in the case of paupers the Overseers of the Poor. The boy received board and lodging and his training. He was forbidden to marry or to set up in business until the completion of his term. Indentures could be broken only by the decision of Justices of the Peace.
John Hammond Charity
This Pirton charity was set up based on the legacy left in John Hammond’s will of 25th September 1641. The will directed that £100 should be used for apprenticing poor boys of Pirton to an honest trade. In 1652 John Hammond’s sons John and Thomas used the money to buy eight acres of land which was conveyed to the executors, the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor to be held in trust for the use of the poor of the parish. This land was let to local farmers thus generating an income for the charity. At Enclosure in 1811 the land was exchanged for the close of land at Punches Cross, next to where the Ickneild Way crosses the road to Hitchin. This land is still owned by the trust.
The charity also owns two almshouses in High Street. The two cottages which were left in the original will were demolished in 1876 and new ones were erected by William Hanscombe [John Hammond’s heir] at his own expense.
The data held on the database covers the period 1823-1927 and includes details of the apprentice, master and trade. Also are included are the half yearly premium and the length of apprenticeship.