Monday, 28 February 2011

Petitioning for work

In the nineteenth century, a job application could be a very public process - and as one John Sandom of Union Street, Deptford found out, it could hinge on more than qualifications alone. When William Parrell, Vestry Clerk of St Nicholas, died in 1810, a new clerk had to be appointed. Sandom wanted the job, but he faced a strong rival.

First, Mr H Karmock had worked for the late clerk, which must have made him something of an inside candidate. Second, Karmock had made it known that if he got the job, he would financially 'alleviate the sorrows of the family of Mr Parrell'. This offer seems to have had quite an effect, because Sandom responded with not one but two printed circulars. The first was rather grudging in tone:
if you should consider that Claim as entitled to your Support, (being made in favour of Persons who never were Parishioners of St. Nicholas, in Opposition to mine who am a Parishioner, and whose family has paid Rates and Taxes in your Parish for upwards of Sixty Years, and contributed to the Support of that very Place I now solicit,) that I will allow Mrs. Parrell to receive such Portion of the Emoluments of that Office, as the Parishioners in Vestry shall think fit, and I will perform its Duties with the strictest Attention.
Summarised, his offer seems to be 'if you must support these non-residents, then fine, I'll give them whatever you think I should - just give me the job!' However, that clearly wasn't enough to reassure the friends of Mrs Parrell because a week later, he circulated another letter:
As many of the Inhabitants of this Parish have been induced to promise their Votes (purely with the idea of serving the Widow and Family of your late deceased Vestry Clerk,) to the Gentlemen who so very humanely solicited on her Behalf, I again beg Leave to call your Attention to that Subject and request it may not be understood that by the Appeal I have made to you, I wish to oppose the Proposition of supporting Mrs. PARRELL and her Family: ... I made the Offer of allowing Mrs. Parrell to receive such Portion of the Emoluments of that Office, as the Parishioners in Vestry should think fit, (which I again repeat) ...
Unfortunately, even the second letter was not enough to win the job for Sandom. A year later, he was complaining that an annual election had been promised but there was now an attempt to rescind that order. It seems that at the meeting to elect the new vestry clerk, Karmock's supporters had suggested he be appointed for one year. A new election in 1811 would have given Sandom a second chance, but dark dealings were afoot:
it is plain this Order was only proposed to deceive you, with the idea of another election on next Easter Tuesday, that the proposer might the more easily bring in the present Vestry Clerk to the Situation; and having accomplished that, they now wish to establish him, and deprive others of the opportunity of becoming candidates, by deceitfully withdrawing it at this period.
Sadly for Sandom, his appeal seems to have failed. The next notice in the series is for an election following the death of Karmock in 1816. Six years after his original attempt, Sandom was undaunted and circulated yet another letter seeking support. There are no further documents to say whether he succeeded; after reading his rather whiny appeals, I'm not sure whether I want him to or not!

Who was Sandom? He appears in the London Gazette in 1813 as a solicitor in Union Street. However, his legal business was perhaps little more successful than his would-be parish career: by 1842 he was again in the London Gazette, having moved to Southwark two years earlier and gone out of business. This notice was of his impending bankruptcy.


Hels said...

Dark dealings were afoot.. oh dear. That job must have been HIGHLY desirable, and not just for the income. It may have had a house attached or connections or.. who knows what.

I love this type of post.

CarolineLD said...

I think it probably brought local prestige, as the vestry clerk was usually responsible for keeping the accounts and organising meetings of the vestry, which administered parish activity. Presumably such local prominence might help attract legal clients?