Fraud in Belbroughton

This article originally appeared in Belbroughton Parish Magazine in May 2013.

The following letter was sent to the Poor Law Board in London on 8 July 1850 by Mr Simkiss, the District Auditor:

I beg to enclose you a communication received this morning, from Mr Thomas Day, Clerk to the Bromsgrove Union, relating to the ommission [sic] of the overseers of Bellbroughton [sic] Parish neglecting to pay the contributions to the Union in consequence of the retention of the Rates collected by the Assistant Overseer, Mr Daniel Osborne, and suggesting me to interfere.  I shall be happy to receive your instructions or directions relating thereto.  The Rates retained by Mr Osborne are what he has received since Lady Day last [ie 25 March].

The Board replies that this is not a matter for the auditor, and write instead to the Guardians of the Bromsgrove Poor Law Union to ask about the situation.  Mr Day, the Clerk writes to them on 8 August:

The Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Belbroughton have requested me to reply to your letter of 25th ultimo [ie 25 July].

It will be seen by the Extracts from the Vestry Order Book herewith sent (which I have this day received) that Daniel Osborne has been dismissed from the Office of Assistant Overseer and that there is a Balance of Rates due from him for the amount of £124 14s 6d after deducting all Salary due to him etc.  The Overseers and some of the principal Rate Payers are desirous that proceedings should be forthwith taken against Daniel Osborne to enforce payment of the Debt due from him, but it is much feared the money will not be recovered as it is generally believed he is insolvent.

Further correspondence ensues and on 11 November, Mr Simkiss writes again to the Poor Law Board to say:

I beg to inform the Board that I lost no time in laying my information against Mr Osborne, but up to this time, the Constable has not been able to find him, as he has now left the Parish.  I have given instructions to use all vigilance to find him, that he may be made an example of, altho there is no prospect of obtaining anything from him; but considering we have a very loose set of Assistant Overseers in that part of my District, appointed by the Vestries, I do not think it prudent to allow him to escape punishment.

On 28 November, he writes again:

In reference to your letter of inquiry of [8] November, I beg to inform you that I yesterday took Mr Daniel Osborne, the late Assistant Overseer of the Parish of Belbroughton in the Bromsgrove Union before the Justices and in default of any good to levy upon, he was committed to Worcester Gaol.

This story has emerged through our participation (with members of other local history societies) in the project supported by the British Association of Local History to catalogue correspondence between the Poor Law Board and the Bromsgrove Union.  To look for more on-line documents, go to: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/, and search their Discovery catalogue.