Destitute and Desperate

My most disturbing family history story is that of my 4x great grandfather, John Brammer, who hung himself after becoming destitute.  John Brammer was the second of three sons born to John and Sarah Brammer, and was baptised on 3rd July 1774 at St Wulfrem’s Church, Spittlegate, Grantham, Lincolnshire. In 1785 he was apprenticed to George Foster of Calverton, Nottinghamshire, as a framework knitter, for the sum of £6 6s.

He married Ann Hallam at St Wilfred’s Church, Calverton, on 17th December 1794, and they had two children born in Calverton and a further six more, including my 3x great grandfather John, after moving to Nottingham.

Due to industrialisation, framework knitting was in decline by the 1830s. So as well as continuing his trade, John also ran a shop in Poplar Place, off Poplar Street, Nottingham, where he made and repaired shoes. The 1832 directory of Nottingham lists him as a shopkeeper at this address.

Sadly, John’s economic prospects continued to worsen and, after making little money, he applied to the parish of Calverton for relief, for which they allowed him (according to the inquest) “three shillings and a half stone load a week”. Several weeks before his death, the parish reduced that by one shilling a week, informing him that the whole of the money would be taken off. This was said to have “troubled his mind very much”. He was forced to sell his barrow and live off the proceeds, but soon they too were almost gone.

After a restless and sleepless night and much “disturbed in mind”, John tried unsuccessfully to light his fire on the morning of 29th November 1842. The inquest report describes how he said, “the blasphemer’s oath has put the fire out and it would never light anymore”. Putting his hand to his chest he said, “I have got the the devil in my breast, I can feel it rising”.

To make matters even worse, the parish had also refused relief to his widowed son, who was in “much distress for want of food” , with John’s grandson having to be taken into Nottingham workhouse.

Extract of the death certificate

John left his house at 8 o’clock that evening, in a very distressed state, never to return. His body was found the next morning hanging from a tree in an area of open ground known locally as ‘Clay Fields’. He was taken to the workhouse, where an inquest concluded that he “hung himself during a temporary fit of mental derangement”.

John was buried in the churchyard at St. Mary’s, Nottingham, on 5th December 1842. He was 68 years old.

Lin Fisher

© Lin Fisher



Historical Directories

Nottinghamshire Archives for the inquest and parish records.

Lincolnshire Archives for the apprenticeship indenture.