The Staploe Hundred

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"There were twenty-seven bastard children on the hands of Soham parish in 1829; in 1833 there were thirty-one. Ten of these thirty-one children were living with their mothers, who were allowed weekly sums varying from 1s-6d to 7s. In certain of these cases clearly the father was in comfortable circumstances. The remaining twenty-one children were lodged in the workhouse: these children were probably the fruit of illicit intercourse between parishioners too poor to arouse the exertions of the overseer. Of £277 expended by Soham on bastard children only £62 was refunded by the putative parents". A common practice, aimed at reducing the charges to the parish through illegitimate births, was to spend parish funds on 'encouraging' the pregnant mother to marry. Royston had attempted to solve their constantly recurring expenses due to Sarah Gear's way of life in this fashion. In 1831 the Cambridge magistrates, investigating irregularities in Soham parish accounts, condemned this practice as illegal.

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