Mary Clapham

(1798 – 1863)

In the 19th century, women were expected to marry. If they remained spinsters, there were not many socially acceptable ways to make a living to avoid being a ‘financial burden’. Some were spinners, or worked in domestic service. Mary ran a lodging house.

Mary Clapham (1798—1863) and her two unmarried brothers, John and William, had been farmers in Horton in Ribblesdale before retiring to Settle. They lived at The Folly in the 1860s. The brothers worked as agricultural labourers and Mary ran a lodging house business.

At the time of the 1861 census, Mary’s 13 lodgers were all working class labourers, which you would expect in a lodging house — lodging houses were cheap and crowded. If you could afford it, you would stay at one of the inns.

There were strict regulations for lodging houses as they were often the source of crime, prostitution and disease. The Lodging House Act of 1851 insisted on basic moral and sanitary standards — separation of sexes, designation of sleeping areas, adequate chamber pots and privy arrangements, and cleaning arrangements. Lodging houses had to be vacated from 10am until late afternoon to encourage people to go out and work. Mary would have had to be strict to keep her lodgers in order. It would not have been an easy job.

In 1856, Mary was caught out by the rather officious Mr Cockshott, inspector of lodging houses, for allowing someone to sleep in the wrong part of the house.

Mary, John and William died within two years of each other, still at The Folly. When Mary died in 1863, aged 65, the executor of her will was a fellow resident and ‘well respected’ Henry Snell, who Betty Buck can tell you more about.