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Staffordshire Apprentice Records


Apprenticeship was an arrangement whereby a young person learnt a trade that would hopefully keep them in gainful employment for the rest of their working life. It involved a legal contract, known as an apprenticeship indenture, between the master and the parent or other legal guardian of the young person.

The master contracted to provide training, clothing, board and lodging, in exchange for a sum of money at the outset of the contract, paid to him by the apprentice’s legal guardian. The apprentice contracted to work for the master for a set period of time, to be of good behaviour – avoiding drinking and gambling for example, and (in the case of boys) not to get married during the period of the contract. The length of the apprenticeship might be a set number of years, often seven – reflecting the regulation laid down in the Statute of Artificers and Apprentices, 1563, that no-one could practice their trade without having served a seven year apprenticeship. This regulation lasted until 1814. In other cases the apprenticeship lasted until the apprentice reached a certain age, such as 18 or 21 years. Girls were usually apprenticed until 21 years of age or until their marriage. Sometimes very young children were apprenticed, the youngest discovered in Staffordshire being at the age of four.

The majority of surviving apprenticeship records held by the Archive Service concern apprenticeships organised for pauper children, either by the overseers of the poor, or by the trustees of charities established specifically for the purpose of paying for pauper apprenticeships on behalf of the parish authorities. Some privately arranged apprenticeship indentures also survive, where a young person’s parents could themselves afford the fees.

Apprenticeship was significant to the Poor Law administration in two ways. First, it enabled the overseers to transfer the upkeep of the young to the apprentice's master or mistress whilst having them taught a trade, to be self-supporting in later life. The parish paid a fee to the master at the outset, but after that expected not to be involved unless a problem arose. Secondly, apprenticeship was a means by which settlement could be gained. This was attractive to parish overseers, as a pauper apprenticed outside his parish was a potential liability avoided.

The apprenticeship indenture named the apprentice, the master and his trade. Two copies were produced, one for the parish overseers of the poor and one for the master. The latter was handed to the apprentice on completion of the apprenticeship. Usually it is the parish copy that has survived, unless the apprentice's copy was submitted for a settlement examination. Some parishes also kept apprenticeship registers, in which similar details are recorded.

About This Index

This index, compiled by Mrs. Diana Grant over the past five years, contains around 12,500 entries relating mainly to apprenticeship indentures and entries in apprenticeship registers, but also associated records, such as correspondence between masters and overseers of the poor. We are very grateful to Mrs. Grant for making the fruits of her research, useful for both family and local historians, available to all through this website.

Most of the records referred to are from the surviving papers of the overseers of the poor of the historic parishes in Staffordshire, and of parochial charities, in the period prior to 1838. There are also references to privately arranged apprenticeships, although the survival rate of these records is not good. Most of the records and documents referenced are held by the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service, although some are held elsewhere. For further details of what the index does not include please follow the link below.

Further information about this index


We are pleased to acknowledge the generosity of Mrs Diana Grant in making the data in this online index available. Thanks are also due to Miss Liz Justham who assisted in editing the data for the website.