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28 October 2014

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Tony Beard's Dartmoor Diary
Tony Beard at Jay's Grave
Tony Beard adding a couple of coins to Jay's Grave
Tony Beard is a farmer, broadcaster and entertainer. Each month he introduces us to another aspect of Dartmoor.

Unlock some of the secrets for yourself by turning the pages of his Dartmoor Diary.

Video Nation: Kitty Jay's Grave


And if you want to see more of this beautiful part of the county, check out our Dartmoor Photo Gallery


Dartmoor National Park Authority

Widecombe Parish Website
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Dartmoor National Park
December 2002
The Tragic Story of Kitty Jay

Dartmoor is riddled with stories of folklore, superstition and legends and one of the most renown is the story of Kitty Jay and Jay's Grave.

At the turn of the 18th and 19th Centuries she was a pauper girl from the workhouse at Newton Abbot. It is sometimes difficult these days to appreciate what it must have been like to be poor and live, or try to live at that time.

All sorts of folk ended up in the workhouse; orphans, paupers and other completely destitute people and these "unfortunates" were a drain on the Parish Purse.

One such person was our Kitty Jay.

Apprentice Indentures

The best thing the Authorities of that time could do was to apprentice out these poor mortals to work.

As young as seven years old, these children, if male, were apprenticed to craftsmen, farmers, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, carpenters etc.

If female, they were to work in factories, institutions, big houses and the like.

In many cases it was cheap labour and, I'm quite sure, on occasions verged on slave-labour.

An indenture
An indenture bonding a child to their master
They were apprenticed until they were 21 years old, and after being so dependant on their master for all that time, found it difficult to leave and seek other employment.

The girls could break the bond before that age if they were able to get permission to marry.

There are still documents in existence entitled "Apprentice Indentures" and on reading them, it can be seen under what rules they worked.

The master had to provide food and drink, clothes, washing and ironing and teach them a craft or trade skills.

In return, the girls were taught housekeeping, needlework and the like.

Brought up in the workhouse with little to eat and the bare minimum of clothes (even if it did mean hard work), to be a servant girl at a farm or big house could be a lot better than the drudgery of a pauper.....

End graphic more about kitty jay >> Go
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