Accounts are often not seen as the most interesting or accessible of records (especially for those of us who are not great with numbers), and make unlikely bedtime reading for most. However, information about income and expenditure, whether it be for businesses, organisations or individuals, can often provide fascinating insights into their subjects. Estate & household account books are no exception and provide snapshots in time of the workings of landed estates and the lives of the people who lived and worked on them.
The de Trafford of Trafford collection [ref no: DDTR] includes several series of account books, which cover income and expenditure for both the household and the wider estates; one of the earlier series dates from the 1780s-1790s. The owner of the Trafford estates at the time was John Trafford of Croston Hall [the family didn't become the de Traffords until the nineteenth century], who had inherited the estates from a distant cousin upon his death without issue in 1779. The account books are divided into subsections such as house expenses, cellar, game, coals, stables, gardens, buildings, wages, carriage & freight, travelling expenses, furniture, taxes, apparel, instructors, stationary and the intriguingly named "incidents".
The items listed under House Expenses are mainly food, drink, candles and fuel.
Although the account does not go into great detail, the lists of food stuffs purchased give an idea of the sort of food which was being consumed by the Trafford family and their servants. This even included tea & coffee purchased from Twinings, a brand still in existence today.
Various members of the Trafford family are recorded in the account books as John Trafford and his wife Elizabeth had at least eight children, although not all of them survived infancy. The 1797 account book records what was presumably a painful event as a payment was made for the removal of a tooth for the couple's youngest daughter Maria (b. 1784).
Most of the children were still quite young during this period and there are often separate lists of instructors who were brought in to teach them.
Elements of what was taught to the children can seen from the various masters who were engaged; these include drawing, writing, dancing & music, as well as masters in other places such as Stonyhurst, Bath and Ormskirk. It was traditional for boys to be sent away to be educated once they had reached a certain age and these payments are possibly for tutors for them at schools or as the family travelled.
In addition to the children of John & Elizabeth Trafford, the accounts also mention the Livesey children. These were the children of John Trafford's sister Frances, who had married Henry Livesey of Ormskirk in 1778, but sadly died in 1788. Her burial entry in the Croston church register lists the cause of her death as "child bed" and states that she was buried in "Squire Trafford Chapel".
The Livesey children seem to have been brought up with their Trafford cousins and the account books make frequent mention of them. John Trafford also appears to have provided for their futures as well as one of the account books records the large fee of £150 being paid to a Mr Leigh in 1796 for Humphrey Livesey's apprenticeship.
The account book gives no further details, but a register of duties paid for apprentices' indentures records that Humphrey Livesey was apprenticed to James Leigh of Parbold, who was a land surveyor.
Members of the family was also mentioned under the heading 'Apparel', as there were frequent purchases of material, clothing, jewellery and cosmetics.
Interestingly, reference is also made to clothing obtained for the servants as well as the family.
Like many families of the period, the Traffords appear to have had an interest in music as the account books include multiple references to musical instruments, musicians & musical entertainments.
In three months in late 1797 and early 1798, a total of £6 19s was paid out for repairing & carrying instruments. There are also payments for musicians and singers, presumably providing entertainment for the family and their guests.
The curiously named "Incidents" in the account books include a miscellany of different expenses.
In the days before a wide reaching & reliable post service, the accounts include multiple payments for the delivery of letters. The above page also records one of the largest expenses listed, that for the purchase of a new coach costing £243 4s 9d (around £19,000 in today's money).
There was also the need to stay up to date with the latest news through newspapers from Chester, London and Manchester. There are also regular payments records for writing materials including quills and ingredients for ink.
Cataloguing of de Trafford of Trafford collection is still ongoing, but the latest catalogue entries are now available to view on LANCAT.