Old Molecatchers and tales from the shires of England
1851 Hanslope - Residing in Gold street was William Herbert aged 28 with his wife and three children.
1851 living at 250 Qua Fen Common, Soham. John Cray
Outgate - John Waterson who was a molecatcher here in 1820 - he contracted Elephantitis
Corney - 1901 - Peter Steele
Cockermouth - 1811 - Thomas Thompson
Carsington - 1846 - 1847 the accounts for a Christopher Oldknow show an entry for two pounds and two shillings for one years mole catching paid to molecatcher Joseph Allsop from Hopton.
Accounts from John Bowler dated 1849 again show an entry for one years mole catching paid to Joseph Allsop and the sum, once again, two pounds and two shillings.
John Bowler paid the same amount to Joseph Allsop for the following years mole catching in 1850.
The details of Joseph Allsop then show a change in occurrences as in 1851. He was paid for only a half year the sum of one pound and one shilling by a Mr John Heathcote for his mole catching services. The other half of the year and the balance of the money, one pound and a shilling was paid to Francis Greatorex who maintained the mole catching services at the same rate of two pounds and two shillings for the next five years until 1856.
Joseph Allsop died on August 22nd 1853 aged 82 years
Records from 1857 show Francis Greatorex as catching moles for a John Wigley again at the same rate until 1859 then Francis appears in the accounts for John Oldfield for 1860-61 again at the rate of two pounds and two shillings for the first year then a dramatic rise to two pounds and ten shillings in 1861. Prices increase again in the following year as Francis Greatorex was paid two pounds and twelve shillings by John Bowler in 1863 but this price was reduced to two pounds and ten shillings for services of mole catching again to John Bowler for the years 1864, 1865, 1866, 1867 and 1868. There was another price increase of 100% in 1869 to four pounds and four shillings per year which was paid to the year of 1874.
Francis Greatorex died June 18th 1873 aged 69 years.
In 1871 a travelling molecatcher Leonard Winn, aged 31, was staying under the roof of widow Mary Cowley aged 25 a seamstress in the village of Hullard Ward, a village a few miles south from the areas worked by both Joseph and Francis.
The widow Mary Etherington was a busy lady, as well as running the newsagents in Parwich she also had two travelling molecatchers to tend too, Robert Stevenson, 23, from Westmorland and William Smith, 36, a Scottish molecatcher from Edinburgh.
A baptism in 1857 shows another molecatcher, Joseph Wood, who at Gresley Linton church, with his wife Mary, baptised their daughter Mary Anne on 6th December 1857.
Information from: John Murby - Measham parish.
Roborough 1861- John Judd aged 73 was still catching moles at St Giles in the Wood - he lived at 41 Normans with his wife Grace
Upleatham 1890 - Robert Jackson
Broadwell 1871 - hurdle maker and molecatcher William Stratford
Ampney St Peter 1861 - Richard Taylor
Great Rissington 1851 - John Search [Surch] molecatcher still recorded as molecatcher forty years on in 1891
Stonehouse Cenus 1851 - Charles Taylor
Hidcote Boyce 1861 - father and son molecatchers Robert and Joseph Brain
Awre - George Huges
Harnhill - staying at the grocer and bakers house of John Williams was Alfred Taylor a molecatcher from near Darlington
Contract between Downholland Parish Council and the molecatcher John Martindale of Selside for 14 years at eight pounds and eight shillings per year in 1837
Oswaldtwistle parish - One very happy molecatcher must have been Christopher Garnet who was paid the annual sum of twenty six pounds and five shillings per year for an agreed term of 11 years in 1810
Barnacre with Bonds employed molecatcher Richard Knagg from Garstang from Feb. 1819 for a term of 21 years. After his term the agreement changed hands to a Thomas Heaps in 1840
Breightmet - 1805 and molecatcher Thomas Edge was paid just six pence per acre for a term of five years however records show he was still being paid in 1829
In Groby at 15 Mark Field Road Cottages, lived a molecatcher who is reputed to have attempted to murder his wife, no details of who he was or what became of him have appearred as yet but with such a prominent address it is a matter of time.
One of the earliest reference the Guild has on mole catching refers to Belton in the old parish of Axholme. It is dated 1708 and states that for destroying the moles the overseer of the poor shall pay one half penny per mole. The same price could be secured in 1724 as shown in another record.
November 5th 1725 and John Twoll had an agreement with the parish of Donnington which he was paid in two equal parts one by the church warden the and the other part by the constable. John could not write and probably not read either but his mark can be found at the bottom of the document
Welton 1765 - An agreement between the Lordship and inhabitants of Welton and two molecatchers - William and John Pettinger of Scothern for catching or taking the moles in the Lordship of Welton. That they shall be paid forty shillings of good and lawful money of Great Britain by the year for the full term of twenty years. But if the constable or the inhabitants can prove that the Lordships or fields at the end of three years is kept in no better order by killing or destroying of the moles that the then said constable and inhabitants of Welton shall be at liberty from said conenant.
1773 and overseer of the poor at Thurlby paid Eldred Knipe molecatcher the sum of five pounds payable for killing the moles in the said parish for a term of twenty years.
1788 John Stamp was employed for ten years to rid the parish of Goxhill at the agreed price of four pounds and four shillings per year, payable by the overseer of the poor twice yearly at two pounds and two shillings
William Croft of Bardeny is found in a memorandum dated 1831 to doth take to catch and kill moles for a term of ten years for the parishioners of Stixwould for the sum of fifteen pounds for the first year and seven pounds for each of the remaining nine years.
1881 Wooton - Thomas Catley
1891 Gosberton William Eldred
The family name of Keeler shows references to molecatchers in the areas of Norfolk. 1881 in Update on Common, Swannington lived 71 year old George Keeler. Thomas Keeler died in 1877 aged 69. In records dated 1851 he was listed as a molecatcher living in Oulton. In 1881 his wife Lydia was recorded as having her grandson William Keeler staying with her, he was aged 16 and employed as a molecatcher, Whether William took over from his grandson records fail to explain.
The names of Keelers who were molecatchers are found here - John Keeler born 6th September 1809 died 1881 married to Hannah. They had several children one George Keeler born in 1867 who was also later  is found as listed as a mole catcher. They lived in Swannington. Another George Keeler can be found living in Dog Lane at nearby Horsford, George was born 1846 and again is listed as molecatcher they had a son George Anther George Keeler who appears in later records as living with his wife Angelina at Oulton. Robert Keeler and his son Walter can be found at Booton Road Cawston as molecatchers in an 1881 record. So the Keelers were a family full of molecatchers in the Norfolk area but they were not alone -
1821 - John Atkyne aged 47 was listed as molecatcher at Winfarthing
1883 - Of 144 inhabitants in Ingworth was John Burrell - Molecatcher
1854 - 1861 the Jolly Dyers Public House was owned by another molecatcher John Moore
1845 - William Lark molecatcher - Swafield
To date, the oldest reference we have for a molecatcher is found here in Norfolk. William Manning to which the churchwardens accounts show that during the years between 1575 and 1589 he caught over 800 moles and was paid a penny each for them.
Linden Hall now an exclusive hotel and country club was once the home of the Adamson family who in 1932 employed a molecatcher by the name of Thomas Percival who was paid 30 shillings per year
Cornhill on Tweed 1881 - Willaim Reid living in Cornhill Village with his wife
1881 Newborough - Josiah Eve
1861 Great Weldon - William Parker Starsmore
Laxton - The house that was the home of Joseph Moody still exists next to the churchyard. Joe was born an illegitimate son of Ann Moody and Joseph Twidale in 1802. On the 25th September 1825 he married Mary Hewitt and their marriage was blessed with fourteen children. George William Joseph Hannah Samuel Fanny Elizabeth Henry Mary Mary Ann. Jane Benjamin Harriett. Joseph Moody Died Feb 1881 after spending his whole life in Laxton
In 1889 J Stanton was appointed molecatcher on the Lyndon Estate Oakham at the agreed rate of fifty shillings per year he left in 1891 and the office of molecatcher was abolished there.
Molecatcher Robert Addison was born in 1845 in Westmorland and died aged 96 in Kenton Devon. During his life time he was a molecatcher living at Butts, North Petherton in Somerset  and later  living on Pound Street, North Petherton in the borough of Bridgewater
Creech St Michael 1851 John Ween or Weere
Robert Cording- molecatcher - was living in a property called Rodhuish with his wife Sarah, the curate at Withycombe baptised their daughter Eliza on 19th October 1823 and their son Robert on April 16th 1826
1881- 1891 George Bloor Draycott
1920's Robert Robinson, nr Lutterworth.
Mildenhall - In 1881 James Bassett lived at number 3 Westonditch Road Mildenhall with his wife Sarah and two children James and Ester. Here is one of James Bassett's traps, his initials can be seen stamped in the body of the barrel
In 1879 at Blaxhall in Suffolk lived a molecatcher by the name of James "sparrowhawk" Smith who it is said caught 654 moles in 32 days- 20 per day - every day, no easy task with the traps of that time.
Other molecatcher from the County of Suffolk included -
1891 Henry Askew and his grandson Herbert working in the areas around Samford
John Levett from Preston
John Green recorded in 1855 at Sible Hedingham
Daniel Cooper 1819 - Cavendish- a molecatcher Thatcher and hat maker
The village sign at Wickhambrook depicts a gent sitting watching the cricket. Over his arm is a pair of hand cuffs and in his hand he holds a pint of cider and in his other a mole stick. The mole stick shows the moles that had been caught by the parish molecatcher. It was the responsibility of the parish constable to pay the molecatchers and he required the evidence that they were in fact carrying out the agreed task of removing the village moles. The moles were displayed on sticks for him to collect as proof of those works.
Pembroke Lodge in the grounds of Richmond park is now a prestigious conference facility and has come along way since 1754 when it was nothing more than a one room cottage occupied by the molecatcher who was employed to ensure the mole numbers were at a minimum in the 2500 acres of prime English parkland.
One of the youngest recorded old molecatchers is found in a census at Kemble - William Compton aged 11. He was the son of local rat catcher Henry Fovant
1861 Thomas Buston aged 68 originally from Chilmark Wiltshire
1841 Samuel Whatley
Eckington - We have found an early record of a molecatcher dating back to 1631 and refers to a George Soule. George married a Susan Nash in the summer of that year. In the year of 1633/4 George had a dispute with a Mary Taylor who was ordered to keep the peace with George. The dispute was settled as George signed a release so she obviously paid her debt for mole catching. George found himself in trouble in 1637 for stealing a sheep from his brother-in-law Thomas Roberts. This also seems to have been sorted out as George was a witness to Roberts will in 1643!
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