Wednesday 2 September 2015 - The case of Betsy Clarke

Welcome to ‘The Problem of the Poor?’ blog page. This blog aims to keep you, the reader informed on what we, the wonderful volunteers have discovered in our unique heritage project and how we have been getting along.

Today we saw the script for our trial. This was based on a story that we created ourselves. For our starting point we took a story reported in a local newspaper in 1879, which told how NCVS had become involved in the case of a destitute woman and her four young children.  She had been taken to court for begging , under the Vagrancy Act.

We then took information and examples from the case studies that NCVS published between 1875 and 1901 about the people who applied to it for help, and used these to imagine what might be the missing background to the story reported in the newspaper.  We wanted Betsy Clarke, the central figure in our trial, to be a symbol for the difficulties faced by people in Nottingham during this time. We also wanted her case to explore the issues and questions that society was exploring in its response to these problems.

We enjoyed running through the script, and deciding on roles.  We thought about the characters, how they would behave and speak, and what they would be wearing. One issue that we talked about was about using the names of real life individuals in a piece of drama.  We decided to change the name of our central character because of this, to reflect the fact that we had added a lot of our own detail and explanation.

See how beggars were punished in the Victorian cases heard at London’s Old Bailey.

Last updated: 05 October 2015