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Since Saxon times the care of the poor was regarded as the duty of the Church and part of the tithes were used to this end. This task was increasingly carried out by the monasteries who provided provisions and lodging for the poor as well as alms - even if sometimes quite indiscriminate generosity caused harm.

The establishment historicaly feared any increase in poverty as large numbers of the poor might lead to riots and other disturbances. This fear invariably resulted in legislation. Feudalism was already breaking down in the fourteenth century with feudal dues being replaced by monetary rents. Following the destruction of as much as a third or maybe, by some estimates, half the population by the Black Death after its arrival in Weymouth in 1348, labourers used the scarcity of their kind to demand higher wages from thelandlords. By the Statutes of Labourers of 1349 and 1351, Edward III (1327-77) forbade the giving of alms or other help to the able-bodied who were ordered by the statutes to find work on pain of imprisonment.

Because a great part of the people, and especially of workmen and servants, late died of the pestilence, many seeing the necessity of masters, and great scarcity of servants, will not serve unless they may receive excessive wages, and some rather willing to beg in idleness, than by labor to get their living; we, considering the grievous incommodities, which of the lack especially of ploughmen and such laborers may hereafter come, have upon deliberation and treaty with the prelates and the nobles, and learned men assisting us, of their mutual counsel ordained:

That every man and woman of our realm of England, of what condition he be, free or bond, able in body, and within the age of threescore years, not living in merchandise, nor exercising any craft, nor having of his own whereof he may live, nor proper land, about whose tillage he may himself occupy, and not serving any other, if he in convenient service, his estate considered, be required to serve, he shall be bounden to serve him which so shall him require; and take only the wages, livery, meed, or salary, which were accustomed to be given in the places where he oweth to serve, the twentieth year of our reign of England, or five or six other commone years next before. Provided always, that the lords be preferred before other in their bondmen or their land tenants, so in their service to be retained; so that nevertheless the said lords shall retain no more than be necessary for them; and if any such man or woman, being so required to serve, will not the same do, that proved by two true men before the sheriff or the constables of the town where the same shall happen to be done, he shall anon be taken by them or any of them, and committed to the next gaol, there to remain under strait keeping, till he find surety to serve in the form aforesaid.

- Ordnance of Labourers, June 18th, 1349 (Source Problems in English History ed. by Albert Beebe White & Wallace Notestein, Harper and Brothers Publishers, New York, 1915)

Whereas late against the malice of servants, which were idle, and not willing to serve after the pestilence, without taking excessive wages, it was ordained by our lord the king, and by the assent of the prelates, nobles, and other of his council, that such manner of servants, as well men as women, should be bound to serve, receiving salary and wages, accustomed in places where they ought to serve in the twentieth year of the reign of the king that now is, or five or six years before; and that the same servants refusing to serve in such manner should be punished by imprisonment of their bodies . . .

- Statutes of Labourers, 1351 (Source Problems in English History, 1915)

The Statute of Cambridge was passed in 1388, during the reign of Richard II (1377 - 1399), placed further restrictions on labourers, servants and beggars by strengthening the powers of the justices of the peace. Servants were forbidden to move out of the hundred without prior legal authority. The statute also made the distinction between sturdy beggars capable of work and impotent beggars who were incapacitated by age or infirmity. The hundred was made responsible for housing and keeping its own paupers but made no provision was made for the impotent paupers who relied on the traditional alms of the church and private charity.

It is also the first attempt to regulate sanitation in England by regulating offal and slaughter houses - it prohibited the casting of animal filth and refuse into rivers and ditches and "corrupting of the air".

When Henry VIII passed a law authorising collections on Sundays to aid the poor, the distinction was again made between the impotent poor and the able-bodied and only the former could be granted licenses to beg.

The poor law of 1535 (27 Hen. VIII, c.25) required that;-

. . . all Governors of Shires, Cities, Towns, Hundreds, Hamlets and Parishes shall find and keep every aged, poor and impotent Person, which was born or dwelt three years within the same limit, by way of voluntary and charitable Alms . . . for as none of them shall be compelled to go openly in begging. And also shall compel every sturdy Vagabond to be kept in continual labour . . .

. . . the Act gave powers to apprentice children between the ages of five and thirteen and voluntary contributions for the relief of the poor were to be collected by the justices of the peace and churchwardens

The latter 15th and the 16th centuries saw a large increase in the numbers of paupers for various reasons. The Wars of the Roses and Henry VII's victory had caused the dissolution of many noble households while the growth of enclosures deprived the poor of valuable grazing rights along with the right to cut fodder and bedding.

In the country-side, the rapid rise of sheep farming to supply the profitable English woollen industry threw many who had been involved in agriculture out of work and the wane of the importance of the guilds in towns led to an increased distress among the urban artisans for whom the guilds had previously made provisions.

The situation was worsened drastically, particularly in country areas by henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries which robbed the rural poor of their long-established aid very quickly.

The 16th and early 17th centuries saw state intervention replacing the role of the church and voluntary effort in making provision for the relief of the poor.

The rise in pauperism caused Queen Elizabeth I to pass a law in 1572 whereby mayors and justices were made responsible for the assessing of inhabitants for the Poor Rate to raise the necessary funding for relief of poverty and to appoint overseers, parish officials responsible for the relief of the poor.

It was thus that state intervention took over the role of the church and voluntary effort in the 16th and early 17th centuries.

Medieval commoners not gainfully and productively employed, as judged by the local Lord, were compelled to work on the land.

The Poor Laws developed as a system of public relief given to the destitute in Great Britain after King Henry VIII's (1509-1547) Dissolution of the Monasteries (1536-1539) which had fulfilled that task during their existence.

BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Edward VIElizabeth IGilberts Act, 1782Hits on this Page
LegalsLinksLocallyPoor Law Ammendment Act, 1834
Poor Law Commision, 1832Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830
Time-LineTwentieth Century
Henry VIII

An Act of Parliament in 1536 (Henry VIII) abolished the able-bodied pauper's right to solicit voluntary charity, the responsibility to provide provide work for the able-bodied was thrown onto the parochial authorities on penalty of twenty shillings a month for every case of default.

Neither could the beggar obtain money from travellers as had frequently been the case before as the Act rendered any parishioner (or townsman) who distributed alms outside his district liable to the forfeit to the State ten times the amount given (it is not recorded whether the recipient of the alms was allowed to act as 'informer' and claim the customary half of the penalty).

The mandatory Poor Rate, levied from the last years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I (1558-1603) had not yet been concieved and the funds required for the relief of paupers was chiefly chiefly obtained from church collections and the clergy, to some extent, controlled the distribution of alms as had been the case before the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The laws against vagrancy were severe, first conviction being punishable by whipping. A second conviction rendered the beggar to have his right ear sliced off while any subsequent conviction rendered him liable to execution.

BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Elizabeth IGilberts Act, 1782Henry VIIIHits on this Page
LegalsLinksLocallyPoor Law Ammendment Act, 1834
Poor Law Commision, 1832Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830
Time-LineTwentieth Century
Edward VI

One of the earliest Acts of the reign of the boy king Edward VI (1547-1553) was to mitigate the penalty of the able-bodied pauper who refused to take up work by branding on the shoulder.

Any person taking charge of the pauper could claim him, effectively, as a slave for two years. A kindly master might allow the pauper under his charge meat-offal or even scraps from his table but legally was only obliged provide him with sufficieny of bread and water. If the provision of lodgings and such victuals did not spur the pauper to work to his master's satisfaction, the master was at liberty to chain him and have him flogged near death - provided his charge survived the punishment, the law held his master blameless.

The first attempt at escape was punished by branding on the cheek if the pauper was caught and the extension of his servitude for life. If no master could be found to take him under his charge, the pauper's legs were shackled and he was set to work repairing the highways. Subsequent attempts at escape were punishable by hanging.

This 'liberal' experiment with the problems of pauperism only lasted three years before the full force of Henry VIII's law of 1536 was re-instated.

In 1551 local Collectors were appointed to record the name, residence, and occupation of all those in the parish able to give as well as those in distress entitled to relieve. The collectors were charged to " . . . gently ask every man and woman, that they of their charity will give weekly to the relief of the poor." No cumpulsion more severe than a visit from the minister or churchwardens exhort the contribution to charity were employed under the Act.

BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Edward VIGilberts Act, 1782Henry VIIIHits on this Page
LegalsLinksLocallyPoor Law Ammendment Act, 1834
Poor Law Commision, 1832Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830
Time-LineTwentieth Century
Elizabeth I

The voluntary cotributions for aid to the poor established by Edward VI's Act of 1551 were abandoned after only twelve years and, in 1563, a new Act rendered any person able to contribute but refusing to do so liable to be summoned before a justice to be taxed according to his discretion and be jailed on further refusal.

Within nine years, in 1572, these measures to support the impotent were considered to be inadequate to deal with the number of vagrants and professional beggars in the kingdom and legislation was again passed to force them into work;

. . . all persons whole and mighty in body, able to labour, not having land or master, nor using any lawful merchandise, craft, or mystery, and all common labourers, able in body, loitering and refusing to work for such reasonable wage as is commonly given, should for the first offence be grievously whipped, and burned through the gristle of the right ear with a hot iron of the compass of an inch about.

Further labour legislation was passed in 1598 (39 Elizabeth, cap. 3 & 4) enforcing labour on the landless and unemployed on pain of being;

. . . openly whipped until his body should be bloody, and forthwith sent from parish to parish, the most straight way to the parish where he was born, there to put himself to labour, as a true sub�ject ought to do.

. . . legislation which though not drawn up for the purpose, would have grave consequences for strikers and the formation of trade unions.

The same Acts provided for the Overseers of the Poor in each parish to raise;

. . . taxation of every inhabitant, parson, vicar, and other, and of every occupier of lands, houses, tithes, mines, &c.;, such sums of money as they shall require for providing a sufficient stock of flax, hemp, wool, and other ware or stuff to set the poor on work, and also compe�tent sums for relief of lame, blind, old, and impotent persons.

and empowered justices to commit the able-bodied who would not work to prison and charged churchwardens and overseers to build suitable houses at the cost of the parish to recieve only impotent paupers.

The Elizabethan Act of 1601 introduced the assessing of all land and property for a tax to relieve the local poor and needy. It was important in its pragmatic approach to the problem of poverty, moving away from the medieval notion that punishment was the only way of dealing with beggary.

Special arrangements were made for the spas of Bath and Buxton which were subject to visits from the sick seeking a remedy to their afflictions from the waters. Later these arragements were to become a more general system throughout the country.

It was promulgated that "Whereas a great number of poor and diseased people do resort to the City of Bath in the County of Somerset, and the Town of Buxton in the County of Derby, for some ease and relief of their diseases at the baths there, and by means thereof the inhabitants of the same city of Bath and town of Buxton are greatly overcharged with the same poor people, to their intolerable charge, . . . " such people would not be allowed to visit the spas without a license from their home parish whereby the parish agreed to be responsible if they became paupers " . . . and that the inhabitants of the same city and town shall not in any wise be charged by this Act with the finding of relief of any such poor people."

Having no certificate from his parish or money rendered the person liable to the severe punishments under the Act for the Punishment of Rogues and Vagabonds.

Each parish became responsible for putting to work all the needy able-bodied resident within its boundaries and for raising taxes within the parish to pay for raw materials for the paupers to work upon and support the aged and infirm. This system was much abused in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Under the Elizabethan law, the poor were divided up into two distinct groups; the 'impotent', the ill and elderly who 'would work but couldn't' and the 'able-bodied' who 'could work but wouldn't'.

The impotent were given 'outdoor relief', assistance given out-of-almshouse. The able-bodied were only given 'indoor relief' within the brutal regime prevailing in the almshouse or workhouse design to 'right' their ways.

The distinction is maintained to the present with the ill or incapacitated recieving 'sickness' or 'disability' benefits while the able-bodied recieve 'Job Seekers' Allowance' or 'Income Support', etc.

Every parish was required to appoint two Overseers of the Poor to collect the Poor Rate and use it to relieve the poor of the parish - a task they were to fulfill for over three centuries and into modern times as they were appointed until 1929.

Migrant paupers, returning to the parish in which they had settlement were granted and expected to possess a license to beg.

The parishes were very anxious lest any person who was, or was likely to become a pauper, should obtain legal settlement within the parish (which could be obtained by residence and employment for s specific period, as well as by birth) and become a burden on the local Poor Rate. The Overseers of the Poor were thus anxious to help any poor travellers on their way back to their rightful place of settlement or to remove any pauper living within the parish boundaries but without right of settlement; they were acting in self-interest as well as charity.

The arrangements varied considerably between parishes, some did not have almshouses while others were reputed for their kinder treatment of the poor and it was natural for the poor to attempt to move to parishes with the most advantageous conditions. The Settlement Act of 1662 prevented parishes providing better arrangements from being inundated by forcing paupers to prove "settlement" before a justice of the peace before becoming eligable to receive relief from a particular parish.

Proof consisted of birth in the parish, for women, marriage to a man with settlement in the parish, or working in the parish for a year and a day (labour contracts were often made for 364 days to prevent the acquisition of settlement rights).

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of the
178136411   %
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The Overseers also made every effort to pass pregnant women whose offspring were likely to become a burden on the Poor Rate on to other parishes providing not only money, but sometimes paying for a companion, a man with a horse, or even a cart, to help them on their way.

Illigitimate children and their mothers were also likely to become a charge on the Poor Rate and their numbers were considerable as is shown by SG McKay's examination of baptism records for Milborne Port in Somerset during the years 1781 to 1785 given in the table to the right.

Records show that the parish would fund paupers who were willing to do so to emigrate to the newly-established colonies which were hungry for labour, thus relieving the burden on the Poor Rate. Vestry meeting deliberated on whether to appeal the granting of settlement within the parish at the Quarter Sessions at the parish expense.

The Overseers were empowered to apprentice children, within or outside the parish. The system provided the parish with considerable revenue; �7 10s for a little girl to a gingerbread maker, or �18 for a lame boy. 0000900503, p.53

BibliographyDiscuss this PageEdward VIElizabeth I
Gilberts Act, 1782Henry VIIIHits on this PageLegalsLinks
LocallyPoor Law Ammendment Act, 1834Poor Law Commision, 1832
Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830Time-Line
Twentieth Century
Charles II (1660-1685)

Not all the itinerant mendicants which caused concern were English as can be surmised from a procalamation of the reign of Charles II (1660-1685);

A Proclamation for the speedy rendering away of Irishe Beg�gars out of this Kingdome into their owne Countrie and for the Suppressing and Ordering of Rogues and Vagabonds according to the Laws.

Whereas this realme hath of late been pestered with great numbers of Irishe beggars who live here idly and dangerously, and are of ill example to the natives of this Kingdome; and whereas the multitude of English rogues and vagabonds doe much more abound than in former tymes � some wandering and begging under the colour of soldiers and mariners, others under the pretext of impotent persons, whereby they become a burden to the good people of the land � all which happeneth by the neglect of the due execution of the lawes formerly with great providence made for relief of the true poor and indigent and for the punishment of sturdy rogues and vagabonds: for the reforming thereof soe great a mischiefe, and to prevent the many dangers which will ensue by the neglect thereof; the King, by the advice of his Privy Council and of his judges, commands that all the laws and statutes now in force for the punishment of rogues and vagabonds be duly putt in execution; and more particularly that all Irishe beggars which now are in any part of this Kingdome, wandering or begging under what pretence soever, shall forthwith depart this realme and return to their owne countries and there abide.

The Licensing Act of 1737 made it necessary for actors to obtain licenses to perform or be subject to the vagrancy laws.

BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Edward VIElizabeth IHenry VIIIHits on this PageLegals
LinksLocallyPoor Law Ammendment Act, 1834
Poor Law Commision, 1832Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830
Time-LineTwentieth Century
Gilberts Act, 1782

The Act is named after Thomas Gilbert (1720-98), the MP who first attempted to introduce it in 1765 unsuccessfully but persisted for seventeen years until it became law in 1782. The act allowed neighbouring parish to join together into "unions" for the purposes of providing relief to the poor, including the building of poorhouses, taking advantage of the economies of scale. The Act also authorised the Overseers of the Poor to withhold relief from any who refused to enter the workhouse.

Some parishes adopted a policy that poor-relief would only be paid at the work-house.

BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Edward VIElizabeth IGilberts Act, 1782Henry VIII
Hits on this PageLegalsLinksLocally
Poor Law Ammendment Act, 1834Poor Law Commision, 1832
Swing Riots, 1830Time-LineTwentieth Century
Speenhamland System, 1795

The "Speenhamland System" is named after the village of Speen in Berkshire where it originated in 1795 where local magistrates were led to believe that "the present state of the poor requires further assistance than has generally been given them."

Revolution in France, failed harvests and a growing population caused the ruling class to fear that the peasantry might follow the french example by revolting against them and allowances for the poor were initiated at Speen; labourers received subsistence relief according to income, the price of bread and the number of children in the family.

The system spread rapidly through the south of England, especially in the "Swing" counties which formed a particularly impoverished part of the country.

these simple provisions were in course of time greatly perverted, and many abuses were introduced into the administration of the poor-law. One of the most mischievous practices was that which was established by the justices for the county of Berks in 1795, when, in order to meet the wants of the labouring population� caused by the high price of provisions�an allowance in proportion to the number of his family was made out of the parish fund to every labourer who applied for relief. This allowance fluctuated with the price of the gallon loaf of second flour, and the scale was so adjusted as to return to each family the sum which in a given number of loaves would cost beyond the price, in years of ordi�nary abundance. This plan was conceived in a spirit of benevolence, but the readiness with which it was adopted in all parts of England clearly shows the want of sound views on the subject. Under the allowance-system the labourer received a part of his means of sub�sistence in the form of a parish-gift, and as the fund out of which it was provided was raised from the contributions of those who did not employ labourers as well as of those who did, their employers being able in part to burden others with the payment for their labour, had a direct interest in perpetuating the system. Those who employed labourers looked upon the parish contribu�tion as part of the fund out of which they were to be paid, and accordingly lowered their rate of wages. The labourers also looked on the fund as a source of wage. The consequence was, that the labourer looked to the parish, and as a matter of right, without any regard to his real wants; and he received the wages of his labour as only one and a secondary source of the means of subsis�tence. His character as a labourer became of less value, his value as a labourer being thus diminished under the combined operation of these two causes.

- Halliday, Origin and History of the Poor-Laws

BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Edward VIElizabeth IGilberts Act, 1782Henry VIII
Hits on this PageLegalsLinksLocally
Poor Law Ammendment Act, 1834Poor Law Commision, 1832
Speenhamland System, 1795Time-LineTwentieth Century
Swing Riots, 1830

Industrialisation, including that of agriculture, and a recession in 1815 led to an increase in unemployment, civil unrest and poaching - between 1824 and 1830 crime in rural areas rose by thirty per cent (between 1827 and 1830, one out of every seven people found guilty of any crime was convicted for violating the game laws).

The riots by rural labourers protesting for higher wages and withdrawal of the threshing machines they saw as robbing them of work were worst in the arable south and east of England and came to a head in 1830 with the rioters burning hay ricks, destroying threshing machines and maiming cattle along their path.

On November 27th, 1830, an article by the journalist William Cobbett was published in the Political Register blaming the unrest on hunger and the poor laws; "I defy you to agitate any fellow with a full stomach." Cobbett advocated radical action, not only massive financial assistance for the poor ("forty million a year must now remain with the working people"), but also "radical reform" of Parliament itself.

While the local gentry were often sympathetic, the government's Special Commissions dealt with the unrest ruthlessly, hanging nine men and transporting nearly 500.

BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Edward VIElizabeth IGilberts Act, 1782Henry VIII
Hits on this PageLegalsLinksLocally
Poor Law Ammendment Act, 1834Speenhamland System, 1795
Swing Riots, 1830Time-LineTwentieth Century
Poor Law Commision, 1832

A Poor Law Commision was established in 1832 to review the poor laws where earlier conservative commissions had criticised relief for the poor but changed little.

The "Nottinghamshire reforms" recieved much publicity in 1821-2, aiming at very strict administration of the poor laws and providing indoor relief in the workhouse only under conditions so harsh as to discourage reliance on the parish rate.

The Revd. Robert Lowe, vicar of the parish of Bingham near Nottingham had virtually abolished outdoor relief in the parish and George Nicholls who became overseer of the parish of Southwell in the early 1920's did likewise. Nicholls reduced the parish expenditure on poor relief from �1,884 in the year 1821-2 to only �811 in the following fiscal year.

The commission's twenty-six investigators visited some 3,000 of Britain's 15,000 parishes at the time, each official believing in the detrimental effect on the poor of outdoor relief and influenced by the theories of economist Thomas Robert Malthus which were popular at the time. The Commissioners also sent out questionnaries to the parishes but only ten per cent of these had been returned precluding any valid random-sampling.

Britain's 15,000 parishes worked independently of each other and consequently there were no national statistic or trends available to the Commission.

In his Essay on the Principle of Population published in 1798, Malthus proposed that population would always increase faster than available food supplies and that, unless people limited the number fo their offspring, war and disease were necessary to control excess population.

Despite the poor response to the questionnaire and its badly phrased questions which did not distinguish between family allowances on wages and wage subsidies, the Commission conluded on the basis of the response that family allowances usually meant larger families. They also concluding that the administration of the 1601 Poor Law was too wasteful and expense. Their findings were implemented in the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834.

BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Edward VIElizabeth IGilberts Act, 1782Henry VIII
Hits on this PageLegalsLinksLocallyPoor Law Commision, 1832
Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830Time-Line
Twentieth Century
Poor Law Ammendment Act, 1834

In 1919 the Ministry of Health became the central body overseeing the parish unions.

The Poor Law Ammendment Act of 1834 established a central body to supervise all administration of relief in place of the individual parishes which were grouped into about six hundred large units known as "unions". Each union was governed by a board of guardians who were elected by the ratepayers.

Wages ceased to be paid and the able-bodied were only supported in the workhouse. Grants-in-aid were not made from the national exchequer but in London a common pool of funding was raised for all the parishes.

The Boards of Guardians appointed registrars of births and deaths and administered "indoor" relief in workhouses, infirmaries, casual wards, asylums, etc., also "outdoor" relief (including money, food or medicines) to the aged and infirm.

The Act (1834) made the repeal of the Corn Laws, introduced to protect farmers in 1815 but causing great hardship to the poor, an inevitability.

BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Edward VIElizabeth IGilberts Act, 1782Henry VIII
Hits on this PageLegalsLinksLocally
Poor Law Ammendment Act, 1834Poor Law Commision, 1832
Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830Time-Line
Twentieth Century

A Royal Commission in 1908 recognised that no blame or stigma could be attached to poverty and the most important of their practical recommendations were incorporated into the Local Government Act of 1929. This replaced the Boards of Guardians of the parish unions with Public Assistance Committees, under the administration of the Ministry of Health, of which two thirds had to be members of a County or County Borough Council. All the previous legislation was consolidated the following year in the Poor Law Act of 1930.

The old "mixed workhouses" were replaced by seperate institutions for children, the sick, the aged and the unemployed, each controlled by a committee.

The first principle applied to the poor relief was that it should only be available once all other sources failed, thus certain relatives of the poor had a duty to support them. The able-bodied were largely provided for by Unemployment Insurance Benefits, the remainder could be set to work or training. At least one half of any relief was provided in kind rather than in money.

Children were often boarded out at "childrens' homes" were they were maintained and educated or relief might be allowed to their parents. The aged and infirm were usually aided institutionally and only in very special circumstances allowed out-door relief.

BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Edward VIElizabeth IGilberts Act, 1782Henry VIII
Hits on this PageLegalsLinksLocally
Poor Law Ammendment Act, 1834Poor Law Commision, 1832
Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830Twentieth Century

This time-line has been generated for this page from our general time-line
which you can view by clicking here or on the dates in the left-hand column.

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1232Robert Thweng seizes the money collected by the Papal agents and gives it to the poor
Hubert de Burgh took no action against Thweng
by 1324De Praerogativa Regis (Royal Prerogative) provided for management of estates of incapacitated tenants to ensure their maintenance, with profits going to the crown
1344Royal Ordinance orders lepers in London to leave the city and betake themselves to places in the country
1348.MayBlack Death or Bubonic Plague arrives in Britain through Melcombe Regis in Dorset having ravaged mainland Europe
In three years it is thought one third of Europe\\\'s population perished
1349.Jun.18Ordnance of Labourers: set the wages of labourers at pre-Black Death levels
1351Statute of Labourers: reinforced the Ordnance of Labourers to set the wages of labourers at pre-Black Death levels
1388Statute of Cambridge; precursor of the Tudor Poor Laws
1389Justices of the peace given powers to fix the wages of labourers
1391Second Statute of Mortmain orders that upon the appropriation of a benefice a proportion of its fruits should be reserved for distribution among the poor of the parish
1535Poor Law Act (27 Hen. VIII, c.25)
by 1547City of London levies taxes for poor relief
Such tax levied nationally in 1572 with compulsion imposed on local authorities by 1576
1601The Poor Law forced each parish to make provision (parish relief) for its own poor
1607French ordinance calls archers to the gates of Paris to shoot any vagabonds or beggars who try to enter the city
1656Hopital General created in Paris as a prison to confine the idle, the vagabonds, beggars, sick and insane
1657French edict on vagrancy enforced by archers who herded people into the Hospital
1662The Poor Law
1662The Settlement Act: paupers had to prove settlement within a parish to be eligible for parish relief
1685England\'s population estimated at 5-millions; 7,000 lords and bishops; 8,000 knights; 50,000 clergymen; 70,000 lawyers; 250,000 shopkeepers; 750,000 farmers; about 2,500,000 labourers, servants and poor and 30,000 vagrants
1709Riots in Bristol over the price of wheat
see also C18th Corn Laws
1714Act for The more effectual punishing such as rogues, vagabonds, sturdy beggars and sending them whither they ought to be sent
1737Licensing Act: Plays censored and actors made subject to vagrancy laws
1744Vagrancy Act allows two magistrates to order detention of those lunatics perceived as furiously mad or dangerous, in any place of security
1765MP Thomas Gilbert first attempts to introduce an Act allowing neighbouring parishes to group into unions to administer the Poor Laws
The legislation was eventually passed in 1782
1782Gilberts Act allows the formation of parish unions
Named after Thomas Gilbert, the MP who persisted with the legislation for 17 years
1784Estimates of annual poor relief place the figure at �2-millions
The figure was tripled by 1815
1795Introduction of the Speenhamland System for aiding the poor at Speen in Berkshire
The system was adopted rapidly in the south of England
1796First minimum wage causes increasing costs which bankrupt parishes, demoralizes labourers ineligible to claim, and causes resentment towards those in receipt of relief
1798Publication of Essay on the Principle of Population by the economist Thomas Robert Malthus
condemns charity and poor relief for fuelling the demographic catastrophe
1798Despair, despondence, lethargy and hopelessness arise in a large percentage of the poor because of the effect of social policies of the day - Inquiry Into the Nature and Origins of Mental Derangement by Critchon
1805The Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor noted the links between poverty, deprivation and disease
The Society found that inability to buy food, due to scarcity of cheap foodstuffs, was causing parents to sell their children into prostitution
1815The Corn Law introduced forbidding the import of corn when its price was less than 80s. a quarter
1815Recession causes a large rise in umemployment
1815Annual expenditure on relief of the poor estimated at $6-millions
This is 3 times the 1784 figure
1830The Swing Riots in the southern and eastern counties come to a head; rural labourers protesting for higher wages and the abolition of threshing machines
1830Rural crime increased by 30% since 1824
1830Eastablishment of a Commission to look at reform of the Poor Laws
1833Nine-year-old boy was condemned by a court in England to be hanged for stealing ink worth only 2d
1834Detention of dangerous lunatics within the workhouse restricted to fourteen days after which they had to be moved on to the county asylum
1838The Anti-Corn Law League was founded in Manchester
1865Butler records women sleeping on the damp stone floors of cellars in the workhouse
189014% of workhouse inmates were deemed insane (Parker,1985)
1908A Royal Commission recognises that no blame or stigma could be attached to poverty
The most important of the Commission\'s practical recommendations were incorporated into the Local Government Act of 1929
1919Ministry of Health becomes the central body administering Parish Unions
1929Abolition of Parish Relief administered by the Overseers of the Poor
1929Workhouses for the poor became known as Public Assistance Institutions but their character, and the stigma attached to them, remained unchanged
1948.Jul.05Inauguration of the National Health Service
1949NHS prescription charges legislated for (but not implemented until 1952)
1952NHS prescription charges of 1 shilling (5p) introduced (legislated for in 1949), also a �1 flat fee for dental treatment
1999The National Service Framework for Mental Health (Dept of Health) links social deprivation and poverty directly to the incidence of mental illness, it also cites the poor as being three times more likely to be mentally ill than the well off

Year   Word/Phrase    
BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Edward VIElizabeth IGilberts Act, 1782Henry VIII
Hits on this PageLegalsLocallyPoor Law Ammendment Act, 1834
Poor Law Commision, 1832Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830
Time-LineTwentieth Century

  Towns & Villages of Dorset
  Towns & Villages of Somerset
  Towns & Villages of Wiltshire



BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Edward VIElizabeth IGilberts Act, 1782Henry VIII
Hits on this PageLegalsLinksPoor Law Ammendment Act, 1834
Poor Law Commision, 1832Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830
Time-LineTwentieth Century



Charles II (1660-1685)Discuss this PageEdward VI
Elizabeth IGilberts Act, 1782Henry VIIIHits on this Page
LegalsLinksLocallyPoor Law Ammendment Act, 1834
Poor Law Commision, 1832Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830
Time-LineTwentieth Century

Origin and History of the Poor-Laws
  by Halliday

Source Problems in English History
  , ed. Albert Beebe White + Wallace Notestein, publisher
Harper and Brothers Publishers, New York, 1915

Recommend a Book for this Page

BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Edward VIElizabeth IGilberts Act, 1782Henry VIII
Hits on this PageLegalsLinksLocally
Poor Law Ammendment Act, 1834Poor Law Commision, 1832
Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830Time-Line


<a href=BAAAGBWS.php title=" The Poor Laws of England ">Poor Laws</a>

BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Edward VIElizabeth IGilberts Act, 1782Henry VIIILegals
LinksLocallyPoor Law Ammendment Act, 1834
Poor Law Commision, 1832Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830
Time-LineTwentieth Century
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Gilberts Act, 1782Henry VIIIHits on this PageLegalsLinks
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Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830Time-Line
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BibliographyCharles II (1660-1685)Discuss this Page
Edward VIElizabeth IGilberts Act, 1782Henry VIII
Hits on this PageLinksLocallyPoor Law Ammendment Act, 1834
Poor Law Commision, 1832Speenhamland System, 1795Swing Riots, 1830
Time-LineTwentieth Century

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