English Poor Laws

Although many deterrent workhouses developed in the period after the New Poor Law, some had already been built under the existing system. This workhouse in Nantwich, Cheshire, dates from 1780.
The Poor Laws in the aftermath of the Black Death (pictured), when labour was in short supply, were concerned with making the able-bodied work. (also see: Sturdy beggar)
The Old Poor Law or Elizabethan Poor Law is sometimes referred to as the "43rd Elizabeth" as it was passed in the 43rd year that Elizabeth I (pictured) reigned as Queen.
Advertisement for builders to build a new Workhouse in north Wales, 1829
Nassau William Senior argued for greater centralization of the Poor Law system.
Infighting between Edwin Chadwick and other Poor Law Commissioners was one reason for an overhaul of Poor Law administration.
David Lloyd George, architect of the Liberal welfare reforms which were implemented outside of the Poor Law system and paved the way for the eventual abolition of the Poor Law.
Punch criticized the New Poor Law's workhouses for splitting mothers and their infant children.

The English Poor Laws were a system of poor relief in England and Wales that developed out of the codification of late-medieval and Tudor-era laws in 1587–1598.

- English Poor Laws
Although many deterrent workhouses developed in the period after the New Poor Law, some had already been built under the existing system. This workhouse in Nantwich, Cheshire, dates from 1780.

25 related topics

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Former workhouse in Nantwich, dating from 1780

Workhouse

Total institution where those unable to support themselves financially were offered accommodation and employment.

Total institution where those unable to support themselves financially were offered accommodation and employment.

Former workhouse in Nantwich, dating from 1780
The 'Red House' at Framlingham Castle in Suffolk was founded as a workhouse in 1664.
"The workroom at St James's workhouse", from The Microcosm of London (1808)
Former Cleveland Street workhouse, London W1, photographed in 1930. It later became part of the Middlesex Hospital.
Contrasted Residences for the Poor (1836), by Augustus Pugin. He was critical of Kempthorne's octagonal design shown above.
The Carlisle Union Workhouse, opened in 1864, later part of the University of Cumbria
St Mary Abbots workhouse, Kensington, London
Dinnertime at St Pancras Workhouse, London, 1911
A group of children at Crumpsall Workhouse, 1895–97
Ripon Union Workhouse, completed in 1855, replaced an earlier Georgian era workhouse. It now houses a museum.
Thomas Allom's design for St Mary Abbots workhouse in Kensington, London, is noticeably different from those produced by Sampson Kempthorne a decade earlier.
Watling Street Road Workhouse, Preston, built in 1865–1868
Eventide: A Scene in the Westminster Union (workhouse), 1878, by Sir Hubert von Herkomer

So keen were some Poor Law authorities to cut costs wherever possible that cases were reported of husbands being forced to sell their wives, to avoid them becoming a financial burden on the parish.

Out-door relief: Poor people coming to a workhouse for food, c. 1840

Poor Law Amendment Act 1834

Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed by the Whig government of Earl Grey.

Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed by the Whig government of Earl Grey.

Out-door relief: Poor people coming to a workhouse for food, c. 1840
A "Poor Law Bastille": 1835 model design of a workhouse to hold 300 paupers...
... 'classified' (men, women, girls, boys) and segregated accordingly
One of the "Somerset House Despots": Sir Thomas Frankland Lewis, Chairman of Poor Law Commission 1834–39

It completely replaced earlier legislation based on the Poor Law of 1601 and attempted to fundamentally change the poverty relief system in England and Wales (similar changes were made to the poor law for Scotland in 1845).

Although many deterrent workhouses developed in the period after the New Poor Law, some had already been built under the existing system. This workhouse in Nantwich, Cheshire, dates from 1780.

Act for the Relief of the Poor 1601

Act of the Parliament of England.

Act of the Parliament of England.

Although many deterrent workhouses developed in the period after the New Poor Law, some had already been built under the existing system. This workhouse in Nantwich, Cheshire, dates from 1780.

The Act for the Relief of the Poor 1601, popularly known as the Elizabethan Poor Law, "43rd Elizabeth" or the Old Poor Law was passed in 1601 and created a poor law system for England and Wales.

Horse-powered threshing machine

Swing Riots

The Swing Riots were a widespread uprising in 1830 by agricultural workers in southern and eastern England, in protest at agricultural mechanisation and harsh working conditions.

The Swing Riots were a widespread uprising in 1830 by agricultural workers in southern and eastern England, in protest at agricultural mechanisation and harsh working conditions.

Horse-powered threshing machine
A letter threatening to burn Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, sent in 1830 and signed "Swing".
Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey
Lord Melbourne

The rioters directed their anger at the three targets identified as causing their misery: the tithe system, requiring payments to support the established Anglican Church; the Poor Law guardians, who were thought to abuse their power over the poor; and the rich tenant farmers who had been progressively lowering workers' wages while introducing agricultural machinery.

Woodcut-16th century: gentleman giving alms to beggar

Poor law union

Geographical territory, and early local government unit, in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Geographical territory, and early local government unit, in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Woodcut-16th century: gentleman giving alms to beggar

Prior to the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 the administration of the English Poor Laws was the responsibility of the vestries of individual parishes, which varied widely in their size, populations, financial resources, rateable values and requirements.

Nassau William Senior was an advocate of the centralization of the Poor Law system.

Royal Commission into the Operation of the Poor Laws 1832

Group set up to decide how to change the Poor Law systems in England and Wales.

Group set up to decide how to change the Poor Law systems in England and Wales.

Nassau William Senior was an advocate of the centralization of the Poor Law system.

The writers of the report suggested radical changes to English Poor Laws:

Women in Plymouth, England, parting from their lovers who are about to be transported to Botany Bay, 1792

Penal transportation

The relocation of convicted criminals, or other persons regarded as undesirable, to a distant place, often a colony, for a specified term; later, specifically established penal colonies became their destination.

The relocation of convicted criminals, or other persons regarded as undesirable, to a distant place, often a colony, for a specified term; later, specifically established penal colonies became their destination.

Women in Plymouth, England, parting from their lovers who are about to be transported to Botany Bay, 1792
Neptune, a 19th-century convict ship that brought prisoners to Australia
Joseph Lycett, an artist transported for forging bank notes, The residence of Edward Riley Esquire, Wooloomooloo, Near Sydney N. S. W., 1825, hand-coloured aquatint and etching printed in dark blue ink. Australian print in the tradition of British decorative production.
1848 Woodcut of HMD Bermuda on Ireland Island, Bermuda, showing prison hulks
This notice on a bridge in Dorset warns that damage to the bridge can be punished by transportation.

For example, from the earliest days of English colonial schemes, new settlements beyond the seas were seen as a way to alleviate domestic social problems of criminals and the poor as well as to increase the colonial labour force, for the overall benefit of the realm.

A family support centre in Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, which provides assistance to families with children.

Welfare

Type of government support intended to ensure that members of a society can meet basic human needs such as food and shelter.

Type of government support intended to ensure that members of a society can meet basic human needs such as food and shelter.

A family support centre in Saint Peter Port, Guernsey, which provides assistance to families with children.
Distributing alms to the poor, abbey of Port-Royal des Champs c. 1710.
An office of the Social Insurance Institution (KELA) in Seinäjoki, Finland
President Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, 14 August 1935.
Welfare in America
A chart showing the overall decline of average monthly welfare benefits (AFDC then TANF) per recipient 1962–2006 (in 2006 dollars).

The United Kingdom has a long history of welfare, notably including the English Poor laws which date back to 1536.

Homeless people sleep near the "LUKOIL" in Moscow

Pauperism

Pauperism (Lat.

Pauperism (Lat.

Homeless people sleep near the "LUKOIL" in Moscow

pauper, poor) is a term meaning poverty or generally the state of being poor, but in English usage particularly the condition of being a "pauper", i.e. in receipt of relief administered under the English Poor Laws.

Although many deterrent workhouses developed in the period after the New Poor Law, some had already been built under the existing system. This workhouse in Nantwich, Cheshire, dates from 1780.

Workhouse Test Act 1723

Although many deterrent workhouses developed in the period after the New Poor Law, some had already been built under the existing system. This workhouse in Nantwich, Cheshire, dates from 1780.

The Workhouse Test Act 1723 (9 George 1, c.7) also known as the General Act or Knatchbull's Act was poor relief legislation passed by the British government by Sir Edward Knatchbull in 1723.