A report on English Poor Laws and Swing Riots

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.
Horse-powered threshing machine
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)
A letter threatening to burn Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, sent in 1830 and signed "Swing".
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.
Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey
Advertisement for builders to build a new Workhouse in north Wales, 1829
Lord Melbourne
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 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.

- Swing Riots

The 1832 Royal Commission into the Operation of the Poor Laws was set up following the widespread destruction and machine breaking of the Swing Riots.

- 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.

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Former workhouse in Nantwich, dating from 1780

Workhouse

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

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.

Coupled with developments in agriculture that meant less labour was needed on the land, along with three successive bad harvests beginning in 1828 and the Swing Riots of 1830, reform was inevitable.

Act for the Relief of the Poor 1601

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Act of the Parliament of England.

Act of the Parliament of England.

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.

The Swing Riots highlighted the possibility of agricultural unrest.