A report on 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.

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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.

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

Poor Law Amendment Act 1834

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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).

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.

Poor law union

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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.

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.

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

Penal transportation

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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.

Horse-powered threshing machine

Swing Riots

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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.

David Lloyd George was one of the 'New Liberals' who passed welfare legislation

Liberal welfare reforms

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The Liberal welfare reforms (1906–1914) were a series of acts of social legislation passed by the Liberal Party after the 1906 general election.

The Liberal welfare reforms (1906–1914) were a series of acts of social legislation passed by the Liberal Party after the 1906 general election.

David Lloyd George was one of the 'New Liberals' who passed welfare legislation
The influence of Gladstonian liberalism declined with the rise of modern liberalism.

By implementing the reforms outside the English Poor Laws, the stigma attached to claiming relief was also removed.

Workhouse Test Act 1723

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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.

Vagabonds Act 1572

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Law passed in England under Queen Elizabeth I.

Law passed in England under Queen Elizabeth I.

It is a part of the Tudor Poor Laws and a predecessor to the Elizabethan Poor Laws.

George Boyer

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Professor of Labor Economics in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University.

Professor of Labor Economics in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University.

He is best known for his work in the field of economic history, and in particular his research on the English poor laws of the 18th and 19th centuries.