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Poor Houses before 1834

In 1601 the Elizabethan Poor Law was passed, making provision for the relief of poverty. One of the instruments by which this was to be done was the establishment of poor houses. By the 1830s, these were often less than satisfactory. However, the situation became worse after the passing of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act.

In parishes overburthened with poor we usually find the building called a workhouse occupied by 60 or 80 children (under the care, perhaps, of a pauper), about 20 or 30 able-bodied paupers of both sexes, and probably an equal number of aged and impotent persons, the proper objects of relief. Amidst these, the mothers of bastard children and prostitutes live without shame and associate freely with the youth, who have also the examples and conversation of the frequent inmates of the county gaol, the poacher, the vagrant, the decayed beggar, and other characters of the worst description. To these may often be added a solitary blind person, one or two idiots and not unfrequently are heard among the rest, the incessant raving of some neglected lunatic. In such receptacles the sick poor are often immured.

Report from the Commissioners Inquiring into the Administration and Practical Operation of the Poor Laws, 1834, p. 303.

A refuge for the destitute that was maintained by charitable donations.

People who otherwise would have had to sleep on the streets at least had a roof over their heads and straw on which to lie.

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Last modified 4 March, 2016

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