Poorhouses, Poor Laws, etc.

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A national index compiled by George Bell lists adult paupers in workhouses in 1861 in England and Wales who had been in receipt of parish relief for a continuous period of five years or more. It names about 14,200 adult paupers (16 years old and older). The information comes from the 1861 House of Commons Parliamentary paper number 490.

The full name of the pauper is given, followed by "The reason assigned why the Pauper in each case is unable to maintain himself or herself," and finally the full term of the relief in years and months. Another column in the report is headed "Whether or not the Pauper has been brought up in a District or Workhouse School." This last column was imperfectly completed.

The report is very helpful for genealogical research. The information it contains corresponds with the 1861 census returns. The census that year was conducted on Sunday the 7th of April, so it is certain that the information-gathering processes for the report and the census are overlapped. The accuracy of the information contained in the report can be proved by comparing it against the census returns.

A large proportion of the paupers mentioned in the index (about 6,000) were admitted because of old age and infirmity. An additional 5,000 (approximately) suffered from a mental disease. Various combinations of ailments and mental conditions will be noted by the casual user of the index, and among the unusual (or least common) reasons for being admitted to the workhouse are laziness, desertion of the husband, widowhood, destitution and being orphaned. There are a few cases of wives having been admitted because their husbands had been sentenced to transportation. There are also a few of cases of paupers having been born and bred in the workhouse.

This index has been published on microfiche (FHL fiche#6359376). A 10% sample of this alphabetical index is provided online through Genuki

Poor Laws[edit | edit source]

The following are Rules and Regulations for the Government of the Workhouse in the Parish of St Werburgh's, Derby, Nov 22 1833:

  • That lying in women shall be allowed tea morning & evening for a fortnight, with some bread and butter, and sick and infirm persons shall have such diet as the Medical Attendant shall direct.
  • That the hour of Breakfast shall be 8 in the morning of Dinner one in the afternoon and of Supper 6 in the evening.
  • That (except in the case of sick and infirm persons) all provisions shall be given out and consumed in the Dining Room only, and no provisions shall on any pretence be allowed to be taken from thence by the Inmates.
  • That the Governor or Matron shall be present during the time of saying grace before and after meals and shall see all removed.
  • That the Dinners shall be put upon trenchers except on Saturdays when it shall be put in cans as also on Mondays & Wednesdays.
  • That the provisions shall be purchased by the Governor or Matron as the overseers shall direct from such persons who reside in the Parish and each supply shall be for one two or three months from such Resident Dealer etc and the change for the supply of milk shall be half yearly.
  • That all provisions shall be inspected by the Governor and if not found sufficient in weight, measure or quantity must be returned.
  • That the leg of beef for Sunday's dinner shall be purchased on the market day (Friday) also the leg of lamb for Wednesdays, suet for Tuesdays and mutton or pork for the Friday.
  • That two of the Select Vestry shall be appointed every fortnight as visitors at the house, whose duty shall be to visit the Workhouse at least twice in each week - examine the provisions, mode of cooking, cleanliness of the Inmates and the House and make a Report in a book to be kept for that purpose as the case may be.
  • That the fare of the Governor and Matron be supplied from the provisions of the House.
  • That no cups or saucers or any culinary utensils be allowed to be kept in the Bedrooms except in cases of sickness.
  • That the poor shall be taken to church at least once a day on the Sabbath by the Governor or Matron and in the afternoon by one of the steadiest inmates and if any of them prefer attending a Dissenting or Methodist Chapel they shall be allowed that priviledge on producing a Certificate from the Minister of such Chapel purporting He or She are constant attendants in his congregation or society.
  • That the inmates shall not be allowed to go out of the Workhouse to visit their friends only as the Governor shall direct, nor shall any persons be allowed to visit them at the House only on Tuesday & Fridays and that only for half an hour and in the presence of the Governor if he sees fit.
  • That the Inmates shall be called up in the morning by ring of the bell at half past 5 in the Summer and half past six in winter to begin to work at six in the Summer & seven in the Winter.
  • That they shall go to bed at 9 in Summer and 8 in Winter from 20th October to 10th March.
  • That all poor dying in the House shall be buried as the poor of the Parish and at Parish expense and not by their friends.
  • That all the inmates shall attend prayers to be used or read by the Govenor or matron in the evening prior to going to bed.
  • That the following diet table be adopted for Breakfast, Dinner and Supper.