Presentation on theme: "Sheffield Workhouses and the Poor Law Sheffield Archives and Local Studies: History Key Stage 3/4 (The Old and New Poor Law in Britain/The development."— Presentation transcript:
Sheffield Workhouses and the Poor Law Sheffield Archives and Local Studies: History Key Stage 3/4 (The Old and New Poor Law in Britain/The development of Workhouses/Life in the Workhouse)
Before the Old Poor Law of 1601 Before the Reformation (when the Church in England broke away from the authority of the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church during the reign of Henry VIII) it was considered to be a religious duty of all Christians to look after those in need. The Dissolution of the Monasteries, ordered by Henry VIII between 1536 and 1540, led to dramatic religious and social change, leaving many poor people without a place of refuge (the closing down of monasteries meant the end of the charitable work they did for poor people in the community). After the Reformation (and the establishment of the Church of England) many of the old values were lost and it became necessary to regulate the relief of poverty by law. Various laws were passed to deal with the increasing problem of looking after the poor, e.g.: In 1552 parish registers of the poor were introduced so that there was an official record of those considered to be ‘poor’. In 1563 Justices of the Peace (local officials appointed to guard the peace) were given the power to raise compulsory funds for the relief of the poor.
Deserving and Undeserving Poor In the mid 1500s, the poor began to be placed into different categories: Able-bodied poor (deserving poor) - those who were willing to work but not able to find employment. They were to be given help in the form of ‘poor relief’ or work in return for a wage. Impotent poor (deserving poor) - those who were too old/ill/young to work. They were to be looked after in almshouses, hospitals, orphanages or poor houses/workhouses. Orphans and children of the poor could be given a trade apprenticeship. Idle poor or ‘sturdy beggars’ (undeserving poor) - those who could work but would not. In some instances, they were whipped through the streets in public in order to learn the error of their ways.
The Old Poor Law 1601 In 1601 the ‘Act for the Relief of the Poor’ known as the Old Poor Law (or 'Elizabethan Poor Law’) was passed. The Old Poor Law established the parish as the basic unit responsible for distributing poor relief. You might think of a ‘parish’ as a town or village which has its own church. Poor relief was administered by the parish vestry (a committee consisting of the church minister, churchwardens and prominent local householders). Each parish generally appointed two officials, known as the Overseers of the Poor, who were responsible for collecting poor rate (a local tax used to fund poor relief) from local householders and distributing poor relief to those in need. Overseers of the Poor were also responsible for supervising the parish poor house or workhouse.
Poor Relief (1) There were two types of poor relief available: Outdoor relief: the poor would remain in their own homes and were given either a 'dole' of money on which to live or were given relief in the form of handouts such as clothes and food. Indoor relief: the poor could be taken into a local almshouse or the poor house/workhouse where they would be set to work.
Poor Relief (2) Ecclesfield (St Mary) Overseers of the Poor accounts, showing money distributed to the poor, 1712 (Sheffield Archives: PR54/145/1) Ecclesfield (St Mary) workhouse/poor house expenses, 1739 (Sheffield Archives: PR54/144/1) Task: Which of the two documents on this slide do you think is an example of indoor relief and which is an example of outdoor relief? Task: Look at the document on the left. 1. What did the overseers give to William Rushby? 2. What was the money for Ann Yardly to be used for?
Settlement and Removal (1) The problem of poor people moving to other places and becoming a drain on another parish’s poor relief led to the Settlement Act 1662. The Settlement Act established the settlement system which aimed to identify which parish was responsible for an individual’s claim to poor relief. Anyone 'settled' in a parish had a right to claim poor relief from it, others did not. Qualification for ‘settlement’ was usually determined by parentage or marriage (but illegitimate children were granted settlement in the place they were born). The vestry or Justices of the Peace conducted settlement examinations to determine if people were settled legally. Once the legality of a claim had been established, a settlement certificate could be granted, entitling a person to poor relief. A person wishing to move elsewhere could hand this settlement certificate into the vestry of the new parish as confirmation that their original parish (rather than the new one) would support them should they fall on hard times.
Settlement and Removal (2) By handing in this certificate to the parish vestry at Bolton upon Dearne, Thomas Lambert would have been able to prove that he was coming to Bolton upon Dearne for legitimate purposes (i.e. to work) and that Tickhill accepts responsibility for him should he fall on hard times. Bolton upon Dearne (St Andrew) settlement certificate, 1739 (Sheffield Archives: PR9/94/25) Task: This document proves that Thomas Lambert is legally settled in the parish of Tickhill and that Tickhill is responsible for any poor relief he might need. Why does Thomas wish to leave Tickhill and go to Bolton upon Dearne?
Settlement and Removal (3) The Settlement Act authorised Justices of the Peace to order the removal of newcomers (or strangers) back to the parish of settlement responsible for their poor relief. This document orders Ann Horn to be removed from Sheffield and taken back to her original parish of Bolton upon Dearne. Bolton upon Dearne (St Andrew) settlement removal order, 1805 (Sheffield Archives: PR9/95/34) Task: What can you learn about the particular circumstances of Ann Horn which may explain why the Overseers of the Poor for Sheffield were particularly keen to remove her from Sheffield?
Settlement and Removal (4) Harthill (All Hallows) Baptisms and Burials Register entry, 1676 (Sheffield Archives: PR47/3) Task: What happened to the individual above, who was buried on 5 April 1676, just before he died and why do you think this was? [Clue: the reference to ‘towards his owne’ refers to towards his own parish].
Bastardy Bonds/Orders Illegitimate children (with no father to look after them) were a particular concern for the parish being an obvious drain on their resources. An unmarried woman who gave birth was often pressurised by parish officials to reveal the baby’s father’s name. A bastardy bond/bastardy order could then be drawn up to force the father to contribute financially to the maintenance of the child. Harthill (All Hallows) bastardy order, 1833 (Sheffield Archives: PR47/96/139) Task: 1. Is the illegitimate child in the document a boy or a girl? 2. What is the name and occupation of the person said to be the father of the child? 3. How much is he ordered to pay the Churchwardens and the Overseers of the Poor for the parish of Harthill for the upkeep of the child?
Pauper Apprenticeship From 1601, Overseers of the Poor could apprentice poor children to local craftsmen to learn ‘trades’. Bolton upon Dearne (St Andrew) pauper apprenticeship indenture, 1712 (Sheffield Archives: PR9/9/1) Task: 1. How is the apprentice Thomas Shaw described in line seven of this document? 2. Can you make out any of the things below that the craftsman (Thomas Cawthorne) is supposed to provide for his young apprentice (Thomas Shaw) as part of this apprenticeship agreement?
Early Workhouses in Sheffield (1) In 1628 the first workhouse in Sheffield was established at West Bar. This building continued to house Sheffield’s poor until 1829. Sheffield Town Trustees workhouse accounts, 1633 (Sheffield Archives: TT/12) Extracts from the early accounting records below of the Sheffield Town Trustees show that money was spent in 1633 on purchasing cloth to make clothes for 20 “poore children putte into the Workehouse”. Task: Look at the workhouse accounts entries above. 1. What were the mattresses of the workhouses beds made out of? 2. What was the person who came from ‘Chapell’ [Chapel-en-le-Frith] paid for doing?
Early Workhouses in Sheffield (2) Plan of Sheffield, 1736 (Sheffield Archives: JC1771) Task: Identify where the Sheffield Workhouse is on the map.
Early Workhouses in Sheffield (3) Sheffield Workhouse rules, c. 1750 (Sheffield Archives: CA24/57) Extract from the above rules: ‘…the Master stands in the inside of the Room… Lets in the poor one at a time then… hears their Complaint if they think it proper they take them into the [work]house… if not they turn them ought [out]… lets in another poor until all is heard…’ Task: According to the document above, who is responsible for governing Sheffield Workhouse?
Early Workhouses in Sheffield (4) Sheffield Workhouse menu, c. 1750 (Sheffield Archives: CA24/57) Task: What would the pauper inmates have had for dinner on Tuesday night? How does this compare to Thursday night’s meal?
Early Workhouses in Sheffield (5) A parliamentary report, Abstract of Returns Made by the Overseers of the Poor 1776 - 1777, recorded over 1,800 workhouses in England and Wales (almost one for every seven parishes - there were 152 in Yorkshire alone). The report confirmed a number of workhouses in the Sheffield area including: Sheffield (with accommodation for up to 160 inmates) Attercliffe-cum-Darnall (24 inmates) Brightside Bierlow (24 inmates) [ [ Regulations for the Poor House at Attercliffe, drawn up in response to ‘the disorder in the conduct of many of the Paupers in the Poor House’ 1819 (Sheffield Archives: CA15/3) Artist’s impression of the Brightside Bierlow Workhouse, Rock Street, Pitsmoor, c. 1920s (Sheffield Local Studies Library: 942.74SQ)
Concern over the early workhouses (1) In the 1770s - 1780s there was growing concern in Sheffield over the workhouse conditions. In 1797, Sir Frederic Eden published The State of the Poor which examined the living conditions of the poorer classes and the abysmal state of workhouses in the country. He concluded that the Old Poor Law of 1601 was a destructive drain on society’s resources. Extracts from pamphlet titled Facts and Observations relating to the state of the Workhouse, 1789 (Sheffield Local Studies Library: Local Pamphlets Vol. 63 No. 1, 042S) ‘…the Boys frequently run away from their service, and – if not enlisted as soldiers – become vagabonds and thieves.’ ‘…the Sheffield Workhouse is a scene of distress, of illness, and profligacy [immorality]…’ ‘…the town, for want of a proper Workhouse, maintains in a state of idleness a considerable number of Women, who might and ought to be compelled to maintain themselves…’ ‘There are at present in the House about 50 Children, who may well be termed The Children of the Public – for, in general, they have not one friend in the world in the smallest degree interested in their preservation and welfare.’ ‘… it is the unhappy lot of those unfortunate Females whose indiscretions, often occasioned by treachery and falsehood, have compelled to seek a miserable refuge in the Sheffield Workhouse.’ Task: Make a list of some of the descriptive nouns and adjectives used in the above observations. What overall picture of the Sheffield Workhouse do they create?
Concern over the early workhouses (2) In 1804 there was a public appeal concerning the state of Sheffield workhouse. Resolution that a Committee be established to build a new workhouse in Sheffield, 1804 (Sheffield Archives: MD1123) Task: What did the people of Sheffield find wrong with the existing workhouse according to this document?
Concern over the early workhouses (3) In 1829 a new workhouse for Sheffield set up in a former cotton mill on Kelham Street, Sheffield (for up to 600 inmates). But nationally, concern over the early workhouse system persisted. Critics not only pointed to the appalling state of many workhouses, but also the mounting cost of looking after the poor and complaints that the system encouraged the poor be lazy and avoid work. The traditional view of poverty being inevitable with the poor victims of their situation (and the relief of poverty a Christian duty) was replaced by a growing, more unsympathetic view that the poor were largely responsible for their situation and had the power to improve their prospects if they chose to do so. Workhouse tokens were specially minted in the early 1800s as poor relief. They could be spent at certain shops on necessities such as bread (although not alcohol)! The shopkeeper would redeem them at the workhouse. They were declared illegal in 1817 although exception was made for the Birmingham and Sheffield workhouses. Penny token of the Sheffield Overseers of the Poor, 1812 (Sheffield Local Studies Library Picture Sheffield: s09460)
The New Poor Law 1834 (1) In 1834 the ‘Poor Law Amendment Act’ was passed (known as The New Poor Law). The New Poor Law was designed to create a more uniform, centralised system for managing poor relief, appointing central bodies to manage the system both locally and nationally. The New Poor Law was overseen by a new administrative body called the Poor Law Commission based in London. At a local level, parishes were grouped together into Poor Law Unions. A union typically contained up to 20 or 30 parishes or townships and was run by a Board of Guardians (elected by the local rate-payers) who met weekly to carry out the business of the union. The New Poor Law led to the establishment of two Poor Law Unions in Sheffield in 1837: Sheffield Poor Law Union made up of the townships of Sheffield, Attercliffe-cum-Darnall and Brightside Bierlow, together with Handsworth parish. Ecclesall Bierlow Union made up of the townships of Ecclesall Bierlow, Nether Hallam, Upper Hallam, Beauchief, Dore, Totley, and Norton.
The New Poor Law 1834 (2) The New Poor Law was centred on the workhouse. Poor people could now only get help if they were prepared to leave their homes and go into a workhouse. Conditions inside the workhouse were deliberately harsh to deter people from asking for help unless they desperately needed it. Families were split up and housed in different parts of the workhouse. There were also strict rules and regulations to follow. Inmates of all ages were made to work hard doing unplesant manual labour such as breaking up stones. Children could also find themselves hired out to work in factories or mines. Many people spoke out against the New Poor Law, denouncing it as cruel and un- Christian, claiming that the workhouse system amounted to little more than ‘prisons for the poor’. The poor in Sheffield, 1870 (Sheffield Local Studies Library Picture Sheffield: s03008) Extract from a pamphlet criticising the New Poor Law, 1838 (Sheffield Archives: SY619/Z8/30)
Sheffield Union (1) The Sheffield Poor Law Union initially adopted the existing Sheffield Workhouse on Kelham Street (which, in 1829 had been converted from a cotton mill to house up to 600 inmates). With the Kelham Street site becoming increasingly overcrowded, in 1881 the Sheffield Union relocated its workhouse to a new building at Fir Vale. Entrance gates and lodge, Sheffield Union Workhouse, Fir Vale, 1900 (Sheffield Local Studies Library Picture Sheffield: y02028) “Inmates of Sheffield Workhouse increased from 694 on the 1 st April, to 823. File trade much depressed, and many of the members apply.” Sheffield Local Register, 14 April 1848 (Sheffield Local Studies Library: 942.74s) “Dr Hunt, medical officer to the Workhouse, informed the Sheffield Guardians that the task of the stone breakers should be reduced or their rations increased.” Sheffield Local Register, 16 Sep 1896 (Sheffield Local Studies Library: 942.74s)
Sheffield Union (2) The new Fir Vale workhouse comprised six separate departments: –the main building to accommodate 1,662 paupers (plus officials). –asylums to accommodate 200 patients classed as ‘lunatic’. –a school for 300 pauper children. –vagrants wards to take up to 60 men and 20 women. –the hospital block to cater for 366 patients and the fever hospitals. A children's hospital for up to 60 was opened in 1894. A new three-storey hospital block was completed in 1906; the newly named Sheffield Union Hospital (later known as Fir Vale Hospital) was formally separated from the workhouse. Entrance gates and lodge, Sheffield Union Workhouse, Fir Vale, 1900 (Sheffield Local Studies Library Picture Sheffield: s00405) Dietary table, Sheffield Union Workhouse, Fir Vale, 1919 (Sheffield Archives: CA510/4)
Sheffield Union (3) Sheffield Poor Law Union Guardians Letter Book entry, 1860 (Sheffield Archives: CA24/55) Task: The Board of Guardians who produced this letter book ran the Sheffield Union responsible for looking after Sheffield’s poor. The page opposite lists pauper inmates who had been in the Sheffield Union Workhouse for a period of five years or more. Find six different reasons given why these paupers were unable to take care of themselves and therefore admitted to the workhouse.
Sheffield Union (4) Sheffield Union Workhouse Punishment Book entries, 1909 (Sheffield Archives: CA510/1) Task: This book records inmates who were punished for ‘pass offences’ (relating to when they were given a pass to leave the workhouse for a short period of time, usually to attend church on a Sunday and came back late or drunk etc!). Find three different examples of punishments inflicted on inmates.
Sheffield Union: Scattered Homes It was decided in Sheffield quite early on that children needed to be cared for separately from adult workhouse inmates. In 1888, the ‘boarding out’ of 40 young children was undertaken. In 1893, the ‘isolated homes’ (or scattered homes) system was devised for the Sheffield Union by John Wycliffe Wilson. Rather than going into the workhouse, children requiring care were placed in ordinary domestic homes ‘scattered’ across Sheffield. The central headquarters home was at Smilter Lane (now Herries Road). ‘A typical family’ in Sheffield Union ‘Scattered Homes’ for poor children (149 and 151 Upperthorpe), 1890s (Sheffield Local Studies Library: Picture Sheffield y01176) ‘My visit [to The Scattered Homes] showed evidence of what a sympathetic system and humane instincts could accomplish – a shining contrast to the poor little tired, deserted ones who drag out a melancholy existence in the great workhouses of our land.’ Children of the State: Sheffield’s Successful Experiment, 1898 (Sheffield Local Studies Library: 339.1S)
Ecclesall Bierlow Union (1) The Ecclesall Bierlow Poor Law Union initially used an old workhouse building on Psalter Lane, Sharrow Lane. In 1842 -1843 the union built a new workhouse at Cherrytree Hill, Nether Edge. By 1895, as well as the main building, there were also schools for boys and girls, an asylum (erected in 1859), a hospital with male and female wards, a smallpox hospital, and tramp wards. A maternity block was opened in 1897. Proposed Ecclesall Bierlow Union Workhouse, Nether Edge, c. 1840 (Sheffield Local Studies Library Picture Sheffield: s07427)
Ecclesall Bierlow Union: Fulwood Cottage Homes As with the Sheffield Union, it was decided that it would be inappropriate for children to remain in the workhouse in the Ecclesall Bierlow Union. In 1903 the Ecclesall Bierlow Union built a children’s home off Blackbrook Road, Fulwood, called Fulwood Cottage Homes. The home consisted of 21 separate cottages which could accommodate over 300 children who were cared for by foster mothers and attended local schools. In 1930, the Fulwood Cottage Homes came under the care of the Public Assistance Committee of Sheffield Corporation (the predecessor to Sheffield City Council) and by 1940 were absorbed (along with the Sheffield Union Scattered Homes) into the City of Sheffield Children’s Homes. Children at Fulwood Cottage Homes, 1910 (Sheffield Local Studies Library Picture Sheffield: u00317)
Ecclesall Bierlow Union (cont.) Ecclesall Bierlow Union Workhouse Admissions Book entry, 1907 (Sheffield Archives: NHS21/5/6/1) Task: 1. What can you learn about the family circumstances of the following individuals which may have led to them being admitted to the workhouse? a) Clara Mellor on 8/03/1907 [Clue: find the column which describes her husband’s trade] b) Ellen Mitchell on 20/06/1907 2. Why do you think it unlikely that Ellen Mitchell would have remained for long in the workhouse at this point in time and where do you think she might have ended up instead?
End of the Sheffield Workhouses In 1906 the Sheffield Union Workhouse at Fir Vale changed its name to Fir Vale Institution. In 1914 the Ecclesall Bierlow Union Workhouse changed its name to Ecclesall Bierlow Union Institution. In 1925, by order of the Ministry of Health, Ecclesall Bierlow Union and Sheffield Union were dissolved and a new Sheffield Union was created. In 1929 the Local Government Act was passed, abolishing the system of poor law unions in England and Wales and their boards of guardians, passing their powers to local authorities. By 1930 the Ecclesall Bierlow Union Institution was known as Nether Edge Hospital, and the former Sheffield Union Workhouse (by this point known as Fir Vale Institution) became the City General Hospital (later Northern General Hospital). In spite of their rebirth as hospitals (a more caring sounding institution!), the buildings often retained the negative associations of their former Union Workhouse days. Northern General Hospital (originally Sheffield Union Workhouse), 1988 (Sheffield Local Studies Library Picture Sheffield: s23604) Nether Edge Hospital, Union Road (originally Ecclesall Bierlow Union Workhouse), 1982 (Sheffield Local Studies Library Picture Sheffield: s23489)
‘Test Your Knowledge’ Crossword Across 1. Official name for the New Poor Law Act 1834 (4, 3, 9, 3). 3. One way, under the Old Poor Law, parishes would deal with the problem of providing for poor children, enabling them to learn a trade (14). 7. The parish officials responsible for collecting poor rate and distributing poor relief under the Old Poor Law (9, 2, 3, 4). 10. Phrase used to describe the idle, undeserving poor who were able to work but refused to (6, 7). 11. Type of aid given to the poor who went inside a poor- house/workhouse under the Old Poor Law (6, 6). 13. Name of one of the two Sheffield Poor Law Unions set up in 1837 (9, 7). 14. The basic unit of administration responsible for poor relief under the Old Poor Law (6). Down 2. Official name for the Old Poor Law Act 1601 (3, 3, 3, 6, 2, 3, 4). 4. Sheffield Poor Law Union system of housing poor children in Sheffield, devised in 1893 as a preferable alternative to them going into the workhouse (9, 5). 5. Group of people responsible for running Poor Law Unions following the New Poor Law Act 1834 (5, 2, 9). 6. Act of 1662 designed to identify which parish was responsible for an individual’s claim to poor relief (10). 8. The type of institution both which Union workhouses in Sheffield eventually became (8). 9. Site of the new Sheffield Union Workhouse built in 1881 (3, 4). 12. Term used to describe the deserving poor who were too old, ill or young to work (8).
Sheffield Archives and Local Studies If you prefer to use this presentation as a basis for a class visit to Archives and Local Studies or in a visit by us to your class please contact us. Students will have the opportunity to see and touch the original items. We offer Access to original primary source material from Tudor times through to the 21st century. Class visits to the Central Library and to Sheffield Archives. Visits to schools to deliver classroom sessions. Introductory sessions for teaching staff. Online PowerPoint lesson resources. Focus Packs of colour facsimiles linked to the National Curriculum. www.sheffield.gov.uk/archives