The Scottish poorhouse referred to as a workhouse, provided accommodation for the destitute and poor in Scotland. The term poorhouse was invariably used to describe the institutions in that country, as unlike the regime in their workhouse counterparts in neighbouring England and Wales residents were not required to labour in return for their upkeep. Systems to deal with paupers were initiated by the Scottish Parliament in the 15th century when a 1424 statute categorised vagrants into those deemed fit for work or those who were not able-bodied; the Act prevented paupers who were fit to work from receiving assistance and was reasonably successful. Any help provided took the form of outdoor relief although thirty-two main burghs were instructed to provide correction houses under the threat of being fined, it is doubtful any were built. In the 18th century, cities like Aberdeen and Glasgow had poorhouses or similar which were funded by wealthy merchants or trade associations; the system was adequate up until the early 19th century in rural areas where poor relief was the remit of Ministers, church elders and landowners but did not suffice in the slum areas of towns.
By the middle of the century though Scotland faced severe economic depression and this, coupled with the ecclesiastic upset of the Disruption of 1843, resulted in demand outstripping supply. Expansions to existing facilities in Edinburgh and Glasgow and design guidelines for constructing new poorhouses were drawn up by the Board of Supervision which advised the parochial boards set up after the enactment of the 1845 Poor Law Act; the facilities housed up to 400 occupants in cities and a scaled down version was able to accommodate up to 300 paupers in rural areas. By 1868 there were fifty poorhouses in Scotland; the number of inmates peaked in 1906 and after the introduction of the National Assistance Act of 1948, the Poor Law system was abolished throughout the United Kingdom. Poor relief had been available since medieval times with procedures attempting to deal with paupers dating back to the 15th century; the first steps taken by the Scottish Parliament regarding arrangements for poor relief were enacted in a 1424 statute segregating vagrants into two categories: those fit enough to be able to work or those who were not considered able-bodied.
Legislation in Scotland concerning poor relief differed in a number of respects to that enacted in England and Wales. Parishes in England were required to supply work to be undertaken by paupers capable of employment whereas in Scotland this was not a stipulation. Vagrants refused poor relief in Scotland were entitled to appeal, unlike those in Wales. A Scottish statute dating back to 1425 allowed sheriffs to apprehend beggars fit enough to work. Ineffective statutes continued to be constituted: in 1427 magistrates failing to enforce previous legislation could be fined; the Scottish Poor Law Act of 1579 was implemented by Justices of the peace in rural districts and burgh magistrates in urban areas. Poor and destitute people who were fit enough to work were barred from receiving any assistance so the monies raised by collections at churches were enough to cover the needs of the poor without having to utilise the provision of the compulsory rate, allowed for in the Act; the type of assistance given was outdoor relief, providing clothing, goods or money.
A Act in 1672 transferred responsibility in rural areas to Ministers, church elders and landowners. Up until the early 19th century the arrangements worked quite well in rural districts but as slum areas increased in towns of a more industrial nature the system began to fall short; the Act passed in 1672 required the thirty-two main burghs to build correction houses, in which vagabonds were to be detained and forced to work. The Commissioners of Excise were empowered to issue fines of five hundred merks every three months against any burghs not completing the construction of correction houses within required time scales, but the threat of fines failed to encourage the building of these establishments, doubt has been recorded by Poor Law Commissioners such as Sir George Nicholls as to whether any at all were built. Alexander Dunlop and lawyer, shared the opinion that no purpose-built correction houses were constructed. Outdoor relief remained the main type of assistance, but poorhouses or their equivalent were sometimes funded by local merchants.
In Aberdeen during the 1630s an institution had been established by wealthy cloth merchants. Towards the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century, the system of poor relief in Scotland was considered to be superior to that of its counterpart in England by political economists like James Anderson. Writing in The Bee, a weekly publication compiled by Anderson, in 1792 he reviewed the early volumes of the first Statistical Accounts of Scotland in which most parishes gave information on the poor.
A poorhouse or workhouse is a government-run facility to support and provide housing for the dependent or needy. In England and Ireland a poorhouse was more known as a workhouse. Before the introduction of the Poor Law, each parish would maintain its own workhouse and these rural'poor houses' would be simple farms with the occupants dividing their times between working the farm and employed on maintaining local roads and other parish works. An example of one such is Strand House in East Sussex. In the early Victorian era, poverty was seen as a dishonorable state; as depicted by Charles Dickens, a workhouse could resemble a reformatory housing whole families, or a penal labour regime giving manual work to the indigent and subjecting them to physical punishment. At many poorhouses/workhouses and women were split up with no communication between them; the poorhouse was situated on the grounds of a poor farm on which able-bodied residents were required to work. Such farms were common in the United States in the early 20th centuries.
A poorhouse could be part of the same economic complex as a prison farm and other penal or charitable public institutions. Poor farms were county - or town-run residences; the farms declined in use after the Social Security Act took effect in 1935, with most disappearing by about 1950. Most were working farms that produced at least some of the produce and livestock they consumed. Residents were expected to provide labor to the extent that their health would allow, both in the fields, in providing housekeeping and care for other residents. Rules were strict and accommodations minimal. Poor farms were the origin of the U. S. tradition of county governments providing social services for the needy within their borders. The federal government did not participate in social welfare for over 70 years following the 1854 veto of the Bill for the Benefit of the Indigent Insane by Franklin Pierce; this tradition is, in most cases, codified in state law. The financial costs of such care has been shifted in part to state and federal governments.
Anne Sullivan and her younger brother, were raised in such a facility during the 19th century before James' childhood death and Anne's departure for the Perkins School for the Blind where she became Helen Keller's teacher and lifelong companion. The novel The Miracle Worker, its 1957 TV play, 1959 Broadway play, its 1962 film adaptation and television adaptations included Anne's descriptions of the harsh conditions that she observed in the Tewksbury, facility where she and her younger brother lived as smaller children; the poorhouse, with attached farm concept, was favored in Canada. According to a 2009 report by the Toronto Star, "pauperism was considered a moral failing that could be erased through order and hard work"; the oldest government-supported facility of this type, still standing, is located in Southern Ontario between Fergus and Elora, Ontario. The Wellington County House of Industry and Refuge was opened in 1877 and over the years, housed 1500 "deserving" poor, including those who were destitute and infirm or suffering from disabilities.
The sixty bed house for "inmates" was surrounded by a 30-acre "industrial" farm with a barn for livestock that produced some of the food for the 70 residents and the staff and provided work for them. Others worked in the House itself. A hospital was added in 1892; the nearby cemetery has 271 plots. In 1947, the House was converted into a home for the aged and in 1975 the building reopened as the Wellington County Museum and Archives, one of the National Historic Sites of Canada. Almshouse Hostel Halfway house Low income housing Over the Hill to the Poor House Public housing Public housing in the United States Scottish poorhouse Homeless shelter Illustrated History of Long Term Care “The poorhouse: America's forgotten institution” David Wagner. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, c2005. Rothman, David J.. "The Almshouse Experience", in series Poverty U. S. A.: The Historical Record, 1971. ISBN 0-405-03092-4 Jack London's firsthand account of life and poorhouses in the 1902 East End of London Workhouses in and around Bures, Suffolk, by Alan Beales McLean County, Illinois Poor Farm Finding Aid A study of Kansas poor farms / by Kansas Emergency Relief Committee
House of correction
The house of correction was a type of establishment built after the passing of the Elizabethan Poor Law, places where those who were "unwilling to work", including vagrants and beggars, were set to work. The building of houses of correction came after the passing of an amendment to the Elizabethan Poor Law; however the houses of correction were not considered a part of the Elizabethan Poor Law system because the Act distinguished between settled poor and wandering poor. The first London house of correction was Bridewell Prison, the Middlesex and Westminster houses opened in the early seventeenth century. Due to the first reformation of manners campaign, the late seventeenth century was marked by the growth in the number of houses of correction generically termed bridewells, established and by the passage of numerous statutes prescribing houses of correction as the punishment for specific minor offences. Offenders were committed to houses of correction by Justices of the Peace, who used their powers of summary jurisdiction with respect to minor offences.
In the Middlesex and Westminster houses of correction in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries the most common charges against prisoners were prostitution, petty theft, "loose and disorderly conduct". Over two-thirds of the prisoners were female. More than half of offenders were released within a week, two-thirds within two weeks. In addition to imprisonment in a house of correction, over half of the convicted were whipped those found guilty of theft and lewd conduct and nightwalking. All the prisoners were required to do hard labour beating hemp. In 1720 an act allowed the use of houses of corrections for pretrial detention of "vagrants, other criminals and persons charged with small offences". By the 1760s and 1770s, prisoners awaiting trial accounted for more than three-quarters of those committed to the Middlesex and Westminster houses. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the term house of correction remains synonymous with state jails; the same is true for the State of Maryland
English Poor Laws
The English Poor Laws were a system of poor relief which existed in England and Wales that developed out of late-medieval and Tudor-era laws being codified in 1587–98. The Poor Law system was in existence until the emergence of the modern welfare state after the Second World War. English Poor Law legislation can be traced back as far as 1536, when legislation was passed to deal with the impotent poor, although there is much earlier Tudor legislation dealing with the problems caused by vagrants and beggars; the history of the Poor Law in England and Wales is divided between two statutes, the Old Poor Law passed during the reign of Elizabeth I and the New Poor Law, passed in 1834, which modified the existing system of poor relief. The statute altered the Poor Law system from one, administered haphazardly at a local parish level to a centralised system which encouraged the large-scale development of workhouses by poor law unions; the Poor Law system fell into decline at the beginning of the 20th century owing to factors such as the introduction of the Liberal welfare reforms and the availability of other sources of assistance from friendly societies and trade unions, as well as piecemeal reforms which bypassed the Poor Law system.
The Poor Law system was not formally abolished until the National Assistance Act 1948, with parts of the law remaining on the books until 1967. The earliest medieval Poor Law was the Ordinance of Labourers, issued by King Edward III of England on 18 June 1349, revised in 1350; the ordinance was issued in response to the 1348–1350 outbreak of the Black Death in England, when an estimated 30–40% of the population had died. The decline in population left surviving workers in great demand in the agricultural economy of Britain. Landowners had to face the choice of raising wages to compete for workers or letting their lands go unused. Wages for labourers rose, this forced up prices across the economy as goods became more expensive to produce. An attempt to rein in prices, the ordinance required. Workers saw these shortage conditions as an opportunity to flee employers and become freemen, so Edward III passed additional laws to punish escaped workers. In addition, the Statute of Cambridge was passed in 1388 and placed restrictions on the movement of labourers and beggars.
The origins of the English Poor Law system can be traced back to late medieval statutes dealing with beggars and vagrancy but it was only during the Tudor period that the Poor Law system became codified. Prior to the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the Tudors Reformation, monasteries had been the primary source of poor relief, but their dissolution resulted in poor relief moving from a voluntary basis to a compulsory tax, collected at a parish level. Early legislation was concerned with vagrants and making the able-bodied work while labour was in short supply following the Black Death. Tudor attempts to tackle the problem originate during the reign of Henry VII. In 1495, Parliament passed the Vagabonds and Beggars Act ordering that "vagabonds and suspected persons shall be set in the stocks for three days and three nights and have none other sustenance but bread and water and shall be put out of Town; every beggar suitable to work shall resort to the Hundred where he last dwelled, is best known, or was born and there remain upon the pain aforesaid."
Although this returned the burden of caring for the jobless to the communities producing more children than they could employ, it offered no immediate remedy to the problem of poverty. Moreover, no distinction was made between the jobless. In 1530, during the reign of Henry VIII, a proclamation was issued, describing idleness as the "mother and root of all vices" and ordering that whipping should replace the stocks as the punishment for vagabonds; this change was confirmed in the 1531 Vagabonds Act the following year, with one important change: it directed the justices of the peace to assign to the impotent poor an area within which they are to beg. The licences to beg for the impotent poor were limited to the disabled and elderly. An impotent person begging out of his area was to be imprisoned for two days and nights in the stocks, on bread and water, sworn to return to the place in which he was authorized to beg. An able-bodied beggar was to be whipped, sworn to return to the place where he was born, or last dwelt for the space of three years, there put himself to labour.
Still no provision was made, for the healthy man unable to find work. All able-bodied unemployed were put into the same category; those unable to find work had a stark choice: break the law. In 1535, a bill was drawn up calling for the creation of a system of public works to deal with the problem of unemployment, to be funded by a tax on income and capital. A law passed a year allowed vagabonds to be whipped. In London, there was a great massing of the poor, the Reformation threatened to eliminate some of the infrastructure used to provide for the poor; as a result, King Henry VIII consented to re-endow St. Bartholomew's Hospital in 1544 and St. Thomas’ Hospital in 1552 on the condition that the citizens of London pay for their maintenance. However, the city was unable to raise enough revenue from voluntary contributions, so it instituted the first definite compulsory Poor Rate in 1547 which replaced Sunday collections in Church with a mandatory collection for the poor. In 1555, London became increas
Poor Law Amendment Act 1834
The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834, known as the New Poor Law, was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed by the Whig government of Earl Grey. It replaced earlier legislation based on the Poor Law of 1601 and attempted to fundamentally change the poverty relief system in England and Wales, it resulted from the 1832 Royal Commission into the Operation of the Poor Laws, which included Edwin Chadwick, John Bird Sumner and Nassau William Senior. Chadwick was dissatisfied with the law; the Act was passed. Some historians have argued; the Act has been described as "the classic example of the fundamental Whig-Benthamite reforming legislation of the period". Its theoretical basis was Thomas Malthus's principle that population increased faster than resources unless checked, the "iron law of wages" and Jeremy Bentham's doctrine that people did what was pleasant and would tend to claim relief rather than working; the Act was intended to curb the cost of poor relief and address abuses of the old system, prevalent in southern agricultural counties, by enabling a new system to be brought in under which relief would only be given in workhouses, conditions in workhouses would be such as to deter any but the destitute from applying for relief.
The Act was passed by large majorities with only a few Radicals voting against. The act was implemented, but the full rigours of the intended system were never applied in Northern industrial areas; the importance of the Poor Law declined with the rise of the welfare state in the 20th century. In 1948, the PLAA was repealed by the National Assistance Act 1948, which created the National Assistance Board to act as a residual relief agency. Alarmed at the cost of poor relief in the southern agricultural districts of England, Parliament had set up a Royal Commission into the operation of the Poor Laws; the Commission's findings, predetermined, were that the old system was badly and expensively run. The Commission's recommendations were based on two principles; the first was less eligibility: conditions within workhouses should be made worse than the worst conditions outside of them so that workhouses served as a deterrent, only the most needy would consider entering them. The other was the "workhouse test": relief should only be available in the workhouse.
Migration of rural poor to the city to find work was a problem for urban ratepayers under this system, since it raised their poor rates. The Commission's report recommended sweeping changes: Out-relief should cease. "Into such a house none will enter voluntarily. There was little practical experience to support it. Different classes of paupers should be segregated. "he separation of man and wife was necessary, in order to ensure the proper regulation of workhouses". In practice, most existing workhouses were ill-suited to the new system, many poor law unions soon found that they needed a new purpose-built union workhouse, their purpose being to securely confine large numbers of the lower classes at low cost, they not unnaturally looked much like prisons. The new system would be undermined; this arrangement was justified as required to give absolute uniformity country-wide and as allowing regulations to be tailored to local circumstances without taking up Parliament's time. Mothers of illegitimate children should receive much less support.
It was argued that penalising fathers of illegitimate children reinforced pressures for the parents of children conceived out of wedlock to marry, generous payments for illegitimate children indemnified the mother against failure to marry. "The effect has been to promote bastardy. Malthus' An Essay on the Principle of Population set out the influential doctrine that population growth was geometric, that, unless checked, population increased faster than the ability of a country to f
In England and Wales, a workhouse, colloquially known as a spike, was a place where those unable to support themselves were offered accommodation and employment. The earliest known use of the term workhouse is from 1631, in an account by the mayor of Abingdon reporting that "wee haue erected wthn our borough a workehouse to sett poore people to worke"; the origins of the workhouse can be traced to the Poor Law Act of 1388, which attempted to address the labour shortages following the Black Death in England by restricting the movement of labourers, led to the state becoming responsible for the support of the poor. But mass unemployment following the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the introduction of new technology to replace agricultural workers in particular, a series of bad harvests, meant that by the early 1830s the established system of poor relief was proving to be unsustainable; the New Poor Law of 1834 attempted to reverse the economic trend by discouraging the provision of relief to anyone who refused to enter a workhouse.
Some Poor Law authorities hoped to run workhouses at a profit by utilising the free labour of their inmates, who lacked the skills or motivation to compete in the open market. Most were employed on tasks such as breaking stones, crushing bones to produce fertiliser, or picking oakum using a large metal nail known as a spike the origin of the workhouse's nickname. Life in a workhouse was intended to be harsh, to deter the able-bodied poor and to ensure that only the destitute would apply, but in areas such as the provision of free medical care and education for children, neither of, available to the poor in England living outside workhouses until the early 20th century, workhouse inmates were advantaged over the general population, a dilemma that the Poor Law authorities never managed to reconcile. As the 19th century wore on, workhouses became refuges for the elderly and sick rather than the able-bodied poor, in 1929 legislation was passed to allow local authorities to take over workhouse infirmaries as municipal hospitals.
Although workhouses were formally abolished by the same legislation in 1930, many continued under their new appellation of Public Assistance Institutions under the control of local authorities. It was not until the National Assistance Act of 1948 that the last vestiges of the Poor Law disappeared, with them the workhouses; the Poor Law Act of 1388 was an attempt to address the labour shortage caused by the Black Death, a devastating pandemic that killed about one-third of England's population. The new law fixed wages and restricted the movement of labourers, as it was anticipated that if they were allowed to leave their parishes for higher-paid work elsewhere wages would rise. According to historian Derek Fraser, the fear of social disorder following the plague resulted in the state, not a "personal Christian charity", becoming responsible for the support of the poor; the resulting laws against vagrancy were the origins of state-funded relief for the poor. From the 16th century onwards a distinction was enshrined between those who were able to work but could not, those who were able to work but would not: between "the genuinely unemployed and the idler".
Supporting the destitute was a problem exacerbated by King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries, which began in 1536. They had been a significant source of charitable relief, provided a good deal of direct and indirect employment; the Poor Relief Act of 1576 went on to establish the principle that if the able-bodied poor needed support, they had to work for it. The Act for the Relief of the Poor of 1601 made parishes responsible for the care of those within their boundaries who, through age or infirmity, were unable to work; the Act classified the poor into one of three groups. It proposed that the able-bodied be offered work in a house of correction, where the "persistent idler" was to be punished, it proposed the construction of housing for the impotent poor, the old and the infirm, although most assistance was granted through a form of poor relief known as outdoor relief – money, food, or other necessities given to those living in their own homes, funded by a local tax on the property of the wealthiest in the parish.
The workhouse system evolved in the 17th century, allowing parishes to reduce the cost to ratepayers of providing poor relief. The first authoritative figure for numbers of workhouses comes in the next century from The Abstract of Returns made by the Overseers of the Poor, drawn up following a government survey in 1776, it put the number of parish workhouses in England and Wales at more than 1800, with a total capacity of more than 90,000 places. This growth in the number of workhouses was prompted by the Workhouse Test Act of 1723; the growth was bolstered by the Relief of the Poor Act 1782, proposed by Thomas Gilbert. Gilbert's Act was intended to allow parishes to share the cost of poor relief by joining together to form unions, known as Gilbert Unions, to build and maintain larger workhouses to accommodate the elderly and infirm; the able-bodied poor found employment locally. Few Gilbert Unions were set up, but the supplementing of inadequate wages under the Speenhamland system did become established towards the end of the 18th century.
So keen were some Poor Law authorities to cut costs whe
Opposition to the English Poor Laws
Mr. Canning was once asked by Mr. Tierney why he did not touch the Poor Law? To which question Mr. Canning replied:— "Why do not Governments decide offhand a question growing out of the usages of centuries—interwoven with the habits, rooted in the prejudices of the people? Of all subjects of legislation on which Governments ought not harshly or prematurely to interfere, without ascertaining, and, if possible, carrying with them the prevailing sentiments of the country, this of the Poor Law appears to me the one on which it would be most undesirable to take a precipitate course." From the reign of Elizabeth I until the passage of the Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834 relief of the poor in England was administered on the basis of a Poor Law enacted in 1601. From the start of the nineteenth century the basic concept of providing poor relief was criticised as misguided by leading political economists and in southern agricultural counties the burden of poor-rates was felt to be excessive. Opposition to the Elizabethan Poor Law led to a Royal Commission on poor relief, which recommended that poor relief could not in the short term be abolished.
Relief should only be administered in workhouses, whose inhabitants were to be confined,'classified' and segregated. The Poor Law Amendment Act allowed these changes to be implemented by a Poor Law Commission unaccountable to Parliament; the Act was passed by large majorities in Parliament, but the regime it was intended to bring about was denounced by its critics as un-Christian, un-English and impracticable for the great manufacturing districts of Northern England. The Act itself did not introduce the regime, but introduced a framework by which it might be brought in. Opposition to the New Poor Law speaking was resistance to the introduction of the New Poor Law administrative framework. Opposition to the New Poor Law in the looser sense of resistance to key features of the regime recommended by the Royal Commission persisted and became orthodoxy: for example outdoor relief was never abolished in much of the industrial North; when a prominent West Riding opponent of the New Poor Law died in 1858, the Huddersfield Chronicle wrote "..the controversy closed and English common sense has settled down on the poor-law question somewhat nearer to the views of Oastler and Pitkethly than those of their opponents."
Criticism of the Poor Law grew in the early nineteenth century after the Napoleonic Wars with France among political economists. Thomas Malthus thought. Furthermore, the Poor Law gave a right to relief only in the parish where the claimant had a right of settlement, obtained by birth or by prolonged residence: it undesirably limited the mobility of labour. Without the Poor Law there would be "a few more instances of severe distress," but "the aggregate mass of happiness among the common people would have been much greater than it is at present." However, he was one of the first to advocate so called'indoor relief' in workhouses for the poor as opposed to outdoor relief. David Ricardo supported the abolition of the Poor Law in his book'Principles of Political Economy and Taxation' published in 1817. Any tax raised to pay for welfare such as poor rates reduced the money available to pay wages, he argued that it rewarded laziness, discouraged people from saving for old age or illness, encouraged irresponsibly large families.
Edwin Chadwick, a member of the Royal Commission, subsequently Secretary of the Poor Law Commission, was a follower of Jeremy Bentham. Chadwick therefore criticized the Old Poor Law because its decentralised administration meant significant variation in the treatment of paupers. Chadwick held that the able-bodied poor should be put to work in workhouses which met the condition of less eligibility: they could not claim outdoor relief as they did under the existing Poor Law. Conditions had to be worse than those for the poorest labourer outside the workhouse, so that people would not want to claim relief; this would decrease the poor rate, allow wages to rise to their true levels, promote honest toil. "Every penny bestowed, that tends to render the condition of the pauper more eligible than that of the independent labourer, is a bounty on indolence and vice." -1832 Royal Commission Alarmed at the cost of poor relief in the southern agricultural districts of England Parliament had set up a Royal Commission into the operation of the Poor Laws.
Its report had recommended sweeping changes unsurprisingly similar to those favoured by Chadwick: Out-relief of the able-bodied poor should cease - relief should be given only in workhouses, upon such terms that only the indigent would accept it. "Into such a house none will enter voluntarily.