A-Level History - Less Eligibility: the Poor Law Amendment Act and its impact, 1832 - 1847.

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  • Created on: 12-11-19 09:50

Commission of Enquiry

Who was involved?

Nassau Senior, Edwin Chadwick, 26 assistant comissioner and 9 commisioners.

How was the information collected?

At first questionnaires were used and wer handed out to the parsihes in rural areas and parishes in towns. Also, interviews  were given to the poor. 

What problems with this method occured?

Only 10% replied to the questionnaires and some questions could be misinterpreted. For example, 'allowance' could be interpreted differently. Also, the questions in the questionnaires and the interviews were skewed to get the answers that they wanted .

What were the recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry?

Separate workhouses, parishes would group into unions to provide workhouses, outdoor relief should stop, conditions inside a workhuse should be awful and a new central authority should be established. 

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Poor Law Amendment Act - 1834

Main Terms:

A central authority should be set up to supervise the implementation of of the Poor Law, parishes should be grouped into unions, workhouses should be awful, and outdoor relief should be discouraged.

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Poor Law Commission

Who were the commissioners?

Thomas Frankland Lewis, George Nicholls and John Shaw-Lefeure.

What was the commissioners job?

To make sure that centrally made decisons were impleented at local level. 

Issued directives, drew up regulations, refused to allow certain types of building, set dietaries for workhouses and centralised accounting procedures. 

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Edwin Chadwick

Investigator and Report Writer:

He was first appointed to the Royal Commission as an assistant commissioner. he was promoted to the post of commissioner. He wrote the second part of the report. He wanted to deter applications for relief by making conditions of relief awful. 

Drafting of the Parliamentary Bill:

Job of John Meadows, but Chadwick had an influence.

Failure to become a Poor Law Commissioner:

Chadwick expected to be one of three poor law commissioners. Nassau Senior recommneded him but he was overruled by the cabinet. Chadwick weas made secretary instead. Therefore, CHadwick issued literally hundreds of notes, circulars, regulations and replies to queries from parishes to try and impose utilitarianism on the new Poor Law. 

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Workhouse - Architecture and Design

Sampson Kempthorpe designed the workhouses. There were two types fo workhouses: Y-Shaped Workhouse and Cruciform-Shaped Workhouse.

Y-Shaped Workhouse:

2 or 3 storeys high, could hold around 300 paupers, and had a waiting hall.

Cruciform-Shaped Workhouse:

2 storeys high, could hold between 200-500 paupers and had 4 exercise yards.

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Life in a Workhouse

Routine, Rules and Regulations: Medical inspection on arrival, workhouse uniform, all paupers ahd a weekly bath and it had a monotonus routine.

Work: The aim of the work was to rehabilitate the paupers and restore them to the workforce outside. However, work had to be avaliable. Women and children worked to help maintain the workhouse, e.g. laundry and kitchens. Monotonus work, e.g. made sacks, unravelled ropes and chopped wood. 

Dietary: The aim of dietary was to maintain life, but to make mealtimes as boring as possible. Until 1842, all meals were to be eaten in silence. Food was of poor quality. un the 1840s, some workhouses didn't allow paupers to use cutlery. 

Discipline: There were full-sclae riots, bullying and blackmail. Paupers could be punished for being in the worng part of the building, making too much noise and working too slowly. Girls and womne couldn't e beaten, but rations being reduced was a common punishment. 

Children: they weren't seen as responisble for their own poverty. Basic education, better medical attention than outside. Couldn't leave the workhouse on their own free will. 

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Workhouse - Staff

Essential Staff:

Cleaners, porters, washerwomen, cooks, scullery maids and chimney sweeps.

Master and Matron:

The Master was responsible for the disciplie and the economy of the workhouse.

The Matron was responsible for the female paupers and the domestic side of life. 

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Opposition to the Poor Law Amendment Act

Rumours: Workhouses were extermination centres, children were treated very badly, the Poor Law was introduced to lower the national wage bill.

Genuine Fears of Opposition: Many attacked the centralisation implicit in the new Poor Law. Many were scared that the new Poor Law would break the traditional bonds between the rich and poor. 

Protest in the Rural South: There were sporadic outbursts of opposition. For example, protest against centralisation and removal and against the regime of the workhouse. In East Anglia newly built workhouses were attacked like St. Clements. 

Opposition in the North: Fired up by the demands of the Ten Hours' Movement (A campain in the 1830s to reduce the hours worked in textile mills to ten per day), they turned to oppose what many saw as yet another assault on working people. Riots were in e.g. Oldham, Todmorden and Huddersfield. 

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Oastler and Fielden

Richard Oastler:

Oastler rejected to poor law commissioners being too powerful. Their ability to supply factories with cheap labour in the form of pauperised agricultural workers lead to low living conditions. He was an advocate for the ten hours' movement. he turned his attention to campaigning against the new Poor Law and spoke at various public meetings. the Ten Hour Act was passed in 1847.

John Fielden:

Fielden opposed the new Poor Law and was angry when the committe reported favourably upon it as he claimed that it had only taken evidence from commissioners and guardians known to be favourably disposed to the new law. He owned cotton mills with his brother in Todmorden and threatened to close them down when the Poor Law Commission tried to implement the new Poor Law in Todmorden. The Poor Law was finally implemented in Todmorden in 1877 as it was so volatile. 

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Examples of success for the anti-Poor Law Movement:

Effective in the short-term and very few workhouses were built until the 1850s and 1860s. 

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