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Vagrancy - Wandering the country without a settled home or job.

Who are vagabonds?

  • Vagabonds were beggars, tramps and vagrants who wandered the country without a settled job.
  •  Some vagabonds  were soldiers who had been: Demobbed, Criminals, Unemployed
  •  Vagrants were people who would move into a new town or village looking for work.
  •   In the middle ages people had not been free to  move around form place to place.
  • 1500's - restrictions had been removed and there was a lot of travel from town to town.

How were the poor helped? 

  •   Each village and town did try to help the genuine poor of their own parish.
  • The aged, the sick and children received help to buy food, which was paid for out of the poor rate, a local tax paid for out of the poor-rate, a local tax paid by the better-off residents.
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Why did people think that vagabonds were a problem? These worries were particularly acute at times of poverty when the number of unemployed and poor people, looking for work, naturally increased.

  • People felt that idleness was wrong
  •            Puritan religion taught that everyone should work hard so they did not have time to be tempted to commit sins.
  •            Not working was seen as a crime in its own right
  •            Most people did not object to helping the genuine poor, who could not work because they were old or sick, but were suspicious of outsiders, especially if they appeared to be fit and healthy enough to work.
  • Vagrants were blamed for many crimes such as thefts, assaults and murders
  •            It was the only way they would get money to buy food
  • Many people were worried about the cost
  •           Each village and town raised money to help the genuine poor of their own parish
  •           They did not want to spend their hard earned money supporting the poor of another parish
  •           They wanted the money to get back to them
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How did they treat the vagabonds?

·         1531 - Unemployed men and women found begging or vagrants, should be whipped until their bodies 'be bloody' and returned to their birthplace or previous residence.

·         1547

o     First offence - Two years slavery

o     Second offence - Slavery for life or execution

·         1550 - The 1547 Act was repealed as too severe. The1531 act was revived

·         1572 - First offence - whipping and burning of an ear. second offence execution.

·         1576 - House of correction to be built in every country to punish and employ persistent beggars.

·         1593 - The 1572 Act was repealed as too severe. The 1531 Act was revived.

·         1598 - Vagrants to be whipped and sent home. If they did not mend their ways, the JP's could send them to a house of correction, banish them from the country or execute them.

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