Operation of the OLD POOR LAW

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  • the old poor law was created while Queen Elizabeth I was in reign
  • created in 1601
  • main aim was part humanitarian part social stability
  • many of the rich thought the unemployed poor were a danger to law & order
  • poorhouses were built to look after those who were unable to make a living
  • if no work was available, the state would provide relief through food and cash

there were 3 significant changes over the period that the poor law was ruling: Laws of Settlement/Gilbert's Act and Speenhamland System


  • made to protect an individual parish from being overwhelmed by poor from other areas
  • they also strengthened the authority by preventing poor moving around & becoming potential troublemakers
  • laws enforced that a person's place of settlement had to be the parish he/she was born in or lived for at least 3 years
  • overseers could remove a person within 40 days


  • created in 1782
  • this allowed parishes could group together forming a large Poor Law authorities
  • the advantage reduced costs
  • for instance, parishes could share a general poorhouse rather than look after one each


  • created late 18th century
  • decided to subsidise low…


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