Remedies for Poverty and Vagrancy and their Development with Changing Attitudes 1483-1603

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Various remedies of Poverty and vagrancy and how they developed to suit the changing attitudes and ideas c.1483-1603


The issue of  Poverty and Vagrancy was a large one for the Tudor government. They attempted to remedy it by passing legislation that evolved over time. Between the years 1483-1603, twelve significant acts were passed. These can be split into two stages; the early years and the later years. 

Early Years

1495- An Act against Vagabonds and Beggars- Henry VII- States that the laws of the late 14th century are too rigorous and costly in the treatment of vagabonds. Provides for punishment in the stocks rather than imprisonment. All disabled poor to return home o parishes where they are allowed to beg but not to leave their hundreds.

1531- An Act against Concerning Punishment of Beggars and Vagabonds- Henry VIII- Provision of whipping of able-bodied beggars: complaint of rising numbers because of idleness.Disabled to be surveyed and licensed to beg by justices; if they leave the area where licensed, to be whipped or placed in the stocks.

1536- An Act for Punishment of Sturdy Vagabonds and Beggars- Henry VIII- Open doles to the poor to cease; the able to be put to continual labour; felony charges for persistent offenders. Voluntary alms to be collected by church wardens or two others to relieve the disabled.

1547- An Act for the Punishment of Vagabonds and for the Relief of the Poor and Impotent persons- Edward VI- Possible enslavement of sturdy beggars for two years; for life if they ran away; offenders to be branded on the chest with a V. Cottages to be erected for the disables and relief given to them. Weekly collection in the Parish Church after exhortation by the preacher. 

1549/50- An Act Touching the Punishment of Vagabonds and other Idle Persons- Edward VI- Repeal of vagrancy clauses of previous act. Re-enactment of provisions of 1547 concerning the disabled.

1552- An Act for the Provision and Relief of the poor- Edward VI- None to sit openly begging. Local authorities and householders to nominate two collectors of alms for weekly collections on Sundays. Persons refusing to contribute to be exhorted by ministers and then by bishops. Records to be kept of names of the poor and contributors. 

A general trend can be found in these acts. They begin to recognise the difference between the able-bodied and impotent poor. The punishment for the able-bodied poor tend to become more severe- culminating with the 147 act. The giving of alms moves progressively from the voluntary to the obligatory. A larger emphasis begins to be placed on the care and provision for the impotent poor.

Later Years (Elizabethan Policy)

1563- An Act for the Relief of the Poor- Continues statutes of 1531 and 1549. Persons refusing to contribute to poor relief after being exhorted by a bishop to appear before Justices with threat of possible imprisonment. Fines for officials and ministers and collectors who neglect their duties of office with regards to Poor Relief.

1572- An Act for


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