Thursday, May 17, 2007

Southwell Workhouse Research Group

Grim insight into daily grind of life in the workhouse - Independent Online Edition > This Britain: "The 5,000 documents from the Southwell Workhouse Poor Law Union between 1834 and 1871 went online yesterday after a remarkable five-year partnership between the National Archives and a group of enthusiasts. Without the resources necessary to read and catalogue the muddled records, part of a vast library of documents covering all Victorian workhouses inherited from the Ministry of Health, the National Archives handed over electronic copies to the Southwell Workhouse Research Group, based in the property, which is owned by the National Trust."

Southwell Workhouse Research Group - Google Search

Southwell Workhouse: "At the end of the French Wars the cost of poor relief reached new heights. In 1784, it was estimated that poor relief cost £2 million; by 1815 it had reached £6 million, at a time when attitudes towards poverty and the poor were beginning to change. In the period following the passing of the Elizabethan Poor Law (1601) it was generally accepted that the poor should be looked after but increasingly, it was felt — by the ratepayers — that poverty was the result either of idleness or of a personality defect.

Consequently, it was thought that the poor should be encouraged to find work or be 'taught the error of their ways'. Nottinghamshire was the first area to implement a system of poor relief that was intended to deter the poor from seeking parish relief and hence reduce the poor rates. The implementation of the idea was largely the work of the Rev. John Becher; he insisted that those claiming poor relief would be institutionalised in conditions 'less eligible' than those of the poorest labourer outside the workhouse. Others who were involved in the 'Nottinghamshire reforms' were George Nicholls and the Rev. Robert Lowe.

Nicholls became an overseer for the parish of Southwell in the early 1820s and was responsible for putting into practice a system of poor relief recommended by the Rev. Robert Lowe — Becher's cousin and the vicar of Bingham"


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