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Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe and South Bank areas of York

Clements Hall Local History Group

Exploring the Scarcroft, Clementhorpe and South Bank areas of York

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Making Ends Meet: exploring mid-nineteenth century poverty in our area

Latest update report on our project August 2019

Our research project is exploring mid-nineteenth poverty locally, focusing on the St Mary Bishophill Junior (SMBJ) parish during the period 1839-43. This includes streets outside the City Walls such as Nunnery Lane, Dale Street, Dove Street and Swann Street.

We examine the role of outdoor relief - publicly-financed poor relief - distributed in kind or in money (or in a combination of both). This allowed poor people to remain in their own homes.

We looked at applications for relief in the quarter ending June 1841 and chose this period to tie in with the census held on 6 April 1841, which will be relevant in subsequent posts. From the Poor Law Union (PLU) Weekly Outdoor Relief Lists held at York Explore we identified 81 applications.  (There were a total of 91 names recorded, because where a man’s application and payment included his wife, her name, year of birth and classification were shown separately. There were ten instances of this sort but all percentages are based on 81 applications). We analysed the data by settlement (responsible parish), gender, age, PLU classification and dependent children.

 MapParishes1852

 From the British Historic Towns Atlas, Volume V, York, © Historic Towns Trust & York Archaeological Trust 2015

Settlement and removal

Following the 1834 Act the operation of the Poor Law became the responsibility of the York Poor Law Union (PLU), which covered 80 parishes.  Decisions on relief were delegated by the Board of Guardians to the Relieving Officer, at this time Richard Leaf. Each parish was responsible through the parish poor rate for meeting the costs of those paupers who had legal settlement in the parish. 

Settlement could be conferred by birth, marriage, residence in an area for a particular length of time, employment, or through various property qualifications. People applying for relief without being legally settled in the parish in which they were claiming could be removed to their ‘home’ parish, but there is no evidence of this in these records. Instead there seems to have been a financial reckoning, where parishes were held responsible for the costs of their settled poor living in other parishes.  The consequence of this way of handling relief meant that a particular parish was not responsible for all people living with its boundaries BUT did have responsibility for many people living elsewhere.

30 applicants have legal settlement in SMBJ but only 12 (14.8%) are also living in the parish. Whilst this suggests a degree of mobility, this should not be overstated as all bar four addresses lie within the city itself. 

Poverty diagram

Breakdown by parish with responsibility for maintenance

Number

%

All Saints, North Str

7

8.6

All Saints, Pavement

1

1.2

Holy Trinity, King's Court

3

3.7

Holy Trinity, Micklegate

10

12.3

Minster Yd with Bedern

1

1.2

St Crux

4

4.9

St Cuthbert

1

1.2

St John Delpike

1

1.2

St John Micklegate

5

6.2

St Martin cum Gregory

3

3.7

St Martin le Grand

1

1.2

St Mary Bishophill Jnr

30

37.0

St Mary Bishophill Snr

2

2.5

St Mary Castlegate

2

2.5

St Michael Spurriergate

1

1.2

St Olaves

2

2.5

St Peter the Little

3

3.7

St Sampson

1

1.2

St Saviour

2

2.5

Out township

1

1.2

 

81

100.0

 

Reasons for applying

The classification of claimants for relief is set out below and uses terms which might cause offence today (for example lunatic, idiot, vagrant) but would have been unexceptional at the time.

 

Q/E June 1841

POOR LAW UNION CLASSES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No. of class

Non Able Bodied

Male

Female

Plus wives incl in husbands' appln

Child

%

1

Aged, infirm, partially or wholly disabled

15

17

5

NA

39.5

2

Orphans, foundlings, and children of women re-married (but only of widows married before the passing of the Poor Law amendment Act )

NA

NA

NA

4

4.9

3

Illegitimate children under 16, without their mothers

NA

NA

NA

15

18.5

4

Insane persons, lunatics, and idiots

None

None

None

NA

 

 

Able bodied

 

 

 

 

 

6

Widows, and women whose husbands have deserted them, or have been transported, having a child or children under 16 dependant on them

NA

14

NA

NA

17.3

7

On account of sickness or accident

1

4

1

NA

6.2

8

Out of work, and other causes

7

3

4

NA

12.3

9

Vagrants and paupers not belonging to any Parish of the Union

None

1

None

NA

1.2

 

Totals

23

39

 

19

 

 

23 adult applicants were male (28.4%), 39 were female (48.1%), and 19 were child applicants under the age of 16 (23.5%).  In looking at the circumstances which lead to the claim, three groups accounted for four of every five claims - aged or infirm (39.5%), children - orphans or illegitimate (23.4%) and widows or deserted wives (17.3%).

 

What was the age/gender profile of applicants?

 

Breakdown of applicants by age

 

 

 

 

 

Male

Female

Children

%

under 10

 

 

11

13.6

10-15

 

 

7

8.6

16-20

0

1

 

1.2

21-30

0

3

 

3.7

31-40

2

6

 

9.9

41-50

3

8

 

13.6

51-60

4

4

 

9.9

61-70

5

7

 

14.8

71-80

6

7

 

16

over 80

2

1

 

3.7

Age not shown

1

3

 

4.9

Totals

23

40

18

 

 

Note - The discrepancy in the numbers of females and children between this table and the previous one is because Mathilda White (born 1814 and therefore age 27) is recorded as class 3 (illegitimate children under 16 without their mothers).

More than half of the applications came from claimants over 60 (34.5%) and children (22.2%).

19 of the 62 adult applicants were claiming for a total of 48 children.  There were between one and four dependent children per family.  Of the 19 applicants, 11 were widows or deserted wives, 5 were men out of work, and only one person was claiming as a result of sickness or accident. 

All bar two are in their 30s, 40s and 50s, years of maximum family responsibilities.  Two of those in receipt on grounds of their age (63 and 71) also had responsibility for children, possibly grandchildren.

 

Conclusions

The parish played a significant role in outdoor poor relief during 1839-43, which focused on the role of legal settlement in determining responsibility for the poor. People were classified by the poor law authorities, with most non-able bodied in receipt of relief being aged, infirm or disabled. Among able-bodied most were widows, and women whose husbands had deserted them, or have been transported, or with children under 16 dependent on them. A future post will reveal who was in receipt of relief in Dale Street, Dove Street and Swann Street, and what they received in cash or kind.

 

Source

York Poor Law Union Weekly Outdoor relief lists, City District: PLU/3/2/1/14, quarter ending June 1841. Explore York.