A spartan regime for desperate people
The 1834 Act replaced the "Old Poor Law", dating from
the time of Elizabeth 1. It was a deliberately ruthless measure,
intended to wipe out "pauperism", which was judged
to be caused by the idleness, fecklessness, drunkenness, and
over-dependence on poor relief of
"the lowest class". This was to be brought about by
building large, institutional workhouses which were intended
to be so harsh and hostile that only the truly destitute would
seek refuge in them. They were to be the places of last resort.
Perhaps the cruellest aspect of the strict and spartan
regime in these places was the practice of separating husbands
and wives and parents and children. Not only were they forced
to stay in different parts of the workhouse, but they were not
even permitted to meet in the communal areas such as the chapel.
There are 5 pages on workhouses.
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