The Care of the Poor

Poor Relief had been the province of the parishes since medieval times, and since the early 18th century parishes had been able to build workhouses. These were mainly to provide useful employment for those unable to work because of sickness or old age. The able bodied were given outdoor relief.

In 1834 a Poor Law Amendment Act was passed which cut back on the provision of outdoor relief and made confinement in a workhouse the central element of the new system. The Act grouped parishes together into Poor Law Unions run by a Board of Guardians making large workhouses viable. The Act encouraged administrators to make the workhouses as unpleasant as possible to deter people from claiming relief. Men and women were housed separately and children taken from their parents and often apprenticed outside the workhouse.

The minute book of the newly formed Crickhowell Poor Law Union is housed at the County Archive and it reveals much about the creation of the harsh new system.

Image - documentThe Provision Of Bread. November 1836
Resolved that Thomas Maddy's tender for bread be accepted viz. at Two pence per pound the quality to be best seconds - to be delivered if required at the Poor House of Crickhowell, the Poor House of Langattock, Lanelly and Tretower - the bread to be not less than 24 nor more than 48 hours old in 2lb and 4lb loaves- the contract to commence on the tenth of November Instant and ending and ending the 25th of March 1837 - further that he do give security himself and one surety in 20 for the due fulfilment of his contract.
In this we can see the terms of the contract for the provision of poorer quality bread to the paupers of the new Union. As a new larger workhouse has not yet been set up the Union is still using the old parish workhouses.

Image - documentThe Provision Of Coffins. November 1836
Resolved that the Relieving Officer be directed to procure tenders for a supply of coffins for the Union - for infants under 5 - for 5 to 12 and above 12 years of age - to be delivered when required within the limit of the Union.
The Poor Law Union also had the duty of providing a funeral for paupers who die without means in the parishes of the union. With infant mortality much higher then this often involved the infant coffins mentioned here.

Image - documentThe New Regime Takes Shape. December 1836
Mr Franco having certified that all the paupers now in Cwmdu and Langunider workhouses are capable of being removed, Ordered that measures be immediately taken for their removal; the men to Langattock and the women to Crickhowell Poor house.
This division of paupers by sex and removal to just two workhouses was in preparation for the establishment of a single enlarged workhouse at the Llangattock site which would become the workhouse for the Union. Mr Franco was the Medical Officer to the Crickhowell Union.

Image - documentA Rare Celebration. 10th February 1840
Moved by The Revd. Richard W. P. Davies
Seconded by Mr Peirce
That in commemoration of the Queen's Marriage solemnized this day, a circumstance fraught with Interest to the whole community of the Realm, Resolved that the inmates of the workhouse be allowed a good dinner and a pint of ale each to mark so important and interesting an event.

"God Save the Queen"
The occasion of the marriage of Queen Victoria to Prince Albert provides some relief from an otherwise grim diet.

The Local Government Act of 1929 abolished the Boards of Guardians and also the term 'pauper' and encouraged local authorities to convert workhouses into infirmaries.


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Text and documentation supplied by Powys County Council Archive Office