The Poor

Our project is based on the Poor of Deal and the relief given by the Parish of St. Leonard’s.

Just as is with our society today, there has always been and will always be some members within our society who are unable to earn a living and depend on others to look after them. These are usually the sick, the elderly or the unemployed. Poor relief was for the most part administered by the good nature of the church and its good citizens. This would come in the form of food and clothing bought with money collected from landowners and the wealthier members of society. It was not a legal requirement but was based on a common understanding amongst society. Marjie Bloy Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore, believes that this understanding comes from the Bible ' (Matthew 25 v. 32-46) people were to - feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, visit the prisoner, and bury the dead'

( - 21/10/08)

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1,various laws were introduced to try and alleviate the symptoms of poverty amongst citizens. At that time, the population was small enough that towns folk knew who the poor were and the reason why they were suffering hardship. As population grew and people traveled about to find work, it became harder to keep track on poverty and various laws came into being.

Poor Law Timeline


  • 1597 - The Act For the Relief of the Poor 1597 provides the first complete code of Poor Relief


  • 1601 - Old Poor Law passed. This would remain the basis of the Poor Law system until 1834
  • 1662 - Poor Relief Act 1662 passed to deal with the problems of settlement


  • 1723 - Workhouse Test Act passed to encourage the building of workhouses.
  • 1782 - Relief of the Poor Act 1782 passed.


  • 1815 - The French Wars come to an end.
  • 1830 - The Swing Riots highlight the possibility of agricultural unrest.
  • 1832 - The Royal Commission into the Operation of the Poor Laws begins its investigation into the Poor Law system.
  • 1834 - Poor Law Amendment Act passed
  • 1842 - Outdoor Labour Test Order discourages outdoor relief
  • 1844 - Outdoor Relief Propitiatory Order issued to further discourage outdoor relief
  • 1847 - The Poor Law Commission is abolished and replaced by the Poor Law Board
  • 1848 - The Huddersfield workhouse scandal occurs.
  • 1865 - The Union Chargeability Act 1865 is passed
  • 1867 - The Second Reform Act
  • 1871 - The Local Government Board]] takes the powers of the Poor Law Board


  • 1905 - Royal Commission on the Poor Laws and Relief of Distress 1905-09 set up by the outgoing Conservative government.
  • 1906 - The Liberal Government is elected and begins an ambitious programme of welfare reforms.
  • 1909 - The Minority report
  • 1929 - The workhouse system is abolished by the Local Government Act 1929.
  • 1948 - The Poor Law system abolished by the National Assistance Act 1948.
  • (source wikipedia)

In the early days Parish Relief was given on a piecemeal basis. It was usual that the community would know the poor in their area and the reason of the poverty and therefore relief was given as opposed to requested. As the population grew and people traveled, it became difficult to work out who the poor were and the poor would request assistance from the Parish.

A ‘poor rate’ was levied against those in society who could afford to pay it (house owners) and the amount payable depended on your own ‘habitat’. This was the parish 'cess'.

In the case of the following Deal residents -
Mr Matson with a house, Mill and garden paid 12s/8d.
Widow Sutton with a house and garden paid 8s/2d
Captain Fabion with a house, garden and stable paid 9s/- (source Parish Records)

The Average Poor Rate 1833-1835
Total £21,177 or 17s 9d per head of population.

Money was also received in other ways. Bastardy Bonds were to collect money from the fathers of unmarried women who had been compromised. . Bastardy Bonds were drawn up by the Parish and could be paid in either a one off lump sum (around £40,) or weekly
amount depending on income. A labourer might pay 2s/ a week whilst a farmer or master would have to pay 3s/6d

Money was also left by way of Wills of deceased people. Quite often a lump sum or bonds would be left and the interest would be distributed to the poor in the form of bread on certain days. E.g. Candlesmas day, Easter Sunday, New Years day etc. (Hasted 1800)

Court House as the Poor House

In 1710 it is recorded that Court House, Rectory Road, Deal was used as the local poor house. The Parish records hold quite a few archives showing receipts for items and things connected to the poor of Deal.

Two shillings for mending the stack at the poor house

September 29th
Paid John Roberts 10 shillings and seven pence hapney for the beear for the poorhouse when they were sick and for John Bretts cow when he moved clay and made new gutters for the house.
John Roberts (his mark X)

October 15th
Received off William Pittock – two shillings for work done at the poor house.
John Bret (his mark X)

Mr Topseys Bill for the Poor House £ S D
45 pound of Beef - - - - - - - - - - 0 - 10 - 1 1/2
A Bullocks Head - - - - - - - - - 0 - 2 - 0

received the full contents of Bill from Thos. Carter

For the poor by order of Mr Oakley to Eliz Stone
£ S D
29 pd of chease - - - - - 0 - 4 - 2 1/2
7 pd of butter - - - - - - - - - 0 - 2 - 11
5 quarts of oatmeal - - - - - - 0 - 0- 11
2 pds of candells - - - - - - - 0 - 0 -10
one and a half of Shugar - - 0 - 0 - 6
A gallon of salt - - - - - - -0 - 0 - 8
threed and tape - - - - - - 0 - 0 - 6
0 - 10 -7 1/2

March ye 26 ye bill for ye poor by ye order of Mr Oakly
to Eliz Stone

29 pd of chease - - - - - - 0 - 4 - 2 1/2
7 pd of butter - - - - - - 0 - 3 - 2 1/2
5 quarts of oatmeal - - - - - 0 - 0 - 1 1/2
A gallon of Salt - - - - - 0 - 0 - 8
one pound and a half of shugar - - 0 - 0 - 6
threed and tape - - - - - - - 0 - 0 - 6
A mone Basket - - - - - - - - - - 0 - 0 - 4
0 - 10 - 5 -1/2

Oct 19

bought of Mrs purden
3 ells doules 11 0 - 2 - 9
1 payer of shuse 0 - 2 - 6

for the use of mrs marben

reseaved the full contents of this bill
by me sarah purden

William Pittocks book of receipts held at Canterbury Cathedral Archives also holds some interesting facts.
Extracts from the book of receipts for the parish –
William Pittock 1796

An account of those that are out of the poor house, that have money weekly.
£ s d
The widow Hart 0 – 1 – 0
The widow Ambrose 0 – 3 – 0
The widow Wilson 0 – 1 - 0
Thomas Cokey 0 – 2 – 0
William Corwell 0 – 0 – 8
Ingrams child 0 – 2 – 6
Wraights child 0 – 2 – 6
Wittlecans child 0 – 1 – 0

The widow Mois at Canterbury 1 shilling a week
The widow Benet At Ramesgate 1 shilling a week.

Two shillings for mending the stack at the poor house

September 29th
Paid John Roberts 10 shillings and seven pence hapney for the beear for the poorhouse when they were sick and for John Bretts cow when he moved clay and made new gutters for the house.
John Roberts (his mark X)

October 15th
Received off William Pittock – two shillings for work done at the poor house.
John Bret (his mark X)

Poor House in West Street


In 1778 a request for bricks for new poorhouse was
made by William Hinds and wife, Master and Mistress of
the poorhouse. The Deal workhouse was built in 1782.

The Deal Workhouse was built on the ground where St Andrews Church now stands (number 257 on the tithe map). It was a three story building that consisted of the following space. ;

Cellar Floor
1 Work Room
2 Cellar
3 Pumps
4 Rainwater Store
5 Cellar Stairs

Ground Floor
6 Portico
7 Storerooms
8 Masters Room
9 Hall
10 Committee Room
11 Separate Male & Female
12 Spinning Room
13 Dining Room
14 Wash house
15 Kitchen
16 Cells for Correction
and Insane
17 Hospital for Females
18 Dead House
19 Privy’s
20 Yard for Females
21 Yard for Males

Chamber Floor

22 Masters Room
23 Lodging Rooms
24 School Room
25 Hospital for Males
26 Lodging Rooms with Cabins for the Married
27 Lodging Rooms
28 Lodging Rooms Women

In 1785 the poor were ‘contracted out’ A Mister John Gauntley of Grantham agreed to take care of the poor of Deal. He agreed to take care of all the needs of any poor person, including providing shelter that was warm, food, decent clothing, medicines and care when they were sick and a burial if they died. This was to be done for 2s/5d per head per week. Mr Gauntley was allowed the labour of the poor and the clothes of those who died to re issue to others, as part of the agreement.

St Andrews Church was built on the site in about 1850.

Eastry Union Workhouse

In 1832 a Royal Commission recommended a universal
system of poor relief for the whole country.
There should be no outdoor relief. Parishes should join
together to form Unions with a large workhouse that
would cater for all paupers. Relief required entry to the
Workhouse. The Workhouse conditions were to be lower
than the conditions of the poorest paid labourer.

1834 Poor Law reform Act required parishes to
administer relief only to those entering the workhouse.
Deal Workhouse became a Union and the Workhouse at
Eastry was the converted to take the poor from all areas of
its union.

Peter Higginbotham identified the areas.

Ash, Barfeston, Betteshanger, Chillenden, Eastry, Elmstone,
Eythorne, Goodnestone, Ham, Knowlton, Great Mongeham,
Little Mongeham, Nonington, Northbourne, Preston next
Wingham, Stourmouth, Sutton by Dover, Tilmanstone,
Waldershare, Walmer, Wingham, Woodensborough, Word
or Worth.

On April 6th 1836, these were joined by Deal (2 guardians)
Sandwich St. clements (1) Sandwich St. Mary’s (1),
Sandwich St. Peters (1)

The population of the Union was 23, 870 in 1831 ranging in
individual sizes from Betteshanger (20) to Deal 7,268.

The average poor rate in the period 1833-1835 was
£21,177 or 17s 9d per head of population.

Eastry Workhouse.
The building of Eastry Union Workhouse commenced in 1835. The guardians were told at the outset to make it as unpleasant as possible to deter people from entering and seeking poor relief.

Eastry Workhouse was the second largest Workhouse in the country and had the largest amount of parishes giving a union population of 23,870 (Deal population 7,268 – 1831)
(source Cozens)

The daily life of the poor was to change dramatically and the
poor were not only moved ‘in doors’ but to a different area,
namely Eastry. Pritchard, one of the first guardians from
Deal wrote ‘to the elderly and infirm it was a great trial
severing the ties between them and their families and friends
without any hope of ever seeing them again’.

You could apply for a visiting order but the 12 mile round trip
from Deal without any transport meant walking and very few
people could walk the distance to visit.

The Poor Laws allowed for terror and hardship to be part of daily workhouse life. It was thought that by making daily life repulsive it would deter people from seeking relief. At Eastry children as young as two years old were flogged until blood was drawn.

Cozens reports that Eastry was a place where 'there was regular observance of routine, religious exercise, silence during meals, prompt obedience and separation of families, even of the same sex’

'If paupers are made miserable, paupers will needs decline in multitude. It is a secret known to all rat catchers. (T.Carlyle - Chartism)

On entering the Workhouse, you would be put into a category and segregated.

Classification and Segregation – The 7 Classes

1. Aged or infirm men
2. Able bodied men and youths above 13.
3. Youths and boys above seven and under 13
4. Aged or infirm women.
5. Ablebodied women and girls above 16
6. Girls above seven years old and under 16.
7. Children under 7 years of age.

An inmates only possesions were the uniform they wore
and the bed they slept in. Beds were very basic and
narrow and the matress was filled with straw.
A cover filled with straw was used on top of them.

Medical Care in the Workhouse.

All Workhouses’s had a Medical Officer. However it was
not until after 1863 that trained nurses started to appear. Nursing before then was left to inmates – problematic, as most couldn’t read the labels on the medicine bottles

In 1897 a new Medical Officer was appointed at Eastry. Mr Mc Anally was appointed appointed Medical Officer for the Workhouse and Eastry District of the Eastry Union. Reported on January 2nd 1897 in The British Medical Journal.

Typical Menu For Eastry Workhouse.

Breakfast & Supper
6ozs Bread
1/2 oz Butter
1 oz Cheese

5ozs Bread
1/2 oz Butter
1 oz Cheese

Meat Pudding and Vegetables
1lb. for Men
10 ozs for Women.

Various Acts and what they meant.

The Settlement Act 1622
Allowed Parishes to return paupers to their home' parish after 40 days unless in receipt of a settlement certificate.

Knatchbull's Act 1722
Allowed officers to purchase buildings to be used as
Workhouses by able bodied paupers. Relief could be
refused if they would not enter. This Act was repealed in 1796.

Gilbert's Act 1782
The Gilbert's Act allowed small group of Parishes to unite and
build a Workhouse if the majority of ratepayers agreed. Also
no person be sent to the poorhouse except Children, Aged or
Infirm. The able bodied were required to work.

The "Roundsmen" System

Able-bodied paupers were given Ticket to approach local farmers
for work. The Parish paid some or all of the wage. The cost of
food prices rose to quicker than the average wages so pauper
numbers increased. This system ‘topped up’ earnings to the
level of the cost of bread.

Researched by Chrissie Clifton-Lee, Lesley & Mabel