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Staffordshire; Borough of Newcastle under Lyne

Relief of the Poor. - In Newcastle the parochial responsibility for the relief of the poor seems to have devolved upon the borough council early in the 17th century. It was the council which thereafter undertook the organization and distribution of relief, including many of the charities, the appointment of overseers, and the maintenance of a workhouse. This lasted until 1838 when the Newcastle

Poor Law Union, consisting of Newcastle and eight neighbouring parishes was created and control vested in a board of 18 guardians, six of them representatives of the borough. [32]

Until the later 18th century the corporation was successful in finding expedients to avoid the need for poor rates, though very occasionally, as in 1630 [33]  aand 1699 [34]  a levy was imposed. Special income was sometimes assigned to the poor - part of a fine imposed for contempt of the mayor in 1623  [35]  fines for defective chimneys in 1689  [36]  the fees paid by two newly admitted burgesses in 1729 [37]  But the first main source of relief during this period was the borough malt mill erected c.1657 to provide for the maintenance of the poor. [38]  The mill was formally settled in trust for the poor in 1687 specifically in order that a poor rate should not be necessary; if the income  from leasing the mill proved insufficient, the poor were to have also 12 a year out of the toll of corn ground there. [39]  Although the arrangement at first achieved its purpose [40]  the need for new sources of revenue had arisen again by 1730 and it was then agreed to inclose some 8 acres of The Marsh and use the rents in lieu of a rate. [41]  It is not clear whether this scheme was ever carried out, but by a Chancery decree of 1740 the proceeds of the mill, 45 a year charged on the market tolls, stallage, and profits from admissions of burgesses, the 30 annual income from Lord Ward's charity, and the rents from lands bought with other charity money were devoted to poor relief by the corporation in satisfaction for all gifts made to them for the poor and as a further means of avoiding a poor rate. [42]  The charity land was sold c. 1795 and the proceeds were applied to parochial purposes. [43]  The money arising from the sale of the malt mill in 1796, however, was assigned to the poor [44]  and the 45 and 30 were still paid to the overseers of the poor in 1903. [45]

By 1774, however, the corporation was in debt to the amount of 1,600 on account of the poor, and a rate was thenceforth imposed in addition to the other charges. [46]  In 1775-6 the product of this rate amounted to 584. [47]  In 1782 23 acres of The Marsh were inclosed [48]  and, leased out as building plots, produced an income which was used to subsidize the rates; this amounted to

131-19s-6d in 1835-6. [49] The average annual rate in 1783-5 had dropped to 563-19s-6d, but in 1802-3 the poor and other rates; assessed at 1s-3d in the . totalled 964-7s-6d. [50]

The first reference to overseers of the poor occurs in 1622 from which time they were appointed- usually two a year - by the corporation. [51]  If a person chosen was unwilling to serve he was required to find an approved substitute or pay a fine. [52]  In 1720 it was decided to create two paid offices of standing supervisor, and standing overseer; the fines for exemption were to be 1-10s-0d and 2 respectively, and appointment was to be in the hands of the mayor and aldermen. [53]

At first only one official, described as an overseer, was appointed, [54]  but, after the repetition of the order in 1727, [55]  an overseer and a supervisor were elected in 1728 and 1729 [56] and two overseers in 1730. [57]  From 1731 there seems to have been only one overseer [58]  but, from at least 1786, there were again two. [59]  In 1759 it was resolved by the corporation that a Mr Cartwright was to be elected overseer for the following year at a salary of 10 [60]  Payments to the poor by the overseers had been under the direction of the corporation from at least 1661 [61]

In 1685 the amount of the allowances dispensed was placed under the control of the bailiffs, the churchwardens, and four others. [62]  The corporation was paying the overseers a minimum of 3-10s-0d from 1720 [63]  10 by 1759 [64]  and 12 with a further allowance of 2 a year for help in collecting the toll of corn in 1771 [65]  In 1766 the overseer was ordered to present accounts each week of the bills for goods bought on the corporation's behalf; the overseer's accounts were to be inspected once a month by the mayor, the justices, and four others. [66]  At the beginning of 1771 the accounts were laid before the whole corporation. [67]  The vestry were electing the two overseers and passing their accounts by the 1830's [68]  When by the Rating and Valuation Act of 1925 the office of overseer was abolished, the Newcastle overseer's functions were transferred to the rating committee of the borough council. [69]

The relief, apart from charities, [70]  granted to the poor of Newcastle at various times from the later 17th century onwards included weekly and occasional money grants [71]  grants in kind, [72]  whole or part payment of rent [73]  grants for apprenticing [74]  and the provision during the 1730's and 1740's at least, of medical attention, the doctor being given two bags of malt a year, and in 1741 admission to the rights and privileges of the borough. [75]  The total expenditure on poor relief in 1775-6 was 577-10s-0d [76]  In 1802-3 574-5s-7d was spent on out-relief within the borough for 153 adults, 62 children under 15, and 23 persons requiring only occasional help, 223-8s-1d was spent on the workhouse, into which 18 adults and children were admitted that year. [77]  

From the later 17th century, however, there was a steady stiffening in the corporation's attitude towards poor relief. In 1685 the overseer's expenditure was placed under stricter control (see above)

In 1686, eleven years before the statute requiring such measures, the corporation ordered that anyone in receipt of weekly pay from the borough should wear a badge of red cloth in the shape of a castle on pain of losing the pay. [78]  in 1717 the form of the badge was altered to the letters NP in red. [79]  By the early 18th century the corporation order books indicate a reduction in the scale of relief.  [80]  A fine of 10s was imposed in 1707 on all those who relieved vagrants and beggars [81]  and the following year a salaried official was appointed to arrest and punish vagrants and beggars. [82]  In 1731 the poor who were not in the newly established workhouse had their weekly pay cut by half. [83]  In the same year the corporation ordered that all clothing given to the poor should be of blue cloth; [84]  the colour was fixed in 1742 as green for men and boys, and yellow for women and girls, `that it may be visible who are clothed by the town' [85]  In 1745 it was ordered that no medical help was to be given unless on the instructions of the overseer.  [86]  

The town clerk was directed in 1756 to strike off the roll of freemen any who were paupers or in receipt of pay for themselves or their families, [87]  and in 1774 the corporation decided that too much was being spent on the poor and that in future no part of their revenue should go to the poor except what was assigned under the decree of 1740. [88]

In 1731, following a report from an exploratory committee and the unanimous approval of a public meeting, the corporation resolved that ` the houses in Ireland (Higherland) be immediately repaired and converted into a workhouse'.  [89]  The standing overseer was ordered to remove all the poor into the workhouse and to `employ  them in a proper manner and provide necessaries for them' ; he was to receive a slalary of 4s a week as master of the workhouse . [90]  In 1732 a George Alker was appointed to teach the poor to spin cotton.  [91]  The master was still paid 4s a week in 1739, and his appointment included the stipulation that he should live in the workhouse. [92]  The capacity of the workhouse was 40 in 1776.  [93]  In 1786 the corporation gave it into the control of the churchwardens and overseers on a 99 year lease at a rent of 5-10s-0d a year.  [94]  The overseers were given notice to quit in 1808 and a 21 year lease was granted to the parish vestry at a rent of 10 [95]  The period was extended to 99 years in 1809 on condition that the parish should spend 300 on repairs and that the  governor should take charge of debtors committed to gaol as well as paupers. [96]  In 1838 the workhouse was temporarily taken over for the able-bodied poor of the new union by the guardians [97]  who on inspection found the house `extremely clean and well-regulated' with `provisions of the best kind' [98]  There were 64 inmates, 29 of them children, and the accommodation included 12 sleeping rooms, with 33 beds, a laundry, a bakehouse, stabling for a horse and a cow, and a recreation yard each for the men and the women. [99]

 After the building of the union workhouse in 1838-9 (see below) the corporation regained possession of the old workhouse [1]  but had sold it by 1849 to the trustees of Orme's Charity, from whom in that year the union clerk was ordered to secure its use for cholera victims. [2]  

The union workhouse, a building in Elizabethan style, was erected in the Keele road, east of the old workhouse, in 1838-9, with accommodation for 350 paupers.  [3]  An infirmary was added c.1842  [4]  In 1885-6 a new infirmary was built, the earlier building being converted into wards for the old and infirm  [5]  The west wing of the workhouse, occupied by the women and girls, was burnt down in 1890 [6]  and re-built in 1892-3  [7]  The casual wards were closed in 1914, the responsibility being transferred to Stoke  [8]  The building was closed and demolished in 1938. [9]  


32 The min books 1838-1948 and the ledgers 1843-1927 are in the S.R.O.
33 Pape - Tudor and Stuart Newcastle, 282.
34 Corp. Order Bk. 1669-1712 f.102a.
35 Pape - Tudor and Stuart Newcastle, 264.
36 Q.S. Min. Bk. 1664-1717 f.28b.
37 Corp. Order Bk. 1712-67, f.77a.
38 Pape - Tudor and Stuart Newcastle, 329, 330, 333; and see .48. 
39 Pape - Restoration Govt. and the Corp. of Newcastle-under-Lyme, 46-49.
40 Ibid. 53: Corp. Order Bk. 1669-1712. f.58b.
41 Corp. Order Bk. 1712-67, f.78a.
42 13th Rep. Com. Char. H.C. 349, pp 303-4 (1825), xi.      In fact several charities continued to be distributed to the poor by the corporation see p.71.
43 13th Rep. Com. Char. 304.
44 Corp. Order Bk. 1768-1800. f. 165b.
45 Boro. Counc. Mins. 1835-44. pp. 80-81. Char.Com. files.
46 Rep. Com. Mun. Corps. p. 1955.
47 Return on Maintenance of Poor, 1803. H.C. 175. p.474 (1803-4) xiii.
48 See p. 50.
49 S.H.C. 1931. 92. 97: Staffs. Advertiser, 2 Apr. 1836; Char. Com. files which show the     income as still paid to the boro. coincil in 1930.
50 Maintenance of the Poor, 1803, 474. 
51 Pape - Tudor and Stuart Newcastle. 263, 271, 280-334. passim (although the entries are      regular only from 1629); Corp. Min. Bk. 1368-1684 (entries from 1636-1683); Corp. Order      Bk. 1669-1712 passim (although the appointments are not consistently recorded); ibid.      1712-67, ff. 7a-35a passim.
52 Corp. Order. Bk. 1669-1714, ff. 42b, 160b.
53 Ibid. 1712-67, f. 35b.
54 Ibid. ff. 37a-66b passim. The intention seems to have been that one person should hold      both offices; ibid. f. 35b. 
55 Ibid. f. 67b.
56 Ibid. ff. 71a, 76b.
57 Ibid. f. 81a; no supervisor was then elected. In June 1731 a Mr Raisebeck occurs as     standing overseer and master of the new workhouse (ibid. f. 83b) but neither of the two overseers appointed the previous Oct. was of this name.
58 Ibid. ff. 86a, 90b, 93a, 121a, 146a; Boro. Mus., Newcastle Char. 1760.
59 Corp. Order Bk. 1768-1800, f. 102a; ibid. 1800-25, p.115: Staffs, Advertiser, 28 Mar. 1835,      2 Apr. 1836, 1 Apr. 1837.
60 Corp. Order Bk. 1712-67, f. 184a.
61 Ibid. 1590-1669, pp. 183-236 passim.
62 Ibid. 1669-1712, ff. 38a, 50a.
63 Ibid. 1712-67, ff. 35b, 67b.
64 Ibid. f.184a.
65 Ibid. 1768-1800. f. 20b.
66 Ibid. 1712-67, ff. 212a, 212b-213a.
67 Ibid. 1786-1800, f. 20a.
68 Staffs. Advertiser, 28 Mar. 1835; 2 Apr. 1836, and 1 and 8 Apr. 1837.
69 Char. Com. files.
70 See p. 71.
71 Corp. Order Bk. 1590-1669, pp. 183, 192, 193, 200; S.R.O., Newcastle Union Mins.     1838-9 passim.
72 Corp.Order Bk. 1669-1712, ff. 3a, 19b, 66b; Union Mins. 1838-9 passim.
73 Corp. Order Bk. 1590-1669, pp. 183, 232; ibid. 1669-1712, ff. 28b, 42b, 44a, 101a, 120b,     153a; ibid. 1712-67, f. 44a.
74 Ibid. 1590-1669, pp. 210, 236; ibid. 1669-1712, f. 91b
75 Ibid. 1712-67, ff. 84a, 94b, 124b, 144a.
76 5th Rep. of Cttee. on Poor Laws, 1777 (Reps. of Cttees. of H.C. 1st ser. ix), 459.
77 Maintenance of Poor, 1803. 474-5.
78 Corp. Order Bk. 1669-1712, f. 40b.
79 Ibid. 1712-67, f. 22b.
80 It may, on the other hand, be that orders for grants of relief were no longer so fully minuted.     Also the charities were increasing in number; see pp. 71 sqq.
81 Corp. Order Bk. 1669-1712, f. 133b.
82 Ibid. f. 145b.
83 Ibid. 1712-67m f. 84b.
84 Ibid. f. 85a.
85 Ibid. f. 130a.
86 Ibid. f. 144a.
87 Ibid. f. 175a.
88 Ibid. 1768-1800, f. 41b.
89 Ibid. 1712-67, ff. 82b, 83b.
90 Ibid. f. 83b. In fact some poor continued on out-relief at a severely reduced rate.
91 Ibid. f. 92b.
92 Ibid. f. 121a.
93 5th Rep. of Cttee. on Poor Laws, 1777, 459.
94 Corp. Order Bk. 1768-1800, f. 102a.
95 Ibid. 1800-25, pp. 115, 120.
96 Ibid. pp. 128-9; White - Dir. Staffs. (1834).
97 Boro. Counc. Mins. 1835-44, pp. 146, 148; S.R.O., Newcastle Union Mins. 1838-9,    pp. 6, 63, the workhouse at Audley being temporarily retained for the old and infirm of the union.
98 Union Mins. 1838-9, p. 9.
99 Ibid.

 1 Boro. Coun. Mins. 1835-44, pp. 206, 207, 223, 235-6, 288.
2 Union Mins. 1848-56, p. 104.
3  Ibid. 1838-9, pp. 40, 41, 88, 94, 100; V.C.H. Staffs. i. 300; White, Dir. Staffs. (1851).
4  White, Dir. Staffs. (1851); S.R.O., Union Mins. 1842-4, p.10.
5 Union Mins. 1884-9, pp. 26-27, 38, 44, 88, 227, 250, 251, 333-4.
6 Ibid. 1889-93, p. 152. Pending the rebuilding the girls were transferred to Stoke at the     invitation of the Stoke guardians: ibid. p. 153.
7 Ibid. pp. 232, 235, 267, 272, 279, 315. Ibid. 1893-6, pp. 39, 43-44, 95. 114.
8 H.R.L., Stoke Union Mins. 1913-15, Feb. 1914.
9 Ex. inf. Staffs. County Counc. Welfare Officer.

Quoted from the Victoria County History, Staffordshire, volume VIII,
pages 31-33, 71, by permission of the General Editor.

Submitted by Alan Longbottom


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