Mr. Wilkinson the Rector of Uley having paid but little attention to the management of the poor of that Parish has requested me to answer your letter.
In the early part of the year 1830 the Poor were in a wretched & alarming state of dissatisfaction, idleness, & insubordination. In the preceeding year sixteen rates of twenty Pence in the pound had been collected, & the demands of the paupers were encreasing. It was determined on to adopt the system first introduced by the Rev: Robert Lowe at Bingham in Nottinghamshire, & afterwards explained, adopted, & recommended by the Rev: J T Becher of Southwell in a pamphlet called the antipauper system
of by the Rev: _____ <1>
Bosworth of the same place in two pamphlets called the necessity of the antipauper system & the practical means of reducing the Poors rates - & also by Capt: Nichol who now superintends the branch Bank at Birmingham in his eight letters from an overseer &c. These pamphlets I strongly recommend to your attention if they can be procured, but I know that the antipauper system, & I fear that the others also are out of print, you many however by chance be able to borrow them.
Our work house was opened on the new plan on I think the first of August 1830. Our object was to throw the Poor as much as possible on their own resources - to urge them to find work for themselves, & to depend on their own exertions, not only for present relief, but for future contingencies. The success which had attended the thing at Bingham, Southwell, & Thurgarten had told us that they could do very much more for themselves than we could do for them. Our work house, being established under rules (of which I send you a copy) founded on those in the schedule to 22G3 ch 83 which is not given in any edition of Barn - as well as on 50G3 ch 50 & other subsequent acts, imposed such restraint on its inmates as they would not willingly submit to. We then offered to all the able bodied, either a greatly reduced allowance, or to take them into the house. Many of them chose the former without trying the latter - some did try it, but the regularity - cleanliness & industry together with the
other restraints to which they were subject & which you will see by reading the rulstrike were so exceedingly irksome to them, that many of the left it on the second or third day - others at the end of a week or so, & all with very few exceptions have supported themselves ever since. All, with the exception of one or two very extraordinary characters, are now employed in work of their own finding - there is no turbulence or dissatisfaction of any importance out of the house- They are grateful to their employers - & they spend the money which they earn upon their families. that which they received from the Psh for doing nothing, was very often spent at those abominable pests the beer shops - But above all there has been a most manificent diminution of crime.
As soon as our workhouse got into play our weekly expenses began to decrease. At the beginning of the year (I mean when the overseers were appointed which of course was in March)thay average from £50 to 55. At the end of the year - that is at the latter end of the following February they were less by a few pounds than they had been during the preceeding hay harvest. Notwithstanding this, seventeen rates were collected, because we were obliged to make several alterations & additions to our work house which cost more than we saved. In 1831 Twelve rates were sufficient, & we hope that in the present year which will end in March next, ten or perhaps even nine may do Our weekly expenses down to Michs last averaged only about £20- & this notwithstanding the continued, & continuing, decrease of trace, & the total stoppage of one of the largest manufactories in the Psh at Lady Day last.<2> The system was proposed by me, & I have attended pretty closely to it ever since its adoption, but I confess I did not dare to hope that its success would have been so complete.
Of course it is not possible for me to anticipate the doubts which will
of course remain on your mind when you shall have read this letter- I can only say that I shall be happy to remove them if you, or any Gentleman who may wish for information, will state them to me, but there is one question so obvious that I must not pass it by - viz. how can they find work? It is impossible to answer this in general terms, because each man will take a different course - each will endeavor to get that work which he likes best, & perhaps each will try by different means to obtain it, but I have a list of I think nearly a thousand persons who were on Parish pay, most of them because they declared (& I believe really thought) that no work was to be had - shewing what all who received from the Parish, & what they now receive, with the causes of the diminution, a statement of the persons for whom they now work & what they work at. The population was about 3000, nearly all engaged in the clothing trade. About eighty are gone to Canada, & several who belonged to other Parishes are sent home- what it now is I cannot tell, but the list shews that by far the greater part, support themselves at home.
You speak of sending your overseers to Uley. Should you do this they will receive every attention & information from Mr John Feribee who keeps a small Inn at Uley called the Upper Crown. He is a churchwarden, & they will find him a clear headed intelligent man, who will given them the best in information that can be had, & should any doubts till remain, they had perhaps better ride ten miles further & come to me here. But I would suggest for your consideration, whether (particularly if you have any idea of extending it beyond your own parish, which has been done with excellent effect in Nottinghamshire) it could not be undertaken by some Magistrate or by some Gentlemen of education who knows the present Poor Laws & how they work - If this could be done I should be happy to see him here & I shall have bed & stall at his service to shew him every thing at Uley, & to point out the difficulties that arise from this or that act of Parliament - the different opinions which I have collected upon them &c &c as he may wish. I would also ask whether you would feel satisfied with a report from Uley where the system is only in progress, when one can be obtained from Bingham Thurgarton & Southwell where it is established by the practice of thirteen or fourteen years & where it has reached its perfection.- Believe me when I say that I do not mention this from any unwillingness to assist you to the utmost of my power, but only from a feeling that it may perhaps be more advantageous to you than [illegible deletion] sending here.
I have had a personal interview & much correspondence with the Poor law commissioners, & as ours is certainly a strong case, I suppose it will part of some of their reports to Parliament. Mr Cowell, one of the commissioners, is as I am told about to publish a work on the subject from which no doubt much valuable information may be obtained. I hpe that a bill will be brought in during the present session to alter the poor laws very materially.
We wish our workhouse to afford protection ease & comfort to the old, the impotent &c but so to restrain & control the able bodied - the vicious & the idle, that they shall chuse rather to be industrious & obtain & preserve good characters than to accept Parish pay on the terms connected with it.
Mr. Lowe married a relation of mine. I am only known to Mr Becher by correspondence, but I have not a doubt that if my name was mentioned to either of them they would afford you every information & assistance.
As my time is in general pretty much occupied, should you wish for any personal assistance from me you will oblige me by giving me a few days notice, & if possible a choice of days.
I have the honor to subscribe my self Your obt Sert
T J L Baker
Hardwicke Court near Gloucester Feb 3- 1833.
1. John Thomas Becher, The Anti-Pauper System, exemplifying the positive and practical good realised by the relievers and the relieved under the frugal, beneficent, and careful administration of the poor laws prevailing at Southwell and in the neighbouring district,&c (1828) .
2. Lady Day is one of the traditional English quarter days, the Feast of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin, on 25 March.