The Act of the 22d G3 ch 83 was intended to induce parishes to join themselves in “incorporated districts” & establish workhouses of a description superior to those generally in use for the reception of their poor in common, & in a schedule to the act you will find a set of rules very valuable in themselves, on which ours are founded. Unfortunately however in the 29th Section of the act are these words –
“no Poor person shall be sent to such Poor house or houses except such as are become indigent by old age sickness or infirmities & are unable to acquire a maintenance by their Labor, & except such orphan children” &c
These words put it out of our power to use an incorporated workhouse for the purpose for which we chiefly want it – viz to be so unpleasant to every able bodied pauper that he shall find it better to use every effort within his reach to find work by which he can support himself, than to have recourse to it – & that if he be driven by necessity into it, he shall wish to get out again as soon as he possibly can. This of course can only be done by admitting the able bodied poor, who are made inadmissible by this section. I know that they are admitted into some incorporated Workhouses in Nottinghamshire & elsewhere, but it has always appeared to me to be contrary law – I shall feel particularly obliged to any Gentleman who will shew me that it is not so.
But by 50 G3 ch 50 S1 – a power is given to two Justices to extend the benefit of the 22d of G3 for the Government of Poorhouses & Work houses in parishes which have not adopted the provisions of the act, & to order the rules to be adopted & enforced in any Poorhouses within their district as completely as they could be ordered in incorporated districts. This I contend allows us at Uley <1> to adopt the rules, & frees us from the effect of the 29th section which I have spoken of above.
The original workhouse at Uley is quite large enough for the accommodation of all the Poor, & more than all that have been in it. Besides this we erected a building adjoining it in which we intended to carry on a manufactory of blankets & coarse flannels &c, but this did not answer, & the building is now useless. It would hold a great many Paupers & might be managed by our present superintendant & matron. There are four or five adjoining parishes which have no workhouses, some of which are much oppressed by their poor, & I have no doubt that it would be much to their benefit as well as ours to send their poor to us but I am afraid to propose it. If we put ourselves under the provisions of 22 G3, any mischeivous [sic] fellow who might happen to get hold of the 29th Section might compel us to maintain our able bodied poor out of the house & thus defeat our plan altogether. I am much pleased at having the
por opportunity of explaining to you Sir or to any Member of either house, somewhat at length the exceedingly ill effect of this part of the act, in the hope that when a new act shall be brought before parliament, the evil will be remedied.
May I hope Sir that you will excuse the liberty I am about to take in calling your attention to one other point of law equally prejudicial to our system? By the case of R v James Haigh & another as stated in the 4th vol of Chitty’s [illegible] P. 193 it is decided by Lord Kenyon <2> that if a parent asks releif [sic] for a child, but not for herself, she cannot be compelled to go into the Poor house, nor (as I think) can the child be taken in without the consent of the Mother, if it be under 7 year old. If this were known generally, surely every pauper would demand the maintenance of every child within the age of nurture, & leave the overseer to prove the amount of the earnings of the whole family, in order to justifie [sic] a refusal.
Surely If a parish is to releive [sic] a child it ought to be entitled to the labor of the Parent in or out of the house – because the Parent is bound to support its children & the Parish can only be called upon to supply the deficiency in the value of the parents earning shd there be any. I have done my best to draw the attention of the Commissioners to both these points, as perhaps the most necessary to be altered in the present laws.
I am sorry to say that the opinion that paupers cannot find work for themselves still obtains very much amongst magistrates & others, who have not seen the experiment tried. These of course think our system too secure, & are more or less inclined to oppose it. Experience continues to prove that they are in error. We have forwarded to the commissioners a list of the Uley Paupers who received pay in the beginning of the year 1830. with an account of what they receive now. By this it appears that our impotent poor receive pretty much the same as they did then, but that the pay to the able bodied has been reduced no less than ninety pr Ct. We now pay only about ten pounds where we used to pay one hundred, and yet they support themselves so well that I have scarcely been asked for work by any of them during the last winter – The wages which I give are nine shillings a week. In addition to this I have abundant proof that crime has greatly decreased at Uley, though I am told it has encreased in the neighboring parishes. The list which I mentioned shews the work by which each person now supports himself – Most of them are cut off from their original employment in the clothing mills by the failure of trade, & from parish pay by the Workhouse system.
Excuse me for having taken up so much of your time & be assured that I shall at all times be happy to afford you any information that may be in my Power –
I remain Sir Your obt Sert
T J Y Baker
Hardwicke Court <3>
Apr 29 – 1833.
2. George Kenyon, 2nd Baron Kenyon (1776–1855).
3. Manor and seat of the Baker family, in the town of Hardwicke, Gloucestershire.