Child poverty in Victorian Shropshire: children and the Shropshire Poor Law Unions 1834-1870
Sumbler, Jeffrey Peter
This thesis examines the lives of poor children living in Shropshire between 1834 and 1870. They lived in three different environments: in the workhouse, as part of a labourer’s family, or as part of a family in receipt of out-relief. The standard of living of the families of agricultural workers, the predominant form of employment in most of Shropshire, was very low, with wages too low to provide adequate levels of nutrition.\ud Families in receipt of out-relief had an even lower standard of living than those of agricultural labourers, because levels of out-relief were lower than labourers’ wages.\ud This thesis also examines the life that children led if they were inmates of the workhouse. Children in the workhouse received an education, the quality of which varied across the county, but was very good at the Bridgnorth workhouse school, latterly known as South East Shropshire District School. Poor children living at home would have had limited opportunity for education because of the cost. Medical care was organised by the Poor Law Union for indoor and outdoor paupers, and provided free. It was not provided for independent families. Apprenticeships were satisfactorily organised by the Shropshire Unions, though some apprentices were inappropriately placed in mines. Amounts of out-relief differed across Unions with those Unions committed to the use of the workhouse ungenerous in their payments when compared to Unions taking a positive view of out-relief. For poor children, life in the workhouse, despite its disadvantages, provided greater material benefits than a childhood spent in a poor labourer’s family or in a family on out-relief.
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