Recent and Forthcoming Publications
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Volume XL, The Poor, the Sick and the Stranger in Hertfordshire: A Selection of Settlement Examinations and Removals (1690s to 1890s)

This study explores some of the poor of Hertfordshire who were subject to the Poor Laws from the 1690s to the 1890s, and reveals the failings of the Settlement Act of 1662, set against the backdrop of economic and social change over two centuries. The Settlement Act required poor relief to be given only to those of the parish, i.e. their place of settlement, and this was gained by birth, by apprenticeship or contracted employment. The inadequacies of the Settlement Act meant that paupers who were sent to the place of their birth could be returned, as that parish could argue settlement had been achieved where they had worked. There is also clear evidence of Removal Orders not being complied with, especially during the nineteenth century. Wives, moreover, gained their husband’s place of settlement, or, more properly, lost their own.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Settlement Examinations and Removal Orders reveal women to have been particularly vulnerable. Whether they had just been widowed, and had children, or their husband had deserted them, or they were young and pregnant (so their unborn child was likely to become chargeable to the parish), there was a general desire to move them elsewhere. The fate of Mary Pooley provides a typical example. In April 1777 the overseers’ accounts of Ashwell recorded a Removal Order regarding ‘Mary, the wife of John Pooley...born in Ashwell in 1746 and on Christmas Day 1769 married John, when she was at least five months pregnant. Over the next five years she gave birth to four children...pregnant with their fifth child, Mary was abandoned by her husband’. Having been born, married and given birth in Ashwell, she and her children were to be removed to Westmill near Buntingford, because it was her (absent) husband’s place of settlement.

The volume is being edited by Dr Anne Ford.

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