The Poor Law

A complex Settlement Case from the Old Poor Law

The following are examples of typical documents relating to an enquiry into the Settlement and Removal of a certain Sarah Westwood from Hitchin to Hexton. Both locations are in Hertfordshire and reasonably close to each other. The documents were issued from 1826 onwards. They illustrate the tortuous nature of the Settlement problem that beset the administration of the Poor Law. They also show the lengths taken to protect the rate payers from what were regarded as needless burdens.

Initial Examination and Affidavit

The Examination of Sarah Westwood touching her Settlement. Herts to wit.

Two years ago last Michaelmas I went into the service of Mr. William Davis in the Parish of Hexton in this County. When I entered the service my Mistress told me that she had engaged me for a year for three pounds. I lived in Mr. Davis’s service until the following Michaelmas when I received my wages. Shortly before Michaelmas I asked my Mistress if I might stop again. She said that she had no objection and I continued to live with her until the following March when I left my service and received my wages. I have not done any Act to gain a Settlement since. I am a single Woman and am with child which is likely to be born a Bastard. [The signature of Sarah Westwood] Taken on Oath the 18th April 1826 before [The signatures of Miles Bland and Henry Crabb]

Removal Order

To the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Hitchin in the County of Hertford and the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Hexton in the County of Hertford. Herts to wit.

Whereas Complaint hath been made unto Us, whose Names are hereunto set, and Seals affixed, being Two of His Majesty’s Justices of the Peace in and for the County of Hertford aforesaid, (One whereof being of the Quorum) by the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the said Parish of Hitchin

That Sarah Westwood, Singlewoman, hath come to inhabit in the said Parish of Hitchin not having gained a legal Settlement there, nor having produced any Certificate acknowledging her to be settled elsewhere, and now actually become chargeable to the same; WE, the said Justices, upon due Proof made thereof, as well upon the Examination of the said Sarah Westwood upon Oath, as other Circumstances, do adjudge the same to be true, and also do adjudge the Place of the legal Settlement of the said Sarah Westwood to be in the Parish of Hexton in the County of Hertford.

THESE are therefore in His Majesty’s Name to require you, the said Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the said Parish of Hitchin or some or one of you, or any proper Person or Persons to be employed by you, to remove and convey the said Sarah Westwood from and out of your said Parish of Hitchin to the said Parish of Hexton and her deliver unto the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor there, or to some or one of them, together with his our Order, or a true Copy thereof, who are hereby required to receive and provide for her according to Law.

GIVEN under our Hands and Seals, the Eighteenth Day of July in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Twenty Six. [Signed and sealed by Miles Bland and Henry Crabb]

A Further Examination and Affidavit

The Examination of Sarah Westwood. Herts to wit.

On the 10th of July last I was removed by an Order signed by the Magistrates from the Parish of Hitchin to the Parish of Hexton being then a Single Woman and big with a child likely to be born a bastard - I was taken to the house of Mr. Davis the Overseer of Hexton who told me I must find lodgings and pay for them as he had no place to put me in - I then went with Mr. Davis to Dr. Bland’s to swear the child - As no lodgings were found for me by Mr. Davis I returned to Hitchin after having sworn the child - The next Tuesday I saw Mr. Davis who told me he would grant me a Certificate to allow me to remain at Hitchin - I saw Mr. Davis several times afterwards and asked him for the Certificate he had promised me, when he told me not to trouble myself about it, there was plenty of time yet and he would take care I should have a Certificate. I remained at Hitchin in consequence of Mr. Davis’s promise and was there brought to bed of a male bastard child on the 22nd September last. [The signature of Sarah Westwood] taken on Oath the 6th of February 1827 before us [The signatures of Miles Bland and W. Burroughs

Further Testimony and Affidavit

The Examination of Samuel Waller. Herts to wit.

I am a Servant of Dr. Hawkins and reside at Hitchin in this County - I know Sarah Westwood now present she is my wife’s sister - on the 5th of September Sarah Westwood was at my house and Mr. Davis the Overseer of the Parish of Hexton called there - I heard him say to her “Make yourself happy where you are and I will bring you a Certificate next week” and he repeated it to her several times the same evening. [The mark of Samuel Waller] taken on Oath the 18th of February 1827 before us [The signatures of Miles Bland and W. Burroughs]

Yet another Examination and Affidavit

The Examination of Sarah Westwood

A short time after my confinement Mr. Davis gave me ten shillings in part of the expenses of my confinement and the week following he gave me ten shillings more. [The signature of Sarah Westwood] taken on Oath the 13th day of February 1827 before us [The signatures of Miles Bland and W. Burroughs

Sealed Order of Claim

To the Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the parish of Hexton in the County of Hertford. Herts to wit.

Whereas William Burroughs Esquire one of his Majestys Justices of the Peace for the said County Did on the complaint of the Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the Parish of Hitchin in the County of Hertford issue a summons under his hand and seal dated the twentieth day of February instant and directed to the Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the parish of Hexton in the said County of Hertford thereby requiring them or one of them to appear before him and such other of his Majestys Justices of the Peace for the said County of Hertford as should be a the Office of Mr. John Hawkins in Hitchin in the same County this day at twelve o Clock at noon to shew cause why an order should not be then and there made for the payment by the same Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the parish of Hexton of a weekly sum to the said Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the parish of Hitchin for the maintenance of George Westwood a bastard born in the said parish of Hitchin but settled in the said parish of Hexton and then resident in the said parish of Hitchin as a Nurse child with his Mother Sarah Westwood And Whereas William Davis and John Day two of the Overseers of the poor of the said parish of Hexton having appeared before us two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the said County in pursuance of the before mentioned summons for that purpose and have not shewn to us any sufficient cause why an order should not be made upon them the said Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the said parish of Hexton to pay a weekly sum to the Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the parish of Hitchin towards the maintenance of the said Bastard child And whereas the said Sarah Westwood in and by her examination taken in writing and upon Oath before us the said Justices hath declared that she was delivered of the said George Westwood in the said parish of Hitchin who was born a bastard there and is now of the age of five months or thereabouts that he the said George Westwood is now chargeable to the said parish of Hitchin and that she the said Sarah Westwood is not willing to part with her said Child until he attains the age of seven years And whereas it hath been duly made to appear to us by the oath of the said Sarah Westwood and others that the said George Westwood and others that the said George Westwood though born in the said parish of Hitchin is settled in the said parish of Hexton Now in consideration thereof and on the complaint of the Churchwardens of the poor of the said parish of Hitchin we do hereby adjudge the place of the legal settlement of the said George Westwood to be in the said parish of Hexton And we do hereby order the said Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the said parish of Hexton or some of them to pay to the said Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the said parish of Hitchin the sum of one shilling and sixpence weekly and every week for and towards the support and maintenance of the said George Westwood until they shall be ordered according to law to forbear the said allowance or otherwise.

Given under our hand and seals at Hitchin aforesaid the twenty seventh day of February one thousand eight hundred and twenty seven. [Signed and Sealed by Miles Bland and W. Burroughs]

Notice of Appeal

To the Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the parish of Hitchin in the County of Hertford.

This is to give Notice to you and every of you that we the Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the parish of Hexton in the said County do intend at the next General Quarter Sessions of the peace to be holden for the said County to commence and prosecute an appeal against an order of the Reverend Miles Bland Clerk D.D and William Burroughs Esquire two of his Majesty’s Justices of the peace for the said county bearing date the twenty seventh day of February last whereby the place of the legal Settlement of George Westwood therein named was adjudged to be in the parish of Hexton aforesaid And it was ordered that the said Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the said parish of Hexton should pay to the Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the said parish of Hitchin the sum of one shilling and sixpence weekly and every week towards the support and maintenance of the said George Westwood until they should be ordered according to Law to forbear the said Allowance. Dated this seventh day of April one thousand eight hundred and twenty seven. [The signatures of Andrew Hewat, Churchwarden and Wm Davis, Overseer]

Response to Notice of Appeal

To the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the parish of Hexton in the County of Hertford.

I hereby give you Notice that the Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the parish of Hitchin in the county of Hertford do not intend to defend the Appeal of which you have given them Notice against an order of two of his Majesty’s Justices of the peace for the county of Hertford for the payment by you of one shilling and sixpence per week for the maintenance of George Westwood as bastard child born in the said parish of Hitchin; that the Churchwardens and Overseers of the poor of the said parish of Hitchin will not either by themselves or their Agents attend at the Quarter Sessions at Hertford on Monday next for the purpose of defending the said Appeal, that they are willing to withdraw and abandon the said order of Justices, and that there will be no necessity for your attending at the said Quarter Sessions either by yourselves or witnesses to prosecute the said Appeal or do any other Act whereby any expense may be incurred. Dated this 20th day of April 1827 [The signature of D. Times Solicitor for Hitchin Parish]

 
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