They always have been: especially during wars Governments have always been aware of this never more so than the British government during the wars with France following the French Revolution. Social unrest was the last thing the British Parliament wanted -- it feared an 'English Revolution'. It is not surprising that the authorities wanted to know whether the poor were being helped: therefore in 1797 they commissioned a national report on the state of the poor.
This page (scan to follow) concerning Alcester comes from the printed report (volume 3), 'The State of the Poor', by Sir Frederic Morton Eden in 1797. As will be seen, Alcester was researched in May, 1796.
In the table appended to the report, the word 'medium' would be expressed nowadays as 'average', The workhouse referred to was not the Union Workhouse which we know as Oversley House, for this was not built until 1837. The workhouse referred to was the building on Stratford Road, now demolished, which once was called 'The Rookery'.. This poorhouse did not serve a union of parishes (for there was not one locally) but the parish of Alcester only. Poorhouses were, theoretically intended, at least partly, to pay their way, hence the term 'workhouse' The poor in Alcester's 'house' were unlikely to serve this purpose, for 'the infirm old people' and 'the young children' could have produced very little in carding and spinning. It was not as the report admits 'what it was intended to be - a House of Industry
The commissioners had not only the good of the poor in their minds: they wanted to lessen the levies upon those who pad the poor rate. 'Mr.Pitt's plan', whatever that was, was intended to do this.
Winter 1990 Index
© Alcester & District Local History Society 1991