At the heart of the system of parish poor relief was the payment of weekly, bi-weekly or monthly pensions to the poor. These usually amounted to just a few pence or shillings a week, and were largely designed to supplement the income of individual paupers, rather than provide a sufficient income on their own.
Over the course of the eighteenth century most London parishes also invested in residential accommodation in the form of workhouses, and following the passage of the Workhouse Test Act of 1723 (also referred to as Knatchbull's Act) many attempted to apply a workhouse test, whereby accepting an offer of the house became a pre-requisite for relief.1 Despite the desire to impose a workhouse test, most parishes were forced to continue to provide pensions and casual out relief in recognition that it was invariably cheaper to support the poor in their own homes than to take them into the workhouse.
The manuscripts in this category form a variety of accounts of regular payments to paupers. Their form and the types of information each account contains reflects the different poor law and accounting practices of the parishes involved.
The Account of Collections created by St Botolph Aldgate reflect the specific role of collections made in church following a communion service, and the distribution of the resulting money to a specific group of long-term pensioners.2 To be admitted to the collection was to be recognised as a pauper of good standing and virtue within the community, whose receipt of a parish pension reflected more their age and respectability than absolute need. The two volumes of Accounts of Collections reproduced as part of the London Lives project record both the sums collected each month at St Botolph Aldgate church for the years 1777-1800, and the names of recipients and the amounts they received.3
By contrast, the Weekly Payments to Pensioners for St Botolph Aldgate list payments made from the rates to settled inhabitants largely on the basis of need. Although both the Account of Collections and the Weekly Payments to Pensioners cover the same years and the same parish, there is a negligible overlap in the names of the recipients involved, reflecting the complex nature of the provision of parochial relief.
A very different style of recording much of the same information can be found in the Payments to Monthly Pensioners and Nurses created by the parish officers of St Clement Danes, covering 1719-1727. These volumes are organised alphabetically by the name of the pensioner, and group a year's worth of monthly payments to a single individual under a single heading. Included in these same accounts are payments to nurses employed to look after parish children and the infirm, some of whom ran substantial businesses caring for the parish poor.
- Boulton, Jeremy. Welfare Systems and the Parish Nurse in Early Modern London, 1650-1725. Family & Community History, 10:2 (2007), pp. 127-51.
- Hindle, Steve. On the Parish?: The Micro-Politics of Poor Relief in Rural England, c.1550-1750. Oxford, 2004.
- Hitchcock, Tim. Down and Out in Eighteenth-Century London. 2004, ch. 6.
- Murphy, Elaine. The Metropolitan Pauper Farms 1722-1834. London Journal, 27:1 (2002), pp. 1-18.
- Neate, Alan Robert. The St Marylebone Workhouse and Institution, 1730-1965. Rev. edn, 2003.
- Snell, Keith D. M. Parish and Belonging: Community, Identity, and Welfare in England and Wales, 1700-1950. Cambridge, 2006.
- Tomkins, Alannah. The Experience of Urban Poverty, 1723-82: Parish, Charity and Credit. Manchester, 2006.
For further reading on this subject see the London Lives Bibliography.
- St Botolph Aldgate, Account of Collections, 1755-88, London Metropolitan Archives, Ms. 9953, LL ref: GLBAAP10204, Tagging Level: C
- St Botolph Aldgate, Account of Collections, 1777-1800, London Metropolitan Archives, Ms. 9953, LL ref: GLBAAP10200, Tagging Level: C
- St Botolph Aldgate, Weekly Payments to Pensioners, 1776-77, London Metropolitan Archives, Ms. 2628/1, LL ref: GLBAAP10201, Tagging Level: C
- St Botolph Aldgate, Weekly Payments to Pensioners, 1781-82, London Metropolitan Archives, Ms. 2628/1A, LL ref: GLBAAP10202, Tagging Level: C
- St Botolph Aldgate, Weekly Payments to Pensioners, 1783-84, London Metropolitan Archives, Ms. 2628/1B, LL ref: GLBAAP10203, Tagging Level: C
- St Clement Danes, Payments to Monthly Pensioners and Nurses, 1719-20, Westminster Archives Centre, Ms. B1233, LL ref: WCCDAP35400, Tagging Level: B
- St Clement Danes, Payments to Monthly Pensioners and Nurses, 1720-21, Westminster Archives Centre, Ms. B1234, LL ref: WCCDAP35401, Tagging Level: B
- St Clement Danes, Payments to Monthly Pensioners and Nurses, 1723-24, Westminster Archives Centre, Ms. B1235, LL ref: WCCDAP35402, Tagging Level: C
- St Clement Danes, Payments to Monthly Pensioners and Nurses, 1726-27, Westminster Archives Centre, Ms. B1236, LL ref: WCCDAP35403, Tagging Level: B
1 9 George I c. 7. ⇑
2 Collections of this sort are also referred to as "sacrament money". The term collectioner does not in all circumstances denote relief based on voluntary collections in church, and can also be used for a parish pensioner whose relief is derived from the rates. ⇑
3 For a detailed discussion of sacrament money and collection see Steve Hindle, On the Parish: The Micro-Politics of Poor Relief in Rural England c.1550-1750 (Oxford, 2004), pp.132-4 and ch. 4. ⇑