Thursday 19 July 2012

Those Places Thursday - The State of the Poor

This isn't about a particular place, but about a very useful source for family and local history. I was completely unaware of this until the summer school I attended last week in Oxford.

 'The State of the Poor, or An History of the Labouring Classes in England, from the Conquest to the Present Period; in which are particularly considered, Their Domestic Economy, with respect to their Diet, Dress, Fuel and Habitation; And the Various Plans which, from time to time, have been Proposed and Adopted, for the Relief of the Poor'  by Sir Frederick Morton Eden was published in 1797, in three volumes. I have only been able to find Volume III on Google Books, but original and facsimile copies are widely available in libraries, according to Worldcat.

It is not a comprehensive survey of every parish in England (and Wales - despite the title it includes some Welsh places), but Sir Frederick selected a few parishes from each county for detailed examination. The counties and parishes in Volume III are:

Surrey: Epsom, Esher, Farnham, Reigate, Walton
Sussex: Burwash, Chailey, Peasmarsh, Winchelsea
Warwickshire: Alcester, Birmingham, Coventry, Mollington, Southam, Sutton Colefield (sic)
Westmoreland: Kendal, Kirkby Lonsdale, Orton, Underbarrow
Wiltshire: Bradford, Seend, Trowbridge
Worcestershire:  Evesham, Inkborough, Worcester
Yorkshire: Bradford, Burton, Ecclesfield, Great Driffield, Halifax, Kingston upon Hull, Leeds, Market Wrighton, Settle, Sheffield, Skipton, Southowram, Pocklington, Stokesley, Thornton

Denbighshire: Llanferras, Wrexham
Pembrokeshire: Narberth
Radnorshire: Knighton, Presteigne

Winchelsea, Sussex
Although most of the parochial reports are concerned with describing the occupations and incomes of the inhabitants, there are some lists of names, too. The entry for Kendal includes a list of the 'out-poor' in 1795, amounting to several dozen individuals and families, as well as the amounts they received. There is an even longer and more detailed list for Bradford in Wiltshire, Epsom and Halifax.



  1. Volume 2 is there as well on
    (well, I hope it's there! Never quite got the hang of all these links in Google Books)

  2. Well spotted! That's two down, one to go. I will update the entry so that the link is clickable (I checked it, and it works). I did find all three volumes on Google Books, but in French, which is all very well if your French is up to it.

    Thanks again for the link

  3. In a similar vein there are 3 volumes of this work: "London labour and the London poor: a cyclopaedia of the condition and earnings of those that will work, those that cannot work, and those that will not work", By the Rev. William Tuckniss (1861) available on These describe the variety of street life and conditions in Victorian London. The sheer number of different types of sellers and performers is quite amazing.