The purpose of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was to reduce the Poor Rates by discouraging the poor from applying for relief. The main way of doing this was to end the system of outdoor relief and make the poor enter workhouses where conditions were as harsh as possible. The list of rules that follows is an example of the severity of the regime to be found in workhouses.
Any pauper who shall neglect to observe such of the regulations herein contained as are applicable to and binding on him:-
- Or who shall make any noise when silence is ordered to be kept
- Or shall use obscene or profane language
- Or shall by word or deed insult or revile any person
- Or shall threaten to strike or to assault any person
- Or shall not duly cleanse his person
- Or shall refuse or neglect to work, after having been required to do so
- Or shall pretend sickness
- Or shall play at cards or other games of chance
- Or shall enter or attempt to enter, without permission, the ward or yard appropriated to any class of paupers other than that to which he belongs
- Or shall misbehave in going to, at, or returning from public worship out of the workhouse, or at prayers in the workhouse
- Or shall return after the appointed time of absence, when allowed to quit the workhouse temporarily
- Or shall wilfully disobey any lawful order of any officer of the workhouse
SHALL BE DEEMED DISORDERLY
Any pauper who shall, within seven days, repeat any one or commit more than one of the offences specified in Article 34 [above];
- Or who shall by word or deed insult or revile the master or matron, or any other officer of the workhouse, or any of the Guardians
- Or shall wilfully disobey any lawful order of the master or matron after such order shall have been repeated
- Or shall unlawfully strike or otherwise unlawfully assault any person
- Or shall wilfully or mischievously damage or soil any property whatsoever belonging to the Guardians
- Or shall wilfully waste of spoil any provisions, stock, tools, or materials for work, belonging to the Guardians
- Or shall be drunk
- Or shall commit any act of indecency
- Or shall wilfully disturb the other inmates during prayers or divine worship
SHALL BE DEEMED REFRACTORY
It shall be lawful for the master of the workhouse, with or without the direction of the Board pf Guardians to punish any disorderly pauper by substituting, during a time not greater than forty-eight hours, for his or her dinner, as prescribed by the dietary, a meal consisting of eight ounces of bread, or one pound of cooked potatoes, and also by with-holding from him during the same period, all butter, cheese, tea, sugar, or broth, which such pauper would otherwise receive, at any meal during the time aforesaid.
And it shall be lawful for the Board of Guardians, by a special direction, to be entered on their minutes, to order any refractory pauper to be punished by confinement in a separate room, with or without an alteration of diet, similar in kind and duration to that prescribed in Article 36 [above] for disorderly paupers; but no pauper shall be so confined for a longer period than twenty-four hours; or, if it be deemed right that such pauper should be carried before a Justice of the Peace, and if such period of twenty-four hours should be insufficient for that purpose, then for such further time as may be necessary for such purpose.
It shall be lawful for the Board of Guardians, by any special or general order, to direct that a dress different from that of the other inmates shall be worn by disorderly or refractory paupers, during a period of not more than forty-eight hours, jointly with, or in lieu of the alteration of diet to which any such pauper might be subjected by the regulations herein contained; but it shall not be lawful for the Board of Guardians to cause any penal dress or distinguishing mark of disgrace to be worn by any adult pauper or class of adult paupers, unless such pauper or paupers shall be disorderly or refractory within the meaning of Article 34 or Article 35 of this order.
Parliamentary Papers, 1842, XIX, pp.42-43.
Last modified 5 November 2002