Poor Relief Book for Basing District of the Basingstoke Poor Law Union, Hampshire, July to December 1835
Basingstoke Poor Law Union was established in May 1835, under the new Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834. The intention was to build a Workhouse to house the poor of the area and stop providing any relief outside – the pauper was to be faced with finding alternative support somehow, or going into the “House” with his dependents, a prospect deliberately designed to be unpleasant.
Basingstoke’s new Workhouse was not opened until October 1836, but in the previous year the new system of controlling relief for paupers was started. The Union comprised of 37, mostly rural, parishes, initially combined into four Districts, of which one was Basing, containing the parishes of Basing, Newnham, Mapledurwell, Nately Scures, Up Nately, Herriard, Tunworth, Upton Grey, Weston Patrick and Winslade & Kempshott. (This changed at the end of 1836.)
Robert William Mansbridge was the Relieving Officer for the District, and had to keep a book detailing applications for relief for presentation to the weekly Union Board meetings for their approval. Eventually, printed books and forms were provided, but this document predates them.
In the book, there are approximately 160 applications for relief, some more than once, and many were rejected. But the number of people living on relief - wives, children or other dependents - came to nearly 400. The total number of people in the Basing District in May 1835 was about 3,400, so this constitutes nearly 12% of the population!
Many of the claimants were labourers, married with five or six children, often only about a year apart, with an income of a few shillings a week, and £3 or £4 annual rent – a hand-to-mouth existence. Illness, accident or confinement with a new baby was a disaster. Relief, which was very basic, was only allowed in the direst of circumstances and only for an interim period.
The book provides a very small sample, just a brief snapshot, of the lives and circumstances of the poor in the Basing District of the Basingstoke Union in 1835.