Overseers of the Poor


  • Overseer of the Poor

    Overseer of the Poor

    The Overseer of the Poor was the person who was responsible for the administration of the Poor Law in the parish, for the relief of the poor in a township, and for collecting the Poor Rate

    One or two overseers were elected annually by the rate-payers of the parish.

    This was an honorary position, and they often assumed the rôle of local doctor to provide medical relief for the infirm. The overseer was usually a tradesman: clothier, chandler, butcher, tanner, and so on.

    Until the Reformation, the church had a responsibility to the poor.

    After the Poor Law Act [1601], the churchwardens became responsible for relief, and able-bodied unemployed men were to be set to work. After the Poor Law Amendment Act [1834] the post was abolished and replaced by the Relieving Officer. Between the 16th and 19th century they kept the parish records of illegitimate births and attempted to obtain support from the child's father

    See Settlement Guardian of the Poor, Pauper and Poor apprentice

    © Malcolm Bull 2021
    Revised 16:22 / 14th April 2021 / 4980

    Page Ref: KK_100

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