Oxted & District History Society - Talk
Oxted & District History Society

Dr. Judy Hill, social historian and former lecturer at Surrey University, gave an illustrated lecture to the Oxted & District History Society, at the start of its 2013-14  Season, on ‘The Poor & Sickness in the Early 19th Century’.

Prior to 1834, Parishes were required to care for the lame, old and blind.  There was no specific requirement to look after the poor and sick but Parishes did help them.  The agricultural depression in the early 1830s particularly hit Surrey and the South.  Employment on the land was seasonal and the cottage craft industries had disappeared to new factories in the north of the Country.  The Parish overseers had to balance the extent of pauperisation with the difficulty of extracting rates from the ratepayers to pay for relief.  By the late 18th Century, Parishes contracted work to doctors but did not keep proper accounts and delayed paying bills.  Medical treatment used traditional remedies.  Parishes maintained small local workhouses for those who could not be helped elsewhere, including Oxted and Limpsfield.

Under the new Poor Law Act of 1834, care was centralised in large Union workhouses, run by Boards of Guardians and paid for by central government.  Outdoor relief was discouraged.  Conditions were spartan and the new workhouses were very unpopular.  They had medical officers and sick wards.  Conditions gradually improved but the workhouse stigma remained.


The Poor & Sickness in the Early 19th Century by Dr. Judy Hill,