What did people think of the new Poor Law?
In 1834 a new Poor Law was introduced. Some people welcomed it because they believed it would:
- reduce the cost of looking after the poor
- take beggars off the streets
- encourage poor people to work hard to support themselves.
The new Poor Law ensured that the poor were housed in workhouses, clothed and fed. Children who entered the workhouse would receive some schooling. In return for this care, all workhouse paupers would have to work for several hours each day.
However, not all Victorians shared this point of view. Some people, such as Richard Oastler, spoke out against the new Poor Law, calling the workhouses 'Prisons for the Poor'. The poor themselves hated and feared the threat of the workhouse so much that there were riots in northern towns.
- How desperate are the people trying to get into the workhouse?
- What is the response of the workhouse master?
1. This is an extract from an anti-Poor Law Poster drawn in 1837.
- What work are these paupers doing?
- The paupers believe they are treated much worse than slaves in the West Indies. Why would this statement have shocked people at this time?
- Why do you think the paupers' heads have been shaved?
2. This is another extract from the poster.
- What has 'Joe' got in the truck?
- What is he going to do with it?
3. This is another extract from the poster.
- What does this part of the poster tell you about the treatment of the old?
- Why do you think that the government was keen to make sure that people in workhouses worked?
4. This is another extract from the poster.
- According to the poster how long were inmates expected to work each day?
- How many hours sleep were they allowed?
- What punishments can you see in the poster?