Letter One - Thomas Henshaw

Date of letter: 5 February 1842. Poor Law Union: Basford Poor Law Union
Ilkeston February 5 1842

I beg leave most humbly to submit my case to you for your consideration and pray that you will afford me that redress in my most distressing case – I am a poor Man by trade A Frame worknitter and have been for A length of time nearly out of employment and now entirely so, – I have A wife and 3 children and we have been completely destitute of food since February the 1st to the present time – I applied on the 3rd to the relieving officer, ^Mr Stotten^ for relief or an order to the union workhouse and he refused to do either – I then aplied to Mr Bennett assistant overseer and he refused likewise. I then applied to Mr Radford[?] A Magistrate at Smalley who sent A positive order to Mr Bennett ^to^ see to my case as I was destitute, according to the 54 clause in the poor law amendment Bill, but still he refuses to allow me anything so that we may live and die in A land of plenty – tho I saw A circular sometime ago from Mr Chadwick clark to the poor law commissioners stating you would hold officers responsible for any bad[?] consequence arising out of such neglect – Gentlemen I submit my case to you and hope you will aford me that asistance as Speedy as possible my case needs wich will oblige your Humble Servant.
Thomas Henshaw.


Contracted section 54 of Poor Law Amendment Act referred to by Henshaw

54. And be it further enacted, That from and after the passing of the Act, the ordering, giving, and directing of all Relief to the Poor of any Parish which, according to the Provisions of the said recited Acts… shall appertain and belong exclusively to such Guardians of the Poor or of any Select Vestry, according to the respective Provisions of the Acts under which such Guardians or Select Vestry may have been or shall be appointed; and it shall not be lawful for any Overseer of the Poor to give any further or other Relief or Allowance from the Poor Rate than such as shall be ordered by such Guardians or Select Vestry, except in Cases of sudden and urgent Necessity, but not in Money, and he is hereby required to give such temporary Relief as each case shall require, in Article of absolute Necessity, but not in Money, and whether the Applicant for Relief be settled in the Pareish where he shall apply for Relief or not.

« Return to A ‘right’ to relief?

1. Read the extract from Section 54 of the Poor Law Amendment Act and the letter whereby Thomas Henshaw quotes this particular section. How has Henshaw used the law to hold those in authority to account? Is his a valid claim?

2. Can you find where Henshaw refers to his “case”? Consider this use of quasi (semi) legal terminology. What impact do you think it might have had?