‘dangerous state of illness’

A letter to the Poor Law Commissioners requesting them to look into a case of extreme hardship, Catalogue ref: MH12/2096, 16 February 1839

Poor Law Union: Axminster

Union counties: Devon & Dorset


To the Honourable Poor Law Commissioners of England & Wales


I beg to call your attention to a case of extreme hardship and one that calls for your early interference. A poor man of this parish named Samuel Curtis aged 67, is now lying in a very dangerous state of illness. The said Samuel Curtis applied on February 1st to the Board of Guardians at Axminster for temporary relief he being then very ill with a cough and spitting blood. The poor fellow with his wife would have been satisfied with only 1/6 per week as they expected that he would have soon got better as the spring advanced. I should have stated that he has not had any work for two months.

The board made an order for them both to go into the house but owing to the separation clause, and thinking he would soon get better, they declined going into the workhouse. The next day he found himself much worse and continued getting weaker. Every day since that time, on the next board day, the wife aged 54, went over to Axminster with a medical certificate stating his complaint but on her application she was refused admittance to the board. The relieving officer would not allow her to go in to state the destitute condition and the very ill state of health of her husband and was turned off with a gruff answer, although she had come five miles on a cold rainy day. She had not a dry thread about her, the man, Curtis, now lies very ill and were it not for some charitable persons in this town would have perished for want. I have to request of you to cause an early enquiry so that the poor fellow does not die from want. I have no object in view but that of compassion for the poor man. I have no hostility to the Poor Law Act, but would wish that no complaint should exist to raise more enemies to that Law while I am writing I beg to offer my opinion of the following. I understand some alteration is about to be made in the Poor Law Act respecting the election of Guardians. There should be a compulsory clause to compel the guardians to act when chosen as the Board is five miles from here. There is great difficulty in getting persons to be guardians. Begging pardon for occupying so much of your valuable time, I am honourable gentlemen

February, 16th 1839,

Yours sincerely,

Lyme Regis Dorset, John Champ

P.S. What I would wish particularly to call your attention to the woman having been refused admittance at the Board since the man is in such an ill state of health…

[N.B. Notes written overleaf, on addressed side]

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