‘give me a little relief’

A letter from a woman who claims to have been both refused relief and abused by the assistant relieving officer, 6 April 1847, Catalogue ref: MH 12/6845

Poor Law Union: Bethnal Green

Union counties: Middlesex



Having been in the greatest necessity for a month past in bad health, as well as having had my goods seized for the last quarter’s rent and having very little employment, I was compelled, being without food, to apply at the workhouse for a little relief. I was most shamefully abused by the assistant relieving officer. He has not visited me at home, and as I hope soon to obtain more work, I only wished for a bread. Another officer told me to go to my husband’s parish, but I do not for certain know where it is.  As my husband is of such dissolute habits there is no use. I should be sent to the workhouse if I were to do so as he lives at his mother’s.  I refused an order for admission to the house as I was kept a prisoner in Stepney Union for 5 months and I know that the best half of the inmates at the place were deserted wives & children. Because I wrote to your Secretary for leave to see my child, I was deprived of my food and subjected to every kind of personal insult and I now believe that one officer has communicated with the other to deny my request which is very pressing. I am without any food. I have lived in this parish 1 year & 3 months and I trust you will be so good as to recommend to the guardians to give me a little relief and I will do without as soon as possible. I enclose one of my receipts for rates. I must earnestly entreat you will be pleased to inquire into the matter without delay and you will shield me from the oppression which is dealt out to those who are destitute. With many apologies, for this note

I am, gentlemen

Your obedient humble servant

Margaret Carter

I ought to state perhaps that my husband has been apprehended. On his fair promise to do what was right he was allowed to be at large, but he went away again. [Therefore] the settlement was not known after all – and probably you will see fit for it to be made out as I cannot go again to the workhouse. I beg you will inform me what to do.

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