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Author: Steven King

This book explores the experiences of the sick poor between the 1750s and through the so-called crisis of the Old Poor Law ending in the 1830s. It provides a comprehensive and colourful overview of the nature, scale and negotiation of medical welfare. At its core stand the words and lives of the poor themselves, reconstructed in painstaking detail to show that medical welfare became a totemic issue for parochial authorities by the 1830s. The book suggests that the Old Poor Law confronted a rising tide of sickness by the early nineteenth century. While there are spectacular instances of parsimony and neglect in response to rising need, in most places and at most times, parish officers seem to have felt moral obligations to the sick. Indeed, we might construct their responses as considerate and generous. To some extent this reflected Christian paternalism but also other factors such as a growing sense that illness, even illness among the poor, was and should be remediable and a shared territory of negotiation between paupers, advocates and officials. The result was a canvas of medical welfare with extraordinary depth. By the 1820s, more of the ill-health of ordinary people was captured by the poor law and being doctored or sojourning in an institution became part of pauper and parochial expectation. These trends are brought to vivid life in the words of the poor and their advocates, such that the book genuinely offers a re-interpretation of the Old Poor Law from the bottom up.

Steven King

6 Wider medical welfare Introduction On 19 March 1834 George Taylor, proprietor of the ‘Norwich Truss Manufactory’, sent a printed bill to Wighton (Norfolk). Enclosed with the bill was an ‘Improved Double Truss (38 inches)’ ordered for John Ladell at the cost of £1 5s. A handwritten addendum expressed hopes that the truss: may suit your workman and as I conclude his Hernia is bad, I have sent two [extra] springs in case the main springs are not strong enough, which can be applied by sliding off the casing and letting the extra springs embrace the main one

in Sickness, medical welfare and the English poor, 1750–1834
Steven King

3 Negotiating medical welfare Introduction On an unspecified date the overseer of Pangbourne (Berkshire) received a hand-delivered letter from Olive Barber. She wrote: these lines to say that I took it very hard and unkind as you would not send us so much as a shilling yesterday as we are greatly destresed or else believe me we would not trouble you but my husband has been very ill since He came home and is legs are very bad at this time his oblidged to keep hisself as still as he can or his legs swells and are in so much pain or else he would have come to you

in Sickness, medical welfare and the English poor, 1750–1834
Steven King

right – proper and fair to be done’.1 This sort of sentiment can be found often and repeatedly in vestry minutes and correspondence. Yet our understanding of the contours and complexion of medical welfare spending – of what in practice was right, proper and fair – is imperfect. That coming to an accommodation with the sick poor could be expensive is clear. A consolidated bill sent from Eton (Hertfordshire) to Wallingford (Berkshire) comprised:2 Relief to Cottrell’s child for 22 weeks For attendance on Cottrell during his Insanity His funeral expenses Mrs Cottrell in

in Sickness, medical welfare and the English poor, 1750–1834
Steven King

business again, having no other way of getting my living. But I had not long tried to work, when my Complaints returned worse than ever, and I have been above twelvemonths, and only done Seven days work put it altogether. As often as I have tried to work for two, or three hours, I have been so ill as to be oblidged to leaved my work, and take to my Bed, where I am confined most of my time, and am now so Bad, I do not expect ever to be any better in this Life, as no Physition can administer to me the least Relief. 34 Locating sickness and medical welfare Tilehurst had

in Sickness, medical welfare and the English poor, 1750–1834
Steven King

him up – he is also a tolerable Organist provided you have a vacancy for one in your Neighbourhood. During the time he has been in the School he has conducted himself to the satisfaction of the Committee and they trust you will be able to put him in a situation which will enable him to make a decent living.1 This brief narrative speaks to some of the more insistent themes in the story of medical welfare traced here. William had been sent to an institution far from home and at no little cost. Moreover, he had been there for eight years rather than the normal term

in Sickness, medical welfare and the English poor, 1750–1834
Steven King

host 286 Parochial medical welfare in context or s­ettlement communities, signalling the expectation that paupers could and ought to take control of their own health needs. They were not alone. The aged London pauper Mrs Turvey was in receipt of an allowance of 2s 6d per week from Tilehurst (Berkshire), and a letter of 31 July 1810 noted that she ‘remains very Poorly and cant do without the Pothecary’, a medical man who was called independently and paid for from her regular allowance.5 And William King, another pauper encountered earlier in this study, writing in

in Sickness, medical welfare and the English poor, 1750–1834
Steven King

Locating sickness and medical welfare p­ rovision of welfare at parish level until the advent of the New Poor Law in 1834.2 While the 1601 Act is more complex than is often allowed, its essence was to require parishes to punish vagrants and the undeserving poor, put the unemployed to work and relieve the ‘impotent’ (later ‘deserving’) poor using the proceeds of a local property tax.3 Yet at no point did the 1601 legislation definitively establish which people should be seen as deserving and at what level and with what regularity their poverty should be relieved by the

in Sickness, medical welfare and the English poor, 1750–1834
Steven King

, provided he should be deemed incurable.2 By 2 March Harris had been found and admitted but ‘this Object could not be effected without some Expence – I have deposited with the Committee 6 pounds, & the contingent Expences of Removal amount to £3 4s 8d – the former sum will be returned in case the patient dies or should be discharged cured within the Space of one Month’.3 Mitchel’s initial intervention in the case was underpinned by an assumption that the parish would want to leave ‘no human Means … unattempted to 252 Parochial medical welfare in context restore his

in Sickness, medical welfare and the English poor, 1750–1834
Abstract only
Steven King

Raines felt justified in launching a scathing attack on the overseer is important for this chapter. There are also other lessons. John Scott and his wife had been simultaneously and sequentially ill since September 1832, when she was noted to be ‘hanging as it were between life & death’. Notwithstanding that, John Scott ‘was troublesome before’4 Beverley sanctioned considerable expenditure on medical care. This echoes the sense in Chapter 4 of doctors playing a more continuous role in parochial medical welfare over time. In addition to sustained attendance, the patient

in Sickness, medical welfare and the English poor, 1750–1834