In such a poor area as Saundersfoot the Poor Law system played an important role in keeping many out of destitution. This two-part post assesses the surviving Poor Law records to see what value they have for both family and local historians.
The history of the Poor Law can be split in two: firstly, from about 1600 until the mid-1830s, each civil parish was required by statute to raise funds to support its own poor. Records for our area for this first phase are scant: only the Overseers’ Accounts for East Williamston for 1781-1807 & 1826-27 have survived but these are largely illegible due to damp and also incomplete.
From 1834 onwards the system changed to a union of parishes run by a board of elected guardians. The local union was based at Narberth and covered 46 parishes surrounding the town with the new workhouse, completed in 1839, on the road south from Narberth to Begelly. Several sets of records have survived and this first post looks at the most detailed of these, namely the “Abstract and List of Paupers” published by the Union twice a year. Fifteen copies are extant out of a possible run of 21 for the years 1872-1881. The following breakdown shows some of the interesting data contained in the abstracts:
1. All those paupers receiving “outdoor” relief either in kind or by money showing age and address of recipient, reason for relief. Names are listed by parish.
Several of my ancestors appear:
- Susanna Nash (my gggg-gmother), aged 83 of Thomas Chapel, received £1 13s due to old age. This payment lasted for 11 weeks at 3s a week in 1871
- The sum of £1 1s was paid by the Union towards the cost of Frances Nash’s funeral (my g-gfather’s sister) in 1881
2. All those paupers receiving “indoor” relief in the workhouse showing age, the number of days in the workhouse and the parish covering the cost.
- William Nash (aged 10) and his brothers John (8) and Isaac (7), all of Begelly and cousins of my g-gfather, each spent 236 days in the workhouse in 1878. (Their widowed mother was in Carmarthen gaol at the time)
3. All those paupers in the Joint Lunatic Asylum at Carmarthen including the name of the parish covering the cost of their stay.
- John Belt, aged 23 of Small Drink, Begelly, was in the workhouse in late 1878 but by 1881 he had been moved to the Asylum
This is rich information for family historians.
For local historians the period covered by these abstracts is of significant interest as well. Throughout the 1870s the history of local mining was punctuated by several lengthy stoppages. If these were due to strike action, the Union was under no obligation to offer relief but with little money in the local economy there were many others who suffered as well. Together with other sources, the data in the abstracts can be used to assess the response of the Union to these calamities.
My thanks to Gerry Brawn for pointing this source out to me.
I have copies of the abstracts for the parishes of Begelly & East Williamston, Reynalton and St Issells. If you have labourers, miners and widows amongst your ancestors living in these parishes at the time but you can’t get to the Record Office, leave a Comment on this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will check the lists for you.
Pembrokeshire Record Office, The Narberth Union Abstract and List of Paupers (cat ref HDX/1026/1/x)
Pembrokeshire Record Office, East Williamston Overseers’ Accounts (cat ref HPR/110/13 & 14)