The elderly and the workhouse in eighteenth century London: The workhouse as hospice and the life-cycles of the elderlyJeremy BoultonLeonard SchwarzSocial History Society, March 30th, 2007, University of Exeter
The elderly in the eighteenth century • Role of institutional care • Extent of such care amongst elderly populations: hospice or refuge? • London’s atypicality in nineteenth century • Large institutions • High proportions of elderly females in workhouse • High proportion of the elderly in 1851
Life cycle crises and applications for welfare Interval between husbands death and examination
The treatment of the ‘indoor’ elderly • Freedom of movement • Work rate • Family break up
Outdoor relief of the elderly • ‘The settled poor’ and the ‘casual poor’ • The parish almswomen • Discrete populations
Summary and conclusion: • Multi-functional over entire period • Part of elderly survival strategy in last years • There is a chronology of use by elderly, more commonly used in some decades than others • Particularly frequently experienced by elderly females • Variety of experience of elderly usage
Case study 1: persistent applicants • It is possible to create a number of case histories. Unlike many studies of this sort, it is possible to state exactly how typical these are. • Grace Wilson (fl. 1772-1809) is utterly atypical • Grace Wilson was admitted to the St Martin’s Workhouse 67 times between 1772 and until her death in the institution in 1808. The most frequently admitted pauper in the Georgian workhouse. • First admitted in 1772, she appears regularly thereafter until her death in 1809 • Stated to be 36 in 1772, she was 67 in 1808. Her ageing process clearly ‘slowed down’, since she should have been 72 in 1808 - if earlier age statements were correct.
Grace’s experience suggests that proportionately more time might be spent in the workhouse as individuals approached their 60s More interesting, however, is that even in extremis Grace never spent a complete year in the workhouse. The workhouse was not an almshouse. She must have lodged elsewhere in the parish, and paid her way, even in the last decade of her life.
Case study 2: The long stay widow at the end of life Temperance Cullis was admitted into the workhouse only twice. She was first admitted in 1748, when she described herself as aged 68 when she was passed from St Giles in the Fields. She claimed a settlement in St Martin’s by virtue of her husband’s service. She stayed in the workhouse for six years, and ‘left the house’ in 10/06/1754, when she would have been 74. Temperance was admitted again after an interval of two years, for the second and last time, now claiming to be aged 82, on 18/09/1756. She was placed in ward 20 and died in the workhouse nearly eight years later in 21/04/1764. Temperance was examined in the workhouse nine days after her second admittance in 1756: Temperance Cullis aged 81 years in the workhouse of and in the Parish of St Martin in the Fields upon her oath saith that she is the widow of Thomas Cullis (who died about 30 years ago) to whom she was married at St Bridget, vulgarly St Brides, Church London about 50 years ago, that he was a Founder by trade and was bound an apprentice by an indenture for seven years to Mr Davis a Founder at the house (now Mr Mist) in Long Acre in the Parish of St Martin the Fields aforesaid and there served all his time out, that he never kept house rented £10 by the year paid any parish taxes nor was a yearly hired servant since the expiration of his said apprenticeship, nor hath she is she this Examinant since the death her said husband. Taken in the workhouse the 27th Day of September 1756. This suggests that Temperance managed 22 years of independent existence after her husband’s death, before entering the workhouse of St Martin’s for the first time. She also lived for two further years out of the workhouse before returning there in her dotage and final years.
Case study 3:outdoor relief and the workhouse as hospice Syth Cross was admitted only once to the workhouse in 1783. She was admitted 19/08/1783 at the age of 82, and died in the workhouse in 26/11/1783, so she was admitted for the first time for the last three months of her life. She was examined in 1783: Syth Cross aged about 82 years removed by an order of removal from the Parish of St Pancras in the County of Middlesex to the Parish of St Martin in the Fields upon her oath saith that she is the widow of Hugh Cross (who died about 38 years ago), that since the death of the said husband she (this Examinant) lived in and rented an house in Round Court in the said Parish of St Martin in the Fields for the space of eight or nine years at the yearly rent of 10 pounds besides taxes, quitted the same about 30 years ago, that she hath not kept house rented a tenement of 10 pounds by the year paid any parish taxes nor been a yearly hired servant in any one place for 12 months together since. Sworn the [blank] Day of [blank] 1783 before [blank]. Here then is a widow who managed 38 years of ‘independent’ residential existence, only coming to the workhouse in her last three months of life. However, Syth had in fact been receiving regular payments as one of the settled poor of the exchange ward between 1749 and 1772. Syth got 1s 6d a week between 1749, possibly after her husband’s death, and 1751, which was reduced to 1s a week 1765-1772. Here her pension was first paid when she was in her 40s.. Her ‘independent’ existence included outdoor relief from the parish for periods of years, with gaps.