Charitable provision for the rural poor: a case study of policies and attitudes in Northamptonshire in the first half of the nineteenth century

  • Bridget Lewis

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This thesis examines the role of private charity in the ‘mixed economy of welfare’ available to the rural poor in Northamptonshire in the first half of the nineteenth century. It is the first major study of this kind, as hitherto, historians of welfare have largely concentrated on the public charity of poor relief. It covers the basic needs of the poor, food, money, clothing, housing and access to land for fuel and cultivation and examines the various sources of private charity that addressed those needs. These were the endowed charities, the benevolence of individuals, mainly the major landowners and the clergy, and the establishment of the self-help charitable initiatives of allotment schemes, clothing societies and coal clubs. For each source, this thesis explores the key questions of how valuable the resource was to the poor, who were the main recipients and what factors affected the choice of recipients. Thus, it examines the gender, the stage in the life cycle and the respectability of the recipients. It also analyses the importance of residency in an ‘open’ or a ‘close’ parish in terms of the amount and quality of assistance given to the poor. This thesis also examines the extent of changes in national attitudes to private charitable provision with an emphasis on self-help and on more discrimination in the choice of recipients, mirroring the changes in poor relief in the period. Although these changes were in their infancy in the early decades of the nineteenth century, they became prominent in rural parishes in the second half. Thus this thesis shows that the years up to 1850 were critical in that the changes in charitable provision which arose out of the pressures encountered by rural society in that period came to be widely adopted by the end of the century
    Date of Award2003
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Northampton
    • University of Leicester
    SupervisorP King (Supervisor)

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