Monthly Archives: February 2024

Beyond the workhouse: old age, outdoor relief and the New Poor Law by Tom Heritage

Workhouses, and the poor who inhabited them, continue to fascinate us all. From social historians to the wider public, we are intrigued by the institution and the characters within. As I explore in a recent article for Social History, those who spent their old age in poverty under the Victorian New Poor Law regime did not always face a one-way route to the workhouse. In fact, the Board of Guardians provided welfare to those in their own homes if they successfully applied for outdoor relief. Before the introduction of old age pensions in 1908, there was no guarantee that one would receive welfare when they reached old age; one had to actively apply to the Board of Guardians for outdoor relief. The Board of Guardians thought older people were the ‘most deserving’ recipients of welfare, compared with the ‘able-bodied’, or ‘working-age’, population, owing to their perceived infirmity. Continue reading