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Poor Law in Berkshire


Peter Durrant

23 February 2010

7:30pm at St John's Parish Room

At our evening meeting in February Dr Peter Durrant, Berkshire County Archivist, spoke on The Poor Law in Berkshire. To understand what help there was to relieve the suffering of the poor before the introduction of the welfare state in 1947 we need to consult a wide range of surviving documents, beginning with the Poor Law Acts of 1598 and 1601 which set a framework for the next more than 200 years. Enough Berkshire documents survive, mostly parish based, to give a broad picture of how relief worked in practice. For example, from the Account Books of Overseers, the Laws of Settlement, Settlement Certificates, and the Records of Examinations we can follow named individuals in case studies, often involving real distress and destitution. The details are often financial, concerning the long distances vagrants would sometimes travel and which parish should pay to keep them. Dr Durrant was congratulated on his expertise in describing a wide range of documents and on drawing out vivid and human stories from them.


Peter Durrant is the County Archivist for Berkshire, responsible to the six unitary authorities of West Berkshire, Reading, Bracknell Forest, Wokingham, Slough, and Windor & Maidenhead for the preservation of, and public access to, historic records pertaining to the county (including much from that part of Berkshire lost to Oxfordshire in 1974).
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