The Poor Laws

The New Poor Laws © Mary Evans Picture Library

The New Poor Laws

The New Poor Law

In the series, as a result of the New Poor Law, we see John Howlett and his family arrive in Styal after agreeing to be part of a scheme to migrate from the south to work at Quarry Bank Mill.

In 1834, the New Poor Law was passed by Parliament. It was designed to reduce the rate of tax levied on the middle and upper classes, who complained that the working classes were lazy and disruptive. A Poor Law Commission was set up, which created Poor Law Unions across the parishes.

Workhouses were built in each union, and the New Poor Law stated that all unemployed able bodied persons could only receive poor relief from the workhouse, where they were given accommodation, food, and clothes, in exchange for labour. Families were often split up from one another and sent to different workhouses.

Migration to the north

Manufacturers in Lancashire approached the Poor Law Commission at the end of 1834, and suggested that their shortage of workers could be solved by sending some of the unemployed southern labourers to work in the north.

The first trials were in Bledlow, in Buckinghamshire, and the Howlett and Steevens families were the first to migrate, and came to work at Quarry Bank. They remained in Styal as did several generations of their descendants.