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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: November 2014

6 - Dependent People: Endemic Poverty

  • Jonathan Healey, University Lecturer in English Local and Social History and Fellow of Kellogg College, University of Oxford
  • Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
  • pp 171-211


Humbly sheweth, That your petitioner hath formerly lived in a plentifull condicion and hath paid taxes towards King and poore, But had some yeares ago his house broken and fourtie pounds of readie money stollen from him and hath sustained other greate losses by his trade & (being formerly a drovier) through which and other misfortunes your petitioner is so distressed that hee is forced to wander abroade and begg, having nothing of his owne left to manteyne him with nor howse to dwell in, and the overseers have refused to releeve his necessities although hee hath made his complaint for two yeares last past your petitioner is fourescore and two yeares of age and is no longer able to begg …

Petition of John Lomax of Bradshaw (May 1679)

Although John Lomax had failed to convince the overseers of Bradshaw of his need, he found relief in the adjourned court of Quarter Sessions for Salford Hundred, held at Bolton in May 1679. Endorsing his petition, the Bolton justices ordered that he be provided for ‘according to his wants’. The next stage, then, is to explore the kinds of ‘wants’ experienced by paupers like Bradshaw, which were either relieved or expected to be relieved by the Poor Law. The chapter will discuss the different forms of poverty in turn using both qualitative and quantitative data from petitions (with the occasional glance at some overseers’ accounts), and the censuses of the poor for the town of Bolton, which I have analysed in more detail elsewhere.