John Kay: Settlement Records in Lewes Parish Chests
Under the Old Poor Law everyone was settled in a particular parish, in the same way that today we are citizens of a particular country. You might be allowed to live outside your “home” parish, but if you fell on hard times it was that parish’s responsibility to look after you. You were liable to be deported back “home” to receive this care – though “home” might be somewhere you had left decades previously, or sometimes never lived at all.
Parishes were proactive in trying to prevent the poor belonging to another parish gaining a settlement, and in exporting their own poor elsewhere. Lawsuits and appeals between parishes were commonplace. Sometimes the results were hilarious; the situations in which other people found themselves make your heart ache, even across the centuries.
Many parish chests, including some Lewes parish chests, still contain records created in the operation of this system. Where they survive, they offer unparalleled insight into the lives of ordinary or unfortunate Lewesians two or more centuries ago, and in their aggregate they offer an important insight into late Stuart & Georgian society.
This talk is a programme change from:
Mark Perry-Nash: Daily Life in a Medieval Sussex Castle
Venue: The new King’s Church building on Brooks Road, Lewes. (Between Tesco car park and Homebase)
See the Meetings page for a list of forthcoming monthly talks organised by the Lewes History Group.