Key Topics

Settlement Certificates

There was a legal right of poor relief which was linked to one's settled place of abode. In the 1601 Poor Law Act you became entitled to relief if you had been resident in a parish for a month. This had the effect of paupers being kept moving on - so that they did not acquire a right to poor relief funded by the parish rate payers. The Settlement Act of 1662 ruled that anyone entering a township and occupying a tenement worth less than 10 per annum might, within 40 days, be removed back to his parish of settlement. A child's place of settlement was that of his father until he was articled (which could happen when he was only 7), in which case his place of apprenticeship became his parish of settlement. Other persons became settled after a year living in the parish - and the annual hiring fairs (always on the same date) ensured that people were taken on for 364 days at a time!

Illegitimate children were settled where they were born, so it was not unknown for a poor woman in an advanced stage of pregnancy to be unceremoniously carted over the parish boundary by the Overseers of the Poor so that the child would be another parish's financial burden.

In 1697 settlement certificates were introduced, which were given to a pauper. This was written by the churchwardens of the settlement parish and given to the pauper. This allowed the pauper to move to another parish for temporary work, for instance harvest, and provided the temporary parish with documentation to allow the pauper's return should he become a liability on the parish funds.

in 1795 in became impossible for the Overseers to remove someone unless they had actually become chargeable on the parish, and while the Settlement Act was repealed in 1834 (under the Poor Law Amendment Act which introduced the Union Workhouses) the principle continued to operate until 1876.

Surviving information on Settlement, including Settlement Certificates and Removal Orders, can be found in county records offices such as HALS. Some cases will have gone to the Quarter Sessions while Overseers accounts and other parish documents may well document the act of removal.