Saturday, 24 December 2016

24th December 1816: An extraordinary letter is sent to the Home Secretary from an Overseer of the Poor in Derbyshire

Melbourne near Derby Decr 24
1816

My Lord

Permit me to lay before you a statement of the deplorable situation to which this ruined Parish is now reduced, I state no more than plain facts—There are upwards of 2000 Inhabitants 600 of whom have been employed in the Hosiery manufacture the whole of whom are now totally destitute of employment

The master manufacturers having mostly become Bankrupt; the few others have been compelled to relinquish Trade from want of means to carry it on

I myself for one have employed upwards of 200 men but through loss of property have been compelled to decline—The Poor Rates are upwards of 20 Shillings in the pound, and are daily increasing—last week The Overseers were obliged to seize the effects of no less than 40 Houskeepers for arrears of the poor rate, these 40 families of course are becoming claimants, the Workhouse cannot contain the people who apply for admittance—it has been enlarged considerably and still much too small, in fact, unless some means of relief be speedily adopted the whole parish will be reduced to a general state of Pauperism and Beggary—the few Farmers who are left are totally unable to bear up any longer—and must relinquish the cultivation of the soil, The Overseers are totally at a loss how to proceed—we ask advice? we claim assistance and it is from a motive of humanity alone I write to your Lordship, for, to see the distresses of my poor starving Workmen, of the poor in general is sufficient to rend a Heart of stone, the people are quiet, they are Loyall, but surely there is a point of suffering beyond which, it is not in human nature to endure as far as regards myself it is not material whether we have relief or not, I have still the means left of abandoning the Country; which I must shortly do if relief is not given. I have been in the habit of Travelling through most parts of the Kingdom and I can assure your Lordship this is pretty generally the case in the Manufacturing Districts—

His Majesty's Ministers delude themselves in supposing the evil only temporary, it is increasing and will increase unless the master manufacturers can replace their lost property, in short whether you believe it or not Bankruptcy and Beggary is like a Deluge rapidly overspreading the whole Land—

By shutting your eyes and ears against the Cries of all suffering people, you dont get rid of the evil, it is not by stifling stifling complaint, that a remedy is applied! although the bad Harvest has aggravated the evil it would have been little better had that not being the case—Something sufficient must be done soon too.

If I might be permitted a remedy, it would be to enable the poor to cultivate the soil, by giving them permanent employ and compelling Land owners to Allot a small portion of Land to each Cottage, where this is the case poor rates are trifling, but where they are driven by Rapacious Land holders & owners from the cultivation of the Soil to engage in manufactures, there the evil is pressing—if a heavy Tax were laid on all occupiers of Land above 100 Acres it would do much towards a remedy, one Family perhaps occupies 500 or 1000 Acres, this if divided would support 20 Families in comfort

Trade is overdone from it nothing can be expected—

I am
my Lord your Obdt Servt
An Overseer

This letter can be found at HO 421/157.

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