Ancestors of the 17th century
Parish Government & Poor-Relief
For centuries, the task of caring for the poor in England was left to the Church. Each parish was given an Overseer of the Poor to help with this cause in 1572. In 1601, the Poor Law Act empowered these overseers to collect a poor rate from wealthier members of the parish and distribute the funds among those needing relief.
The 1601 law remained in effect until 1834, when a new law, the Poor Law Amendment Act, took effect. Under this law, parishes were grouped into Unions. Each Union elected a Board of Guardians, which was then responsible for care of the poor across all of the individual parishes.
In 1682, Richard Foster was assigned to distribute the funds of a parish to those most in need and to provide food, clothing, and work.