The Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds Branch, have some of the Great Waldingfield Parish Overseers Accounts. Click on the links below to see some extracts:
The principle of a parish being duty bound to ‘relieve’ the poor in their community was established by the 1601 Poor Law Act. A poor rate was levied on property owners. In Great Waldingfield this totalled 2 shillings and 6 pence per pound which was collected by the Overseer, John Bartletts, in 1804. The Overseer was also in charge of distribution of this income to needy parishioners. Before the 1834 Poor Law Act made entry for the needy into workhouses (indoor relief) compulsory, parishioners could benefit from outdoor relief whereby the sick, old and unemployed could receive money, food, clothing and other goods whilst they lived in their own homes or with their relatives.
The rise in population and poor harvests put a heavy strain on the poor and ratepayers and between 1775 and 1818 the cost of relieving the poor, nationally, increased from £2 million to £8million. Great Waldingfield mirrored this increase as poor relief in the parish increased by almost six-fold from £193 83s 0d in 1776 to £1,153 in 1818.
The transcripts of the extracts (which have been transcribed as written) show who the money or goods went to, sometimes a reason for it and how much was given. The amounts are small, usually a couple of shillings and sometimes just six pence, but it must have meant a great deal to those who received it.