Oldham Historical Research Group

0LDHAM CENTENARY : 1849 - 1949
Chapters from :
OLDHAM CENTENARY : 1849 - 1949
Oldham County Borough publication to celebrate its Centenary in 1949.



Any history of the administration of the Poor Laws by Public Assistance Committees and the former Boards of Guardians should be prefaced by some reference to the Poor Law systems prior to Boards of Guardians being instituted.

One of the most important, and certainly one of the most difficult, branches of local administration was the relief of the poor. In a sketch of the history of Local Government in the country, the subject of the Poor Law takes first place, as the scheme that was laid down for the administration of the relief of the poor was the foundation of the system of Local Government from which was laid the administration of highways, public health and other branches of Local Government.

The first great landmark in the history of the Poor Law is the Poor Law Act of 1601, in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, which formed the basis of Poor Law administration up to the 5th July, 1948. This replaced the voluntary system by the provision of a poor rate, thus throwing upon the whole parish the liability to maintain its own poor. The Act provided for the appointment of substantial householders who, together with the churchwardens, were to be called "overseers of the poor." These overseers were appointed annually and it is interesting to note that the office of unpaid overseer for every parish survived until the 31st March, 1927, when it was abolished pursuant to the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925. The Act of 1601 made parents, grandparents and children of poor persons liable for their support, and this was still the law until the 5th July, 1948, having been unchanged for a period of 347 years; and even with the great changes that began to operate from the 5th July, 1948, the National Assistance Act, 1948, re-enacts by Section 42 that a man shall be liable to maintain his wife and his children, and a woman shall be liable to maintain her husband and her children.

An Act of 1782, known as "Gilbert's Act," provided for the appointment of paid officials to administer relief, and empowered parishes to combine in the provision of a workhouse for the aged sick and orphans only.

In 1795 the Berkshire magistrates issued an edict that in future relief should be given on a scale dependent upon the price of wheat and the number of a man's family. If a man's wages fell below the scale his employer was to make up the difference, and if the employer failed to do so the difference would be paid out of the rates. The following year an Act of Parliament was passed extending this scheme to the whole country, and the effect was disastrous.

"O tempora ! O mores ! "

By 1817 the poor rate reached the sum of nearly £8,000,000, truly an enormous sum in those days with a population of about 11,000,000. The evils wrought by such administration demanded a bold and thorough remedy, and a Commission of Enquiry was appointed. They produced one of the most convincing and able documents ever framed on social subjects. It was presented to Parliament in February, 1834, and a Bill adopting the recommendations of the Commission was drafted and passed its second reading in the House of Commons on the 9th May. (Incidentally it took 20 years for Parliament to act on the Report of the Royal Commission on Poor Laws, which was presented in 1909). The Commissioners' Report went straight to the root of the whole matter, i.e., the indiscriminate outdoor relief to the able-bodied. They recommended the appointment of three Commissioners as a Central Board. They were not represented in Parliament so that all the odium against them was kept out of the sphere of party politics. The Commissioners were re-appointed from time to time until 1847 when they were superseded by a Poor Law Board with representation in Parliament, and in 1871 this Board was abolished and its powers transferred to a new body called the Local Government Board, which continued in existence until the 1st July, 1919, when it became the Ministry of Health. Under their powers, which, with commendable foresight, were only gradually brought into operation, the Commissioners gradually divided the country into Unions by uniting parishes for general administration and for the building of workhouses.

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, which brought the Commissioners into being, did not take effect in Oldham until 1847 when the Oldham Union was formed, consisting of the parishes of Alkrington, Chadderton, Crompton, Middleton, Oldham, Royton, Thornham and Tonge.

The main principles of the Act of 1834 continued, despite shoals of subsequent amending legislation, until their abolition by the various Acts of Parliament coming into operation on the 5th July, 1948.


The first meeting of the newly constituted Guardians of the Poor of the Oldham Union was held at the Town Hall in Oldham on Wednesday, the 22nd September, 1847, at 12 o'clock at noon. George Barlow, Esq., was appointed the first Chairman of the Board. The Reverend Richard Durnford and Mr. John George Blackburne were appointed Vice-Chairmen, the Reverend Durnford to have the precedence. Future meetings of the Guardians were to be held every Wednesday at 2 o'clock. Mr. Kay Clegg was appointed Clerk to the Board. At this first meeting of the Board it was resolved unanimously that the Reporters to the public press be admitted to the meeting. It would seem at that time that the Board were not prepared to commit themselves to a general principle as a special resolution was passed at subsequent meetings for the Reporters to the public press to be admitted.

The Oldham Union was formed into four Relief Districts and seven Medical Relief Districts. The estimated expenditure for the first half year, i.e., 29th September, 1847, to 25th March, 1848, was £6,500, of which Oldham's share was £3,888 0s. 6d. There were six workhouses existing at the time, situated in Chadderton, Oldham, Crompton, Royton, Middleton and Tonge. There is no record in the Guardians' Minutes of the exact whereabouts of these workhouses, but according to a map about that time the Oldham workhouse would appear to have been at Mount Pleasant or Workhouse Croft. The one at Crompton was situated somewhere near the junction of Manchester Road and Oldham Road, and the one at Royton situated near Thorpe Clough by Dogford Brook. On the 29th September, 1847, four Guardians were appointed specially to visit the several workhouses, and their Report makes sad reading, especially in regard to the Crompton and Tonge poorhouses, it being stated in regard to the first that "this workhouse is no credit to the township in which it exists, being small, dirty and altogether comfortless," and the latter "was found to be the worst in the Union, Crompton not excepted." No wonder Crabbe wrote in 1810,

"There is yon house that holds the parish poor,
Whose gloomy walls contain a dismal door ..."

On the 13th October, 1847, the Board decided in view of this Report that "the amount of accommodation is very deficient and that with due regard to a proper treatment of the poor, as well as due attention to economy in the management of the affairs of the poor, this Board is of opinion that a new Union Workhouse is absolutely necessary." A Special Sub-Committee was appointed to enquire and report "as to a suitable scite (sic) for a Union Workhouse, and to ascertain a proper rate of interest at which a loan can be obtained for erecting a commodious building, and also to enquire into and report on the amount of expenses involved in carrying on the present workhouses and the saving which may resolve from consolidating the same into an establishment." The Board also decided that "for the present time, Royton, Middleton and Chadderton workhouses be occupied by the Board for the use of the Union."

In November, 1847, the Board obtained Tenders for supplies to their workhouses, and in these days of rationing and price controls the following selection will be read with interest:

Butter ... 91/2d lb
Meat ... 5d lb
Soap ... 53/4d lb
Tobacco ... 21/2d oz
Blankets ... 8s/9d pair
Sheets ... 3s/5d pair

Tenders obtained for wearing apparel provided for fustian cloth, check neckerchiefs and calico shirts for the men; red flannel to be used as shirts for men and women; linsey petticoats, calico chemises, red twill neckerchiefs, linen caps with cambric borders and cotton pocket hand­kerchiefs for the women. The women were provided with gingham for outer dress, adult females to wear such dress fashioned as a bed gown.

Matters of passing interest in the early days of the Board of Guardians:

(i) Acceptance of an offer of James Marsland for shaving and cutting hair of male and female paupers in Chadderton workhouse at 1/3d. per week (male paupers to be shaved at least once a week);

(ii) The appointment of John Bernard as a messenger to attend all Board Meetings at 2/6d. per week and maintenance in the House;

(iii) Arrangements with Mrs. Fawcett of the Angel Inn for supplying a plain dinner to the Guardians for the sum of 1/- per head;

(iv) Registrars of Births Marriages and Deaths appointed as Inspectors of Nuisances

(v) Sale of Royton Workhouse for £211 14s 7d

(vi) According to the first Report (25th October 1848) there were 190 inmates in Oldham Workhouse and 182 in Northmoor.

(vii) The number of out-relief cases and weekly costs are shown as follows: 1,988 persons relieved at a cost of £249 14s 111/2d

(viii) The total Poor Law expenditure for the Union for the year 1854/55 was £17,554 7s 4d

Plans were submitted to the Board early in 1848 for the erection of a Workhouse on a site at Northmoor, which is the present site at Rochdale Road, Oldham. Three firms submitted drawings with pseudonyms "P," "Ad Referendum" and "Yellow Star," and the Board accepted "Yellow Star's" plans provided they "satisfied the Board that the work can be completed for the stipulated sum of £10,000." "Yellow Star" turned out to be the firm of Messrs. Travis and Mangnall Architects, of Manchester, and the workhouse was completed in 1851 at a cost of £13,305 2s. 21/4d. It is noted in 1856 that since the workhouse was built "numerous improvements have been effected in the arrangements of the house and the affairs of the Union have been conducted in such a manner as to call forth the encomiums of the Authorities at Whitehall, and the workhouse has been held up to other Unions as a model for imitation."

In Edwin Butterworth's "History of Oldham" details of the armorial bearing of the Oldham family are given, together with the motto, Hand, facile capto. This coat of arms and motto suitably extended by ad finem fidelis and Dominus Providebit were, for reasons unknown, adopted by the Oldham Union, and the same appeared on their official documents down to the abolition of Boards of Guardians in 1930.

In 1884 it is noted that a loan was raised for the erection of a Workhouse School at a cost of £15,000. In 1888, Casual Wards were erected, together with a Washhouse and a Hospital for males.

Thumbnail links to a larger copy:

Institution Staff, 1944

Institution Staff, 1944


Group of Staff Firemen, 1900



Institution Staff, 1908



The First Workhouse,
near Cross Street


Oldham Union Workhouse, 1914


The Board of Guardians were very much concerned in other matters besides the grant of outdoor relief and the provision of accommodation for the destitute poor in their workhouse, and for the sick in the adjoining Hospital Wards. For instance, it will be noted that the Registrars of Births and Deaths came within their jurisdiction pursuant to the Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1836, functions in regard to which were placed on the Poor Law Commissioners. No mention is made in that Act, nor was it expected, that Registrars of Births and Deaths should also be Inspectors of Nuisances. The appointment of Registrars of Births and Deaths, and subsequently Marriages, remained with the Board of Guardians until the 1st April, 1930. By the Poor Law Amendment Act, 1844, the Poor Law Commissioners were empowered to combine parishes or Unions into School Districts for the management of any class or classes of infant poor not above the age of 16 years, and not until 1884, as indicated above, did the local Guardians take it upon themselves to build a School specially for the purpose. The cost of the School was not to exceed one-fifth part of the average annual expenditure for the relief of the poor.

An Act was promulgated in 1836 to establish one uniform mode of rating for the relief of the poor, and this led up to the formation in 1862, under the Union Assessment Committee Act, of Assessment Committees. The duty of appointing an Assessment Committee was laid on the Board of Guardians of every Union, and this duty, together with the duties in securing uniformity and correct valuations, continued until the 1st April, 1927, being abolished by the Rating and Valuation Act, 1925. Since 1927, and up to the present time, this work has been carried out by the Oldham Assessment Committee.

In 1867, Parliament passed the Vaccination Act directing Guardians of every Union or Parish to divide the Union or Parish into Vaccination Districts. The responsibility for the appointment of Vaccination Officers and Public Vaccinators rested with the Guardians until the coming into force of the Local Government Act, 1929. Bastardy Laws also concerned Boards of Guardians and, until recent times, notifications from all Courts in the Union Area were furnished to the Guardians in all cases where application was made for Affiliation Orders.

The audit of Poor Law accounts has been operative since the formation of the Union, and the scope thereof widened by the District Auditors Act, 1879. At all times since has Poor Law expenditure been subject to the closest scrutiny by the District Auditor.

It is interesting to note that Guardians of the Poor were empowered, as far back as 1883, to incur expenses in attending any Conference of Guardians, held for the purpose of discussing any matter which is connected with the duties which devolve on them. Any Guardian, or Guardians, together with a Clerk, who attended could be paid, but to-day this is limited to two members only and an official.

Another major item of legislation which very intimately concerned Boards of Guardians, was the Lunacy Act, 1890. The responsibility for mental patients, or lunatics as they were then known, had previously rested with the Guardians, but the times demanded that the care and maintenance of these unfortunate people should be placed on a proper footing. Such remarkable thought and insight was given to this enactment that the administration thereunder continued almost unaltered until the Mental Treatment Act, 1930, when facilities were then given for certification to be avoided. The terms, "Mental Hospital," instead of "Lunatic Asylum," and " persons of unsound mind " instead of " pauper lunatics," then received official recognition, and persons feeling mentally unstable could become either "Voluntary" or "Temporary" patients without certification. The County Borough of Oldham could, under the Lunacy Act, 1890, have established a Mental Hospital apart from the Workhouse, but in concert with the Lancashire County Council and all the County Boroughs in the County Palatine, the Lancashire Asylums Board was formed, and that Board at divers times provided Mental Hospitals situated at Prestwich, Winwick, Whittingham, Rainhill and Lancaster.

The question of the grant of Superannuation Allowances was not unknown in Poor Law circles prior to 1896, but in that year Parliament approved the Poor Law Officers' Superannuation Act which gave Boards of Guardians power to grant Superannuation Allowances to their officers and servants, a privilege which was not made available to Local Authorities' staffs generally until the year 1937.

In 1889 the Guardians were permitted to take over the rights and responsibilities of parents who deserted their children, leaving them chargeable to the Guardians. This would appear to be a system of child adoption in its early stages which probably culminated in the Adoption of Children Act, 1926, whereby persons can obtain an Adoption Order in respect of children provided conditions laid down by the Act and Regulations are fulfilled.

Many other instances could be quoted of duties imposed on Boards of Guardians probably on account of the fact that they were the only ad hoc Authority for many years after the year 1834, but space will not permit.

"The little people, so humble, but so important."

In 1903, the Guardians decided that all children should be removed from the Workhouse except infants under 3 years of age, and they were amongst the pioneers in instituting Grouped and Scattered Homes built specially for the purpose. The late Alfred Simister was the first Chairman of the Scattered Homes Committee. The Grouped Homes were situated at Fir Bank, Royton, and the Scattered Homes were in Crompton, Coldhurst, Greenacres, Hollins, Freehold, and Middleton; and later, Homes for working children were provided in Oldham, Crompton and Royton. At that time, i.e., 19th August, 1903, there were 249 children, chargeable, and from the year 1911 continuous efforts have been made to promote the system of boarding-out. The institution of Children's and Orphans' Allowances, and later Family Allowances, have had their effect in reducing the numbers chargeable. Since 1930 the Lancashire County Council had joint "user" of all the Homes under the control of the Oldham Public Assistance Committee.

Needless to say, the children in the care of the Committee are treated just like the children in any normal household, that is the reason why the system of Scattered Homes was instituted. The children are dressed just like any other normal child; attend the day schools, Church schools, Churches and Sunday Schools, and participate in all the functions associated therewith. They are members of the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides troops, and have general recreational facilities such as football, cricket, swimming, etc. They receive a generous weekly pocket money allowance. Prior to World War II they regularly spent some portion of their summer holidays in seaside camps set up specially for the purpose. They sit for the usual Scholarships and proceed to High Schools or Grammar Schools as the case may be, and further to Teachers' Colleges or Universities in appropriate cases. Some children have done remarkably well. Whilst the Curtis Committee unearthed unhappy circumstances in some Voluntary and Local Authority Children's Homes, there was nothing at which to look askance in so far as the local administration was concerned.


From the turn of the century the social conscience of the public was beginning gradually to awaken. The Reports in 1909 of the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws, in which Mr. Sydney Webb (later Lord Passfield) took a prominent part, focused to no little purpose on the disadvantages of the administration of the Poor Laws, and it has taken from then until the 5th July, 1948, before full effect was given to the recommendations of that Commission.

At this stage it may be as well to show the position in regard to persons chargeable to the Oldham Board of Guardians as at the 17th April, 1901, as follows:

Outdoor Relief
1,967 persons relieved at a cost of £188 9s.1d.
Average relief per head - £1 10s 9d.

Number of Inmates Relieved in the Workhouse
Adult Males ... 591
Adult Females ... 409
Boys ... 99
Girls ... 114
Infants ... 22
Total ... 1,235

Number of Vagrants lodged in the House
Men ... 265
Women ... 11
Total ... 276

Total Expenditure on Poor Law services for the year ended Lady Day 1901
£42,869 15s 5d

The Old Age Pensions Act, 1908, was a sign of "coming events casting their shadows before," being an Act to provide for Old Age Pensions of 5/- per week, subject to means. At that time many of the potential Old Age Pensioners were in receipt of outdoor relief.

The National Insurance Act of 1911 carried the attrition a stage further, "being an Act to provide for insurance against loss of health and for the prevention and care of sickness and for insurance against unemployment and for purposes incidental thereto."

The benefits under the 1908 and 1911 Acts were not sufficient to remove persons from the scope of Poor Law, and it was necessary to continue augmentation by outdoor relief, it is sad to say, until the 6th August, 1940, for Pensioners, and until the 5th July, 1948, in regard to Health Insurance benefits.

The year 1920 saw the first of the Unemployment Insurance Acts establishing the "dole" - so called - on a footing more in keeping with the times, but the repercussions were not great in so far as Boards of Guardians were concerned, as only in special circumstances were the Guardians permitted to grant outdoor relief to able-bodied persons. Inmates of Workhouses were debarred from receiving either Old Age Pensions or Unemployment benefits.

The Blind Persons Act, 1920, had its effect in removing persons from outdoor relief by establishing the grant of Pensions to blind persons who had attained the age of 50 and not 70 as required by the Old Age Pensions Act, 1908

The process of attrition was carried on further by the enactment of the Widows' and Orphans' and Old Age Contributory Pensions Act, 1925, which Act made provision for Pensions to widows, orphans, and persons between the ages of 65 and 70. This Act saw the institution of Contributory Pensions at 65 and was a landmark in social legislation.

"The Moving finger writes
and, having writ, moves on.

The first real step taken to effect the abolition of Boards of Guardians, although not marking the end of Poor Law, was the Local Government Act, 1929, which dissolved Boards of Guardians and transferred their functions to County and County Borough Councils. Thus was the Public Assistance Committee constituted under the control of the County Borough Council. The Committee consisted of 12 members of the Council and 6 co-opted members, with the Mayor in addition. The Council's powers under the Poor Law Act, 1930, were delegated to the Public Assistance Committee, and carried out pursuant to an Administrative Scheme, under which Scheme the Council were given wide powers to declare what assistance should be provided otherwise than by way of poor relief. The major of these Declarations was the "provision for the use of the inhabitants of the County Borough of Hospitals for the reception of the sick," the effect of which was that Boundary Park Hospital, the initial erection of which began in 1851 and continually added to until 1930, was transferred to the Health Committee to be administered under the Public Health Acts.

Despite the declaration of the Council that all sick cases should be dealt with pursuant to the Public Health Acts, the responsibility for dealing with sudden and urgent cases of sickness still remained with the Public Assistance Committee, and the numbers of chronic sick cases in Westwood Park Institution increased to such an extent, which necessitated the Committee providing special accommodation for this type of case, and in August, 1937, the Committee were privileged by the Minister of Health himself (the Right Honourable Walter E. Elliott, M.C.) opening the new Infirm Wards, which were subsequently referred to in the North Western Area Hospital Survey as "an oasis in our pilgrimage." Without doubt, these Wards are amongst the finest Hospital Wards in the whole of Lancashire.

At the changeover on the 1st April, 1930, the position in regard to persons remaining chargeable, indoor and outdoor, to the new Public Assistance Committee through the operation of the Local Government Act, 1929, was as follows :

Outdoor Relief
849 persons relieved at a weekly cost of £226 8s. 6d.
Average relief per head - 5s 4.007d.

Indoor Relief
Adult Males ... 376
Adult Females ... 244
Children over 3 yrs. ... 12
Children under 3 yrs. ... 24
Total. ... 656 (Excludes cases in the Institution and Children's Homes chargeable to the Lancashire County Council.)

Childrens Homes
Children over 3 yrs. 157
Working children 13
Total. ... 170 (Excludes cases in the Institution and Children's Homes chargeable to the Lancashire County Council.)

Special Institutions and Schools - 56
Casual Wayfarers
Men ... 182
Women ... 7
Total. ... 189

County Mental Hospitals
Men ... 112
Women ... 173
Total. ... 285

Total Expenditure on Poor Law Services for the year ended 31st March, 1931
£112,277 14s 4d.

Rate Contribution — £72,741 0s. 0d.

The Public Assistance Committee soon made apparent the harshness in debarring an able-bodied man from receipt of outdoor assistance. The pressure on the extended benefits under the Unemployment Insurance Acts through the state of unemployment at the time, led to the institution of Transitional Payments in 1931 to be administered through Public Assistance Committees for and on behalf of the Ministry of Labour. This was the advent of the notorious "Means Test." In consequence of the administration of Transitional Payments, Public Assistance Committees were compelled to recognise the need for granting outdoor relief to able-bodied persons, and the numbers in this respect increased to such an extent that, coupled with the effect of Transitional Payments, the Unemployment Assistance Act, 1934, was enacted, the effect of which was to remove generally from the purview of the Poor Laws the grant of assistance to able-bodied persons, thus effecting a considerable saving of the Rates by the transfer of the financial burden to the Exchequer.

That portion of the former Oldham Union, i.e., Chadderton, Middleton, Crompton and Royton, were, along with the districts of Failsworth and Lees, formed into the Oldham Area Guardians Committee under the control of the Lancashire Public Assistance Committee, and the administration of that Committee was carried out by the central office staff operating for the County Borough Public Assistance Committee, the Lancashire County Council having, by agreement, "Joint User" of the Westwood Park Institution and the Children's Homes, and this position continued until the 5th July, 1948.

The treatment meted out to inmates and patients in the Westwood Park Institution, and the conditions generally in the Institution, bear no relativity to the state of affairs in 1847. Every effort has been made to remove all restrictive rules and regulations. Those residents who are able are allowed to come and go from the Institution any day of the week. They are allowed to wear their own clothing if they wish, but in the overwhelming majority of cases the clothing provided by the Committee is much to be preferred. Lockers have been made available for their personal possessions. Wireless has been installed for many years throughout all Wards, and, in addition, internal Concerts, Church Services, etc., are relayed to all Wards; a Talkie Cinema was installed years ago, and there are regular weekly changes of films; a special motor coach was purchased before the War and outings are provided for all types of cases able to take advantage of them; there are the usual indoor games, concerts, talks, etc., during the winter months. Occupational therapy is very much to the fore and has been for many years, and very considerable sums of money have been raised by the sale of the articles produced for the residents' Outing and Comforts Fund. A Handicraft Department was specially built before the War for the benefit of the male mental patients under the supervision of a specially appointed Handicraft Instructor. A Female Handi­craft Instructor has also been on the Staff for many years. Residents who are Pensioners received 5/-d. per week pocket money, and those over 65 years of age, non-pensioners, 2/-d. per week. In addition, tobacco and sweets are provided. Facilities are available for all residents who are capable, and who wish it, to attend Religious Services outside. This approach to the appropriate treatment of cases reflected the thought and care brought to bear by the Public Assistance Committee for persons coming under their supervision.


September 1939, saw the outbreak of World War II, with the Public Assistance Committee and their staff forming a local bulwark for "the relief of distressed persons in Wartime," which subsequently transposed itself into an important part of Civil Defence by catering for the needs of (i) local persons rendered homeless on account of Air Raids; (ii) Refugees and Evacuees; and (iii) Billeting and transferred War Workers. A network of Rest Centres was set up throughout the County and County Borough Areas, and the admirable work carried out by the Committee and their staffs was self-evident. Statistics show that Rest Centres were opened on 17 occasions from the 31st August, 1940, to the 25th December, 1944, 3,706 persons rendered homeless in the County and County Borough Areas being provided with accommodation at 26 Rest Centres brought into use, some of the Centres being opened several times. 565 Oldham people were billeted and 99 persons rehoused as a result of enemy activity over the town on the 12th October, 1941, and the 24th December, 1944. 6,598 Evacuees were dealt with by the Billeting Department; 43,687 meals were provided at Rest Centres for local homeless and evacuees.


For several years prior to the War the Committee were alarmed at the growing number of Old Age Pensioners receiving outdoor relief, and every effort was made by them, through the appropriate National Organisations, to remove this burden from the Rates to the National Exchequer, which culminated in the Old Age Pensions Act, 1940, by making provision for supplementing in cases of need, Pensions payable to Widows who had attained the age of 60, and Old Age Pensioners. The administration of Supplementary Pensions was transferred from Public Assistance Committees to the Assistance Board. This final act of removing cases from the purview of the Poor Laws still left the following chargeable to the Public Assistance Committee in receipt of outdoor relief:

Before the operation of the 1940 Act - week ended 3rd August, 1940

Persons ... 2,486
Weekly Cost ... £1,025 16s. 0d.

After the operation of the 1940 Act - week ended 17th August, 1940

Persons ... 1,153
Weekly Cost ...£604 9s. 6d.

"The equal earth is opened alike to the poor man and the sons of kings."
- Horace.

The Beveridge Report was received with such unanimity in November, 1942, that it became apparent that the days of the Poor Laws were numbered.

The formation of the Ministry of National Insurance by the Coalition Government and the subsequent enactments since 1945 of the Family Allowances Act, the National Insurance and National Health Service Acts, the Industrial Injuries Act and the National Assistance and Children Acts, were all necessary to effect the final abolition and extinction of the Poor Laws, and the setting of the seal on the final removal of the so-called Poor Law stigma, was nowhere received with greater approbation than by the administrators themselves of the Poor Laws.

The 4th July, 1948, was a very important date in the Poor Law calendar, marking the last day, after hundreds of years in administering to the needs of those who required assistance, whether sick or destitute, or requiring financial assistance or personal service.

It may be of interest to know that:

Outdoor assistance was transferred under the National Assistance Act, 1948,to the National Assistance Board ;
Westwood Park Institution, on account of the predominance of sick cases, was transferred to the Manchester Regional Hospital Board pursuant to the National Health Service Act, 1946, and the National Assistance Act, 1948 ;
All mental patients chargeable to the Committee and maintained in County Mental Hospitals were transferred to respective Regional Hospital Boards ;
The administration of the Children's Homes was transferred pursuant to the Children Act, 1948, to a new Children's Committee set up by the Council ;
All non-sick cases in Westwood Park Institution, now known as Boundary Park General Hospital Annexe, were transferred under the National Assistance Act, 1948, to the new Welfare Services Committee set up by the Council ;
Casual wayfarers were transferred to the National Assistance Board for accommodation in Reception Centres which are temporarily managed by local authorities.

"The fire which seems extinguished often slumbers beneath the ashe"
- Corneille

The final statistics in regard to persons chargeable to the Oldham Public Assistance Committee as at the 4th ]uly, 1948, were as
follows :
Outdoor Relief
770 persons relieved at a cost of £534 6s. 6d. for the week ended 4th July, 1948.
Average relief per head - 13s. 10.54d.

Indoor Relief
Men ... 390
Women ... 513
Children ... 20
Total ... (includes County cases) 923

Children's Homes
Children over 3 ... 84
Working Children's Home ... 4 (includes County cases)

Casual Wayfarers ... 24

Special Institutions and Schools ... 60

County Mental Hospitals
Men ... 149
Women ... 196
Total ... 345

Total Expenditure on Poor Law services for the year ended 31st March, 1948 : £276,192 15s. 4d.

Rate Contribution - £138,432


Dickens' "Oliver Twist" has some responsibility for the so-called Poor Law taint or stigma. The following entry appearing in the Visitors' Book of a Board of Guardians School in the East End of London, will not be without interest :-

"I have never visited any similar establishment with so much pleasure. I have never seen any so well administered, and I have never seen children more reasonably, humanely and intelligently treated."

The date of the entry was Wednesday, the 27th May, 1863; the author of the entry, and incidentally of "Oliver Twist," were
one and the same person.

"The old falls, time changes, and new life blossoms out of the ruins."
- Schiller.

From the Oldham County Borough publication to celebrate its Centenary in 1949.
Scanned by Jeremy Sutcliffe with thanks given to Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council for granting permission.

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Christmas Day 1936 - Mayoral Visit to Boundary Park
2 Photos - Christmas Day 1936
Mayoral Visit to Boundary Park


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