Rich, poor, or spendthrift?

Our latest parish of Whittington St Giles spent more money on poor relief than any of the other parishes we have studied so far, but what should we read into this?

Of course, Whittington didn’t spend the most money in absolute terms.  Large populous parishes naturally spent more than small ones, so the most spent per year in total (so far) by the parishes we have studied has been Uttoxeter.  The cost of poor relief in Uttoxeter was always higher than £1500 per year in the period 1816-1834, and rose to its highest in 1818-19, years of particular hardship in the aftermath of the Napoleonic wars.  Then the totals rose to £3350, but never again exceeded £3000 before the change to the law in 1834.

Whittington, though, spent most per head of the population.  The parish dispensed thirteen shillings and seven pence for every man woman and child of the population in 1831, whereas Uttoxeter only spent eight shillings.  We could understand this in a number of ways. Either the population was particularly needy, or wealthy members of the parish could afford to pay high poor rates (and therefore did not stint in paying relief), or both.  Whittington’s proximity to the Cathedral town of Lichfield encourages me to think that it may have been a relatively generous parish with little motivation to cut costs, but full consideration of the vouchers will tell us more…

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