Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Separation in the nineteenth century

Thousands of children lived in extreme poverty in Manchester and Salford during the nineteenth century. In the days before the welfare state there were few systems in place to provide aid to those who were unable to work. For parents with young children and families to raise, life could be incredibly tough. So what were the options available to those living on the breadline? 

Manchester Street Lads

Outdoor relief – some poor law guardians were still providing outdoor relief in the late nineteenth century in the form of money, food, clothing or goods to allow families to stay in their own homes.

Charitable relief – some families received help from charitable organisations or the Church through soup kitchens and care packages.

The Workhouse – the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 had led to the creation of workhouses as a way of curbing the cost of poor relief to the government. They were intended for only the neediest, as circumstances inside the workhouse could be worse than living conditions outside. One of the major deterrents however, was the separation of families inside the institution.

Family separation

Unfortunately it wasn’t only the workhouse which resulted in the separation of families. As the admission page above highlights, many families in dire circumstances were broken up to ensure each could be cared for. In this example, the mother had passed away and the father was in prison for neglect of his offspring. He was described as a ‘drunk, idle, scamp’. Consequently two children were in Dr. Barnardo’s Homes, four had been adopted by individuals in varying locations and the sixth, a 5 year old girl, had ended up in Tetlow Grove Home, owned by the Manchester Refuges.

It ma
y not have been a desired solution for many families but it at least ensured children did not have to go into the workhouse. The varying children’s charities offered a fourth solution for families in need, many of which still survive today.    

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