Journal of the House of Lords: Volume 63, 1830-1831. Originally published by His Majesty's Stationery Office, London, [n.d.].
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Die Jovis, 10 Februarii 1831.
The Marquess of Salisbury in the Chair.
The Reverend George Wells is called in, and examined as follows:
Where do you reside?
At Weston, in the Western Division of Sussex, on the Borders of the Weald, near Steyning.
Are you the Clergyman of the Parish?
Have you turned your Attention to the Administration of the Poor Laws in your Parish?
I have so far considered them as I have had an Opportunity of being conversant with the Subject; but I should state to your Lordships, that my Parish is one of a Number incorporated under Mr. Gilbert's Act.
Are you a Guardian?
No; I have no Province in the Parish but that of Minister.
How many Parishes are incorporated?
Are you a Magistrate?
Can you state to the Committee the Extent of the incorporated District in which your Parish is situate?
Not with any Accuracy; the Parishes are of a moderate Size, and I am not aware of the Population.
Can you speak to the Extent of the Population of your particular Parish?
We have no accurate Ascertainment of that; but I should conjecture my Parish to be from 1,700 Acres to 2,000; we have a great Extent of Down.
What is the Population?
The last Census was somewhat less than 300.
Has not the Population increased during the last few Years?
Not very materially; to a certain Extent; there may be Twenty or Thirty more.
Upon what Valuation is your Parish rated?
A Valuation fixed by the Farmers themselves some Thirty Years back, probably, or more.
At a full Rack Rent?
At what Proportion of Rack Rent?
I conceive the Proportion to be now about Two Thirds or Three Fifths.
Do you mean of the present Rents?
The present Rents have become so alterable and altered, I can hardly speak of them with any Precision; I should apprehend that they approach much more than I have stated to the present Year's Rents.
At how much in the Pound?
Ten Shillings in the Pound was the last Year's upon the rated Rent.
Can you state what the Poor Rates were at the Time of the last Census in 1821?
I could not without a Reference.
Have the Poor Rates materially increased within the last few Years?
Has the Distress of the Poor also increased, or has it diminished?
In my Parish there has been, I think, no great Increase of Distress; but it is particularly circumstanced in that Respect; there is the Residence of a very affluent Family which has distributed largely, and employed very largely the greater Part of our Poor.
To what Circumstances, then, do you attribute the Increase of the Poor Rates?
The general Increase, I think, has followed the Course of the Country, if I may so speak; there has been an Increase ad Valorem, if I may use that Expression; according to the Value of the Rental. Perhaps, if we were to go to Amount, we might not find it so; but when I speak of the Increase of Poor Rates, I speak of it with reference to the Value of Land.
What is the common Price of Labour in your Parish?
The Price of Labour at this Moment is 12s. a Week; but it has been Ten 'till of late. I speak of able-bodied Labourers.
Is there any Allowance in aid of Wages made to able-bodied Labourers out of the Rates?
I think not in my Parish, to any Extent. I cannot say but at times an Overseer may have made something of a Bargain, and certain Persons may have some Advantages without my Privity; but in a general Way it is discountenanced.
Is there any Scale according to the Number of Children?
I believe the Magistrates have adopted a Scale at their Sittings, but I hardly know how far in my own Parish we have abided by it, because we have a great deal of casual and adventitious Relief; but I think there is 1s. 6d. per Head beyond Two Children, and that the Farmers in the neighbouring Town of Steyning have said that they will give 1s. 6d. a Head for every Child as soon as it was born, in addition to the accustomed Wages of the Country.
Is there a Scale of Pay in proportion to the Children adopted in the neighbouring Parishes?
I think it is, with some Variations. I do not apprehend that an Allowance on the Scale which the Magistrates adopt when called upon for Relief has been so generally dispensed as it might seem to be under any fixed Regulation, because Parish Officers have taken the Means of satisfying the People without their going to that Resort. I apprehend that the Rule of the Magistrates would be to give that 1s. 6d. after Two Children, according to previous Custom; but I must beg to be understood as speaking without Certainty upon that Subject.
Do you know the Situation of the neighbouring Parishes?
Rather from general Observation than from any particular Knowledge I may have.
Are you not an Occupier of Land?
How many Acres do you occupy?
I believe I may have in occupation at this Moment about 200 Acres, besides Down. I would beg leave to state, lest as a Clergyman I may be considered as being improperly circumstanced, that I am acting for my Neighbour, Mrs. Goring, the Widow of my late Friend and Patron; and, in consequence of that, I have at this Moment become Occupier of an additional Quantity of Land, for which she had no Tenant, and appointed a Person, who may be considered my Superintendent, to take charge of it.
Is it Arable Land?
Partly; a fair Proportion of both Arable and Pasture; the Pasture, perhaps, rather exceeds the Arable in proportion.
How many Labourers do you employ upon that Farm during the Winter Months?
I believe at present I have Seven Men and Four Boys, and occasionally Women.
Is that in the Parish of which you are the Minister?
No; it is in the Parishes of Washington and Ashington.
Are there many People out of Employ in that Parish?
There were not previously to the late Disturbances?
No. There were some Persons employed upon Work that was necessarily found for them by the Parish and by the Farmers; I believe there are still a few so employed.
What was it?
Chiefly digging Sand, Stone, or grubbing Stems of Trees.
Could you employ more than Seven Men profitably on the Land you rent of Mrs. Goring, in Washington, in the Winter Time?
No; I believe I have an extreme Number. We have a Gradation of Prices according to Ability.
Do you make any Difference in the Wages you give to a married or a single Man?
I do not.
Is it the general Practice to make a Difference?
It has hitherto been. I am told they have now changed that Practice; at least they professed to do so; but I am afraid that will not be permanent.
Do you not believe that the Practice which exists in some Parts of the County of Sussex, of making a Difference between the Wages they give the married and unmarried Men, leads to improvident Marriages?
Certainly, I should suppose so; I am convinced it has done it in many Cases.
Do you conceive there are more People in your Parish than could be profitably employed in the Winter?
I think not, provided the Means were in the Possession of the Tenant to pay them.
The Tenants are not in a very good Condition in that Part of Sussex, are they?
Those that are in that Part called the Weald are certainly in a very low Condition; I think the rest are pretty well off.
Have they had their Rents reduced within the last Six or Eight Years?
In the Part of which I have a partial Charge they have.
Is it the Custom in that Part of the Country to let Cottages with the Farms?
Yes, it is generally, I think.
Do you know that when, the Tenants receive Reductions from their Landlords, they make any Deduction to the Labourer for his Cottage?
None, I believe.
Do you know the general Rent of the Cottages to the Landlord?
From Four to Five Pounds I think.
Have they Gardens attached to them?
Are they small or large Gardens?
I cannot state the Quantity, but I should consider them as small Gardens.
Do they consist of a Quarter of an Acre?
No, certainly not.
Do you not conceive it would be a great Advantage to a Labourer to have Half an Acre of Land attached to his Cottage?
I think that Amount would be rather too high.
Do you think a certain Quantity of Land would be of great Importance to a Labourer?
I think so.
Would not the Labourer be very glad to have it?
I think so. In my own Parish they have, for the last Year, for an Experiment, each had Half a Rood of Land - the Eighth of an Acre.
Can you state the Particulars of that Plan?
We gave out to our Parishioners, that those who chose to apply would probably be permitted to take such Portion of the Land which was then in the Occupation of the Proprietor; upon which they did apply, and they had such Portions of Land respectively allotted, which they have cultivated to very great Advantage, I believe. I understand they are grateful for the Use of it, and that they find a great Benefit in the Result. It was chiefly planted with Potatoes; and that with good Husbandry, I am told, produces Forty Bushels for that Quantity of Land. I should suppose Thirty Bushels might be considered as a Medium Crop. It is poor Land.
What Manure did they get for this Land?
They brought very little Manure upon it, for though it was a poor Soil naturally, yet in very good Condition for the Quality of that Soil, having been just separated from the Demesne Land, which had been extremely well cultivated, so that they had the whole Benefit, with very little Expence.
Do you conceive they will be able, if they give up that Land in Two Years Time, to leave it in as good Condition as they took it?
I conceive not, from the Locality of it; we are endeavouring to put them into a better Situation as to Vicinity.
At what Distance is it from the Cottages?
Our Cottages are very much scattered; some of them are Half a Mile off, and some of them a Quarter of a Mile; some of them come even Two Miles for it.
Do not you consider that it would be very advisable that Land should be given as near the Cottages as possible?
Do those Labourers keep Pigs?
Do you conceive they will get Manure enough to be able to manure as they ought to do a Quarter of an Acre or Half an Acre from their Pigs?
I should rather doubt Half an Acre; but the Proportion of Land I have spoken of they could. If it was close to the Cottage, it would make a great Difference. There is what is called the Slut's Dunghill in vulgar Language, which is frequently thrown away; the Refuse of the House.
How do they cultivate that Land?
By the Spade; it had been once ploughed.
Do they pay any Rent for it?
At the Rate of 2l. an Acre; of course no Rates, or Tithes, or other Charges.
Is that above the customary Rate of Land?
It was considered about a fair Rental; the Land might be worth about 20s. an Acre if the Tenants had taken it with all its Charges, and without having it ploughed for them.
Are they not grateful for being allowed to rent this Land?
Yes; they were very much pleased with it.
Was your Parish one of the disturbed Parishes?
No; we had no Disturbances.
What do you find the real Effect of having an Allotment of Land to be on the Labourer?
I conceive it has a very beneficial Influence in giving him a sort of Attachment to his Home and his Superiors, which in consequence occasions their proper Hold on him; I mean that Influence over him which originates from the Tenure: and I think also that the Employment which it furnishes for his leisure Hours has a beneficial Effect, and the enabling him to live more comfortably through the Winter by means of his Potatoe Crop, which was a new Thing in Sussex. It has introduced, I hope, a more serviceable Mode of disposing of the Week's Wages upon Articles that were essential to their Comfort.
Do you find the Habits of the Men more domestic?
I consider them better Men for it altogether; but it is still a very imperfect Trial.
What is your Opinion of the Condition of the Poor in your immediate Neighbourhood?
Their Condition I should consider generally below its proper Level in point of Employment; such Employment as would pay the Employer.
To what Cause do you attribute that Circumstance?
I think there are Two Causes; the Surplusage of such Labour, and the Deficiency of Funds necessary to pay for it.
Is it not your Opinion that if Labour could be profitably employed, those Funds would be found?
It would seem a natural Consequence, but I am afraid there is a very great Defalcation of Agricultural Capital amongst that Class of Farmers who occupy the Weald Farms of the County of Sussex.
Is it your Opinion that those Persons were induced by the high Prices at the Time of the War to engage in the Occupation of Land with inadequate Capital?
Since I have known it, their Capital has been inadequate, with the Exception probably of the Time when very high Prices prevailed during the War, when the Year's Returns enabled them to meet the Year's Expences; but I think in very few Cases had they any accumulated Capital which enabled them to stand bad Seasons.
In those instances which have occurred within your Knowledge of Persons occupying Land or hiring Land with a Sufficiency of Capital, do you find the same Degree of Distress that you do in the other instances you have referred to?
I should say not the same Degree, but I see a great Degree of Distress; of course the greater the Capital the greater the Means of standing the Difficulties of the Times; but I think that all the Capitals of our Second Class of Farmers are exceedingly diminished.
About what Extent of Occupation should you call the Second Rate of Farmers?
In the Way I meant it I should apply that Term to Farmers of 100l. a Year Rental, and under, if I divide them into Two Classes only.
Would that answer to about 100 Acres?
They must have more than 100 Acres for 100l. a Year.
Have the goodness to inform the Committee your Opinion of the Quality of the Land you refer to?
It is a stiff intractable sour Clay, very expensive to cultivate, and with very little Prospect of good Crops; the Seasons operate so much against it, if there is extreme Wetness particularly, but even Drought operates against it; it becomes baked like a Brick, or becomes intractable when wet.
It is a great deal more liable to the Influence of Weather than other Soils?
Are you aware of the Average Produce per Acre?
I am told that Half a Load or Five Sacks per Acre is about the Average; that is Twenty Bushels.
Do you mean Twenty Bushels per Acre if well farmed, or as they farm it now?
As they farm it now, if the Season is not unfavourable; but as the Seasons have been of late, still less.
You have said it was your Opinion that there were Two Causes for the Distress, one the Surplusage of Labour, the other the Want of Capital on the Part of the Second Class of Farmers. Have you turned your Attention at all to the Remedy that it would be expedient to apply to meet these Evils?
In a vague Way I have thought that the Location or transplanting of People from those sour Soils, if it could be done, to those that would carry the Population, and render their Labour profitable, would be advantageous.
Do you mean in this Country or Abroad?
I should conceive there were many Tracts in this Country where it would be a very great Resource, if they could be brought under the Culture of those supernumerary Hands.
Is it your Opinion that there would be a Disposition among the Labouring Classes in your Neighbourhood to avail themselves of any such Offer?
To Foreign Emigration there appears a Disinclination; I apprehend there would not be to Home Colonization, if I may use such a Term.
Where would you propose to send them to for Home Colonization? What Places could you find where they could be located with Advantage?
Looking to my own Neighbourhood, I can see large Tracts of Country that appear to me capable of employing Human Labour, and making a Return.
In what Part?
Is not that Land of precisely the same Description as that from which you would remove them?
No; it is a sandy Soil.
Can you name any Place?
I could name the next Parish to my own, Washington.
They have never tried to cultivate that?
No, they have not tried to cultivate it; it is bound up by the Tenure between the Lord of the Manor and Copyholder.
You conceive that the Tenure by which the Land is held prevents the Cultivation of that Land in a proper Manner?
I apprehend so, as to prevent the Appropriation of it in a profitable Manner; it still remains in Common.
You have said that there is a great Degree of Distress amongst all Farmers, and that their Capital is diminished; can you account for the Diminution of Capital among Farmers?
Unproductive Seasons and low Prices.
These Two Causes, in your Opinion, have so diminished the Capital, as not to leave the Farmer the Power of employing sufficient Labour?
That is my Opinion.
How do you account for the Poor's Rate in your Parish being so high as 10s. in the Pound, where there is a Family which employs the superabundant Labour?
We have the House of Industry, to which we pay to a large Extent.
It is the Poverty or Mismanagement of the other Parishes which occasions that?
It is ours being combined in the Expences of other Parishes. It is very much the Constitution of the House, and the whole of the Appendages, in consequence of which the System of this Poorhouse is expensive.
Can you state the Objections there are to the Constitution of this House which produce these Mischiefs?
The legal Constitution of the House is departed from in some important Instances under Mr. Gilbert's Act?
Can you specify in what Particulars there has been a Departure from the Provisions of Mr. Gilbert's Act?
I am speaking from my Recollection; I think that Act prescribes that the Poor in it shall not be farmed by the Guardians.
Are you certain that in that Act the Guardians are not authorized to farm the Poor?
I am not absolutely certain of that, but I speak from the best Recollection I have.
You say that the Rents in this Parish are reduced; from what Period are you speaking?
I am not acquainted with any other Rentals than those which appear to have fallen in some Measure under my own Cognizance, which are those of the Goring Estate. I apprehend there it has been done more in the Way of occasional Throwback or occasional Reduction, except to new Tenants.
Instead of altering the Contract, they have thrown back a Part of that they were entitled to?
What has been the Amount of that Throwback?
It has varied according to Circumstances. In some Cases we have thrown back at the Rate of Twenty per Cent.; in some Cases, I presume, Thirty per Cent.
When were the Contracts made reserving those Rents from which you have thrown back Twenty and Thirty per Cent.?
To the best of my Recollection they were made about the Time of the Cessation of the last War, about 1815. There was then a Difference made in the Rentals. The Fact is, that the Proprietor had very few Leases; there was either a verbal Understanding between him and his Tenants, or a written Memorandum; a sort of good Faith subsisting between them. There has been no Standard: it has been in the Breast of the Proprietor in dealing individually with each Tenant.
Do you mean that Twenty and Thirty per Cent. have been returned of the Rents fixed since the last War?
And still the Farmer is distressed?
I must beg to be speaking in that Respect as having no precise Cognizance at that Period; but that is my Impression.
You cultivate about 200 Acres of Mrs. Goring's Estate?
Do you pay any Rent for it?
Yes, I do. I took Part of it into my Hands to relieve her from the Occupation, as having a Man well qualified to manage it.
According to the Price of Produce antecedent to the present Year, did that enable you to make the Rent you stipulated to pay from the Management of that Farm?
The small Farm which was previously in my own Occupation, I think, during Ten Years has left me a Loser.
When was the Rent fixed?
In the Year 1821. I am not that sort of Farmer who probably would have made the best Profit of it, for my Expences have been great in consequence of my Wish to employ People.
Do not you think the Greatness of your Expences has produced a corresponding Increase of Produce?
Do you think Farmers in general employ as much Labour as they ought to employ in the Cultivation of their Farms at present?
No, I think not.
That you attribute to their Distress?
Is there not, on that Account, a considerable Diminution in the Produce of those Farms?
Undoubtedly the Farms are less productive.
What is the State of the other Parishes, which have not the Advantages of a resident Country Gentleman, with respect to the Quantity of Labourers; is there more or less than they have occasion for?
There are many more than their Means enable them to employ.
Do you know whether those Parishes are differently circumstanced now from what they were formerly?
Were there more Labourers employed to cultivate the same Land than now?
I think so.
You say that the Poor's Rates have increased; when you first became acquainted with this Parish what was the Amount paid in Poor's Rates in your Parish?
I cannot state that, for I have a Composition which exempts me; and I have had no Knowledge of it, 'till difficult Times came, and we were induced to look into it.
Have you the Means of knowing whether they have considerably increased?
I think, according to the Value of the Rental of the Occupation, they have increased; I do not know that they have nominally increased in Money, because the Land has gone down. There has been Inhability' to pay the same Rates, and there has been a real Advance of Rates upon the Value.
The Proportion of Rate has increased, but the Proportion of Money paid for Rate has not increased, in consequence of the Diminution of the Value of Land?
I think not; but my Information is extremely limited upon that Point.
Are you aware what the Wages of Labourers were in your Neighbourhood before the late Disturbances?
The best Price of Labour was 10s.; and from that it descended to 9s., 8s., 7s., 6s., and 4s. to Men who were a dead Weight upon the Parishes, and paid out of the Parish Purse to do some Work or other; chiefly those were young or unmarried Men, for they kept up the Wages of the married Men to exonerate their Rate.
Upon what Work were they chiefly employed when paid at 4s. a Week?
On the Road Work; the preparing Stones - digging Stones.
In point of fact, unprofitable Work, producing no Return?
Producing no adequate Return, certainly.
Is it your Opinion that the Wages which you now state to be given, namely, 12s. a Week, can be continued, or is likely to be continued?
On the poorer Soils I should think not.
Have any, in fact, very recently returned to the low Rate of Payment?
I know nothing personally myself upon that Subject, but I have heard that they are sinking in the poorer Districts of our Country.
You stated that you thought the locating the Poor upon Waste Lands would be a Remedy for the Evils at present prevailing; do you mean by that, that the Removal of the superabundant Population from the Parishes would enable the Farmer to employ more freely those who remained, and pay them better Wages, if relieved from the Charge of those who are now superabundant?
Yes, that is my Meaning.
Are you aware what the Cost of Maintenance per Head is in the Poorhouse with which you are connected?
I am not sure whether the Price has been raised lately, as Corn has risen; but I think we paid, at least my Guardian paid, 3s. 8d. per Head to the Governor, he having the Profit of their Labour and various Advantages: he has Three Acres of Land, I think, allotted to his House.
Are you aware that there is any Act of Parliament which authorizes the Governor of a Poorhouse to be paid any thing?
No, I am not.
Do you think any Man would accept the Office of Governor of a Poorhouse unless he had some Profit on the Poor being farmed?
I do not know what the Act provides with regard to the Payment of the Governor; but, upon a former Occasion, finding that they were farmed and very miserably provided for, I then referred to the Act, and found that the Governor was not suffered to farm, and to provide for the Poor by the Act of Parliament. That was what I meant; and it was the Province of the Guardians to see to that, independent of the Governor.
Is there a Visitor appointed to the Poorhouse you mention?
Who is the Visitor?
He is a Farmer also.
Have you ever applied to that Visitor, stating to him your Objections to this Plan?
I have objected generally to the Mode of subsisting them at Times.
Are you not aware that one of the beneficial Consequences of having Parishes united is the Appointment of a Visitor?
I should think so, certainly.
Are you aware that Magistrates in general decline to order any Relief to a Pauper unless he has applied first to the Guardian of his Parish, and if refused by him, to the Visitor?
Yes, I believe it is so.
Do you not think that it is beneficial for Men to have the Power of applying to the Visitor, without having constantly to go to a Magistrate?
It has not been so practically in Cases I am acquainted with.
In what Way is the Arrangement made for the Parish Payments to this united House?
There is a Proportion of Payment for each Parish, according to the Number of Inmates placed by that Parish in the House: the Parishes also engage to pay the Governor so much by Contract for a certain Number of Inmates, whether they be there or not.
Is the Liability of each Parish to pay regulated by the Value of the Parish or the Number each sends to the House?
I believe it is according to the Number; the Parish undertaking for the Maintenance of the Poor in that House, for whom they will be answerable whether they are placed in that House or not.
It is an original Agreement made on the Union of Parishes taking place?
It has been an Agreement, varied at Times according to Circumstances; in my own Parish we had, I believe, Eleven; and we complained of being compelled to pay for Eleven, when we never wanted to place Eleven there. The Number we have to pay for has been reduced, I think, from Eleven to Nine.
Has that been by an Arrangement between the Parishes, or do you claim that as Matter of Right?
By Arrangement between the Parishes. It was found we did not want collectively to place so many Men in the House. There was a Reduction made proportionably in the different Parishes for the Number they should place there or pay for.
Was that Reduction made on a general Average, or on Complaints from the different Parishes?
I conceive it was made on a general Average, and that they pay according to the respective Proportions of the several Parishes; but I have not entered into that.
What Effect do you find produced on the Poor in consequence of their being liable to be sent to this Workhouse?
I think they are content to be put to harder Shifts; that they will bear more Pressure rather than take the Alternative of sending their Children or going themselves.
What is the Habit which prevails with respect to the particular Persons the Parish send, whether dissolute Persons, or Heads of Families, or old People, or Children?
They send all Descriptions of Persons, who happen to fall on their Hands, unprovided for in Dwelling or the Means of Accommodation, and Children of numerous Families, as well as the aged and decrepit People. I am afraid they send very improper Persons; they put hale young Men into the House occasionally.
Is the Person who farms the Poor appointed by the Magistrate as Governor of the Poorhouse?
I really do not know whether that Name be specifically given him, or not.
Has not the sending of hale young Men into the House had the Effect of inducing those hale young Men to become married Men?
No, I think not.
What is the Difference of Expence those young Men would be to the Parish if maintained at Home from that they are put to by their being sent to this House?
I conclude the Expence saved to the Parish is, that they are obliged to pay by their Contract for a certain Number whether they are there or not; the Consequence is, that they send Persons to fill up the Vacancies to the Amount.
How is the Workhouse liked in general by the Persons entitled to receive from Poor Rates in that Parish?
They are not dissatisfied with the Treatment they receive there; but many have a great Aversion to going there.
Have they any Labour provided?
I think the Manufacture has ceased, though it may be carried on occasionally, of making Cloth for Horse Collars, or coarse Woollen Manufactures, or Sacking.
Supposing the Workhouse had never been established, do you think, from the Experience the Parish has had of the Workhouse, they would now establish it?
I think not; indeed some Parishes would be happy to make their Escape from it.
Do you not think it has a very beneficial Effect, by making a Man exert himself to keep himself without going on the Parish for Relief?
No doubt, in some Cases.
Do you not think that the Dislike of Persons to go into that House has that Effect?
In some Measure it has.
Do you think the Parish could maintain the Paupers as well out of the House, for the Price, as they do in the House?
If I take the whole Amount of the Payments, I should say they could, because it is not merely the 3s. 8d. per. Week, but the original Expence of that House, and the Debentures upon that House, and various Allowances; besides, I do not know exactly what they are, but the Master has certain Allowances; and altogether I remember considering it as amounting to 5s. or 6s. per Head, taking the Aggregate in its proportionate Parts.
Upon your Parish, or the whole?
Certainly upon my Parish, and I question whether it is not so upon the whole.
Do the Guardians meet there regularly?
Yes; once a Month.
Does the Visitor ever go to that Poorhouse?
Does the Clergyman attend that Poorhouse?
One or other of the Clergy of the respective Parishes is frequently there.
Do the Clergymen of the respective Parishes consider it their Duty to visit that Poorhouse?
I consider it mine, and my Neighbours have the same Feeling.
How many does the House contain?
I think the Six Parishes pay for about Eighty, whether there or not.
Is this Poorhouse in the Neighbourhood of a Church?
I should think it is a Mile from the nearest Church.
Do the Paupers go to Church on Sunday, or is Divine Service read in the Poorhouse?
Those that can, go to Church. In regard to this House the Clergy in the neighbouring Parishes have subscribed, in addition to something which was obtained from the Guardians, for the Maintenance of a Schoolmaster, and he is employed to read Prayers in that House every Evening, and on the Sunday to read Prayers, and also to read a Sermon to them.
Do you not consider it an Advantage to the Children sent into that House, the Moral Education they receive?
I think the Children are decidedly better taught in that House than they are generally in their Houses at Home.
You do not consider that the Practice of that Poorhouse demoralizes the People?
Under the present Master it does not.
Do you not believe that when Relief is given to the Poor out of the Poorhouse, that Relief is often squandered in Drink, instead of going to the Relief of their Families?
I have had no Experience of that. The Objections I had myself formed to the Poorhouse arose from the indiscriminate Admixture of Persons of all Descriptions,-dissolute, depraved, hale and weak, old and young, thrown together there under the same Species of Management; and the Advantages taken by Parishes of putting, as I conceive, very improper Persons there; and idle Habits being formed from the Want of sufficient Employ; and at one Time very improper Connections being formed between young Men and young Women, and very bad Consequences followed.
Are you not aware that there is a Clause in that Act which specifies what Description of Persons may be sent to the Poorhouse?
The Clause runs thus, "And to render the Provisions of this Act more practicable and beneficial, be it further enacted, That no Person shall be sent to such Poor House or Houses except such as are become indigent by old Age, Sickness, or Infirmities, and are unable to acquire a Maintenance by their Labour; and except such Orphan Children as shall be sent thither by Order of the Guardian or Guardians of the Poor, with the Approbation of the Visitor; and except such Children as shall necessarily go with their Mothers thither for Sustenance." The Objection you have made to the Poorhouse, in point of fact, is that they do not abide by Mr. Gilbert's Act?
Do you think that if a Poorhouse was established, and the Act of Parliament alluded to was strictly enforced, it would not benefit the People of the Country?
I think if all the Enactments of the Statute were duly enforced, they might be a Benefit.
You speak of the School in the Workhouse; is there as good schooling to be obtained by the Children in the Six Parishes?
I should suppose there was not: in my own I hope they would be better taught; there is a good Patroness there.
Have the goodness to name the Five other Parishes united with yours?
Washington, Sullington, Thakeham, Findon and Ashington.
How many Children are there usually in the Workhouse?
There are, sometimes, perhaps Forty, and sometimes but Twenty; it depends upon the Season of the Year, and the Means the Parents have to keep them out.
Who conducts the Education of the Children there?
By whom is he provided and paid?
He is paid jointly by a private Subscription and an Allowance made by the Guardians.
For what Period and to what Age are the Children who are sent there kept?
I hardly know how to state any Rule; they are generally taken out by the Time they are capable of Work; say Ten or Twelve Years of Age.
At what Age are they put in?
From an infantine Age to the Age of Ten or more.
It so happens, you say, there is a good Schoolmaster in the Workhouse?
There is at this Time.
Has that been the Case for some Years?
It has been so for about the last Ten Years, during which that Man has been employed.
Is there any Waste Land surrounding this House?
It is bordered by Waste Land.
Do you know that there is a Power in the Act to the Guardians to hire Waste Land?
Yes, I believe there is.
Has there been an Attempt to hire that Land?
No more than was allotted to the House.
Would it not be beneficial to hire that Land, and cultivate it with the Spade?
It is a very poor Country; it is an Iron Sand. I am not aware whether the greater Part has not been thrown into Severalty of late; on Reflection, I believe that is the Case.
You mean that it has become private Property?
Is it your Opinion that the Land which you deem incapable of profitable Cultivation on a large Scale by the Farmers might be cultivated to the Profit of the poor Man in very small Quantities, with the Benefit of the Manure that he could afford to put upon it, it being adjoining to his Cottage?
That is my Opinion, but only at a small Distance from the Cottage, if it did not attach.
What is the usual Rate of Cottages in your Neighbourhood?
Generally from 4£. to 5£.; it may go so low as 3£.
Has there been any Difference in the Habit of the Farmers as to employing Labourers being Servants, instead of employing Labourers who live in Cottages?
I think their Distress, and Cheapness of Provisions, have induced them to take more House Servants into their Employ, rather than the Parishioners living in their own Houses, for farming Servants.
Within what Period have you made that Observation?
For Ten Years past it has been an increasing Practice, I think.
Do not you conceive that is likely to be conducive to their behaving more orderly, and the Parish being less likely to be burdened with improvident Marriages, than if the Servants were hired from Cottages?
I think it is; I think it is a beneficial Management.
Those are mostly young Men of their own Parish they engage in that Way, are they not?
That is not at all universally the Case; they find a cheap Servant who will take the lowest Wages; they do not at all abide by his being a settled Parishioner.
What do they pay to the Servants who lodge in their Houses?
I really cannot state that; it has been a decreasing Ratio of Payment. I have not had any particular Reason to ascertain the Fact. If I were to give a random Guess, I should say 3£. or 4£. for the Half Year; but it is but a Guess.
Does it appear that the People of the Parish are rather unwilling to engage themselves in that Way?
No. The Farmer of course goes to the cheapest Market for his Labour in that Capacity; and it may be, in a small Parish like mine, that there are not a great Number of young Men so circumstanced as to become House Servants.
The People of the Neighbourhood, generally, have no Disinclination to such Hiring?
No; I conceive it is considered rather an advantageous Hiring.
Do they become Parishioners?
I believe that is generally avoided by the Mode of hiring; they usually hire them by the Half Year, and dissolve the Engagements. There is very great Care taken not to multiply the Parish Burdens by those Engagements.
Are there any Instances in your Neighbourhood of married Men being engaged by the Six Months, or are they always paid by the Week?
I think they are usually engaged by the Week.
Have you contemplated any possible Improvement in the Law of Settlement?
No, I have not any practicable Improvement to suggest; but if Settlements were not formed by Hirings, I should consider that would put an End to a great deal of Difficulty in hiring, and of Objection to hiring.
Have you been long resident in the Parish of which you are the Clergyman?
Have you, during the whole of that Time, had Opportunities of inquiring into the Mode of living and the Condition of the Poor?
It has passed under my Observation.
Has it appeared to you that of late Years there has been any material Difference in their Mode of living?
I think there has been a Deterioration of their Condition, generally speaking; how far they have altered their Diet I hardly know; I am afraid that is the last Thing they will alter.
In your Opinion, has their Diet become more refined than it was?
No, I think it has not; the People of Sussex have always lived on a superior Diet to those of the Western and Northern Counties.
Do you recollect what the Wages were in former Years?
The Wages during the high Prices occasioned by the War were 15s. a Week for best Labourers in the Summer.
What in the Winter?
Did the Price of Wages at that Period bear the same Relation to the Price of Provisions in the high Times as it does at the present Moment?
That would require a Calculation into which I have not entered; but the Price paid must have borne a greater Proportion to the Rate of Wages at that Period, certainly.
Is it your Opinion that a Labourer during the War, when Corn was selling at a high Price, was in a better or worse Condition than he is at present?
I think he was in a better Condition than he is at present.
Though he paid so much more for his Food?
Have not the Prices of other Articles fallen also since that Period?
Do you suppose that 15s. a Week during the Time of high Prices would go as far as 10s. a Week would now?
I am not sufficiently versed in the Subject to say that exactly.
Is it the Habit of the Farmers in your Neighbourhood to supply their Labourers with Corn at a reduced Price?
No, it is not; but during the very high Price I believe that did prevail to a certain Extent.
That was in addition to the Wages of 15s. a Week?
Probably as Family Relief, I should think, to Men who had large depending Families; they might give Relief to Families by selling them Corn at a lower Price.
Do you think that was the Practice in your Neighbourhood?
Not so much as I have known it in other Neighbourhoods.
There is only One Mode of accounting for the increased Distress of the Labourer as compared with his Condition when the Price of Corn was so high; namely, that the Population has increased, and that it has now become superabundant?
Certainly, very much above the Demand for it.
That is the Solution of the Anomaly which appears from the Statement you have just given?
That is the Solution, I think, that most readily accounts for it; but I have not entered into Subjects of this Nature with any View to ascertain Points of this Description; all I can speak to is that of observing the State of Persons around me,-that they have been in a worse Condition during the Depression of Wages than they have been during high Wages. But there were many concurrent Causes: all were then employed; there was not a Person in the Family capable of Work that was not employed; probably there was a general Diffusion of the Benefit through the Families, which is not now provided.
There were Means for the Wives and Children obtaining something?
Yes; every one capable of gaining something was in the way of doing it.
Where a good Labourer is paid the regular Price for his Wages, and is in full Work, is he not now as well off as ever he was?
I conceive that the individual Labourer is.
When you speak of the Distress of the Poor, does not that arise rather from the Want of Employment than the Inadequacy of Payment to those who are emplyed?
At this Moment it does.
Are the Poor Rates higher now, or lower, than they were at the Time you are alluding to of high Prices?
I think I answered that Question to this Effect, that, ad.valorem, according to the Price of the Returns, they are much higher, but perhaps they are not nominally higher, because the Produce of the Land is less valuable; the Amount in my own Parish was higher last Year, from casual Circumstances, than I have ever known it; but I do not consider that as a Rule.
Have you had any Beer Shops set up in your Neighbourhood since the late Act?
Have you observed the Effect these have produced upon the Morals and Habits of the Poor?
I have not had frequent Occasions to observe it with that View. In my Parish, I am happy to say, there is not One; but I do hear from the neighbouring Farmers they consider it a most pernicious Mode of licensing, and producing a great deal of Drunkenness, Riot, and Mischief.
Have the Rents of Cottages fallen since the high Times, or have they kept up as high as they were?
I think the Rents of Cottages have kept up; there is a great Deficiency of Cottage-room.
Are the Cottages rated?
In some Parishes they are; viz. those inhabited by Persons who are not Parishioners.
Are the Cottages generally under the principal Landlords, or under the Farmers?
Generally under the principal Landlords, where there has been no Division of Property.
The Witness is directed to withdraw.
Ordered, That this Committee be adjourned to Tuesday next, Twelve o'Clock.