Poorlaw records generally break down into several categories. The term "Poor Law Papers" is a group title which covers various legal documents that existed to cover the parishes where expenditure on a given person may be required. All these can date from 1601 to 1834. There are many Nottinghamshire parishes that do not have poor law records archived under the parish name. One reason is that some Poor Law Records were indexed by township name, which sometimes didn't match the parish name. The Quarter Sessions poor law indexes between them cover the whole of Nottinghamshire and therefore include the parishes not covered by parish chest documents. The Petty Sessions indexes cover smaller areas but still include parishes without their own poor law docs.
An Enclosure is the changing of open fields, moorland and wastes into fenced areas, basically a change from the medieval three-field system with all the farms together in the village, to the later one of a farm away from the village, surrounded by its own fields. The large fields became small fields, some of the rough areas became cultivated. These enclosed plots were individually owned and common rights were extinguished. Most enclosures were done prior to 1845.
Some Enclosures were done by agreement, when there were only a few owners of common fields and they could see the advantages of having their own fields within a small area close by, with the management under their own control, instead of in separate strips at a distance with different holdings every year, the management controlled by the set pattern of tradition.
Laxton remains today as the only example of the old system. An Enclosure Act of Parliament was required if there were dissenting owners. The Nottingham enclosure was unlike any other. The Town was notoriously overcrowded. An Act to enclose the Fields and Wastes of Nottingham, St. Mary’s Parish, was given the Royal Assent on June 30th 1845. One aspect of this Enclosure was the setting aside of 130 acres for recreation, then known as Allotted Recreation Grounds. The General Cemetery and the Rock Cemetery were part of this 130-acre parcel.
We have these web pages to offer you for specific resources:
- For an understanding of Settlement, see "A Place of Legal Settlement," published by Anne Cole in the Lincolnhsire Family History Society magazine.
- Bastardy Bonds/Agreements were used to determine which adult male was to support a child.
- Settlement Papers include several categories: Examinations papers, Settlement Certificates and Removal Orders. Vagrancy Passes were issued to permit a pauper to travel across parishes, usually as part of a Removal Order. All designed to specify which parish was to support a poor individual or family.
- Apprenticeship Agreements were papers between the parish and the would-be master taking on the apprentice. If a child was orphaned, the parish would try and find an apprenticeship for them to relieve the burden on the parish funds.
- Some individuals and families wound up in the Poorhouse. Some of those records carry on until about 100 years ago. See our Poorhouse and Almshouse page.
In 1834 the Poor Law Amendment Act established Poorlaw Unions that allowed a group of parishes to be served by a single entity that provided for the poor. A Poorlaw union could be anywhere from 2 or three parishes to 60 or more. Some parishes had formed nacient unions before 1834. Nottingham county was covered by the following Poorlaw Unions:
- East Retford
- Thurgarton Incorporation