By-laws for the regulation and government of the Poor, in the House of Industry, in the Isle of Wight.

Newport, J. Mallett, 1789.

Small 4to, pp. 26, [5, index], [3 blank]; slight crease on the title-page, otherwise a very good copy in contemporary marbled wrappers.


US $1569€1462

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By-laws for the regulation and government of the Poor, in the House of Industry, in the Isle of Wight.

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First edition thus of a rare survival (two other copies known), documenting the transition from the Poor Relief Act of 1662 to the New Poor Law. The Isle of Wight was granted a licence to manage a House of Industry in 1771. This book of its by-laws consequently reflects the growing belief that the poor should be regulated by the local community. The rules for the House of Industry forerun the legal formalisation of this sentiment, which fully came to fruition in the 1834 Poor Law and the establishment of the workhouses.

‘No tobacco to be allowed, but to such Persons to whom the Surgeon may think necessary’, thus the directors of the Isle of Wight’s House of Industry governed the lives of the poor in their charge. This fascinating book recounts both the pleasures and punishments inflicted upon those who found themselves at the mercy of their fellow islanders. Women committed to the House of Industry for having children outside of marriage were shamed through entrance into the ‘BLACK BOOK’, and were denied the meat that other inmates received. Such was islanders’ concern over the moral quality of the House of Industry’s inmates that a resolution was passed forbidding the governor and matron ever ‘being absent from the House, at the same time’. This local record of community cohesion takes interventions to considerable length: those who dispensed ‘relief to a Pauper irregularly’ received sizeable fines. Other regulations reflect the governors’ interest in controlling the high contribution rates that their responsibility to the destitute often involved. It was therefore ‘resolved that the use of Pease is oeconomical, as well as wholesome’. This book is a captivating depiction of local attitudes to the poor in the late 18th century and fits into the gradual evolution of today’s provision of social security.

A previous collection of by-laws had been published in 1775, to integrate the foundation statutes of 1771. This further and final update was produced in two issues: the present, and one with additional fore-text. Both issues are very rare. ESTC records two other copies of the present edition, located at Cambridge University Library and Senate House.

ESTC T187227; Goldsmiths’ 13973.

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