The Poor Law Amendment of 1834 was introduced to combat the widespread poverty on the streets of England and to provide relief to the poor.

The Poor Law Commission of 1832 decided to amend the previous poor laws, for they were too liberal and did not implement discipline into the poor.

The poor had to agree to go to workhouses and obey the parishes and beadles. Those who refused to do so feared unemployment.

Debtors Prison

Debtors prison was a British Prison System, in which individuals (who could not pay off their debts, taxes, rents, etc.) were taken in by higher authorities.

Typically, the entire family, as well as the debtor, were imprisoned. The prisons were similar to workhouses, where the debtors had to mass-produce items (e.g. potato sacks).

The Conditions in a Workhouse

The conditions in a workhouse were horrendous and disease-ridden.

The paupers were treated as prisoners. The men and women were separated to prevent breeding; the mothers and their young were also separated.

The inmates received little gruel and they were not clothed properly. Moreover, they were forced to do unpleasant jobs (i.e. crushing stones).

People’s Perspectives

The public’s opinion toward the new poor law was divided. The cost of caring for the poor was becoming a burden for the middle and upper classes, as they paid for the necessities through the local taxes.

The middle and upper classes also believed that the poor would begin to slack off, enjoying the relief. Hence, they supported the Poor Law Amendment of 1834, which reduced the expenses of caring for the poor, took beggars off of the streets, and motivated people to work in order to support themselves.

On the other hand, several people opposed the new law because they believed that the poor were born into poverty; the poor did not bring it upon themselves. Likewise, people opposed the workhouses, which were considered as prisons.


  1. Hi, I was wondering if you could give more information on the Victorian Era, Poor Law and workhouses. Please…

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