For many centuries, the task of caring for the poor was left to the Church. Each parish was given an Overseer of the Poor to help with this cause in 1572. Then, in 1601, the Poor Law Act empowered these Overseers to collect a poor rate from wealthier members of the parish, and distribute the funds among the poor. The 1601 law remained in effect until 1834 when a new law, the Poor Law Amendment Act, took over. This law collected parishes into groups called Unions. Each Union elected a Board of Guardians, which was then responsible for the care of the poor across all the individual parishes. The Launceston and Redruth Poor Law Unions were formed on the 2nd of February 1837.
Many people received help through Poor Laws. These included the elderly, orphaned, unemployed, sick and afflicted. At first, poor relief was dispensed mostly through "out-relief", which consisted of grants of money, clothing, food, or fuel to the poor, while they continued to live in their own homes. Gradually, a different system of relief began to evolve, one in which the poor were relocated to workhouses. The intent was to save the parish money, but also to ensure that the able-bodied poor were required to work, usually without pay, in return for their board and lodging. The Workhouse Test Act of 1723 gave parishes the option of denying all out-relief and offering support to the poor only through the workhouse. Children from poor families were often placed in apprenticeships, or sent to particular schools and other institutions.
As a result of the New Poor Act of 1834, a new purpose built Workhouse was built in 1837 at Pages Cross for the Launceston Poor Law Union and called the Launceston Public Assistance Institute.The inmates, as they were then called, were largely made up of destitute people with no where else to go. Redruth Poor Law Union was officially formed on 10th June 1837. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 29 in number, representing its 8 constituent parishes.
What’s Included in This Database:
This collection consists of an index to selected admission and discharge records for the Launceston and Redruth workhouses in Cornwall.
The level of detail in each record varies, but may include the following:
- Date and place of admission
- Date and place of discharge
- Marital status
- Cause of admission
- How or by whom discharged
- Other details regarding the person’s condition and care