Timeline Events

Knatchbulls Act (The Workhouse Test Act) 1722

Parishes were to set up workhouses, either individually or in “union” with other parishes. The first Workhouse in Chesterfield was built in South Place in 1735-7. Those provided for in workhouses were not entitled to further relief as the workhouse provided shelter, food, clothing and work.


Chesterfield’s first workhouse, built in 1735-7 in South Place and used until 1839 when the workhouse on Newbold Road was completed.

Settlement Act 1662

Settlement Act – removal of people to their place of origin if they were likely to be in need of relief.

Poor Relief Act 1601

Consolidated previous legislation. Parishes continue to administer poor relief. The able-bodied poor & their children were expected to work or be apprenticed. The impotent poor were supported by their Parish and usually given “out-relief” – bread, clothing, fuel, rent, money, and were not housed. Able-bodied poor refusing work were sent to houses of correction and given hard labour.

Statute of Legal Settlement 1547

The Statute of Legal Settlement orders cottages to be built for the “impotent poor” where they will be “relieved or cured”. Vagabonds treated harshly – branded and enslaved.

Poor Law Act 1535

Responsibility for counties, districts and parishes to administer (but not fund) relief for the poor. Relief to be collected from voluntary contributions and charities. Able-bodied poor to work, children from age 5-13 to be apprentices.

Vagabonds and Beggars Act 1495

An Act which emphasised the reliance on charity of those unfit for work, who were allowed to beg. All others (‘Vagabonds, idle and suspected persons’) were to be put in the stocks for 3 days before being returned to the Hundred they came from.

Statute of Cambridge 1388

The Statute of Cambridge limited the mobility of beggars, labourers and the disabled. It distinguished between able bodied and ‘impotent’ poor. The poor continued to be looked after by monasteries and charities.

First Recorded Almshouse

The first recorded almshouse was built in York, part funded by King Athelstan, grandson of Alfred the Great.