POORE (or Poor), RICHARD (d. 1237), English bishop, was a son of Richard of Ilchester, bishop of Winchester. About 1197 he was chosen dean of Sarum and, after being an unsuccessful candidate for the bishoprics of Winchester and of Durham, he became bishop of Chichester in 1214. In 1217 he was translated to Salisbury, where he succeeded his elder brother, Herbert Poore, and in 1228 to Durham. He died at Tarrant Monkton, Dorset, said by some to be his birthplace, on the 15th of April 1237. Poore took some part in public affairs, under Henry III., but the great work of his life was done at Salisbury. Having in 1219 removed his see from Old to New Sarum, or Salisbury, he began the building of the magnificent cathedral there; he laid the foundation stone in April 1220, and during his episcopate he found money and forwarded the Work in other ways. For the city the bishop secured a charter from Henry III. and he was responsible for the plan on which it was built, a plan which to some extent it still retains. He had something to do with drawing up some statutes for his cathedral; he is said to be responsible for the final form of the “use of Sarum,” and he was probably the author of the Ancren Riwle, a valuable “picture of contemporary life, manners and feeling” written in Middle English. His supposed identity with the jurist, Ricardus Anglicus, is more doubtful.
POOR LAW. The phrase “poor law” in English usage denotes the legislation embodying the measures taken by the state for the relief of paupers and its administration. The history of the subject and its problems generally are dealt with in the article Charity and Charities, and other information will be found in Unemployment and Vagrancy. This article will deal only with the practice in the United Kingdom as adopted after the reform of the poor law in 1834 and amended by subsequent acts. This reform was brought about mainly by the rapid increase of the poor rate at the beginning of the 10th century, showing that a change was necessary either in the poor law as it then existed or in the mode of its administration.
A commission was appointed in 1832 “to make diligent and full inquiry into the practical operation of the laws for the relief of the poor in England and Wales, and into the manner in which those laws were administered, and to report their opinion as to what beneficial alterations could be made.” The commissioners reported “fully on the great abuse of the legislative provision for the poor as directed to be employed by the statute of Elizabeth, ” finding “that the great source of abuse was the outdoor relief afforded to the able-bodied on their own account or on that of their families, given either in kind or in money.” They also reported that “great maladministration existed in the workhouses.” To remedy the evils they proposed considerable alterations in the law, and the principal portion of their suggestions was embodied in the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834. By virtue of this act three commissioners were appointed (originally for five years, but subsequently continued from time to time), styled “the poor law commissioners for England and Wales,” sitting as a board, and appointing assistant commissioners and other officers. The administration of relief according to the existing laws was subject to their direction and control, and to their orders and regulations, for the government of workhouses and the guidance and control of guardians and vestries and the keeping and allowing of accounts and contracts, without interfering with ordinary relief in individual cases. The whole of England and Wales was divided into twenty-one districts, to each of which an assistant commissioner was appointed. The commissioners under their powers formed poor law unions by uniting parishes for general administration, and building workhouses, guardians elected by the ratepayers (or ex officio) having the general government and administration of relief. The expense was apportioned to each parish on settled principles and rules, with power, however, to treat the united parishes as one for certain purposes. Outdoor relief might be given, on the order of two justices, to poor persons wholly unable to work from old age or infirmity.
The obstacles which the act had to contend with in London chiefly arose from the confusion and perplexity of jurisdiction which existed in the one hundred and seventy parishes comprised within the city of London and the metropolitan district, some of these containing governing bodies of their own; in some the parish business was professedly managed by open vestries, in others by select vestries, and in addition to these there were elective vestries, while the majority of the large parishes were managed under local acts by boards of directors, governors and trustees. These governing bodies executed a great variety of functions besides regulating the management of the poor. The power, patronage and the indirect advantages which arose from the administration of the local funds were so great that much opposition took place when it was proposed to interfere by constituting a board to be annually chosen and freely elected by the ratepayers, on which the duty of regulating the expenditure for the relief of the poor was to depend, The general management of the poor was, however, on a somewhat better footing in London than in the country.
The act of 1854 was rather to restore the scope and intention of the statute of Elizabeth by placing its administration in the hands of responsible persons chosen by the ratepayers, and themselves controlled by the orders of a central body, than to create a new system of poor laws. The agents and instruments by which the administration of relief is afforded are the following. The description applies to the year 1910, but, as noticed below, the question of further reform was already to the fore, and the precise direction in which changes should go was a highly controversial matter.
The guardians of the poor regulate the cases, and description of relief within the union; a certain number of guardians are elected from time to time by the ratepayers. The number was formerly determined by the central board, by whom full directions as to the mode of election Guardians. were given. In addition to those elected there were ex officio guardians, principally local magistrates. However, both these and nominated guardians were done away with by the Local Government Act 1894. The plural vote (which gave to the votes of the larger ratepayers a higher value) was also abolished; and in place of the old property qualification for the office of guardian a rate paying or residential qualification was substituted. In urban districts the act in other respects left the board of guardians untouched, but in rural districts it inaugurated a policy of consolidating local authorities. In the rural districts the district council is practically amalgamated with the guardians, for, though each body retains a separate corporate existence, the district councillors are the guardians, and guardians as such are no longer elected. These electoral changes, extremely democratic in their character, brought about no marked general change in poor law administration. Here and there abrupt changes of policy were made, but the difficulty of bringing general principles to bear on the administration of the law remained much as before.
The guardians hold their meetings frequently, according to the exigencies of the union. Individual cases are brought to their notice—most cases of resident poor by the relieving officer of the union; the case of casual paupers by him or by the workhouse officers by whom they were admitted in the first instance. The resident poor frequently appear in person before the guardians. The mode of voting which the guardians follow in respect to any matter they differ on is minutely regulated, and all their proceedings, as well as those of their officers, -are entered in prescribed books and forms. They have a clerk, generally a local solicitor of experience, who has a variety of responsible duties in advising, conducting correspondence and keeping books of
- After an intermediate transfer in 1847 of the powers of the poor law commissioners, and the constitution of a fresh board styled “ commissioners for administering the laws for relief of the poor in England, ” it was found expedient to concentrate in one department of the government the supervision of the laws relating to the public health, the relief of the poor and local government; and this concentration was in 1871 carried out by the establishment (by Act of Parliament 34 & 35 Vict.c. 70) of the local government board.