The Birmingham Parish Workhouse, 1730–1840
Author: Chris Upton
“It is difficult to see how this book could have been better done. It is an exemplary study which adds considerably to our knowledge and understanding of Poor Law provision before the legislation of 1834, and will be invaluable to those writing about these issues from a national perspective. It offers proof of the value of local studies and, above all, it offers proof, if proof were necessary, that Chris Upton was one of the pre-eminent local historians of our times.”
About the book
“The Birmingham Parish Workhouse begins with a general overview of the poor laws and their implementation in Birmingham in a highly accessible account for readers unfamiliar with this system of welfare. Written in Upton’s conversational style, but without abandoning academic rigour, makes it an enjoyable read as well as an invaluable contribution to a previously neglected part of Birmingham’s history.” Alistair Ritch, Midland History
“This splendid volume is said to have taken ten years of meticulous archival research to compile. It recreates the world of those experiencing hard times in eighteenth and early-nineteenth century Birmingham, whilst painting a picture that would undoubtedly be replicated in many other towns and cities across the country.” Paul Gaskell, Oxfordshire Family Historian
“The depth of research is exemplary and I do have it on good authority that it took a very long time, with countless hours of poring through archives, microfilms and local studies material at the library in order to portray as accurately as possible the history of the parish workhouse. The book covers the period 1730–1840 and Chris is careful to show the workhouse through the experience of those whose lives it affected. Relating it to the people and the records of the time is just another example of why Chris will be fondly remembered as the local historian who worked hard to make local history accessible and relevant to everyone.” Nicola Crews, Archives & Collections, The Library of Birmingham
“In sum, this is a very well-researched book which includes much information on poor relief in Birmingham and its surrounding area. It will be of most interest to local historians, but scholars of urban history, the early modern period and poverty will also benefit from reading it.” Joseph Harley, Urban History
Very little is known of the first workhouse in Birmingham, which was located in Lichfield Street. Even the assumed date of its building, given as 1733 by William Hutton, Birmingham's first historian, is wrong.
This book is the first attempt to write a history of the workhouse and the ancillary welfare provision for Birmingham, frequently referred to as the ‘Old Poor Law’. The first workhouse remained in operation until 1852 when a new building with its infamous ‘arch of tears’ was constructed in Winson Green and the original building's history has been overlooked as a result of the association of the word ‘workhouse’ with Nassau Senior and Edwin Chadwick's ‘New’ Poor Law, implemented in 1834.
This study of welfare in Birmingham in the century before the Poor Law Amendment Act reveals some surprising facts which fly in the face of the scholarly consensus that the old system was incompetently administered and inadequately organised.
ISBN: 978-1-912260-14-0 Format: Paperback, 272pp Published: May 2019
Contact us at UH Press if you have any queries or would like to find out more about this book.