Pen and Pension

colonial-bricklayer-18th-c-grangerIn a previous post, I explained the demands of the 18th-century English Poor Laws. I also mentioned how I came on a locally-printed booklet of transcripts of records made by magistrates taking depositions under the Poor Law in Holt, Norfolk[1]. This post looks at what can be learned about how some people tried to earn a living in difficult times.

To my surprise, what I found revealed quite a complicated picture. I tended to assume the lower classes lived humdrum lives, played out in and around the villages or towns where they were born. That seems to be a long way from the truth. Many travelled widely in search of work or adventure. There was a far more mobile workforce – and a much more flexible attitude to the organisation of work – than I had expected. Ordinary people seem to have done whatever they wanted, pretty…

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