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Title: Llandilofawr Poor Law Union 1836-1886 : 'the most difficult union in Wales'
Author: Hooker, Geoffrey Frank
Awarding Body: University of Leicester
Current Institution: University of Leicester
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis explores Llandilofawr Poor Law union’s first half-century. A small union with 17,000 inhabitants scattered across 12 parishes in the remote Carmarthenshire countryside, its economy was predominantly agricultural. The board’s 27 elected guardians, who repeatedly sought re-election, were thus drawn almost exclusively from the farming community. Poor Law Commissioners sensed that implementing the New Poor Law in this environment would be difficult, and frequently referred to the ‘peculiarity’ of Wales and the Welsh. Against this background, this is a detailed study of the union’s elected guardians and officials, and shows how a vibrant local culture determined their approach to the task. Because their sense of belonging remained at parish level the union never became an entity with which local people identified. It did, however, function as an effective administrative unit despite intense inter-parish rivalry. A particular ‘peculiarity’ emerges in that local gentry and magistrates remained almost wholly outside the process, playing almost no role in union affairs. Their absence, and the Commissioners’ clumsy handling of an early key event allowed elected guardians to take control of the union by 1839, one dominant individual, a board member for 47 years, leading an élite group which ran union affairs ‘their’ way. Key to this was to exploit local ‘connections’ and pay particular attention to appointing the ‘right’ officials, especially the union clerk. The outcome was that pauper care was generally benign, and considerable intra-parish differences flourished. Over 95% of relief was provided outside the workhouse, and doles in Llandilofawr were relatively generous compared to other areas of both Wales and England. The historiography of the Welsh poor law is shown to be thin, and this study’s findings have general implications for interpreting the practical operation of poor law unions in both England and Wales, lending support to the idea of considerable regional variation in the application of the New Poor Law.
Supervisor: King, Steven Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available