Huncote is in the Enderby district of Blaby Poor Law Union. Anyone needing poor law help would need to apply to Blaby Union Workhouse.

English Poor Law

The earliest Poor Law act of government, in 1388, was an attempt to control vagrancy. As time went on, a variety of acts were passed and in 1535, parishes were made responsible for the care of those who were described as the impotent poor, people who were unable to help themselves.

In 1601 the Poor Law Act was passed that was to become the basis of poor law administration for the next two hundred years. This system relied on there being a number of wealthy rate payers who were willing to support it and a number of poor people who needed help. Unfortunately, there were sometimes more people to support the system and few people needing help. At other times there were few people to support the system and many people needing help.

Various acts were passed during the next two hundred years, including the Law of Settlement Act in 1662 which was intended to ensure that a person could only claim relief in the place in which he had legal settlement.

Eventually, in 1834, the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed creating what became known as 'the new poor law'. This act created the Poor Law Unions and the Union Workhouses. It minimised the provision of outdoor relief and anyone needing relief would now have to go the workhouse. The administrators of Union Workhouses were encouraged to make them as uncomfortable as possible to deter people from seeking relief. This meant that although they were adequately fed and clothed, married couples were separated from each other and from their children.

The Union Workhouses were run by Boards of Guardians made up of local worthies but they had very strict guidelines within which to act. Many of the workhouses were similar in appearance, often quite grand and imposing buildings but they carried with them a stigma which survived their transformation into hospitals. In 1929 the Local Government Act abolished the boards of guardians and the term pauper, transferring authority to county councils and borough councils. Local boroughs were encouraged to convert the old workhouses into infirmaries and many did. Many others simply demolished them. However it is still possible to find a hospital that was once a workhouse. It is also quite likely that there will be older people around who still refer to it as 'the workhouse'.

Blaby Union Workhouse

Blaby Poor Law Union was formed in 1836 by the New Poor Law Commissioners and is made up of 22 parishes. The Union Workhouse was built in nearby Enderby in 1837 at a cost of £4400. With the house there were four acres of garden. It was built to house 300 inmates but in July 1841 there were only 100 inmates. This figure sometimes rose to 200 during the next five years. For almost a hundred years, this building provided food and shelter for the poor of Blaby Union.

  • History of Blaby Workhouse

    External link to site giving further details of the Blaby workhouse.

  • Blaby Workhouse Deaths - 1866-1914 (MS Excel, 74 Kb)

    Compiled By J Savage 07 July 2006

  • Blaby Union Letter Book 1836-1843 (MS Excel, 41 Kb)

    This index is for letters sent from the Blaby Union to various recipients regarding settlements, maintenance, relief and removals of the poor. Letters can be viewed at the Records Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland, Long Street, Wigston Magna, Leicester, LE18 2AH. To view these records you will need to have the date and the LRO Ref' number.

    Compiled by J Savage 22 July 2006