Friday, 6 June 2008

Stanford Rivers: Ongar Union Workhouse

From the time of Queen Elizabeth I to that of Queen Victoria, the established Church of England took responsibility for the affairs of the parish, including upholding the law, the maintenance of highways, and providing for the poor. The main business was carried out through the Vestry, with the Vicar and Churchwardens holding considerable power over the parishioners.

By the early 1800s the cost of providing for the poor had increased to unacceptable levels. A new approach was required. In 1834 the Government passed the ‘Poor Law Amendment Act’ which transferred responsibility away from the parish to a Board of Guardians within the Poor Law Union. For the parish of Blackmore, the poor were sent to the Ongar Union Workhouse at Stanford Rivers. The Union comprised of 26 parishes (listed below). Life in the workhouse was feared: men, women and children were segregated, and forced to work hard. To enter the workhouse was a last resort. This was the abode for the infirm and destitute – the “undeserving poor” – who were not obliged to work as hard as their counterparts. The Stanford Rivers Workhouse, extended in 1838, had capacity for 240 inhabitants [ERO T/Z 13/154].

The Workhouse System was abolished in 1931. Today a Welfare State supports those in need.

For more information on the Ongar Union Workhouse, go to the following link:
This is one page of a website dedicated to the subject.

Parishes in the Ongar Union

Abbess Roding (or Abbots Roothing)
Beauchamp Roding (or Roothing)
Berners Roding (or Roothing)
Chipping Ongar
Fyfield (or Fifehead)
Greensted (or Greenstead)
High Laver
High Ongar
Kelvedon Hatch
Little Laver
Norton Mandeville
Shellow Bowels
Stanford Rivers
Stapleford Abbots
Stapleford Tawney
Stondon Massey
Theydon Mount
Willingale Doe
Willingale Spain

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