THE CASUAL POOR AND THE CITY OF LONDON POOR LAW UNION, 1837–1869 1
The City of London Poor Law Union in the early to mid-Victorian period was the richest and least populated of all the metropolitan Poor Law districts. A wide range of parochial, livery, and other charities within the City not only attracted vast numbers of applicants for assistance, but influenced the quality and nature of the care given by the local union. This not only meant that provision for the outdoor poor, children, and the elderly tended to be more liberal than elsewhere in the capital, but that vagrants, many of whom took up winter residence in the City, also experienced a higher standard of pauper treatment than that offered by the surrounding unions. The combination of high Poor Law receipts from a low poor rate base, civic pride, competition from City charities, and the willingness of neighbouring unions to off-load this most troublesome class of pauper on to their rich neighbour gave an unparalleled level of choice to those who were truly at the bottom of the heap in Victorian London.
1 I should like to thank Dr John Tanner of Pembroke College, Oxford, and Dr Dorothy Porter and Dr David Feldman of Birkbeck College, London, for their helpful comments during the writing of this article, in addition to the anonymous referees.