The Staploe Hundred

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The Elizabethan Poor Law system provided that each parish should maintain its own poor out of the rates. The Act of Settlement of 1662 enabled the parish officials to remove new inhabitants from 'any tenement under the yearly value of £10'. There was, as a result, a good deal of inhumane compulsion exercised on the poor. Isleham stands out for its determination to keep out potential paupers. "William Rayment of Mildenhall, as early as 1665, was censured by the Court (Quarter Sessions) for visiting his aged parent at Isleham, it being alleged that by this means he was seeking to gain a settlement with his mother". "Isleham turned a deaf ear even to such moving supplications as the following, penned apparently by a kindly landlord, on behalf of 'a poor, lame old man called Adam Raynor, whose wife endeavoureth to support them both. He says he could manage with but an extra shilling a week. He is honest and sober and his wife has regularly worked here many years. I understand you have a workhouse and are by no means compellable to relieve the poor man without him coming to you, but 'twould bring his grey hairs with sorrow to the grave'. The man was nevertheless despatched to the workhouse at Isleham, whilst his old wife was left to live in artificial widowhood".

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