Statute Punishment of Beggars and Vagabonds 1531

This entry is part 4 of 8 in the series Law - Poor Law

Punishment of Beggars and Vagabonds Statute 1531

The series of Tudor legislation and Orders sets the context in which the Old Poor Law was codified. Here is a snippet about the enactment by Henry VIII 22 c 12, “Concerning Punishment of Beggars and Vagabonds.”

In summary:

  • There was an aggressive move to instigate Whipping as opposed to just the stocks for Vagabonds and the start of confining them to their place of origin whether birth or place of dwelling. This required compliance for a period of three years.
  • A separation out of those who were not idle but ‘impotent’ unable to work through sickness infirmity or disability, in that they had to be licensed to beg by their betters, being Justices, the local mayor and Bailiffs. This was not a provision of care and relief merely the right to beg at the discretion of the public.
  • Due to the disenfranchisement of religious communities in the Abbeys the supply of charitable giving and care was significantly reduced.

16th century vagabonds

Whilst there was a flurry of related Tudor acts in regards to poor Relief, the successful enforcement was more difficult. The structure and means for administering the intent of the acts was not readily available.

This snippet is linked to our overview of the Old Poor Law , watch out for further snippets that make an interesting catalogue of social change from Doomsday to the current day.

Sadly in too many families the need for Poor Relief can be seen in our family and social histories. It gives an interesting overview of the attitude of society and government to managing and regulating the economic burden of supporting the poor and infirm. A common thread throughout history and across all continents. Once we have traced the historic statutes we can see and compare what happens in England, Wales , the Union and the British Empire compared to Europe and other nations. But meanwhile let’s keep getting nearer to tracking the documentary evidence starting with the legislation. 


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