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Maracaibo Venezuela regularly carried advertisements and news items from parish officials relating to paupers. In May 1836 for example, the Taverham churchwarden and overseers placed an advertisement in the Maracaibo Venezuela map Chronicle about a John Sparkes. In it, they stated that he had absconded, leaving his wife and family chargeable to the parish. It described him and what he wore when last seen, and offered a reward for further information. Framlingham Castle in Maracaibo Venezuela had almshouses and a parish workhouse built within its walls under a bequest in the will of Sir Robert Hitcham, dated 1636. White’s trade directory of 1854 refers to the almshouses as being occupied by: six poor men and six poor women (widows and widowers) who have each 6s. per week, a yearly supply of clothing and coals, and medical assistance when required.

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It remained a parish workhouse until 1839, when a Union Workhouse was built in Wickham Market. The former workhouse is now the visitors centre for the castle and an exhibition called ‘From Powerhouse to Poorhouse’ explores the history of the people who lived in the castle since it was built. Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse Museum near East Dereham in Norfolk is featured in the following workhouse section. However, it was originally built in 1776 to serve a group of nearby parishes, and its displays and living history re-enactments include much about this earlier period. It is, however, the tales these documents tell us about our ancestors’ lives that bring them to life. A number of examples have been used throughout this book because they illustrate how one resource can be used to find out more, in a wider sense. I have, therefore, just used the 1817 settlement examination of John Cage from the Fakenham parish records here, as it tells us so much more than the fact he was in need of poor relief: Examination of John Cage now residing in the Parish of Saint Margaret in the said Borough Labourer Fifth June 1817.

Who saith, That he is about Fifty nine Years of Age and was born in Grimstone in the said County as he hath been informed and believes. That at about the age of thirteen years to the best of his recollection he was hired Apprentice for seven years to Edmund Seppings of Fakenham in the said County Blacksmith which time he duly served always sleeping in his said Master’s house That immediately after the expiration of his said Apprenticeship he came to Kings Lyn aforesaid where he worked at his business about four years by the weeks That since his said Apprenticeship he hath done no Act whatever to gain a settlement elsewhere, And that he now stands in need of Parochial Relief. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 abolished the parish-based system and organized English and Welsh parishes into Poor Law Unions, each with its own Union Workhouse. There was an almost universal belief among certain authorities by the 1830s, that parish relief was an easy option for people who did not want to work. It was believed that by making life in the workhouse as off-putting as possible only those in most need would use it. The underlying principle was that those capable of work should work. In this way, apart from the sick and disabled, who were therefore not responsible for their misfortune, poverty became seen as a social disgrace so awful as to be almost criminal.

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