Winchelsea’s Poor: Their Lives through Letters

Winchelsea’s Poor: Their Lives through Letters

Talk by Malcolm Pratt – ‘Winchelsea’s Poor: Lives revealed through Letters’

Malcolm Pratt, former Town Clerk of Winchelsea,  gave an extremely interesting talk at Rye Museum on Thursday 12th October. Malcolm has made a study of the many letters, 370 in all, found in 1960 by the then new Rector of Winchelsea. This collection of documents, from the mid 18th century up to end of the 19th century, show the struggle to maintain the poor of the area.  Malcolm is the author of ‘Winchelsea Poor Law Records 1790-1841. “Through the use of an amazing and unusual collection of letters, this volume puts stories, faces and individual identities to the poor of Winchelsea of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries”

 His talk drew on the cases of three needy families and the outcome as  traced by the letters now held in the East Sussex Records Office at the Keep. The Parish of Winchelsea was an extensive area including Rye Harbour where many of the poor lived. In the 18th century the local Parish had to support the poor of the Parish even though some of these people might reside in areas as far flung as Boulogne. Malcolm outlined the details of the regulation of who qualified as belonging to the Parish and the fact that £1,000 was raised by the wealthier people of Winchelsea Parish each year to support the Poor Law. The system was very strict and was conveyed by overseers to distribute the funds to the very needy. Even then some of the poor had to wait weeks for the payment, Has much changed over the years !!

A sincere Thank you to Malcolm,  who donated his fee to   to the ‘Friends of the Ancient Monuments’ (FOAM), which primarily supports Winchelsea Corporation in maintaining the ancient Monuments in the town, primarily the three Town Gates and the Court Hall..  He is always willing to give this series of talks.

Heather Stevenson.   And thanks to Gary Cooper for the photo.

First posted in Featured, Local History Research, Past Talks, Talks Summaries on 14th October 2017
Last updated: 23rd November 2017