How often do we hear people say today, 'why don't you go back where you came from?' or 'scroungers'? Quite a lot, I should think, but there is nothing new in these sentiments. Today they are usually aimed at foreigners. In the 16th and 17th centuries if you were not a native to a village, you were a foreigner and treated as such, particularly if you fell on hard times.

After the Reformation, when so many monasteries were closed, there was nowhere for the poor and destitute to turn for food and shelter and the problem of 'sturdy beggars' became so great that an Act of Parliament was passed in 1697 which debarred strangers from entering a parish unless they provided a Settlement Certificate showing that should they become in need of poor relief, they would be taken back by their parish of birth.

The rates and taxes paid by landowners were becoming a burden and so they objected strongly to further demands by 'strangers' on their limited resources. They would turn to the Courts for a Removal Order. This being granted, the unfortunate paupers were then returned to their own parish.

Often they might be removed to an adjacent parish, but on occasions a man, wife and children might have to travel many many miles in all sorts of weather. Sometimes money would be spared to give them a lift in a carter's wagon, but this system was really a case of 'passing the buck'.

There is one recorded case of a poor, unfortunate man being removed from Badgeworth to his home in Worcestershire. No thought was given to the fact that he was in the first stages of smallpox. As he travelled on his way, sleeping in barns and begging food where he could, he passed the disease on to people he came into contact with.

Fortunately today we are more civilized if perhaps only a little more tolerant, but anyone in a parish falling on hard times, can turn to the DSS to help.

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