The History of Leith

January 17, 2011

Poor Law Administration

From the Reformation till 1845 the relief of the poor depended mainly on kirk sessions, the money coming from church collections, gifts from parishioners, and fines imposed- by the sessions. The following extracts
from the records of South Leith Church show the manner of treatment of the poor in the seventeenth century :—
” 22 Jany. 1685.—The Session ordained a groat per
week to be given to a poor child in Caldtoun (that is,
the Calton, which then as now formed part of South
Leith parish) who is fatherless and motherless and hath
nothing qrby to be sustained or keeped from starvation.
“15 Mch. 1691.—To Marjory Cruden who fell over
the Shore among the ships anchors and was sore hurt,
14s.”
As the money mentioned is Scots money, and as 14s. in 1691 would represent Is. 2d. nowadays, it cannot be said that the treatment of the poor in those times was of too extravagant a nature. As a matter of fact, kirk sessions had sometimes very little in hand to disburse
in the form of charity.
In 1845 the Poor Law Act was passed under which two Parochial Boards—one for South Leith and the other for North Leith—were set up, each consisting of so many members nominated by the kirk session and so many elected by the ratepayers, and to these bodies the kirk sessions handed over the care of the poor. These Parochial Boards each built its own poorhouse, that of South Leith being erected in 1850, and that of North Leith in 1863
source-The Story of Leith

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