Removal Orders in England and Wales
It was probably in 1763 that the carpenter Jeremiah Aylott of Walkern in Hertfordshire decided to take his wife and three young children to live in the neighbouring parish of Graveley. He took with him a settlement certificate from the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor at Walkern saying that he was legally settled there and that the parish would take him back again should he fall on hard times.
He owned or leased some land at Walkern but had fallen behind with his payments of tithe and the tithe records usefully date his move by saying in 1764, ‘J Aylott Jun gone away from Walkern’. He appears as a carpenter in the Militia Lists at Graveley for 1763, but then for six years until 1769 he is described as an ‘ale drawer’, perhaps at the George and Dragon in Graveley which had come under new ownership in 1767. He had three more children whilst he was at Graveley between 1765 and 1771, the middle one of which seems to have died young.
When the youngest child was little more than three months old, in 1771, Jeremiah seems to have been out of work and the family sought relief from the Overseers of the Poor at Graveley. However, none of the family had gained legal settlement there and the Graveley Overseers obtained a warrant from two Justices of the Peace to have the family removed back to Walkern.
Even though Walkern had given Jeremiah a settlement certificate when he left the parish in 1763, its Overseers obviously did not relish having to support a family of seven. Having taken legal advice, they appealed against the warrant to Quarter Sessions. Their appeal was dismissed at the Midsummer Sessions in 1771 when the warrant or order of the Justices was confirmed.
In this case no copy of the settlement certificate survived either at Walkern or at Graveley, but the important details come from the removal order itself, recorded in the Quarter Sessions Books (Volume IX, pages 411-12), transcribed below:
Order for removing Jeremiah Aylott Ann his Wife and their five Children from Graveley to Walkern Confirmed WHEREAS Thomas Browne Esquire and John Rook Clerk two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the said County of Hertford (whereof one is of the Quorum) did make a Warrant or Order under their Hands and Seals in the Words or to the Effect following (that is to say) HERTFORDSHIRE (to wit) To the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of Graveley in the County of Hertford and to the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Parish of Walkern in the County aforesaid WHEREAS Complaint hath been made unto Us two of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for the County of Hertford aforesaid (one whereof being of the Quorum) by the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the said Parish of Graveley that Jeremiah Aylott and Ann his wife and their five children (VIZ) Sarah aged about fifteen Years Mary aged about eleven Years Ann aged about seven Years Jeremiah aged about five Years and Thomas aged about Thirteen Weeks neither of which Children having gained a legal Settlement since their Birth have lately intruded and come into the said Parish of Graveley and are actually become chargeable to the same We the said Justices upon Examination of the Premises upon Oath and other Circumstances do adjudge the same to be true and do also adjudge the Place of the last legal Settlement of the said Jeremiah Aylott the Elder to be in the said Parish of Walkern as appears by a Certificate duly executed from the said Parish of Walkern to the said Parish of Graveley THESE are therefore in his Majesty’s Name to require you on Sight hereof to remove and convey the said Jeremiah Aylott the Elder and Ann his Wife and their said Children Sarah Mary Ann Jeremiah and Thomas from and out of your said Parish of Graveley to the said Parish of Walkern and then deliver unto the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor there or to some of them or to one of them together with this our Order or a true Copy hereof who are hereby required to receive and provide for them according to Law GIVEN under our Hands and Seals this fifth Day of April one thousand seven hundred and seventy one as in and by the said recited Warrant or Order (relation being hereunto had) more at large may appear AND WHEREAS the Inhabitants of the said Parish of Walkern did at this Session appear and appeal against the said recited Warrant or Order so made by the said Two Justices as aforesaid NOW upon reading the said recited Warrant or Order and on hearing Council and Evidence as well for the Inhabitants of the said Parish of Walkern as for the Inhabitants of the said Parish of Gravely THIS COURT doth ratify confirm and make good the said recited Warrant or Order so made by the said Two Justices as aforesaid.
Jeremiah and his family were thus forced to return to Walkern where his children eventually married, but he and his wife were buried from the Poorhouse in 1803 and 1801 respectively.
If the Order had been made in the seventeenth or early eighteenth centuries it would probably have set out why it considered Walkern to have been the place of settlement but the later Orders are less informative. The children took their father’s place of settlement and it was formally stated in an Act of 1782/3 that children under seven should not be separated from their parents.
In this case the family had already become chargeable to the poor rate of Graveley but even the expectation that it might become chargeable would at that time have been sufficient grounds for seeking an order for its removal. It was not until an Act in 1795 that persons had to be ‘actually chargeable to the parish’ before they could be removed. It was then stated that ‘every unmarried woman with child shall be deemed … chargeable’. In cases of infirmity or sickness the justices had discretions under the Act to suspend their orders for removal. The historian W.E. Tate gives the extraordinary example of Margaret Hyller who was sent seven times from Crondall in Hampshire to Haslemere in Surrey, about twelve miles, and back again, and who was only accepted at Haslemere on the eighth attempt.
With the passing of the 1834 Act the power to order the physical removal of paupers passed to the Boards of Guardians of the Poor Law Unions and continued until these were abolished in 1930. Prior to the First World War about 15,000 people a year were still being moved in this way. No removal from a parish or workhouse was allowed to take place without twenty-one days’ notice and a copy of the order had to be sent at the same time to the intended parish of receipt, which was liable for the costs and which was thus given time to appeal. A removal could not then take place until that appeal had been heard and decided.
A good late example of a removal order, dated 5 September 1866, and now in the London Metropolitan Archives, is addressed to the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parishes of Saint Pancras and Saint Matthew Bethnal Green, both in Middlesex:
Whereas Complaint hath been this day made to Us, whose names are hereunto set and Seals affixed, being two of Her Majesty’s Justices of the Peace in and for the County of Middlesex, by the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the said Parish of Saint Pancras, That John George Berryman aged 5 years, has come to inhabit in the said Parish of Saint Pancras, not having any legal settlement therein, and not having resided in the said Parish one year next before the application for this Warrant, and that he is now actually chargeable to the said Parish of Saint Pancras, and receiving Relief therefrom, not made necessary by sickness or accident, and that the place of his last legal settlement is in the Parish of Saint Matthew, Bethnal Green. We, the said Justices, upon due Examination of the Premises taken upon Oath, and other circumstances, do adjudge the same to be true, and do also adjudge that the Parish of Saint Matthew, Bethnal Green, aforesaid is the place of the last legal settlement of the said John George Berryman. These are, therefore, in Her Majesty’s name, to require you the said Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the said Parish of Saint Pancras, or some or one of you, or some proper person or persons to be appointed by you, to remove and convey the said John George Berryman from and out of your said Parish of Saint Pancras, to the said Parish of Saint Matthew, Bethnal Green, and him deliver together with this our Order or a Duplicate or a true copy thereof, unto the Churchwardens, Overseers, and Guardians of the Poor there, or to some or one of them, who are hereby required to receive and provide for him according to law.
The details attached show that John George Berryman was then living at 17 Prebend Street. He was the son of John George Berryman and Hannah Long who had married at Great Clacton, Essex, in 1852, but who were both now dead. His father’s place of settlement ‘cannot now be ascertained’ and his mother, when a single woman, had not acquired a place of settlement. She was the daughter of Richard Long and Hannah Hand who had married at Great Clacton in December 1835. Richard Long’s place of settlement could not be ascertained and Hannah Hand, when single, had not acquired a place of settlement. However, Hannah Hand had been born at 10 Green Street, St Matthew Bethnal Green, on 7 January 1817, and her father, Henry Hand, had, about 1820, been the tenant of 10 Green Street, paying a rent of at least £10 a year for more than five years and having paid the taxes thereon, and had not acquired a subsequent settlement elsewhere. As a result that was adjudged to be the little boy’s place of settlement. The document graphically illustrates the working of the system and the lengthy enquiries that sometimes had to take place.
The importance of a general search of the records for possible entries cannot be stressed too highly. In another case, when searching for the place of origin of three brothers who had settled in London in the 1820s but who all had died before the 1851 Census was taken, it was noticed in the Registers of Inmates in St Pancras Workhouse, that a 26 year-old woman with the same surname who was likely to be their younger sister had been admitted into the workhouse with her two-and-a-half year-old child in June 1842, presumably because she was unwell. The Examinations for the parish at this time were unfit for production but the woman appeared in the Register of Removal Orders (though with a different forename) and the Order itself showed that her place of settlement was at St Augustine, Bristol, a most valuable clue to the family’s likely place of origin. The Order was dated on the day she came in and served two days later but suspended during her 23-day stay in the workhouse. Expenses incurred under the Order were £1.2s.6d.
Removal Orders are generally found amongst Quarter Sessions Records and, after 1834, in the records of the Poor Law Unions. They may also be found in parish chest documents. The latter, like the Examinations, may have been indexed on a county-wide basis in which case they should be mentioned in the Gibson Guide,Specialist Indexes for Family Historians (Federation of Family History Societies, 1998) [not in FHL]. Groups of Removal Orders in Quarter Sessions appear in the Gibson Guide,Quarter Sessions Records for Family Historians (Federation of Family History Societies, 4th ed. 1995) [FHL book 942 P23]. Orders after 1834 are listed in the Gibson Guide, Poor Law Union Records (4 parts, Federation of Family History Societies, 1997) [FHL book 942 P37] though it should be noted that parishes which operated separately and were not part of a Union before 1876, are not included in this book.
See also the article Settlement_Examinations_in_England_and_Wales.
This article has been adapted with permission from Anthony Camp’s article ‘Whereas the complaint hath been made … The Removal Order’ in Family Tree Magazine (U.K.; http://www.family-tree.co.uk), vol. 18, no. 7 (May 2002) pages 15-16.