The roots of English Poor Law legislation can be traced to Tudor times and early laws passed to deal with problems presented by vagrants and beggars.

The history of the Poor Law in England and Wales tends to be framed by two major statutes: the Old Poor Law of 1601, passed during the reign of Elizabeth I, which codified the array of earlier Tudor and Elizabethan poor law legislation and the New Poor Law of 1834, which modified the system of poor relief from one delivered somewhat haphazardly at local parish level to a more centralised system, centred on larger-scale Poor Law Union workhouses.

Sheffield Archives and Local Studies Library hold a vast amount of Poor Law material relating to Sheffield.

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