From the Poor Law act of 1601 to the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 (implemented in the Doncaster area in 1837), the parish or township was responsible for poor relief.
This entailed each parish or, in the North of England, each township, providing for the sick, infirm, elderly, orphaned and any adults who were unable to provide for themselves. Most parishes had very small populations (less than a thousand), and the management of the poor, like other local functions, was the responsibility of residents who took it in turn for a year to carry out (without payment) the various duties which fell on the parish. Only in large, urban parishes was it possible, and necessary, to appoint paid officials.
Relief could be granted as 'out relief', that is relief in cash or kind to the poor in their own homes. Alternatively, the parish could decide on 'in-door relief', where it provided a workhouse and gave relief only to those willing to enter it. Often, however, parishes used both methods at the same time, or alternated between the two.
The records of poor relief, where they survive, provide a substantial body of information for local and family historians. See the webpages here on Removal Orders and on Settlement Certificates and Settlement Examinations. After 1837, poor relief in this area was the responsibility of either the Doncaster Poor Law Union or the Thorne Poor Law Union. (See the website www.workhouses.org.uk for more information.)
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