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Overseer of the Poor

“For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.[1]

When man abandoned the nomadic life and adopted an agrarian lifestyle the practice of senicide ceased, and societies had to find ways to help the elderly, ill and poor. Today the responsibility has been passed to the state but in Martin’s day it lay it lay firmly within the parish. Local people [land surveyors] assessed other local people, rate payers, on their ability to contribute to the ‘poor’s rate’ as it was known ; a difficult and sensitive task. Local people, the Overseers of the Poor assessed a persons eligibility for help based on laws that by Martin’s day were three hundred years or more old – and those same Overseers dispensed that relief to the poor, usually on a Sunday after divine service. Moreover this was a duty that no male rate-payer could avoid- even if , as it frequently was, it was only for a year. John Martin was necessarily involved in all aspects of this, his duty as a Gentleman in Evershot.

The Old Poor Law

The State of Dorset’s Poor

The Overseer of the Poor

John Martin and the Evershot Poor Records

The Parochial Assessment Act


1 Deuteronomy 15:11