The Old Poor Law Workshop

Many family historians have ancestors whose lives were touched at some point by poverty.

The old Poor Law (1597-1834) was a system of poor relief devised by Tudor politicians. It was still in use until the eve of Queen Victoria’s reign. Administered by unpaid parish officials and financed by parish ratepayers, it was tough but not without some compassion. Dealing with tens of thousands of young, aged, poor and sick people, as well as incorrigible rogues, it generated innumerable records of individual lives and misfortunes, leaving an invaluable legacy for social and family historians to explore.

This workshop will explain how the system worked and evolved over the centuries, discuss the records it created and their usefulness for researchers.

Pre-booking is required because places are limited. Bookings close one day before the event.

To be able to join this online workshop, you will need a computer device which has speakers and a microphone. Ideally, also a webcam. You need to be able to access your emails from this device. First-time users will be asked to download a small piece of software, this will be sent to you in advance. Technical help is available for those who need further assistance, please contact

To book, scroll down.


Sat 20 Jan


11:00 - 13:00




Zoom Video Conference


The Centre - Berkshire FHS


  • Joan Dils
    Joan Dils

    Joan Dils is an experienced local historian and writer specialising in 16th and 17th century Berkshire. Her books include: the first and second editions of “An Historical Atlas of Berkshire”, the latter edited in conjunction with Margaret Yates, and Reading St Laurence Churchwardens’ Accounts, 1498-1570: Parts I and II, (Berkshire Record Series). Her latest, “History of Reading”, was published in October 2019.

    Joan is president of the Berkshire Local History Association and also the History of Reading Society, and an Honorary Visiting Fellow in History at the University of Reading. She taught history and local history for the former School of Continuing Education at Reading and Oxford Universities where she was a part-time lecturer.