The major aim of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act was to deter people from claiming poor relief. One method used was to make workhouse inmates undertake heavy work. This is a description of the success of one such plan.
The workhouse keeper only had occasion to try two men with the bone plan. One said immediately, with sulky violence, that he would never break bones for the parish when he could go out and get something for breaking stones for others, and he went out the next day. The other said it hurt his back to bend so much, and he would leave the next day, which he did. The third had a hole to dig, which he liked so little that he went off on the third day. He had been, for nine or ten years before, one of the most troublesome men in the parish, but he went off very quietly, saying that he did not complain of the victuals or accommodation, but if he was to work, would work for himself; he has never troubled the parish since, and now he gets his own living in a brick yard, and by thrashing and other jobs, and has done so ever since.
Report from His Majesty's Commissioners for inquiring into the Administration and Practical Operation of the Poor Laws (1834)
Last modified 17 October 2002