‘The source of all local authority': the role of Gloucestershire magistrates in local government 1800-1834

Ryland-Epton, Louise (2020). ‘The source of all local authority': the role of Gloucestershire magistrates in local government 1800-1834. Midland History, 45(3) pp. 326–340.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/0047729x.2020.1814636

Abstract

This article examines the impact of magistrates on one of the most critical areas of local government, the English welfare system. It does this by employing a micro-political survey of Gloucestershire parishes who implemented one specific welfare reform, Gilbert’s Act 1782. It focuses on the interplay between parishes and particular local magistrates to illuminate the diverse impact justices had on welfare practice. This approach shows how the input of magistrates was highly variable and individualized. Magisterial intervention did not ensure strict compliance to statute, but rather application of relief reflected their ‘discretion’ in the implementation of the poor law, where they deigned to participate with it. By demonstrating magisterial influence was strategically and operationally applied, this article also suggests that the impact of justices was more pervasive than previously acknowledged and highlights the need for further research to reappraise understanding of the justices’ role in Georgian society.

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