The Poor Law was the main administrative and financial activity in every English parish for over 300 years, and for most of that time the parish authorities were a law unto themselves, free to create their own mini-welfare states in any manner they chose. Unfortunately most of the records which survive concern squabbles between parishes about who should be responsible for particular individuals whose usual residence (or 'settlement') was in doubt, leaving us largely in ignorance of what was done for the settled poor.
The author explains in a footnote to the first page that "This paper is intended to record some of the activities relating to the relief of the poor in our three parishes. It is not a survey of the Poor Law over the centuries, about which numerous books have been written". This is a fascinating story about the generosity and meanness of the human spirit, about innovation and indifference, about love and hostility, all acted out on thousands of tiny stages and presents a rich hoard of facts to readers unfamiliar with the history of the Poor Law.
Adapted from The Journal of Kent History