Pirton Settlement Certificates

The Poor Law Acts of 1597-1601 established that the parish, as the unit of local government, was responsible for the relieving the poor. The Act of Settlement 1662 established the principle of settlement and removal. Any stranger settling in a parish could be removed by constables under on the orders of JPs unless he rented a property worth at least £10 a year or found security for indemnity against becoming a charge on the parish. The circumstances under which a person could gain settlement were—serving in a parish office, payment of the parish rate, an apprenticeship, serving a year in service in the parish or place of birth and principal residence. These restrictions made it very difficult for people to move around in search of work. By 1697 the practice of issuing settlement certificates, signed by churchwardens and overseers began. This allowed the poor to enter any parish provided they carried a certificate which guaranteed that the lawful parish of settlement would take them back again if they became chargeable. Certificates from Pirton cover the period 1700-1781 and kept at HALS Hertford. They give the date, names of people being moved and the place they were going to.