For centuries, the task of caring for the poor in England was left to the Church. Each parish was given an Overseer of the Poor to help with this cause in 1572. In 1601, the Poor Law Act empowered these overseers to collect a poor rate from wealthier members of the parish and distribute the funds among those needing relief.
The 1601 law remained in effect until 1834, when a new law, the Poor Law Amendment Act, took effect. Under this law, parishes were grouped into Unions. Each Union elected a Board of Guardians, which was responsible for care of the poor across all of the individual parishes.
Apprenticeships were used to train boys (and some girls) in useful crafts and trades as a way of preparing them to become independent craftsman in adult life. Apprenticeship was in decline in the eighteenth century, as wage labour became more common and it became more difficult to set up as a master. Nonetheless guilds such as the Carpenters' Company continued to enrol apprentices, and pauper apprenticeship continued to flourish as a means by which parishes and charitable institutions could prepare young people for future employment.
This collection is made up of apprenticeship records for the county of Dorset. Records contain the following details, where available:
- Date of apprenticeship
- Name of apprentice
- Age of apprentice
- Name of father
- Name of mother
- Gender of apprentice
- Name of master
- Residence of master