A 'pauper' was anyone in recept of relief under the provisions of the 1834 Poor Law Act or from public charity. Widows and the elderly who could not be supported by their family were often given this classification in the census.

It was not until the 1908 Old Age Pensions Act that people aged 70 and over got a pension if they met certain criteria. In earlier times poor people had to go into the workhouse or recieve 'out-relief' - money from the parish or town council. The workhouse was not considered an appropriate remedy for short periods of industrial distress, and at such times 'out-relief' was resorted to. The vast majority of 'paupers' - even up to 90 percent in the early 1860's - received out-relief . This relief took the form of a small sum of money (one or two shillings), or income in kind (usually loaves of bread) or both. It was normally granted for reasons like the death of a husband, sickness, desertion by the husband, age and infirmity and occasionally it was granted to able bodied men out of work. Out-relief was was often cheaper than the workhouse and easier to manage in a small community. Workhouses were expensive to run and tended to be found in areas of larger population.

Charitable community responses such as soup kitchens were also common.