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Thomas Gilbert (circa 1720-1798), Politician and poor law reformer

Sitter associated with 2 portraits
Trained in the law, Thomas Gilbert was called to the Bar in 1744. He entered Parliament as an MP in 1763 and began his campaign as a poor law reformer with a bill for the 'better relief and employment of the poor' in 1765. The bill passed the Commons but was rejected in the Lords. Gilbert's next proposal, for which he is best remembered, was the Relief of the Poor Act 1782, still known as Gilbert's Act. The legislation made provision for groups of parishes to form unions so that they could share the cost of poor relief through 'poor houses' that were established for looking after only the old, the sick and the infirm.

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Thomas Gilbert

by Unknown artist
watercolour and bodycolour on ivory, 1780s
On display in Room 14 at the National Portrait Gallery
NPG 6070


The House of Commons 1793-94

by Karl Anton Hickel
oil on canvas, 1793-1795
NPG 745