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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): BG/W
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1896-1930
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 7.13 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Willesden Poor Law Union x Willesden Board of Guardians


Administrative/Biographical history:

Poor relief was based on the Act for the Relief of the Poor of 1601 which obliged parishes to take care of the aged and needy in their area. Parish overseers were empowered to collect a local income tax known as the poor-rate which would be put towards the relief of the poor. This evolved into the rating system, where the amount of poor-rate charged was based on the value of a person's property. Early workhouses were constructed and managed by the parish. However, this process was expensive and various schemes were devised where groups of parishes could act together and pool their resources. As early as 1647 towns were setting up 'Corporations' of parishes. An Act of 1782, promoted by Thomas Gilbert, allowed adjacent parishes to combine into Unions and provide workhouses. These were known as 'Gilbert's Unions' and were managed by a board of Guardians.

Under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, the Poor Law Commission was given the power to unite parishes in England and Wales into Poor Law Unions. Each Union was to be administered by a local Board of Guardians. Relief was to be provided through the provision of a workhouse. An amendment to the 1834 Act allowed already existing 'Gilbert's Unions' or Corporations of parishes to remain in existence, although they were encouraged to convert themselves into Poor Law Unions. Although there was some reorganisation of union boundaries, particularly in London, the majority of Unions created under the 1834 Act remained in operation until 1930. In March 1930 a new Local Government Bill abolished the Poor Law Unions and the Board of Guardians. Responsibility for their institutions passed to Public Assistance Committees managed by the county councils - in the metropolis either the London County Council or the Middlesex County Council.

The parish of Willesden originally belonged to the Hendon Poor Law Union. By 1895, the Hendon workhouse at Edgware had become extremely overcrowded. Since many inmates came from Willesden Parish, it was decided to set up a separate workhouse at Willesden. In 1896, the Local Government Board ordered that Willesden should separate from the Hendon Union and operate as an independent Poor Law District. In 1897, the Guardians acquired a site on the Twyford Abbey Estate on Acton Lane, on which they constructed a new infirmary. This later became the Central Middlesex County Hospital.

Source of information: Peter Higginbotham at The Workhouse website.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Willesden Poor Law Union, 1896-1930, including minutes of meetings of the Board of Guardians; standing orders, rules and regulations; orders for removal to and from the Union; apprenticeship indentures; financial accounts; correspondence, tenders, contracts and agreements for construction work and provision of utilities; orders of the Local Government Board; legal correspondence; building plans including Willesden Parish Infirmary and Park Royal Hospital; maps of Willesden Urban District showing boundaries.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In 9 sections: Board minutes; Standing Orders; Removal Orders; Apprenticeship indentures; Finance; Tenders and contracts; Local Government Orders; Building Plans; Maps.

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Records received along with the records of the successor County Council.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For the Hendon Poor Law Union see BG/H. For the records of the Middlesex County Council, who took over Willesden Board of Guardians institutions, see MCC.

Publication note:

For a detailed history see website 'The Workhouse' (

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
April to June 2009

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