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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): HOBG
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1825-1931
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 126.57 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Holborn Poor Law Union x Holborn 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 Holborn Poor Law Union was constituted in 1836 and consisted of the parishes of Saint Andrews above the Bar and Saint George the Martyr Middlesex along with the Liberty of Saffron Hill, Hatton Garden, Ely Rents and Ely Place. Various parishes were added later including Saint Sepulchre (1845), Furnivals Inn and Staple Inn (1858), Saint James and Saint John Clerkenwell and Saint Luke (1869), The Charterhouse (1877), Glasshouse Yard (1901), the united parishes of Saint Giles in the Fields and Saint George Bloomsbury (1901) and the new parish of Finsbury, which was formed by uniting the parishes of Clerkenwell, St Luke, St Sepulchre, Charterhouse and Glasshouse Yard (1915).

Holborn already had a parish workhouse on Grays Inn Road which the Union continued to use after some enlargements. The Workhouse was subsequently used as casual wards for the reception of vagrants. In 1868 the Saint Luke's Workhouse on City Road was taken over by the Union and used as a hospital. Another infirmary was also constructed on Archway Road in Highgate. From 1870 the Union also managed a large industrial school at Mitcham. In 1885 a new workhouse was constructed next to the school.

Source of information: Peter Higginbotham at The Workhouse website.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Holborn Poor Law Union, 1825-1931, including minutes of meetings of the Board of Guardians; reports and minutes of various Committees; orders of government departments; correspondence with government departments; general correspondence; regulations and instructions; settlement examinations; orders of removal to and from the Union; registers of lunatics; lunatic reception orders; registers for the Broad Street Workhouse, Endell Street Workhouse, City Road Workhouse (Saint Luke's Workhouse), Mitcham Workhouse and Vine Street Casual Wards; registers of apprentices; registers of children at schools; registers for Mitcham School; financial accounts and staff records.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In 8 sections: Board and Committees; Correspondence; Settlement and Relief; Workhouses and Institutions; Schools and Children; Finance; Staff; Plans.

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 with the records of the successor County Council. Further records received in 1955 (AC/55/056).

Allied Materials

Related material:

See Southwark Union (SOBG) for early records of Mitcham School.

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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