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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): LABG
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1834-1930
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 73.98 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Lambeth Poor Law Parish x Lambeth 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 Lambeth Poor Law Parish was formed in 1835, comprising just one parish, that of Saint Mary. Lambeth Parish had an existing workhouse on Princes Road (now Black Prince Road) which they continued to use. A new workhouse was constructed in 1871 on Renfrew Road. This workhouse briefly held the seven year old Charlie Chaplin along with his mother and elder brother. The workhouse later became Lambeth Hospital. The Union also managed an industrial school at Elder Road in Norwood.

Source of information: Peter Higginbotham at The Workhouse website.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Lambeth Poor Law Union, 1834-1930, including minutes of the Board of Guardians; minutes of the Finance Committee and the Ladies Committee; correspondence with Government departments; orders and rule of the Poor Law Commissioners; Board of Guardians handbook; settlement examinations; orders of removal to and from other Unions; detention orders; registers of lunatics; registers from the Princes Road Workhouse, the Renfrew Road Workhouse, the Brook Drive Infirmary and the Home for the Aged Poor, West Norwood; registers of wives of interned aliens, First World War; registers of emigrated children; apprenticeship indentures; registers of apprentices and servants; registers of children at the Norwood Schools; financial accounts; staff records and building plans for Norwood Schools and Lambeth Infirmary.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In 9 sections: Board; Committees; Correspondence; Settlement and relief; Workhouses and Institutions; Schools and Children; Finance and statistics; 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 H01/L for the Lambeth Hospital.

Lambeth Archives (Minet Library, 52 Knatchbull Road, London SE5 9QY) holds further records for the Princes Street Workhouse.

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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