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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): SOBG
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1798-1933
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 122.6 linear meters
Name of creator(s): Saint George the Martyr Poor Law Parish x Saint George the Martyr Board of Guardians
Saint Mary Newington Poor Law Parish x Saint Mary Newington Board of Guardians
Southwark Poor Law Union x Southwark Board of Guardians x Saint Saviour's Poor Law Union x Saint Saviour's 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.

Saint Saviour's Poor Law Union was formed in February, 1836. Its constituent parishes were Saint Saviour's and Christchurch, both in Southwark. Saint George the Martyr parish and Saint Mary Newington parish became part of the Saint Saviour's Union in 1869. The Saint Saviour's Union was renamed Southwark Union in 1901.

Saint Saviour's Workhouse was situated on Marlborough Street, while Saint George the Martyr had a workhouse on Mint Street. Saint Mary Newington had a workhouse on Westmoreland Road. The Union also constructed an Infirmary on Champion Hill, Dulwich. It is now Dulwich Hospital.

Source of information: Peter Higginbotham at The Workhouse website.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Saint George the Martyr Poor Law Parish, 1835-1873; including minutes of the Board of Guardians; orders of removal; admission and discharge registers; and registers of children admitted.

Records of Saint Mary Newington Poor Law Parish, 1867-1874, comprising Board of Guardians minute books and Newington Sick Asylum District manager's minute books.

Records of the Southwark Poor Law Union (formerly the Saint Saviour's Poor Law Union), 1798-1933, including minutes of the Board of Guardians and various Committees; byelaws and regulations; property documents including deeds; correspondence; settlement examinations; removal orders; report books; admission and discharge registers and creed registers; registers of children admitted and boarded out; register of boys sent to the Training Ship Exmouth; registers of children sent to the Hanwell Schools, Central London Schools District; financial accounts; staff records; plans made as part of survey for rating valuation of property in Saint Saviour's Union; and notices of marriage.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In 3 sections: Saint George the Martyr Board of Guardians; Saint Mary Newington Board of Guardians; Southwark Union.

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 and 1966 (AC/55/062, AC/66/005).

Allied Materials

Related material:

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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