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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): STMBG
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1834-1943
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 59.92 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Saint Marylebone Poor Law Parish x Saint Marylebone 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.

A workhouse was constructed in Saint Marylebone in 1730, while Directors and Guardians of the poor were first constituted in 1775. In 1867 the Metropolitan Poor Act enabled the Poor Law Board to bring all independent 'local act' parishes within the scope of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. Therefore the Directors and Guardians of the Poor of the parish of Saint Marylebone were abolished and were replaced by an elected Board of Guardians. The new Guardians continued to develop the existing workhouse site at Northumberland Road, adding new wards and facilities. During these renovations some of the inmates were held at the disused Holborn Union workhouse on Grays Inn Road. Casual wards for vagrants were also opened on Grays Inn Road.

In 1879 construction began on a new infirmary at Rackham Street, Ladbroke Grove, which created more space for the able bodied in the main workhouse. The Guardians also constructed and managed an industrial school in Southall.

Source of information: Peter Higginbotham at The Workhouse website.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Saint Marylebone Poor Law Parish, 1834-1943, including agendas, minutes and reports of the Board of Guardians and various Committees; order books of the Female Removal and Enquiry Officer; rules and regulations; orders of and correspondence with Government departments; orders of removal to and from other Unions; registers of out-relief; orders for the reception of lunatics; medical officer's examinations of lunatics; registers of mechanical restraint; registers from the Northumberland Street Workhouse, the Ladbroke Grove Infirmary and the Grays Inn Road Workhouse; registers of apprentices, servants, and children sent to training ships; registers for Southall School; financial accounts; staff records; plan of Saint Marylebone Workhouse before 1876 rebuilding; and returns of births.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In 12 sections: Board and Committees; Reports; Board papers; Orders and Correspondence; Settlement and Relief; Lunatics; Workhouses and Institutions; Schools and Children; Finance; Staff; Plans; Non-Poor Law Responsibilities.

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/55/062).

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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