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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): STPBG
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1804-1932
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 91.78 linear metres
Name of creator(s): St Pancras Poor Law Union x St Pancras 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 Pancras Parish first had a workhouse in 1777, which was rebuilt in 1802. The Parish adopted Hobhouse's Act of 1831 which provided for administration of the parish by an executive committee elected from the ratepayers and continued to operate in this way after 1834, only becoming a Board of Guardians in 1867. Further building work took place at the workhouse in 1881. The workhouse is now Saint Pancras Hospital. The Saint Pancras Union also built Highgate Infirmary, which they subsequently sold to the Central London Sick Asylum District. In 1868 construction began on an industrial school at Leavesden. The school later became Abbots Langley Hospital.

Source of information: Peter Higginbotham at The Workhouse website.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Saint Pancras Poor Law Union, 1804-1932, including minutes of meetings and reports of the Board of Guardians and various Committees including Visiting Committees; administrative papers including deeds, agreements, year books and newspaper cuttings; orders and correspondence from government departments; settlement examinations; orders of removal to and from other Unions; medical certifications of lunatics; daily journals of the male and female insane wards; registers of lunatics; registers from Saint Pancras Workhouse, North Infirmary, South Infirmary and Belmont Workhouse; registers of children sent out as apprentices or servants; registers of children at Leavesden School; financial accounts and staff records.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged into sections: Minutes of Board and Committees; Administration; Orders and Correspondence; Settlement and Relief; Lunatics; Workhouses and Infirmaries; Schools and Children; Finance and Staff.

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:

For the records of the London County Council, who took over Saint Pancras Board of Guardians institutions, see LCC. For the Highgate Hospital see H/NW/1/SP.

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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