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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): SMSD
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1849-1905
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 8.15 linear metres
Name of creator(s): South Metropolitan School District


Administrative/Biographical history:

The 1834 Poor Law Act led to improvements in the arrangements made for the education of pauper children. Poor Law Unions, and parishes regulated by local acts, were persuaded to establish schools and to appoint schoolmasters. The policy of separating the children from their parents (who were generally considered to be a bad influence on their children) and sending them, if possible, to the country was continued and by 1866 several metropolitan authorities were sending children to schools outside London. The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1844 made possible a further development in this field which was of significance for the metropolitan area. Unions and parishes were empowered to unite and to form a School District which then set up a large separate school for the education of all the indoor pauper children of the constituents of the district. These were usually industrial schools where both boys and girls were taught the basics of a useful trade which, it was hoped, would provide them with better prospects in future.

The South Metropolitan School District was founded in 1849 by the Poor Law Unions of Bermondsey, Camberwell, Greenwich and Saint Olave's. The Saint Mary Newington Union joined between 1854 and 1869; Stepney Union joined in 1873 and the Woolwich Union joined in 1868. The School District constructed a new school at Brighton Road in Sutton, which held 890 children. However this provision soon proved inadequate and in 1882 another school was constructed on Banstead Road. This became the girl's school while boys remained at the older site. In the same year the District purchased an old workhouse in Witham, Essex, which it used as an orphanage. The District also opened a convalescent home by the seaside in a former hotel in Herne Bay, Kent. The South Metropolitan School District was disbanded in 1902.

Source of information: Peter Higginbotham at The Workhouse website.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the South Metropolitan School District, 1849-1905, including minutes and reports of the Board of Management; annual reports and statements of accounts; standing orders of the Board and its Committees; correspondence with and orders from the Poor Law Board; papers relating to building works and maintenance; admission and discharge and creed registers for Brighton Road School, Banstead Road School, Witham School and Herne Bay School; registers of apprentices and servants; and staff records.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In 9 sections: Minutes; Reports; Standing Orders; Correspondence; Agreements; Register of Securities; Admission and other registers; Staff; Plans.

Conditions governing access:

Available for general access.

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.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For the Bermondsey Union see BBG; for the Camberwell Union see CABG; for the Greenwich Union see GBG; for Saint Olave's Union see BBG; for the Woolwich Union see WOBG and for the Stepney Union see STBG.

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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