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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): BG/E
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1837-1940
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 13.95 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Edmonton Poor Law Union x Edmonton 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.

Edmonton Poor Law Union was formed in February 1837. It had 7 constituent parishes spanning 3 counties: from Middlesex: Edmonton, Enfield, Hampstead, Hornsey (including Highgate) and Tottenham; from Essex: Waltham Abbey and from Hertfordshire: Cheshunt. In 1894 Southgate and Wood Green parishes were added, while Hampstead separated from the Union.

There were several workhouses already existing in these areas but most of them were too dilapidated for use. The Union constructed a new workhouse at Tanners End in Edmonton. This later became the North Middlesex Hospital. The old Enfield workhouse was converted into a school, but proved inadequate. New school buildings were constructed at Chase Farm, which later became Chase Farm Hospital.

Source of information: Peter Higginbotham at The Workhouse website.


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of the Edmonton Poor Law Union, 1837-1940, including minutes of the Board of Guardians and various Committees; superannuation registers; registers of persons maintained in institutions and homes; registers of children boarded out; correspondence with the Ministry of Health; financial accounts; reports regarding the establishment of the North Middlesex County Hospital Radium Department; Vaccination Officer's registers; Edmonton Board of Guardians year books; Edmonton Urban District Council Year Books; registers of Edmonton House Workhouse and Enfield House; and matrices of seals of the Edmonton Board of Guardians.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In 10 sections: Board and Committees; Staff; Registers; Correspondence; Finance; North Middlesex Hospital; Vaccination; Year Books; Miscellanea; Workhouses and Institutions.

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.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For the records of the Middlesex County Council, who took over Edmonton Board of Guardians institutions, see MCC, especially MCC/CL/HS for the North Middlesex Hospital. See H34/CF for the Chase Farm Hospital.

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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