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STEPNEY BOARD OF GUARDIANS

Reference Code:  STBG

Site Location
London Metropolitan Archives
Level of Description
Collection
Date
1836-1943
Extent
151.28 linear metres
Scope and Content
Records of the Stepney Poor Law Union (called the Limehouse Poor Law Union from 1921-1925), 1836-1936, including minutes of the Board of Guardians and various Committees; correspondence; orders of removal to and from other Unions; registers for the Limehouse Children's Establishment, the Mile End Old Town Workhouse, the Ratcliffe Workhouse and Bromley House; registers of admission for the Stifford Children's Homes; financial accounts and staff records. Records of Parish of Stepney Poor Law Union, 1910-1936, including minutes of the Board of Guardians and various Committees; correspondence; admission orders for lunatics; registers for Bromley House and the South Grove Institution; registers for Gray Scattered Homes and Stifford Homes; financial accounts; staff records; plans of Gray's Children's Homes and contract works ledger. Records of the Mile End Old Town Poor Law Union, 1848-1930, including minutes of the Board of Guardians and various Committees; correspondence; settlement examinations; orders of removal to and from other Unions; registers for the Mile End Workhouse and Infirmary; apprenticeship indentures; registers for the Bancroft Road School and the Mile End Scattered Homes; financial accounts; staff records and monthly returns of infant deaths. Records of Saint George in the East Poor Law Union, 1836-1927, including minutes of the Board of Guardians and various Committees; correspondence; settlement examinations; orders of removal to and from other Unions; registers of lunatics in asylums; registers for the Saint George in the East Workhouse and Infirmary and the Raine Street Workhouse and Infirmary; registers for the Plashet School and Drouet's Home, Tooting; financial accounts; staff records and tradesmen's accounts. Records of Whitechapel Poor Law Union, 1837-1943, including minutes of the Board of Guardians and various Committees; correspondence; orders of removal to and from other Unions; admission orders for lunatics; registers of lunatics in asylums; registers from the Whitechapel Infirmary and the South Grove Workhouse; registers of children; financial accounts and staff records.
Classification
LOCAL AUTHORITIES: LONDON LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Administrative 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. Stepney Poor Law Union was formed in December 1836, consisting of the parishes of Limehouse, Mile End Old Town, Ratcliffe, Shadwell and Wapping. In 1857, Mile End Old Town left the Union to become a separate Poor Law 'Hamlet' and set up its own workhouse. The Stepney Union was known as the Parish of Limehouse for a short period from 1921 to 1925. In 1925, the Hamlet of Mile End Old Town, the Parish of St George In The East, and the Whitechapel Union were added to the Stepney Union which was then renamed the Parish of Stepney Union in 1927. Institutions managed by the various Unions, and finally by the Parish of Stepney Union, included Mile End Old Town Workhouse, Wapping Workhouse, Limehouse Workhouse, Ratcliffe Workhouse and Casual Wards, Saint Leonard's Street Workhouse, and the Stifford Children's Homes. Mile End Workhouse was built in 1858-1859 to replace an earlier workhouse. For registers of the old Mile End Workhouse from 1847 to 1857 when Mile End Old Town formed part of the Stepney Union see the records of Limehouse Board of Guardians. In 1925 the Mile End Institution (as it had become by then) passed to the control of the newly formed Stepney Board of Guardians, and ceased to be an institution in 1926. Mile End Infirmary was built in 1881-1883 adjoining the Workhouse. It was taken over for use by the War Office as a military hospital between 1915-1919 and renamed Mile End Hospital in 1920. The Mile End Scattered Homes, which opened in 1900, were separate but intercommunicating terrace houses, which came under the control of Stepney Board of Guardians in 1925. Shadwell Workhouse was closed in 1837 by Stepney Board of Guardians owing to its 'confined situation and want of external space.' For admission and discharge registers 1818-1837 see P93/PAU3/115-119 (X20/344, X20/349) Wapping Workhouse was situated near Wapping Church. In 1848 it was being used to accommodate able-bodied and infirm women. It had room for a maximum of 386. The workhouse ceased to be used in 1863 on the opening of the new Stepney Union Workhouse at Bromley. Ratcliffe Workhouse was situated at the corner of Salmon's Lane and York Street West, Ratcliffe (later renamed Barnes Street). In January 1837 it was described as being 'a very good Establishment, and nearly new, it is capable of holding 350' (STBG/L/1). In 1848 it was being used to accommodate infirm men and women over the age of 60. When the new Stepney Union Workhouse at Bromley opened in 1863, the Board of Guardians intended to close Ratcliffe Workhouse. It ceased to receive inmates in 1872, but the Stepney Union Board Room and Offices which were in Ratcliffe Workhouse continued in use. In 1893 the need to increase accommodation for the sick at Bromley House led to the reopening of Ratcliffe Workhouse 'for healthy old men and women.' It was also used as a receiving home for children. The general series of admission registers, creed registers and the death register all contain entries relating to children. Limehouse Workhouse was situated in Church Lane, Limehouse. In 1893 the Board of Guardians of Stepney Union decided to use it for the accommodation of the children of the Union. By 1848 it had room for 400 children. It closed in 1873 when Stepney Union became part of the South Metropolitan School District and sent its children to the district schools at Sutton. Bromley House was opened in 1863 by the Stepney Board of Guardians. It closed temporarily in 1923 and its inmates were transferred to Bow Institution by agreement with the City of London Board of Guardians. Paupers from Limehouse were sent to Bow and Thavies Inn Institution with agreement of the City of London Union after the closure of Bromley House in November 1923. In 1926 the new Stepney Union reopened Bromley House. For records 1926-1931 see STBG/SP/24-25. Stepney Union Infirmary was attached to Bromley House. Most of the sick were sent to Poplar and Stepney Sick Asylum, now Saint Andrew's Hospital. In October 1838 Stepney Board of Guardians decided to use Limehouse Workhouse to accommodate all the children in its care. For the registers of Limehouse Children's Establishment 1838-1873 see STBG/L/119-122. This closed in 1873 when Stepney Union became part of the South Metropolitan School District. Stepney Board of Guardians built cottage homes at Stifford in Essex, which opened in 1902 and were taken over by London County Council in 1930. The homes closed in 1935. For registers see STBG/L/149-153. Source of information: Peter Higginbotham at The Workhouse website.
Copyright
City of London
Access Restrictions
These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998
Arrangement
STBG/L: Limehouse Union; STBG/ME: Mile End Old Town Union; STBG/SG: Saint George in the East Union; STBG/SP: Stepney Union; STBG/WH: Whitechapel Union.
Creator
Limehouse Poor Law Union x Limehouse Board of Guardians Mile End Old Town Poor Law Union x Mile End Old Town Board of Guardians Saint George in the East Poor Law Union x Saint George in the East Board of Guardians Stepney Poor Law Union x Stepney Board of Guardians Whitechapel Poor Law Union x Whitechapel Board of Guardians
Source of Acquisition
Records received with the records of the successor County Council. Further records received in 1955 (AC/55/056; AC/55/075; AC/55/126)
Physical Condition
Fit
Publication Notes
For a detailed history see website 'The Workhouse' at www.workhouses.org.uk

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