Chelmsford Poor Law Union, Essex Genealogy

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Parish workhouses described in a parliamentary report of 1777 were:

Great Baddow, Essex  (with accommodation for up to 20 ),

Buttsbury, Essex (10),

Chelmsford, Essex (100),

Danbury, Essex (18),

Fryerning, Essex (20),

South Hanningfield, Essex  (9),

Roxwell, Essex (20),

Springfield, Essex (35),

Stock Harvard, Essex (10), 

Great Waltham, Essex  (100),

Little Waltham, Essex (20),

Writtle, Essex (100).

Constituent Parishes

Boreham, Essex
Broomfield, Essex
Buttsbury, Essex
Chelmsford, Essex
Chignall Smealy, Essex
Chignall St James, Essex
Danbury, Essex
East Hanningfield, Essex
Fryerning, Essex
Good Easter, Essex
Great Baddow, Essex
Great Leighs, Essex
Great Waltham, Essex
High Easter, Essex
Highwood, Essex
Ingatestone, Essex
Little Baddow, Essex
Little Leighs, Essex
Little Waltham, Essex
Margaretting, Essex
Mashbury, Essex
Moulsham, Essex
Pleshey, Essex
Rettendon, Essex
Roxwell, Essex
Runwell, Essex
Sandon, Essex
South Hanningfield, Essex
Springfield, Essex 

Springfield Holy Trinity, Essex
Stock Harvard, Essex
West Hanningfield, Essex
Widford, Essex
Woodham Ferrers, Essex
Writtle, Essex


•Essex Record Office, Wharf Road Chelmsford CM2 6YT. Holdings include: Guardians' minutes (1835-1930); Ledgers (1835-1929); Admissions and discharges (1883-88, 1891-4, 1897-8, 1926-9); Indoor relief books (1886-1931);

Essex Record Office reference G/Ch Title [Chelmsford Union]
 The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 removed responsibility for the poor from parishes (see D/P.../11-18) and transferred administration to Boards of Guardians of the poor. The Guardians administered groups of parishes or Poor Law Unions. Each Union had its own workhouse. In 1872 the Public Health Act created urban and rural sanitary authorities, with the Guardians constituted as the rural sanitary authority for those parts of each Union not in an urban sanitary authority. The Local Government Act of 1894 replaced rural sanitary authorities with rural district councils (see D/R). The Local Government Act of 1929 abolished the Boards of Guardians and transferred their powers to the Public Assistance Committees of County Councils (for minutes of Essex County Council Public Assistance Committee 1929-1948 see C/MPa 1-22).
Many of the workhouse infirmaries continued as hospitals after 1930, continuing after the introduction of the National Health Service in 1948.
For other records illustrating the work of the Guardians see D/P.../19.
For orders, directions and declarations of Poor Law Commissioners responsible for grouping parishes into Unions, 1835-1837, see Q/RSw 2-5.
For catalogue of correspondence between Poor Law Unions and Poor Law Commission (later poor law Board and Local Government Board) 1834-1900 see List and Index Society vol. 56.
G. Cuttle The Legacy of the Rural Guardians (Heffer, 1934 E.R.O. Library 362.50942) provides a good account of the work of the Guardians in six mid-Essex Unions, together with the newscuttings he collected and used in writing the book (T/P 181).
For analysis of ledgers see Journal of the Society of Archivists II, pp. 367-369.
The CHELMSFORD UNION consisted of the parishes of Great Baddow, Little Baddow, Boreham, Broomfield, Buttsbury, Chelmsford, Chignal St. James, Chignal Smealey, Danbury, Good Easter, Fryerning, East Hanningfield, South Hanningfield, West Hanningfield, Ingatestone, Great Leighs, Little Leighs, Margaretting, Mashbury, Pleshey, Rettendon, Roxwell, Runwell, Sandon, Springfield, Stock, Great Waltham, Little Waltham, Widford, Woodham Ferrers, Writtle


For more information on the history of the workhouse, see Peter Higginbotham's web site: and