Sussex Poor Law Unions

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An Act of Parliament in the year 1834 took the responsibility of administering to the poor from the local parish church to the doorstep of civil government. The government grouped each civil parish into a union of parishes. There were nearly 600 such unions throughout England, each one comprising close to 20 or more parishes, and were specifically setup to meet the demands of the poor among their local populations, with a workhouse on the premises. The responsbility was transferred from local parishes to a Board of Guardians in each union. These groupings or unions were known as poor-law unions.

The Poor Law Unions[edit | edit source]

Sussex had the following poor law unions within its boundaries:

The Workhouse[edit | edit source]

For more information on the history of the workhouse, see Peter Higginbotham's web site: The Workhouse — its buildings, inmates, staff and administrators. The site houses a comprehensive list of links to records.

The Records[edit | edit source]

Main article: England and Wales Poor Law Records 1834-1948

Records from the poor law unions from 1834 include the following:

  1. Guardianship
  2. Creed Registers
  3. Rate books
  4. Workhouse Lists of Inmates
  5. Register of Apprentices
  6. Register of Births
  7. Register of Deaths
  8. Vestry Rate Books
  9. Admission and Discharge Registers
  10. Board of Guardians' Records

The National Archives (England)[edit | edit source]

The National Archives holds the correspondence between each poor law union and the central authorities: letters, memos, reports and accounts bound from the loose correspondence. These document individual paupers, cases of neglect and cruelty, and workhouse staff as well as source material to study indoor and outdoor poor relief, education, building work, local politics and labour history, such as trade unions, Chartism and friendly societies. The material is very strong on public health and contains accounts of both physical and mental health matters.

This project includes the Rye Poor Law Union, East Sussex and Kent, 1834- 1843

Records at The Family History Library
[edit | edit source]

To determine records availability for each poor law union, search the FamilySearch Catalog under the name of the county (Sussex), and then under the name of the poor law union, i.e. Newhaven, then under the term[s] "poor law" or "poorhouses".

Online Transcriptions Relating to Poor Law Records[edit | edit source]

West Sussex[edit | edit source]

The Sussex Record Society has transcripts for West Sussex Poor Law Unions at Database of Poor Law records for West Sussex.

GENUKI 1861 Project[edit | edit source]

GENUKI England has sampled 10% of the 1861 Census returns from Poor Law Union workhouses in England and Wales. They have published transcripts as Paupers in Workhouses 1861.

References[edit | edit source]