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Index of Admission to and Discharges from Poor Law Union Workhouses, 1836-1900


Lichfield Union WorkhouseSepia drawing of Lichfield Workhouse, 1843

In 1836 a national system of Poor Law Unions was established by the Poor Law Amendment Act, 1834. The Unions were groups of parishes which provided jointly for the poor in their area. Part of this provision was through the Union Workhouse, or Poor Law Institution, to give it its formal title. Here, those who were too poor, old, infirm or mentally unfit to provide for themselves, were housed. Unmarried pregnant women were also admitted when their families disowned them and they were left destitute.

The needy were admitted to the workhouse following an examination by a “relieving officer” or by the Master of the workhouse. Relieving officers were officials of the Unions responsible for assessing the poor of their districts for eligibility for assistance. Inmates were discharged from the workhouse if they acquired the means to provide for themselves, or if a responsible family member could be found to provide for them. In some cases inmates were admitted and discharged on a regular basis as they found temporary work, for example.

For more information about how workhouses operated as well as the historical background to the Poor Laws, please see the very informative website – The Workhouse ( Links to external sites will open in a new window.

About this Index

This is an index to admissions to and discharges from Union Workhouses, taken from all surviving registers dating between 1836 and 1900, in the care of the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service. The survival of such registers is very poor. Although the Archive Service holds records for 18 Poor Law Unions, workhouse admission and discharge registers have survived for just six of them, and in only one case, that of Tamworth, is there a complete series from 1836 to 1900

Burton upon Trent, c1878-1900. Note: although Burton is in Staffordshire, the Burton Union included parishes in both Staffordshire and Derbyshire. Records held at Staffordshire Record Office.

Seisdon, 1837-1844, 1852-1856, 1859-1961, 1864-1867, 1876-1880. Note: although the Seisdon Union is largely in Staffordshire, it also included Rudge in Shropshire. Records held at Staffordshire Record Office.

Stafford, 1842-1850, 1858-1862, 1869-1873, 1879-1883, 1890-1893, 1899-1900.

Stoke upon Trent, 1836-1837. Records held at Stoke on Trent City Archives.

Stourbridge, 1842-1846, 1870-1873, 1886-1892(D), 1889-1892(A). Note: although Stourbridge is in Worcestershire, the Stourbridge Union included parishes in both Worcestershire and Staffordshire. Records held at Staffordshire Record Office.

Tamworth, 1836-1900. Note: although Tamworth is in Staffordshire, the Tamworth Union included parishes in both Staffordshire and Warwickshire. Records held at Staffordshire Record Office.

View a full list of places within each of these unions.

A successful search in the index can provide you with the following information. Items with an asterisk are sometimes included :

Surname, forename(s), birth year* or age*; occupation, original parish; record type (admission or discharge); additional information*; date recorded; union; document reference number.

Please note that, because inmates might be frequently admitted and discharged for various reasons, you may find numerous entries relating to one person.

Other Records of Interest

As already noted, the survival of records for Poor Law Unions is very variable. The following is an indication of the classes of records recording workhouse inmates that may survive for the nineteenth century :

  • Indoor relief lists, an alternative record of inmates
  • Vagrants and casual paupers admission and discharge registers
  • Certificates for the detention of lunatics
  • Workhouse medical relief books
  • Birth and death registers
  • Creed registers - giving the religious affiliation of inmates
  • School attendance books
  • Register of apprentices
  • Leave of absence books

Detailed information may be found in the catalogues of records of Poor Law Unions held by the Archive Service, which are listed in the Gateway to the Past online catalogue ( Click here to find advice on searching the records of a particular Poor Law Union on the Gateway to the Past site.Note: Links to external sites will open in a new window.

Image of Lichfield Workhouse courtesy of William Salt Library


We are pleased to acknowledge the work of the many members of the Staffordshire Record Office Volunteer Group who have contributed to this index.