City of London Parish Workhouses
The old City of London comprised more than 100 parishes, most of which were tiny and lay inside its ancient walls. A few of the within-the-walls parishes operated workhouses prior to 1834, as did some of the newer City parishes just beyond ("without") the walls. Several of the latter also had portions which lay within the county of Middlesex. Most of the information below is based on the following sources:
- An Account of Several Workhouses... published in 1732 — this is abbreviated here as ASW.
- The 1776 parliamentary Abstract of Returns Made by the Overseers of the Poor — abbreviated as ARMOP.
- Tim Hitchcock's 1985 study The English workhouse 1695-1750 — abbreviated as TEW.
- Pigot 's Metropolitan Guide (c.1820) — abbreviated as PMG.
St Ethelburga Bishopsgate
St Ethelburga Bishopsgate had a workhouse by 1745. In 1776, it could house forty-six inmates, who were occupied in winding Turkey cotton (ARMOP).
St Faith under St Paul's
St Faith under St Paul's had a workhouse from 1745 (TEW). By 1776, the parish farmed out its paupers at Mile End. In 1804, the contractor was Mr Overton at Hoxton. at Hoxton.
St Giles without Cripplegate
St Giles without Cripplegate had two parts. Its Freedom Liberty fell within the City of London, while its Lordship Liberty was in Middlesex. In 1733, the latter became the parish of St Luke Old Street.
The workhouse in the London Liberty was described by ASW as having been:
set up 1726, in Moor-Lane, where there are wholly maintained 65 Men and Women, and 35 Boys and Girls.
THEY began to employ them with picking Ockam but have now dropped that Business, and apply themselves wholly to spinning of Mop Yarn, which proves an easie Employ, which all of them are capable of; though the Profit is not much, by reason many of the Poor are advanced in Years, and helpless, yet the Children are all in a way of being made useful Servants to the Publick.
The Moor Lane premises were rebuilt on a larger scale in 1758 and in 1776 could accommodate 260 inmates. In 1832, the residents comprised 143 males and 175 females, ranging in age from birth to 80 years or more. The men who were capable were employed in picking oakum, the boys in winding cotton, and the women and girls in needlework. The building was demolished in 1843 and St Bartholomew's church erected on the site.
St Gregory by St Paul's
St Gregory by St Paul's had a workhouse from 1732 (TEW). By the 1750s, the parish poor were being farmed out with a contractor. From 1741,
St Helen Bishopsgate
St Helen Bishopsgate had a workhouse from 1734 (TEW). From 1741, it operated in a property leased from St Olave's parish on Gunpowder Alley, Crutched Friars. In 1760, the site was vacated to make way for a new road (now Crosswall) linking Crutched Friars and the Minories. The parish poor were then farmed out at Hoxton by Mr Solomon Pepper. By 1804, Messrs Robertson and Simpson were the contractors.
St Katherine by the Tower
St Katherine by the Tower had a workhouse from 1725 (ASW). In 1776 it could house up to 60 inmates who were employed in making and mending clothing for the establishment.<
St Katherine Coleman
St Katherine Coleman had a workhouse from 1728 (TEW). In 1740, the parish began farming out its poor. A new workhouse was built in 1775 at Northumberland Alley, Fenchurch Street. It housed up to forty inmates who were mostly occupied in household work (ARMOP).
St Katherine Cree
St Katherine Cree (or Creechurch) is listed by ARMOP as operating a parish workhouse for up to 45 inmates. In 1832, nine males and thirty-three females were in residence, their ages ranging from under 10 to over 90.
St Lawrence Jewry
The parish of St Mary Magdalen, Milk Street, was joined with St Lawrence Jewry (or Jury) following the destruction of the former's church in the Great Fire of London. The united parishes were the subject of a report in ASW dated September 1731:
THE Overseers of the Poor in this Parish, bought the remainder of a Lease of an old large House in Grub-Street, St. Giles Cripplegate without, being about 30 Years to come, and fitted it up Midsummer 1728 for the Reception of all their Poor receiving Alms of the Parish: And there are now in it 4 grown Persons, and 8 Children, under the Care of a Master and Mistress, to Diet and Lodge them. The old People help one another, and the Children go every Day. to the Ward-School of Cripplegate within.
THE Parish Officers have sav'd so much in their Taxes for the Poor, and the Poor by this Means are so well provided, that this Establishment is continued to their mutual Satisfaction.
By 1776, the parish poor were being farmed out at Hoxton.
St Leonard Foster Lane
St Leonard Foster Lane had a workhouse in leased premises which housed housed up to 100 inmates in 1776 (ARMOP). By 1804, the poor were being farmed by Mr Overton at Mile End.
St Martin, Ludgate
ASW, in a report dated October 1731, recorded that:
By 1776, the poor were being farmed out at Hoxton (ARMOP).
St Martin, Vintry
ASW, in a report dated September 1731, recorded that:
THE Officers of this Parish hir'd a House in Brickhill-Lane off Thames-Street, and opened it 1727, for the Reception of all their Poor. There are now in it under the Care of a Mistress, 6 grown People, and 4 Children, the last are sent daily to the Charity School of Cordwainers Ward, but are here lodged, and wholly maintained.
The parish was farming its poor at Mile End by 1776 (ARMOP).
St Mary Aldermanbury
St Mary Aldermanbury had a workhouse from 1730 (TEW). From 1750, the parish farmed out its poor at Mile End.
St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside
ASW, in a report dated November 1731, recorded that:
THIS Parish being of late much burthened with Poor, the Vestry appointed a Committee to consider of Measures for taking a House to maintain them as one Family, and for setting such as are able to work. The Committee having made a Report of their Opinion, the Vestry have impower'd them to hire a House proper for the purpose.
By 1746, the workhouse was at George Yard at the east side of Bow Lane. In 1776, the parish poor were being farmed out at Norton Folgate.
St Michael Cornhill
St Michael Cornhill had a workhouse from around 1732 (TEW). From 1745, the parish poor were farmed out.
St Olave Hart Street
St Olave Hart Street had a workhouse from 1737 (TEW). In 1776, it housed up to fifty-six inmates who were occupied in making, mending and washing their own linen, etc. (ARMOP). In 1832, the establishment, located at Gunpowder Alley, Jewry Street (now Crutched Friars), was confined to the aged and infirm 'of decent habits and situations in life', together with children aged from 3 to 14 years.
St Pancras Soper Lane
St Pancras Soper Lane had a workhouse from around 1731 (TEW). By 1776, the parish poor were being farmed out (ARMOP).
St Peter Cornhill
St Peter Cornhill had a workhouse from around 1737 (TEW). By 1776, the parish poor were being farmed out (ARMOP).
St Sepulchre without Newgate
St Sepulchre without Newgate was partly in the City of London and partly in Middlesex. Details of its workhouses are on a separate page.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.
The Ancestry website has two collections of London workhouse records (both:
- The London Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records (1764-1930).
- The Poor Law and Board of Guardian Records, 1738-1930 — a wider range of London workhouse-related records.
- The FindMyPast website has workhouse / poor law records for Westminster.
- London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R OHB.
- Higginbotham, Peter Workhouses of London and the South East (2019)
- Anon (1732) An Account of Several Work-houses for Employing and Maintaining the Poor
- Hitchcock, T.V. (1985) The English workhouse: a study in institutional poor relief in selected counties. l695-l750. (DPhil. thesis. University of Oxford.)
Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.