St George's Hanover Square, Middlesex, London
A parish workhouse for St George's Hanover Square was erected in 1726 at a site on the south side of Mount Street (on the ground now occupied by 103, Mount Street). Designed by Thomas Phillips and Benjamin Timbrell, the three-storey building, rather plain in appearance, had a street frontage of around 160 feet (48 metres). On the ground floor it had a work-room at the centre, and dining-rooms and charity schools for each sex in the wings. There was living/sleeping accommodation for 150-200 people on the upper two floors. The building was enlarged in 1743, and again in 1772 when as many as 600 paupers were in residence, with three or four sharing a bed. In 1786-8 the building was further enlarged with a watch-house being added at the western end.
In 1732, the second edition of An Account of Several Workhouses... included the following report of St George Hanover-Square.
IN the Year 1729, 187 Persons were lodged and dieted in the House, and at this time, April 1731. there are 155 Men, Women, and Children, of which last there are 85, under 13 Years of Age.
ALL that are able, both old and young, are employed in spinning Mop Yarn, or picking Ockam, and being helpful to each other under the Direction of the Steward and Matron; and the frugality of their Management, under the Honourable Persons, their present Churchwardens, and Overseers, is such, that at a Medium of their Expences for 1730, 154 Poor were lodged and dieted 4 Weeks at 55l. 1s. 7d. which is 1s. 9d. ½ a Week for each Person.
A Committee is appointed every Easter, composed of some Vestrymen, the Churchwardens and Overseers, who meet every Wednesday to regulate and manage the House, where the Tradesmen's Bills are paid once a Month.
THE Sick are taken Care of by an able Physician, an Apothecary, and Surgeon, who attend daily, and so well nursed in a part of the House appropriated for an Infirmary, that few have died out of great Numbers of small Children, and of other Persons that have had the Small-Pox, Fevers, and other Distempers.
A Clergyman attends to visit the Sick, and read Prayers twice a Week, and all that are able go to Church every Lord's Day.
THE Children are taught to read, write, and say their Catechism certain Hours of the Day, beside being inured to Labour, so as to prepare them for being good Servants wherever the Providence of God may dispose them, and several of them are bound to good Trades.
THE Parish-Officers, by their good Oeconomy, out of a Rate of 20d. in the Pound for the whole Year, saved a Balance of 750l. last Year, towards paying off the Debts contracted by erecting this Fabrick, and other Provision for the Poor.
In 1753, the Saint George's Hanover Square (Poor Relief) Act (26 Geo. 2, c.97) gave the parish special local powers relating to matters such as poor relief, street cleaning and road repairs.
A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded that the St George Hanover Square workhouse could accommodate 700 people, making it one of the largest in the country.
The Mount Street workhouse site location and layout are shown on the 1870 map below.
In 1786-88, the Mount Street premises were enlarged and additional premises were acquired in Little Chelsea to house children and lunatics.
The parish's Local Act status exempted it from many of the provisions of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act and the existing arrangements for poor relief continued.
In 1841, a visitor described his experience of the Mount Street workhouse:
It consists of a very extensive building of four storeys, but without any exterior distinction in the line of street. The different wards with rows of beds, the spacious corridors and staircases, the airing grounds behind — all were neat, clean, and unexceptionable. In some workhouses off the back courts, the able-bodied inmates were employed in cutting up wood into faggots, and doing other light work. In one of the upper floors, there is a drug dispensary for the house, with a young surgeon in attendance. During this visit, I received much greater insight into the economy of the new in comparison with the old system than on any former occasion; and I beg to tell what I know, for the benefit of those who take an interest in such matters. While the old wasteful practice existed of administering out-of-door relief to able-bodied, real or pretended, paupers, the parish of St George's, with a population of about 60,000, expended on the poor, police, and county rates, upwards of £61,000 annually. In 1835, when the new practice was introduced, the sum expended was only £39,000, being a diminution of one-third. Out-of-door allowances were still made in cases deemed necessary, but the great principle acted upon was to invite paupers to reside in the workhouse. As in all other parishes, this plan of relief at once checked a monstrous abuse; the claimants of the parochial bounty were thrown upon their own resources, and compelled to betake themselves to industrial pursuits. I was informed that the consideration of out-of door cases for casual relief, which once occupied two days a-week to the board of directors, was now dispatched in an hour, and that he did not believe there was a destitute person unprovided for in the parish. All fit objects of public support (certain cases always excepted) are now admitted either into the house in Mount Street, or into another establishment at Chelsea. At the period of my visit, the inmates were as follows:— At Mount Street, 117 men, 211 women, 15 boys, and 17 girls — in all 360; at Chelsea, 25 men, 110 women, 91 boys, and 54 girls — in all, 280; lunatics at Hanwell asylum, 50; children at nurse, 1; total, 691. Having inquired if the men who applied at the workhouse belonged to any particular profession or class of society, it was mentioned, that there was usually a large proportion of decayed footmen or other domestic servants; but whether this may be considered an indication of improvident habits on the part of that class of persons, or of the misfortune of their condition, I am unable to say.
In 1858, a new workhouse was built on a site at the south side of the Fulham Road, to the west of George Street.
In 1870, St George's Hanover Square parish became part of the new St George's Union, along with the parish of St Margaret and St John the Evangelist. The new union took over the existing workhouses. The Fulham Road site was much expanded in 1876-8 with the erection of a large new infirmary. The Mount Street site appears to have closed soon afterwards and the buildings were demolished in 1886 as part of a major redevelopment of the area.
Further information on the Fulham Road site is given on the St George's Union web page.
In January 1871, The Builder reported that the Guardians of St George Hanover Square (apparently still in existence) had agreed to the erection of a temporary iron smallpox hospital at St Ermin's Hill, Broadway, Westminster. The building was to be 130 feet by 20 feet and would accommodate 40 patients.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.
City of Westminster Archives Centre, 10 St Ann's Street, London SW1P 2DE.
- Pre-1870 parish records include: Governors and directors of the poor minutes (1753-1867, indexed 1780-1867); Overseers' accounts (1726-7); Workhouse committee minutes (1726-53); Workhouse visiting committee minutes (1861-7); Workhouse accounts (in vestry#churchwardens' records 1725-35); Workhouse admission and discharge records (1856-69); Minutes of committee re soup kitchen and schools of industry (1799-1803, 1833); Apprenticeship indentures (1738-42, 1752, 1767); etc.
- Post-1870 union records include: Fulham Road Workhouse: baptism registers (June 1879 - August 1900); Wallis's Yard Workhouse: baptism registers (January 1866 - December 1892)
The Ancestry website has two collections of London workhouse records:
- The London Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records (1738-1930) are searchable by name.
- The Poor Law and Board of Guardian Records, 1430-1930 are more extensive but only provide browsable page images.
- The FindMyPast website has workhouse / poor law records for Westminster.
London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R OHB.
- Mount Street workhouse holdings include: Creed registers (1874-84); Register of children boarded-out (1871-1913).
- Fulham Road workhouse holdings include: Admissions and discharges (1866-1916); Births (1879-89); Baptisms (1900-07); Deaths (1870-1932); Master's journal: (1903-13); etc.
- Fulham Road infirmary holdings include: Baptisms (1878-86); etc.
- Other holdings include: Guardians' minute books (1870-1915); Financial records (1870-1921, with gaps); Staff records (1863-1914); etc.
Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.