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West London

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Up to 1834

The pre-1834 operation of the poor law and workhouses in the City of London is described in two separate pages on:

After 1834

West London Poor Law Union formally came into existence on 13th December 1837. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 20 in number, representing representing its 7 constituent parishes as follows (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one): Bridewell precinct; St Andrew, Lower or City Liberty (4); St Bartholomew the Great (2); St Bartholomew the Less; St Bride's, otherwise St Bridget, Fleet Street (5); St Dunstan's West (2); St Sepulchre, Newgate (5).

The population falling within the new Union at the 1831 census had been 27,825 with parishes ranging in size from Bridewell precinct (population 456) to St Sepulchre, Newgate(7,710). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £17,522 or 12s.7d. per head of the population.

The West Street Workhouse

Initially, the West London union took over the former St Sepulchre's parish workhouse at the north side of West Street, near Smithfield Market. Its location is shown on the 1862 map below.

West London Union workhouse site, c.1862.

In 1848, a parliamentary survey of the workhouse provision for vagrants included a survey of the individual vagrants being accommodated at the West London workhouse on a number of days in March 1848. A typical day's entry is shown below:

Tuesday, March 7, 1848.
Name. Age. Married or Single. No. of Children. Where from. Remarks.

Ann Dawson

39

Widow

3

Essex

Cadger, been here many times.

Susan Dawson

16

Single

..

  "

Ditto

Bridget Brady

44

  "

..

Mayo

Ditto

Mary Carty

24

  "

..

Cork

Ditto

Eliza Fannigan

15

  "

..

Galway

Ditto

Mary Collins

30

  "

..

Cork

Ditto

Mary Brown

49

Widow

..

Seacole Lane

Cadger, been here before.

Margaret Lewis

32

Married

..

Guernsey

Charwoman, out of employ.

Ellen Crawley

29

Single

..

Skibbereen

Cadger, sleeping in diferent refuges.

Nancy Crawley

12

  "

..

Cork

Ditto

Joseph Carter

19

  "

..

Chatham

Cadging on her way home.

John Harris

23

  "

..

Hertford

Shoemaker, seeking employ.

Mary Donovan

23

  "

..

Cork

Cadger, sleeping in different refuges.

Johanna Neil

33

Married

1

  "

Ditto

Mary Neil

7

. .

..

  "

Ditto

George Harris

20

Single

..

Shropshire

Ditto

Isaac Twithet

24

  "

..

Great Berkhamstead

Labourer, seeking employ.

George Wood

17

  "

..

Sussex

Cadger, seeking employ.

Pat Robson

32

  "

..

New Castleton

Travelling draper.

James Davis

15

  "

..

Somersetshire

Cadger, sleeping in different refuges.

Maria Hellen

20

  "

..

Gosport

Needle-woman, seeking employ, by P.C.254, 1½

Elizabeth Griffiths

38

Married

..

Buckinghamshire

Servant, out of employ. P.C.260, 2½

22

GEORGE JERRARD, Porter.

In February 1857, the Lord Mayor of London made an unannounced visit to the West London workhouse casual ward, as part of a series of such inspections. The Mayor, together with the Recorder and the City Architect, arrived at the union's workhouse, only to be told that the casual ward was some two-and-a-half miles away at Battle Bridge. Like any applicants for accommodation at the casual ward, the mayor and his party then had to make their way through the city's streets to reach their final destination. They found that the men's accommodation conisted of a twelve-stall stable. Their report noted:

The poor creatures, in answer to inquiries made of them, stated that upon entering the building a small portion of bread had been given them, but that it was the custom to turn them out in the morning without anything to eat unless they first broke a quantity of stones, of which there was a large heap in the yard. The Lord Mayor and his friends next entered an adjoining cattle-shed, where they found two destitute women huddled together on a rug, lying on the bare ground, almost perished with cold, and without either fire or food. When they had concluded their inspection the party of visitors went off to the City Gaol, at Holloway, where they found 455 prisoners, well lodged in separate apartments, with plenty of bedding, blankets, and comforts of every kind. Well might the Lord Mayor say, "If the poor were treated in such a way as that, was it not natural that they should resort to crime rather than submit to it?"

West London workhouse men's casual ward, 1857.

West London workhouse women's casual ward, 1857.

Edmonton Union School

The West London Union operated a separate Union School, sometimes referred to as its 'children's workhouse', at Edmonton. It was located at the south side of Meeting House Lane (later Bridport Road and Church Road) which ran from the west side of Upper Fore Street. In 1849, the establishment was said to house up to 150 children.

The Cornwallis Road Workhouse

In 1864, the union erected a new workhouse for 500 inmates at the west side of Cornwallis Road in Upper Holloway. The architects were Searle, Son and Yelf, and the builder was Henry Hart. The cost of the building contract was £23,492. The workhouse was a T-shaped building with administrative offices and the Master's quarters at the centre, male accommodation in the southern wing, and female in the north. A dining-hall with chapel above lay to the rear. The site location and layout are shown below on the 1873 map below.

West London Union workhouse site, 1873.

An view published in 1864 shows the front facade of the proposed design.

West London workhouse proposed design from the north-east, 1864.

West London Union was wound up in 1869 with its constituent parishes being transferred to the City of London Union. By 1895, the Cornwallis Road workhouse had been taken over by St Mary's, Islington. The building was used to house prisoners of war during World War One. The site is now occupied by housing.

Staff

  • (To be added)

Inmates

  • (To be added)

Records

Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.

Bibliography

  • None.

Links

  • None.

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