Skip Navigation
 
 

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Guide to Collections > Collection Guides A to Z > Poor Law Union Records

Poor Law Union Records

Introduction

The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 removed the onus of dealing with the poor from individual parishes and gave it to Poor Law Unions. These unions dealt with groups of parishes, as noted below, and each was responsible for providing various forms of poor relief, most notably the dreaded Workhouse (later known as National Assistance Institution). This was not a new institution since parish workhouses had existed hitherto, but what was new was the scale of these institutions and the grip they came to exercise on the public imagination. In 1929 the government of the day set about dismantling the Poor Law Amendment Act through the Local Government Act but the last vestiges were not to disappear until the 1948 and the full implementation of the welfare state. The old National Assistance Institutions continued to be used after 1948 but now as hospitals, old people's homes etc. though the association of these buildings and institutions with the workhouse lingered in the public mind

It must be stressed that Poor Law Unions dealt with more than just workhouses, for example, giving relief (money, goods etc.) to the poor outside the workhouses and in their constituent parishes (known as outdoor relief, as opposed to indoor relief which was relief given in the workhouse); and that relief given within the workhouses was not always to permanent inmates - each workhouse had a number of casual wards for those seeking temporary assistance, most notably those people classed as vagrants.

Poor Law Union records are a relatively unused research tool but are excellent for genealogists, local historians, social and economic historians and others. Each Union below is listed below and linked to a description of the records we hold. 

Poor Law Unions 1834-1930 - General Information

This Union comprised the following parishes: Ampthill; Clophill; Cranfield; Flitton; Flitwick; Upper and Lower Gravenhurst; Haynes; Higham Gobion; Houghton Conquest; Lidlington; Marston Moretaine; Maulden; Millbrook; Pulloxhill; Shillington; Silsoe; Steppingley; Westoning

On the dissolution of Woburn Poor Law Union in 1899 the following parishes joined the Ampthill Union, forming the Woburn District: Aspley Guise; Aspley Heath; Battlesden; Eversholt; Harlington; Hulcote; Husborne Crawley; Milton Bryan; Potsgrove; Ridgmont; Salford; Tingrith; Toddington; Woburn

Bedford Poor Law Union

This Union comprised the following parishes: Great Barford; Bedford; Biddenham; Bletsoe; Bolnhurst; Bromham; Cardington; Carlton; Chellington; Clapham; Colmworth; Cople; Eastcotts; Elstow; Felmersham; Goldington; Harrold; Kempston; Keysoe; Knotting; Melchbourne; Milton Ernest; Oakley; Odell; Pavenham; Ravensden; Renhold; Riseley; Roxton; Sharnbrook; Souldrop; Stagsden; Stevington; Thurleigh; Turvey; Wilden; Willington; Wilshamstead; Wootton; Yielden

Biggleswade Poor Law Union

This Union comprised the following parishes: Arlesey; Astwick; Biggleswade; Blunham; Campton; Chicksands; Clifton; Dunton; Edworth; Everton; Eyeworth; Cockayne Hatley; Henlow; Langford; Meppershall; Mogerhanger; Northill; Potton; Sandy; Shefford; Shefford Hardwick; Southill; Upper Stondon; Stotfold; Sutton; Tempsford; Old Warden; Wrestlingworth

Leighton Buzzard Poor Law Union

This Union comprised the following parishes: Billington; Eggington; Heath & Reach; Leighton Buzzard; Stanbridge. The Union also included the following Buckinghamshire parishes: Cheddington; Edlesborough; Grove; Ivinghoe; Linslade [now Bedfordshire]; Mentmore; Slapton; Soulbury; Stoke Hammond; Wing.

In 1846 Eaton Bray was transferred from Luton Poor Law Union to Leighton Buzzard Poor Law Union

Woburn Poor Law Union was dissolved in 1899 and the following parishes were added to Leighton Buzzard Poor Law Union: Chalgrave; Hockliffe; Tilsworth

Luton Poor Law Union

This Union comprised the following parishes: Barton-le-Clay; Caddington; Dunstable; Eaton Bray; Houghton Regis; Hyde; Kensworth; Leagrave; Limbury; Luton; Stopsley; Streatley; Studham; Sundon; Totternhoe; Whipsnade.

In 1846 Eaton Bray was transferred from Luton Poor Law Union to Leighton Buzzard Poor Law Union

St Neots Poor Law Union

This Union comprised the following parishes: Little Barford; Dean; Eaton Socon; Pertenhall; Shelton; Staploe; Little Staughton; Swineshead; Tilbrook [now Cambridgeshire]. The majority of the Union's records are with Huntingdonshire branch of Cambridgeshire Record Office.

Wellingborough Poor Law Union

The following parishes were in Wellingborough Poor Law Union (records at Northamptonshire Record Office):

Farndish; Podington; Wymington

Woburn Poor Law Union

This Union comprised the following parishes: Aspley Guise; Aspley Heath; Battlesden; Chalgrave; Eversholt; Harlington; Hockliffe; Hulcote; Husborne Crawley; Milton Bryan; Potsgrove; Ridgmont; Salford; Tilsworth; Tingrith; Toddington; Woburn

Woburn Poor Law Union was dissolved in 1899 and the majority of parishes transferred to Ampthill Poor Law Union - with Chalgrave, Hockliffe and Tilsworth being transferred instead to Leighton Buzzard Poor Law Union.
There is more information about the Woburn Union Workhouse here.