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Index to "Paupers in Workhouses 1861" (10% sample)


RETURNS "from each WORKHOUSE in England and Wales, of the Name of every ADULT PAUPER in each WORKHOUSE who has been an Inmate of the Workhouse during a continuous Period of Five Years; stating the Amount of Time that each of such Inmates shall have been in the Workhouse, and the Reason assigned why such Persons are unable to maintain themselves........"

This national index of paupers in workhouses has been compiled from a Parliamentary Paper, number 490 of 1861. It names some 14,200 adult* paupers in England and Wales who had been in receipt of parish relief for a continuous period of five years or more.

* aged 16 years and upwards

The full name of the pauper is given, followed by "The reason assigned why the Pauper in each case is unable to maintain himself or herself" and finally the full term of the relief in years and months. Another column in the report is headed "Whether or not the Pauper has been brought up in a District or Workhouse School". As this last column was imperfectly completed, the brief notes it contains have not been included here. However, all the other information is contained in the index. which is a strict alphabetical listing of individuals named in the report. (N.B. This on-line version is a 10% sample of the full index which is available on microfiche).

From a genealogical point of view the value of the report cannot be overstated. It was submitted to parliament on the 29th of July 1861, and ordered to be published the following day. The information it contains dovetails nicely with the 1861 census returns. The census that year was conducted on Sunday the 7th of April, so it is certain that the information-gathering processes for the report and the census would have overlapped. The accuracy of the information contained in the report can be proved quite simply by comparing it against the census returns. 

It is pertinent to say that a large proportion of the paupers mentioned in the index (about 6,000) were admitted because of old age and infirmity. Almost as many again (about 5,000) suffered from a mental disease. Various combinations of ailments and mental conditions will be noted by the casual user of the index, and among the unusual (or least common) reasons for being admitted to the workhouse are laziness, desertion of the husband, widowhood, destitution and being orphaned. It is interesting, at this late date, to note there are a few cases of wives having been admitted because their husbands had been sentenced to transportation. There are also a couple of cases of paupers having been born and bred in the workhouse, but Timothy Goss (St George's, Hanover Square), who had been in receipt of parish relief for 70 continuous years was not one of them.

George Bell, Wideopen, April 1997