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Gainsborough Union Workhouse

Poorhouses, Poor Law, etc.

  • In 1626, the sum expended on poor relief in Gainsborough was only £7 and sixpence. But in 1822, the same effort required £2,448.
  • A poorhouse was built in Gainsborough on Church Street in 1730.
  • As a result of the Poor Law Reform of 1834, some 45 Gainsborough-area parishes in Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire became part of the Gainsborough Poor Law Union which was officially formed on 19th January 1837. The old Poor House on Church Street was converted to tenements. The new Union Workhouse was a complex of buildings erected on the south side of town on Lea Road in 1837.
  • The Board of Guardians met every alternate Tuesday.
  • A chapel was built on the Workhouse grounds in 1861.
  • In 1870, fever and vagrant wards were added to the grounds.
  • During World War One, the Military took over most of the workhouse for their use and the Guardians of the Poor had to either release the poor back to their parishes or move them to other Workhouses. Since the Newark Workhouse was also occupied by the military, this caused considerable confusion and disturbance.
  • All these buildings have since been demolished.
  • The Registration District originally had six subdistricts: Owston, Scotter, Misterton, Gainsborough, Willingham and Marton. In 1891, these were consolidated into only four: Owston amalgamated with Misterton and Willingham with the Marton subdistrict.
  • The Lincolnshire Archives has the Gainsborough Poor Law Union admission/discharge registers 1889 to 1935 (with gaps); Births 1914-22; Baptisms 1888-1961; and Deaths 1816-1935. There is also an Admission/Discharge book for the boys school in the Archives (Ref: PL4/302, 13A).
  • Gainsborough Union Workhouse births 1866-1902 will be available on the Lincolnshire Family History Pay Per View site starting November 2003. At the same time, the Gainsborough Union Workhouse deaths 1866-1914 will be available on the same site.
  • The Lincolnshire FHS also has the Poor Law Miscellany Vol 3 which includes Gainsborough Workhouse Register of births 1866-1902 and deaths 1866-1914 available via the Federation of Family History Societies Bookstore.
  • We also have a text file of Gainsborough Union Minutes you can review (and add to!). These are abbreviated to save space. To see the full entry, you must access the Lincolnshire Archives.
  • For more on what the LFHS and the Lincoln Archives have on Lincolnshire Poor Law records, see our Poorhouses page.
  • For more on researching Poor Law records, see our Poor Law records list.


  • "The Book Of Gainsborough" by Ian BECKWITH.
  • "Gainsborough Union Workhouse" by A. A. WHITE.
  • "Gainsborough Union Workhouse Minutes, Volume 3 1885-1889," 65 pages. Available from the LFHS via Genfair.

District Population

  Year  Inhabitants
1801 16,957
1841 25,857
1851 27,258
1861 25,973
1871 27,238
1881 29,928
1891 33,183
1901 35,821
1911 39,345


  • 1842: Thomas OLDMAN, clerk to Board of Guardians; Peter JOHNSON, workhouse master; Mrs. JOHNSON, workhouse matron.
  • 1872: Thomas Hugh OLDMAN, clerk to Board of Guardians; Rev. Thomas SUTTON, chaplain; George CROOKE, workhouse master; Mrs. Elizabeth CROOKE, workhouse matron.
  • 1882: Thomas Hugh OLDMAN, clerk to Board of Guardians; J. R. ELLIOTT, chaplain; George CROOKE, workhouse master; Mrs. LAYNE, workhouse matron.
  • 1900: F. MERCER, Chairman; Decimus Mallett ROBBS, clerk; Rev. F. H. DALBY, chaplan; Alexander S. L. MELVILLE, Treasurer; Joseph FARRAR, medical officer; Thomas WARR, workhouse master; Mrs. E. WARR, matron.
  • 1913: F. MERCER, Chairman; Decimus Mallett ROBBS, clerk; Rev. R, G. FOOKES, chaplan; Alexander S. L. MELVILLE, Treasurer; H. B. WIlloughby SMITH, medical officer; Fred WALTON, workhouse master; Mrs. A. WALTON, matron.
  • 1930: Edward TWIDALE, chairman; Egbert T. COLLEY, clerk; Claude George Melville PYM, Treasurer; Nathaniel MOXON, medical officer; Rev. R, G. FOOKES, chaplain; Fred WALTON, workhouse master.

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