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Brief History of the Poor Law Unions in England and Wales from 1834
Under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, the Poor Law Commission was given the power to unite parishes in England and Wales into Poor Law Unions, each Union being administered by a local Board of Guardians according to the directions issued by the Commission. According to the Act, relief was only to be given to able-bodied paupers through the workhouse and central to the formation of a Union was the provision of a workhouse building.
Although there was some periodic reorganisation of union boundaries, with a existing unions being dissolved or merged, most notably in London, the majority of the unions set up under the 1834 Act continued in operation for almost a century. The end came at midnight on Monday 31st March 1930, when a new Local Government Bill abolished all the Poor Law Unions and their Boards of Guardians, their role passing to county councils and county boroughs. Responsibility for the destitute then passed to new local Public Assistance Committees.
Bath Poor Law Union
Bath Poor Law Union was formed on 28 March 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 41 in number, representing its 24 consituent parishes as listed below.
(figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
Somerset:Bath—St James (3), Bath—St Michael (2), Bath—St Peter & St Paul (2); Bath—Walcot (8), Bath Hampton, Bath Easton [Batheaston], Bath Ford [Bathford], Bathwick (2), Charlcombe, Charterhouse Hinton, Claverton, Combhay, Dunkerton, English Combe, Langridge, Lyncombe &, Widcombe (4), Monkton Combe, St Catherine, South Stoke, Swanswick, Twerton or Twiverton (2), Wellow, Weston (2), Woolley. Later Additions: Freshford (1883)
• Bath and North East Somerset Record Office, Guildhall, High Street, Bath BA1 5AW. A wide variety of records survives including: Guardians' minute books (1836-1930); Workhouse admissions (1914-1934); Baptisms (1847-1922); burials (1847-99); Bastardy order registers (1844-85); Relief order books (1886-1928); Ledgers (1836-1909); Cottage Homes administrative records; etc.
Staff and Inmates: 1881 census
History of the Bath Hospital
The Bath Hospital, open to the poor from every part of the kingdom, whose maladies require the use of the Bath waters, is maintained by voluntary contributions, and is under the direction of a president and governors, incorporated by act of parliament, who have a common seal, and are empowered to fill up vacancies in their own body. The Bath United Hospital combines the objects of the late city dispensary and casualty infirmary, and a spacious building has been erected for it near the Cross bath; this and the West Walcot dispensary, and an infirmary in Pierrepoint-street, for curing diseases of the eye, are also supported by subscription. There are three societies for the relief of women during childbirth; an asylum for the support of young females, and for instructing them in household work; a house of protection for orphans and destitute females; an establishment for aged, and an asylum for young, females; a penitentiary, with a chapel; and other charitable institutions of various kinds, adapted to the wants of the distressed poor, and to the mitigation of almost every species of calamity. St. John's Hospital, for the maintenance of six aged men and six women, was founded in the reign of Henry II. by Reginald Fitz-Jocelyn, who endowed it with lands then producing £22 per annum; attached is a neat chapel, in which the master, who must be a clergyman of the Established Church, officiates daily. Partis' College, a capacious range of building, occupying three sides of a quadrangle, on the upper road to Bristol, and comprising a chapel and separate dwellings for 30 decayed gentlewomen, ten of whom must be either the widows or daughters of clergymen, was founded and endowed by Mrs. Partis, in fulfilment of the intention of her husband, Fletcher Partis, Esq., who died before it was carried into effect. The poor law union of Bath comprises 24 parishes and places, and contains a population of 69,232.
From: 'Basingstoke - Battersby', A Topographical Dictionary of England (1848), pp. 168-177. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=50784 Date accessed: 16 March 2011.
For more information on the history of the workhouse, see Peter Higginbotham's web site: www.workhouses.org.uk and http://www.workhouses.org.uk/index.html?Bath/Bath.shtml
Parishes in the Union
Bath Abbey, Somerset Bath St James, Somerset Bath St Michael, Somerset Bathampton, Somerset Batheaston, Somerset Bathford, Somerset Bathwick with Woolley, Somerset Charlcombe, Somerset Claverton, Somerset Combe Down, Somerset Combe Hay, Somerset Dunkerton, Somerset Englishcombe, Somerset Hinton Charterhouse, Somerset Langridge, Somerset Monkton Combe, Somerset South Stoke, Somerset St Catherine, Somerset Swainswick, Somerset Twerton-on-Avon, Somerset Walcot, Somerset Walcot Holy Trinity, Somerset Walcot St Saviour, Somerset Wellow, Somerset Weston, Somerset Weston St John, Somerset Widcombe, Somerset
Bath workhouse records are held at Bath & North East Somerset Record. Office, The Guildhall, Bath, BA1 5AW, tel. 01225 477421, email@example.com.
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