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Workhouses are recorded at
Epping, Essex
Harlow, Essex
Theydon Garnon, Essex (from 1704)
Chigwell, Essex1728
From about 1789, an Epping parish workhouse was located in the village on what is now Station Road, opposite what later became the National Westminster bank. It was a three-storey brick building with a few small cottages and a garden to the rear.
Epping Poor Law Union was formed on 16th January 1836.
Epping workhouse was erected at a site on The Plain in 1837-8. The Poor Law Commissioners authorised an expenditure of £6,000 on construction of the building which was intended to accommodate up to 220 inmates. It was designed by Lewis Vulliamy who was also the architect of the Brentford and Sturminster Union workhouses.
A separate two-storey infirmary was added in 1846 which was later used as a laundry. Another infirmary was added in 1876 at the south of the main building. In the 1880s, a major building programme included the remodelling of the entrance black at the north, and the replacement of the southern wing with a new infirmary and dining-hall/chapel, together with new buildings to the west.
In 1911-12, a new infirmary, at the east of the workhouse, and a master's house were erected at a cost of about £10,000. The infirmary was taken over by the army in 1917-19.
The former workhouse later became Epping Poor Law Institution and then St Margaret's Hospital. Most of the surviving workhouse building was demolished in 2001.

Epping Cottage Homes

From the early 1900s, Epping Union operated a small cottage homes site for 40 children at Coopersale Common. The children attended school at Theydon Garnon. The homes no longer exist.

Constituent Parishes

Buckhurst Hill, Essex from 1894 added to the Union
Chigwell, Essex
Chingford, Essex
Epping, Essex ( Epping Upland added from 1896)
Great Parndon, Essex
Harlow, Essex
Latton, Essex
Little Parndon, Essex
Loughton, Essex
Magdalen Laver, Essex
Matching, Essex
Nazeing, Essex
Netteswell, Essex
North Weald, Essex
Roydon, Essex
Sheering, Essex
Theydon Bois, Essex
Theydon Garnon, Essex


Essex Record Office, Wharf Road Chelmsford CM2 6YT. Few records survive — holdings include: Guardians' minutes (1836-1930; Lunatic examination book (1870-1919); Punishment book (1914-38)
Essex Record Office reference G/E Title Epping Union
Dates of Creation 1836-1942, post-1958 (G/E Z6)

Records of Poor Law Unions inherited by National Health Service hospitals in 1948 are Public Records within the meaning of the Public Records Acts 1958 and 1967 (Association of County Archivists, Document Closure Periods: Guide and Recommendations , 1988, para. 4.7.5, quoting letter from Public Record Office 1987). The provenance and date of deposit of some of the records in G/E is unclear. However it appears that by this definition G/E W2-4 only are Public Records.

Medical records of individual paupers (including registers of admissions and discharges which contain medical details), if Public Records, are closed for 100 years (Department of Health circular HC 89(20) of August 1989, Public Record Office circular C25/6 of 1972). The former circular sets out conditions for access within the closure period. In practice the E.R.O. applies this closure rule whether the records in question are Public Records or not, and accordingly G/E W1, 3 are not available for public use until 2020 and 2036 respectively.

For post-1834 parish records illustrating the work of the Guardians see D/P .../19/... For orders, directions and declarations of the Poor Law Commissioners responsible for grouping parishes into UNIONs, 1835-1837, see Q/RSw 2-5. For a catalogue of correspondence in the Public Record Office, London, between Poor Law UNIONs and the Poor Law Commission (later the Poor Law Board, later the Local Government Board) 1834-1900 see List and Index Society volume 56 (Essex Record Office Library).

For a general history of the workhouse site at EPPING see J.L. Angel, 'St. Margaret's Hospital, EPPING. Origin, History and Development' (typescript, 1982). For an architectural study, produced following an application for redevelopment, see D. Freke and N. Hall, 'St. Margaret's Hospital, EPPING. Historic Building Impact Assessment' (typescript report by RPS Clouston of Abingdon, Oxfordshire, 2 volumes, 1998). The buildings are also considered in Tina Garratt, 'Essex Poor Law Buildings' (Essex County Council, Comparative survey of modern/industrial sites and monuments no. 8, 1998). All these works are available in the Essex Record Office Library.

For a published account of the work of the Guardians in six mid-Essex UNIONs (not including EPPING) see George Cuttle, The Legacy of the Rural Guardians (Cambridge 1934 (Essex Record Office Library 362.50942)). The Essex Record Office also holds the newscuttings which Cuttle collected and used in writing the book (T/P 181). For an analysis of Poor Law UNION ledgers see Keith H. Baker, 'General ledgers of Boards of Guardians', in Journal of the Society of Archivists , vol. 2 (1960-1964), pp. 367-369.
Admin History The Poor Law Amendment Act, 1834, transferred responsibility for poor relief from parishes (for records of which see D/P .../11-18/...) to Boards of Guardians of the Poor. The Guardians administered groups of parishes or Poor Law UNIONs. Each UNION had its own workhouse. EPPING Poor Law UNION was created on 16 January 1836 by an order of the Poor Law Commissioners dated 31 December 1835 (Q/RSw 3). It comprised the parishes of Chigwell, Chingford, EPPING, Harlow, Latton, Loughton, Magdalen Laver, Matching, Nazeing, Netteswell, Great Parndon, Little Parndon, Roydon (including Roydon Hamlet), Sheering, Theydon Bois, Theydon Garnon and North Weald Bassett. The Public Health Act, 1872, created urban and rural sanitary authorities, and constituted the Guardians as the rural sanitary authority for those parts of each UNION not within an urban sanitary authority - in this case, the entire UNION. For records of EPPING Rural Sanitary Authority see G/ES. The Local Government Act, 1894, replaced rural sanitary authorities with rural district councils (for records of which see D/R...). The Local Government Act, 1929, abolished the Boards of Guardians and transferred their powers to the Public Assistance Committees of County Councils and County Borough Councils. The final meeting of the EPPING Board of Guardians was held on 14 March 1930. For minutes of Essex County Council Public Assistance Committee, 1929-1948, see C/MPa 1-22. The workhouse of the EPPING Poor Law UNION was built in 1838 at the north-eastern end of the town of EPPING, within the ancient parish of Theydon Garnon. Boundary changes in 1896 placed it in the new parish and urban district of EPPING. The workhouse continued in use after 1930 as a Public Assistance Institution (being re-named St. Margaret's Hospital in September 1938) and after July 1948 as a National Health Service hospital. For records of the hospital post-dating 1930 see A/HW 6. The original workhouse building came to house the hospital administration, but this had moved out by May 1998, and before 2003 the building had been demolished. Cottage Homes for children were built in about 1904 at Coopersale, on a site lying until 1896 in the ancient parish of Theydon Garnon, but thereafter within the new parish and urban district of EPPING. The homes were enlarged in about 1910 (Angel, op. cit., pp. 68, 69, 75, 76). For insurance policies for the Cottage Homes, 1904, and an Inland Revenue valuation, 1910, see D/DYq 30-32. For an account of life at the homes in 1946-1968 see T/P 549/1.


• Hitchcock, T.V. (1985) The English workhouse: a study in institutional poor relief in selected counties. l695-l750. (DPhil thesis. University of Oxford.)
• Glimpses of Epping in Olden Days by Sidney Hills.
• St Margaret's Hospital, Epping: Origin, History and Development by Tina Garratt (1982)


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/Epping/Epping.shtml


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