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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Poor Law and Parish Chest Records  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Workhouse In-Relief

The first workhouses were intended principally to house the elderly, sick and orphans, but later took in many able but out-of-work men and their destitute families, increasingly so after 1834.

A distinction was made in the minds of the affluent regarding the idle poor, (the able who would not work), and the deserving poor, who for some legitimate reason were unable to support themselves. The change in 1834 to creating basic but unattractive conditions in the workhouse, and forcing all paupers to reside therein or lose benefits, was largely based on this ethic.

Workhouse Admissions and Discharges

The truthfulness of information, especially birthplace and recent residence, given by destitute persons needing a roof over their heads, food and clothing must never be taken completing at face value. It is a case of primary evidence given under stress for a definite purpose and thus may be less reliable than other primary evidence. Nevertheless, useful leads may be had from these documents.

There are often six-monthly summaries called indoor relief lists that can act as indexes to the admission and discharge registers. The lists state names and dates of birth as well as how long they have been in the workhouse.

St. George in The East, Middlesex Workhouse Admissions and Discharges 1807-1818 Film 0251924

This is a huge book with entries covering a two-page spread having 12 main columns for Admissions and 4 for Discharges. The information included is:
Admission number Name
Date of Admission Age
Whether Inoculated or Vaccinated [Smallpox]
Where born Trade
Religious denomination By whose order [admitted]
How Settled Whether able to work
Remarks on admission
When discharged Cause of discharge
Age Remarks


James MOORE age 64 admitted 1815, born in Venice, inoculated, Catholic, settled by renting, ‘able to work but not willing, a troublesome man’, discharged at his request 24 Apr 1819.

John CLEGG age 55 admitted 1815, born St. Bride’s City of London, inoculated, pipe maker, Established Church, settled by renting, nearly blind, discharged to Royal Eye Infirmary, Westminster 1 Jan 1819

Michael McCOY age 37 admitted Aug 1816, born in Leinster, Ireland, inoculated, bricklayer, Catholic, settled by servitude, able to work ‘a very steady fellow’, discharged at his request 20 Mar 1819.

John SHROEDER, age 63 admitted 1816, born in Hanover, inoculated, sugar baker, Lutheran, casual, lame, died of natural decay 15 Apr 1820.

Cornelius MURPHY age 40 admitted for 5th time Nov 1818, born Munster, Ireland, inoculated, labourer, Catholic, casual, venereal, discharged at his request 11 Jan 1819.

Francis SHORT age 52 admitted for 3rd time Nov 1818, born St. John Southwark, inoculated, cooper, Established Church, settled by apprenticeship, able to work but ‘a lazy man’, discharged at his request 20 Sep 1819.

John SMITH age 30 admitted 2nd time Nov 1818, born Queenhithe, inoculated, labourer, Calvinist, on pass from Whitechapel, settled by renting, Able to work, ‘very respectable connections and from his .... Deserves a better lot’, discharged at his request 16 Apr 1819.

George CAMERON age 60 admitted 1814, born Ratcliffe Highway, inoculated, linen draper, Presbyterian, settled by parents, able but ‘discharged to prison for pawning’ 5 Feb 1819

Westminster Workhouse, Middlesex Admissions and Discharges 1824

Admitted 1824 Discharged
Date Name Age
Sep 16 Denny, Susannah 21 Dischd 16 Sep 1824 at the Office

Denny, John 2 Do with Mother Do
Sep 23 Davis, Catherine 20 Removed to the Parish of Hentland in the County
of Hereford 18 Jan 1825
Sep 24 Donovan, Elizth 11½ Dischd 7 Nov 1824 to Mr Martin at 19 Hanover Street,
Long Acre as a Servant
Oct 14 Drury, Drew 59 Died 23 Jan 1837
Oct 18 Davis, Helen Born Removed to the Parish of Hentland in the County of
Hereford 18 Jan 1825 with mother Vide above
Nov 9 Dullman, Mary Ann 121/4 Upon liking 12 Nov 1824 to John Buddes, 23 Popping
Court, Fleet Street ........ Bound 27 Dec 1824
Nov 9 Dallman, Thos Wm 91/4 Ran away 12 Jun 1825. His Mother took him away from
the Ranks when going to Church with the Boys on Sunday
Nov 10 Dransfield, Cath 36 Died 15 Nov 1824

Westminster Workhouse, Middlesex Admissions and Discharges 1835

Admitted 1835 Discharged
Date Name Age
Mar 14 Corgan, John 28 Died 28 May 1835
Mar 27 Cleghorn, James 50 Absconded 17 Apr 1835
Apr 18 Cleghorn, James 50 Discharged 27 Jun 1835
Apr 23 Cavendish, Margt 52 Absconded 9 Oct 1836 while on leave to attend the Catholic Chapel on Sunday
Jun 18 Cooper, James 54 Dischd 29 Jul 1835

Cooper, Makepeace 60 Do with Husband
Jun 22 Carter, Julia 60 Went out on leave of absence 7 Nov 1835 and on her return refused admittance by the Porter, she being Drunk
Jun 25 Cotterell, Willm 41 Sent to Messrs Warburton at Bethnal House, Bethnal Green, a private madhouse 25 Jun 1835
Jul 3 Cleghorn, James 50 Dischd 7 Jul 1835
Jul 7 Crump, Henry 6 m Sent to Mr Aubin’s Infant Poor Establishment, Norwood 30 Jul 1835

There are other columns indicating how many times admitted, and which ward they were placed in. James Cleghorn records his 14th, 15th, and 16th visits above.

History of Dashwood Family in Piccadilly Workhouse 1824-1828

The family were passed from Marylebone parish and admitted in distress to the following wards in St. James Piccadilly workhouse on 4 November 1826, and consisted of:
William Dashwood, tailor 33 Ward 26>
Wife Lucy 34 Ward 2
Child Lucy 9 Ward 2
Child Christian 7 Ward 5
Child William 6 Ward 5
Child Sophia 3 Ward 5
Child Joseph 11/2 Ward 5
They brought with them one decent set of linen each. Little Joseph died 28 Dec 1826 and William junior absconded on 6 Jan 1827. Lucy was delivered of a female child, Matilda, on 8 May 1827 and this baby died 25 July 1827. Lucy junior was discharged 27 Sep 1827 by Mr. Smith. The parents were discharged by Nurse Budd to Wimbledon 28 Feb 1828. The two oldest children, Lucy and Christian were discharged by the Master the next day.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Poor Law and Parish Chest Records offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.