Sussex Poor Law Unions
An Act of Parliament in the year 1834 took the responsibility of administering to the poor from the local parish church to the doorstep of civil government. The government grouped each civil parish into a union of parishes. There were nearly 600 such unions throughout England, each one comprising close to 20 or more parishes, and were specifically setup to meet the demands of the poor among their local populations, with a workhouse on the premises. The responsbility was transferred from local parishes to a Board of Guardians in each union. These groupings or unions were known as poor-law unions.
The Poor Law Unions
Sussex had the following poor law unions within its boundaries:
- Arundel was a Gilbert Union see Arundel Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Battle Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Brighton Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Chailey Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Chichester Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Cuckfield Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Eastbourne Poor Law Union, Sussex
- West Firle Poor Law Union, Sussex
- East Grinstead Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Hailsham Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Hastings Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Horsham Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Lewes Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Midhurst Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Newhaven Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Petworth Poor Law Union, Sussex
- East Preston included Arundel from 1869 East Preston Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Rye Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Steyning Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Sutton (East Preston) Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Thakeham Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Ticehurst Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Uckfield Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Westbourne Poor Law Union, Sussex
- Westhampnett Poor Law Union, Sussex
For more information on the history of the workhouse, see Peter Higginbotham's web site: The Workhouse — its buildings, inmates, staff and administrators. The site houses a comprehensive list of links to records.
Records from the poor law unions, which were created from this time forward include the following:
- Creed Registers
- Rate books
- Workhouse Lists of Inmates
- Register of Apprentices
- Register of Births
- Register of Deaths
- Vestry Rate Books
- Admission and Discharge Registers
- Board of Guardians' Records
The National Archives (England)
The National Archives holds the correspondence between each poor law union and the central authorities: letters, memos, reports and accounts bound from the loose correspondence. These document individual paupers, cases of neglect and cruelty, and workhouse staff as well as source material to study indoor and outdoor poor relief, education, building work, local politics and labour history, such as trade unions, Chartism and friendly societies. The material is very strong on public health and contains accounts of both physical and mental health matters.
This project includes the Rye Poor Law Union, East Sussex and Kent, 1834- 1843
Records at The Family History Library
To determine records availability for each poor law union, search the Family History Library Catalog under the name of the county (Sussex), and then under the name of the poor law union, i.e. Newhaven, then under the term[s] "poor law" or "poorhouses".
Online Transcriptions Relating to Poor Law Records
The Sussex Record Society has transcripts for West Sussex Poor Law Unions at Database of Poor Law records for West Sussex.
GENUKI 1861 Project
GENUKI England has sampled 10% of the 1861 Census returns from Poor Law Union workhouses in England and Wales. They have published transcripts as Paupers in Workhouses 1861.