Suffolk Poor Law Unions

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England  Gotoarrow.png  Suffolk

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. Suffolk had the following poorlaw unions within its boundaries:

The Poorlaw Unions[edit | edit source]

  • Blything: Article on this workhouse at Bulcamp 
  • Bosmere & Claydon
  • Bury St Edmunds
  • Cosford
  • Hartismere
  • Hoxne - Union Workhouse in Stradbroke
  • Ipswich
  • Mildenhall
  • Mutford & Lothingland
  • Newmarket
  • Plomesgate
  • Risbridge
  • Samford
  • Stow
  • Sudbury
  • Thingoe
  • Wangford
  • Woodbridge

The Records[edit | edit source]

Records from the poorlaw unions, which were created from this time forward include the following:

  1. Guardianship
  2. Creed Registers
  3. Rate books
  4. Workhouse Lists of Inmates
  5. Register of Apprentices
  6. Register of Births
  7. Register of Deaths
  8. Vestry Rate Books
  9. Admission and Discharge Registers
  10. Board of Guardians' Records

History of Poor Law in Suffolk[edit | edit source]

Many laborers relied on poor relief or rates at some time in their life.[1]

Records at The Family History Library[edit | edit source]

To determine records availability for each poorlaw, search the FamilySearch Catalog under the name of the county (Suffolk), and then under the name of the poorlaw union, i.e. Bury St Edmund; then search under the term[s] "poorlaw" or "poorhouses".

Online Transcriptions Relating to Poorlaw Records[edit | edit source]

1) For more information on the history of the workhouse, see Peter Higginbotham's web site:, a 'gateway' website with some information on Suffolk's poor

2) Here is a website with approximately 10 percent of the county's poor

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Suffolk in the Nineteenth Century Physical, Social, Moral, Religious and Industrial; (Google ebook) By John Glyde Jun., 1856; 396 pages. Chapter 6, Pauperism Past and Present, pages 161 to 205