Poor Law records and workhouses

"The Poor Law" was legislation which extended from the 16th century until 1948.  The different records that these acts created can be helpful to people tracing their family history.

Old Poor Law (16th century – 1834)

The church looked after the poor until 1834 when the state took over. In Hertfordshire, the survival of records is poor but most parishes will have at least some.


New Poor Law and The Boards of Guardians

In 1834, an act was passed to split the country into unions of parishes.  Hertfordshire was split into 13 unions and each had a workhouse. 

Records for each can be found in our Online Archive Catalogue.  It can be tricky sometimes to find what you're looking for.  Try using the advanced search – in the "HalsRefNo" box use the following references (e.g. BG/BAR):

Workhouse admission and discharge registers

Search for people in the admission and discharge registers for Hatfield, Hertford, St Albans and Ware on Hertfordshire Names Online.


Public Assistance Committee 1930-1948

In 1930 the administration of the poor law was passed to county councils.  Hertfordshire County Council established a Public Assistance Committee which ran hospitals, children's homes and infirmaries. 

Public Assistance Committee minutes are in our Online Archive Catalogue.  Use the reference "HCC37" in the "HalsRefNo" box.  Please note, access restrictions may apply.

Another great place to learn about life in Hertfordshire workhouses is Workhouses.org.uk.


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