Source Information

Ancestry.com. Bedfordshire, England, Workhouse and Poor Law Records, 1835-1914 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2020.
Original data: Bedfordshire Poor Law and Workhouse Records. Bedford, Bedfordshire, England: Bedfordshire Archives and Records Service.

About Bedfordshire, England, Workhouse and Poor Law Records, 1835-1914

Historical Background

In 1834 the Poor Law Amendment Act changed the system of looking after the poor and needy that had been in place since the Poor Law Act of 1601.

Under the 1834 law, parishes were grouped into Unions. Each Union elected a Board of Guardians, which was responsible for care of the poor across all of the individual parishes. Each Union was responsible for providing various forms of poor relief to the elderly, orphaned, abandoned, unemployed, and sick. Aid came as more than just money; the poor could also be provided food, clothing, and work. Children from poor families might be placed in apprenticeships or sent to schools and other institutions.

The most notable form of relief was admission to the Union workhouse. The workhouse was not a new institution since parish workhouses had existed before, but what was new was the scale of the newly created, and in many cases newly built, union workhouses and the grip they came to exercise on the public imagination.

This Collection

Within this collection, you can find details of those provided assistance by the following poor law unions: Ampthill Poor Law Union, Bedford Poor Law Union, Biggleswade Poor Law Union, Leighton Buzzard Poor Law Union, Luton Poor Law Union, St Neots Poor Law Union, Woburn Poor Law Union.

Records relate to multiple sources and details available will vary depending on the type of document. You can find indexes pertaining to In-Letters and we will be updating the collection with indexes relating to other types of records in due course.

Details vary depending on record type, but you might find facts such as:

  • name
  • date
  • admission parish
  • reason discharged
  • occupation
  • gender
  • marital status
  • religion
  • birth date
  • age
  • address
  • disease
  • name and address of person liable for maintenance