Find your ancestors in England & Wales, paupers in workhouses 1860

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Each record includes:

  • Name
  • Period of continuous residence in workhouse
  • Reason for being a resident
  • Poor Law Union workhouse
  • County
  • Whether brought up in a district or workhouse school

The information within this record set comes from a parliamentary report ordered by the House of Commons in June 1860. Parliament asked for a return "from each workhouse in England and Wales, of the name of every adult pauper… who has been an inmate of the workhouse during a continuous period of five years; stating the amount of time that each of such inmates shall have been in the workhouse, and the reason assigned why such persons are unable to maintain themselves."

An adult was defined as being aged 16 years and over.

The information was gathered and the report duly published in summer 1861. 14,216 individuals met the criteria for inclusion – in other words, had been living in a workhouse for at least five years. Of these, 6,569 were men and 7,647 were women. It was calculated that there were about 67,800 inmates of workhouses and therefore that about 21% of them were long-term institutional residents. For context, the population of England & Wales at the time of the April 1861 Census was 20,066,224.

The reasons given were categorised into the following broad groupings:

  • “Old age and infirmity” – 5,932 individuals
  • “Mental disease” [which included learning difficulties] – 4,989 individuals
  • “Bodily disease” – 924 individuals
  • “Bodily defects” [which included blindness and deafness] – 1,619 individuals
  • “Moral defects” [which included mothers of illegitimate children] – 182 individuals
  • “Other causes” [which included orphans and deserted wives] – 570 individuals