Paupers in workhouses: brand new collection


25 November 2022
The workhouse, Poland Street, Soho by T. Sunderland © Wellcome Collection, public domain mark
FindMyPast has released a brand new collection that features the names of all long-term workhouse residents in England and Wales in 1860.

In 1860, the House of Commons ordered for a report to be taken of each workhouse in England and Wales. The report detailed every long-term resident of the workhouses, and the reasons for their residency. 

A long-term resident was an adult, over the age of 16, who had been inhabiting a workhouse for five or more years. There are over 14,000 records to explore in this brand new collection, available to FindMyPast subscribers.

Each record includes:


Period of continuous residence in workhouse

Reason for being a resident

Poor Law Union workhouse

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Whether brought up in a district or workhouse school

How did people end up as long-term workhouse residents?

The 1860 report 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

  Explore the collection at FindMyPast.

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