Bromley Poor Law Union, Kent

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A guide to genealogy involving the Bromley Poor Law Union.

Bromley is a town in Kent, England.

History[edit | edit source]

The Bromley Poor Law Union was created on 19th May 1836; a Union Workhouse was built at Locks Bottom (near Tug Mutton Common) in 1844. The lodge was on the main London to Hastings Road and one side of the site adjoined Wellbrook Road which ran to the Common.

The Union Workhouse had a chapel ( which still survives) and was in the parish of Farnborough, Kent; no chapel records survive but careful examination of the Admission and Discharge registers together with the Creed registers indicate that pauper deaths at the Workhouse were returned to the constituent parish for burial ( where recorded); casual admissions who died are likely to have been buried at Farnborough, Kent.

Prior to the formation of the Poor Law Union parish workhouses were in existence at

From the 1920's the union had reached agreements and provided housing for registrars for the civil registration of births and deaths for Sidcup, Orpington, Bromley North and Bromley South registration sub districts. The Administrative structure of the Victorian poor law finally came to an end with the Local Government Act (1929), which took effect on 31 March 1930. The Infirmary passed in 1948 into the National Health Service, however until the 1980's Farnborough Hospital maintained a registration office at the hospital for the registration of births and deaths continuing the practice of the former Union.

It is also possible to note the development of the Infirmary at Locksbottom and following enactments relating to Lunacy and the Feeble Minded a Lunacy register was maintained by the Union and is deposited at Bromley Archive.

The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act section 45: "nothing in this Act contained shall authorize the detention in any workhouse of any dangerous lunatic, insane person, or idiot, for any longer period than fourteen days; and every person wilfully detaining in any workhouse any such lunatic, insane person, or idiot, for more than fourteen days, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanour: Provided always, that nothing herein contained shall extend to any place duly licensed for the reception of lunatics and other insane persons, or to any workhouse being also a County Lunatic Asylum."

The Lunacy register reflects implementation of the 8 Edward 7 c.47 1908 Lunacy Act (subsequently repealed by the 1959 Mental Health Act).

The cessation of the Poor Law system lead to the infirmary and buildings passing in 1948 into the National Health Service with the addition of a maternity wing and hutted wards on that part of the site which had formerly been orchard and gardens.

Farnborough Hospital was closed and demolished to form the present Princess Royal University Hospital on the site.

The Chapel has been converted into use as a centre for support and complementary therapy for women with breast cancer and their families; The Primrose Centre.

A parish poor relief for Bromley St Peter & St Paul was established in 1651 when Bishop Buckeridge of Rochester gave £20 for the use of the poor in the town. This was insufficient to purchase a house but seeded other donations to assist those in need. Opposite the Bishop's Palace on the London Road a field was used to bury victims of the plagues which came to the town and was designated Plague Field.

In 1731 the land adjacent to the Plague Field to the north along the London Road was designated WorkHouse Field by civic authority and the Parish Vestry decided to borrow £400 to build a house. The Bishop,in his role as Lord of the Manor claimed the field as manorial land and deemed the Vestry to to be tenants of the manor and not freeholders.In 1732 the Bishop granted a lease for 21 years. The lease was not renewed and a period of 13 years of Work House operation went by until in 1766 a new lease was granted by Bishop Pearce.

Relations between the Bishop and public authorities were at loggerheads about levying poor rates upon the Bishop's Palace and the Bishop in 1788 refused to renew. In 1789 the Bishop drew up a new lease increasing the annual rent equivalent to the expected poor rate on the Palace and grounds. The ensuing stalemate resulted in the Bishop paying no poor rate and the Vestry paying no rent! Eventually a Court ruled in favour of the Bishop but the matter was not resolved until 1813 when the Bishop agreed to pay poor rate from 1810 and the Vestry were to pay a rack rent.

Throughout this period the Poor House had accommodated the destitute and sick and disabled of the town.

However the Work House was not free from controversy. The normally uncontentious Vestry meeting minutes take on a very different nature when the 1781 appointment of a master of the house became hotly debated between the small gathering of prominent church people and the 65 parishioners who arrived to consider whether Mr.John Furlough should be appointed master. Again towns people objected to the Vestry proposal to pay out relief for some to live with local families which was rejected.

Further local agitation arose in 1822 when the protests at the appointment of an assistant master and poor rate collector were overwhelmingly rejected and the Vestry meetings suspended.

In 1747 those resident at the House were cleared so that it could become a hospital for soldiers wounded in the War raging on the Austrian succession.

In 1834 The Poor Law Amendment Act brought about Bromley Poor Law Union and for forty years until his death George Warde Norman served as Vice-Chairman and the Union Workhouse at Locks Bottom was widely referred to as "George Norman's House".

Constituent Parishes[edit | edit source]

The Lewisham Poor Law Union was formed in 1836 from the parishes of Lewisham, Charlton, Eltham, Mottingham, Kidbrooke, Lee and Plumstead. In 1887 the parish of Mottingham separated to become part of the Bromley Union.

Records[edit | edit source]

It does not appear likely that any of the early parish workhouses will feature in future publication of the England, Kent, Workhouse Records - FamilySearch Historical Records by FamilySearch since that relates to material held at Maidstone. Bromley Archives holds material for the parishes in Bromley and it seems likely that neighbouring London boroughs have acquired any holdings which were previously at Maidstone.

Cudham Parish Workhouse at Leaves Green[edit | edit source]

The Cudham Parish Workhouse was built in 1731 at Leaves Green.

No documents relating to the foundation of the parish workhouse survive. There is a reference in a manorial rental of the manor of Cudham 05 29 October 1731 to the church warden and overseers of Cudham paying a quit rent of 1d for the workhouse. A 1788 survey of the parish includes the workhouse and garden. In 1803/4 11 people were in the workhouse according to an abstract of returns relating to the expense and maintenance of the poor.

The minutes of the Board of Guardians of the Bromley Union 1836 ( Bromley Archive reference 346 G/BY AM1 record a report to the full board that there were 15 inmates although the workhouse was capable of accommodating 60. The inmates were transferred to Bromley, Chislehurst and St Mary Cray workhouses. The same meeting resolved to build a central workhouse.

To the modern eye the workhouse appears disconnected from the parish but much of the modern area of the Ancient Parish was constructed in the 20th century. The former parish Workhouse is a grade II listed building; the three cottages were renamed Jasmine Cottage, Ramblers Rest Cottage and Green View in the early 20th century. British Listed Buildings contains architectural details and is based on Bromley Archives material held at reference L78.4.(0)

St Mary Cray Poor House[edit | edit source]

No records of the workhouse inmates survive however Bromley Archives does contain records concerning the formation and acquisition of the house and land.

The Orpington, Kent Vestry Minutes Bromley Archives reference P 277/8/2 1808-1847 contain several pages (including a vestry meeting held at the Workhouse to consider the work potential of the able bodied inmates from Orpington). The two parishes had formed the idea in 1815 of acquiring a house and land at the southern edge of St Mary Cray parish adjoining Orpington parish boundary and equally funding the purchase. A meeting on 29 December 1815 at the Black Boy public house resulted in a paper which was considered at an Orpington Vestry meeting on 31 December 1815. Subsequently on 3 January 1816 the Orpington Vestry agreed to fund £ 900 by raising life annuities for those in Orpington " not exceeding 40 years of age" At a further meeting on 3 March 1816 it was reported that the workhouse was "to be built on land near Reynoldsmiths in the parish of St Mary Cray.

In her work "The Book of Orpington" ISBN 086023424X p89 Dorothy Cox briefly describes the Poor House in the hamlet of Reynolds Smith ( which also contained the Red Lion public house). The Poor House ceased to be used when the Union Workhouse opened in 1844 at Locksbottom in Farnborough parish.

Burials from the workhouse are found in the St Mary Cray burial registers but inmates were transferred from Cudham Workhouse in 1836.

The workhouse and Garden are found in the 1839/40 Tithe map of St Mary Cray as item 46 and Samuel Chinock is listed in the tithe apportionment as Occupier and presumably master.

Records[edit | edit source]

Bromley Archives have a large collection of records for the Union Workhouse at Farnborough/Locksbottom although there are many gaps in records. At over 1,000 items deposited in the Archive,records include minute books, letter books/Correspondence and numerous registers covering various aspects of the Poor Law Union's Work. Bromley Union's Workhouse was in Farnborough at the site of the former Farnborough Hospital, now the Princess Royal University Hospital, Farnborough, Kent.

It is worthwhile noting that birth and death registers for the Union Workhouse were maintained by registrars who were provided with houses and a salary to ensure that civil registration was maintained for each of the registration districts from the 1920's onwards for the Sidcup, Bromley South, Orpington and North Bromley sub districts. Agreements with registrars and details of the houses provided are within the collection. The registrars were also remunerated to assist in the maintenance of Vaccination and medical registers.

  • Creed Registers 1870-1931 reference 846GBy/W/I/c (also available on microfilm) These are being transcribed (see below)
  • Admission and Discharge books 1882-1930reference 846GBy/W/R/a
  • Guardian Minutes 1836-1930
  • Apprentice Register 1882-1912, 1927-1930
  • Register of Births 1879-1939 reference 846GBy/W/I/b and reference 846GBy/CPaB/2/1-2
  • Registers of Deaths 1907-1939 reference 846GBy/W/I/d and 846GBy/CPaB/2/3-6
  • Register of Lunatics 1871-1931 reference 846GBy/W/I/L
  • Letter Books 1872-1931
  • Vaccination registers 1895-1921
  • Medical Register 1917-1930 reference 846GBy/W/I/m
  • Register of Persons Receiving Infants for Reward 1909-1926 reference 846GBy/NP/i

Some medical and personal information may be witheld from public examination for reasons of confidentiality; please apply to the Archive for further information.

Bromley Central Library
Telephone: 020 8461 7170
Fax: 020 8466 7860

  • Bromley Creed registers 1889-1893/4 Bromley Creed register the Bromley Archives volunteer transcription team are working to provide an online index to these records, working from the microfilm and original records.

Websites[edit | edit source]

For more information on the history of the workhouse, see Peter Higginbotham's web site: Bromley Workhouse