St Martin in the Fields Workhouse Admission and Discharge Registers, 1725-1819 (SWR)

A pair of plane candlesticks from St Martin workhouse in a dark metal. Mid-eighteenth century St Martin Workhouse Candlesticks. © Museum of London.


This data was collected as part of the Pauper Lives Project directed by Prof. Jeremy Boulton and Dr Leonard Schwarz. The project was funded by the ESRC, and ran between 2004 and 2007. One of the main aims of the project, as the name suggests, was to construct the biographies of workhouse inmates, using all the available local documentation. Two principal classes of material from the parish of St Martin in the Fields are made available here, Settlement Examinations and the Workhouse Admissions Registers. On the London Lives website these resources are only available for keyword and name searching. If you wish to use these materials for structured analysis please contact the Pauper Lives Project directly. Copyright in this material remains with the original investigators, Jeremy Boulton and Leonard Schwarz, and is reproduced here by license, for non-commercial use only.

This database of the workhouse registers includes abstracted details of the admissions and discharges from the St Martin's Workhouse from July 1725, when it opened, to the end of 1819. In total over 100,000 entries are included, each of which represents a single entry and exit from the parish workhouse.

The Registers

The original volumes were organised into letter tabs for the convenience of the workhouse master, who was charged with keeping the register up to date. This tab system groups all entries by the first letter of the surname of the pauper; so the entries relating to people whose surnames begin with B are all on the same page. On any single page entries are in date order from top to bottom. This organisation facilitated finding a specific pauper's entry, regardless of when they came into the house. This order of entries is preserved in the order of entries in the database.

When paupers presented themselves at the workhouse, the master filled in the register with their full name, age and the date of entry, with a brief description of the reason they were admitted and under what authority. When the inmate later left the house, whether alive or dead, the line of the register was completed, recording the date they left and the reason.

The Database

The database is organised into twenty-eight fields, but where fields are blank these have been suppressed in the version displayed here. Where information is available for each possible field the record will include:

  • Unique Project ID: Unique identification number.
  • Manuscript Reference: The original manuscript reference as assigned by the archive.
  • Page Number: Page number in the original manuscript.
  • Folio Number: Folio number in the original manuscript.
  • Surname
  • Forename
  • Alias
  • Male OR Female
  • Date of Admission: Date of entry in the form DD/MM/YYYY.
  • Reason for Entry: A brief statement of circumstances on admission.
  • With Whom: Whether accompanied by a child, parent or spouse.
  • Overseer OR Churchwarden: The position of the admitting officer.
  • Surname of Admitting Officer: Surname of admitting officer, where provided.
  • Forename of Admitting Officer: Forename of admitting officer, where provided.
  • If Passed, From Where: Name of the parish from which a pauper was formally passed.
  • Age on Admission: Age, given in years and in decimal form for months.
  • Workhouse Number: Contemporary workhouse number as assigned by the parish.
  • Ward: Ward in the workhouse to which the pauper was assigned.
  • Number of Times Admitted: Number of times an individual was believed to have been in the house before.
  • If Pregnant: Whether pregnant.
  • If Pregnancy is Illegitimate: Whether a pregnant woman was married.
  • If a Child, Illegitimate: Whether an infant child was legitimate or a bastard.
  • Date of Discharge: Date on which a pauper's discharge was recorded, in the form of DD/MM/YYYY.
  • Age on Discharge: Age, given in years, and in decimal form for months.
  • Reason for Discharge: A brief statement of circumstances on discharge.
  • Title of Person Discharged To: If indicated, usually a parish officer, but normally blank.
  • Surname of Person Discharged To: If indicated, usually the surname of a parish officer; normally blank.
  • Forename of Person Discharged To: If indicated, usually the forename of a parish officer; normally blank.

A typical entry includes the following information (excluding empty cells):

  • Unique Project ID: 17789
  • Manuscript Reference: F4074
  • Surname: Bailey
  • Forename: Mary
  • Alias: unknown
  • Male OR Female: female
  • Date of Admission: 22/3/1742
  • Reason for Entry: Return'd from Bridewell
  • If Passed, From Where: Bridewell
  • Age on Admission: 34.25
  • Number of Times Admitted: 28
  • Date of Discharge: 5/4/1742
  • Reason for Discharge: Dischargd

Back to Top | Introductory Reading

The Parish

At the heart of Westminster, the boundaries of the parish of St Martin in the Fields as reflected in this register were created in 1724, when St George Hanover Square was removed from the larger parish. Throughout most of the century, St Martin's encompassed approximately 30,000 inhabitants, including some of the richest in London as well as the more disorderly neighbourhoods around Charing Cross.

These registers were created to service and reflect the management of the parish workhouse, first opened on 29 July 1725. The poor law arrangements in St Martin and the role of the workhouse within them was described by Francis Eden at the end of the century:

The volumes reproduced in this database are part of a complex and nearly complete set of parochial records that encompass the whole range of interactions between the parish and individual paupers, including account books, vestry minutes, outdoor relief accounts, pauper apprenticeship records, sexton's books, and a comprehensive set of Settlement Examinations (SET) (also available in London Lives). These records form the basis for a series of projects, directed by Professor Boulton and Dr Schwarz, which are currently producing detailed analyses that promise to refine and change our understanding of the nature of living poor in London.

Using this Dataset in London Lives

The individuals whose experiences are recorded in these registers were paupers, and they are most likely also to appear in records associated with poor relief. Many will have been subject to a Settlement Examination, and their names are very likely to appear in the St Martin's Settlement Examinations (SET) transcribed by the Pauper Lives Project, and reproduced in a name and keyword searchable form on this site.

A significant proportion of paupers suffered being removed from or to another parish. Where the other parish was St Clement Danes, St Dionis Backchurch, or St Botolph Aldgate, their name should appear in the relevant parish records. Where the parish of settlement or removal was St Luke Chelsea, their name is likely to appear in the St Luke's Workhouse Register (WHR).

As St Martin in the Fields was in Westminster, names appearing in the workhouse register might also appear in the Coroners Inquests (IC) for Westminster. However, they are more likely to appear as deponents or in the guise of a dead body than as members of the coroners' jury. This disjunction of wealth also suggests that while some of the ratepayers and voters recorded in the Westminster Historical Database (WHD) might have sunk to pauper dependence and found a place in the workhouse register, their number is likely to be limited.

There is also a chance that the inmates of St Martin in the Fields workhouse were caught up in the system of vagrant removal or in the criminal justice system, as either victims or perpetrators. If so, their names would also appear in the Sessions Papers (PS) for Middlesex, The Old Bailey Proceedings (OBP), and perhaps in the records of Bridewell if they were charged with vagrancy in the City of London.

Original Sources

Westminster Archives Centre, St Martin in the Fields, Alphabetical lists of the poor taken in to the House of Maintenance, with the date of admission, date of death or discharge, the age and the number of each pauper, and subsequent Day Books, F4002 - F4022, July 1724 - March 1819.

Introductory Reading

  • Boulton, Jeremy. The Poor Among the Rich: Paupers and the Parish, in the West End, 1600-1724. In Griffiths, Paul and Jenner, Mark S. R. (ed.), Londinopolis: Essays in the Cultural and Social History of Early Modern London. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2000, pp. 197-225.
  • Boulton, Jeremy. 'It Is Extreme Necessity That Makes Me Do This'. Some 'Survival Strategies' of Pauper Households in London's West End During the Early Eighteenth Century. International Review of Social History. Supplement 9 (2001), pp. 47-69.
  • Boulton, Jeremy. The Poor Among the Rich: Paupers and the Parish in the West End, 1600-1724. In: P. Griffiths and M. S. R. Jenner (eds). Londinopolis. Essays on the Cultural and Social History of Early Modern London. Manchester, 2000, pp. 195-223.
  • Schwarz, L. D. London, 1700-1840, vol. 2 of The Cambridge Urban History of Britain, ed. P. Clark. Cambridge, 2000.
  • Schwarz, L. D. London in the Age of Industrialisation: Entrepreneurs, Labour Force and Living Conditions, 1700–1850. Cambridge, 2004.

Online Resources

For further reading on this subject see the London Lives Bibliography.