an insight into the workings of the Poor Law in North Norfolk



In the early part of 2010 The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) placed on the FamilySearch web site approximately one million Norfolk-related records in the form of document image files, including:

·         Archdeacon's Transcripts, 1600-1812

·         Bishop's Transcripts, 1685-1941

·         Marriage Bonds, 1557-1915

·         Monumental Inscriptions, 1600-1900's

·         Non-conformist Records, 1613-1901

·         Parish Registers, 1538-1900

·         Poor Law Union Records, 1796-1900

·         Register of Electors, 1844-1952

I was particularly interested in the Poor Law Union records, not only because of a particular interest in the history of Norfolk's poor, but also because of the wealth of family history detail that the documents contain, notably in my own area of interest - the Erpingham Union district in the North East of the County which includes the towns of Holt, Sheringham, Cromer and North Walsham and their surrounding villages (listed below).

At the time of writing there are 138,680 images, divided into the the Unions of:






East and West Flegg



Freebridge Lynn



King's Lynn

Loddon and Clavering

Mitford and Launditch



South Lynn

St Faith's







In some cases a Union's records include several books such as detailed registers of admissions & discharges to workhouses, grants of 'relief' and lists of poor-rate payers, but others consist only of one or two books of Minutes.

The majority of the documents appear to date from the introduction of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 and cover the detailed activities of the Act's implementation and the sometimes awkward transition from the arrangements established under the Relief of the Poor Act 1782 ('Gilbert's Act').  The latter had already established Unions (groupings of Parishes), and most of them had erected poor houses for the accommodation of their orphaned, sick, elderly and infirm paupers.  Management then was very much at a local level, hence there were wide variations in detail across individual Counties as well as the Country as a whole.

Under the new Act, each Union was to be managed by a Board of Guardians of the Poor, to include one or more Guardians elected annually from each Parish, plus the local Justices of the Peace as Ex-officio members.  They were accountable to the Poor Law Commissioners whose local representative, the Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, had been responsible for carrying the Act into effect at a regional level.

Composition of the Erpingham Union

The post-1834 Erpingham Union comprised the following Parishes:

Aldborough ©


Aylmerton ©


Barningham Norwood

Barningham Winter


Beeston Regis ©



Briston ª

Cley next the Sea ª

Cromer ©

East Beckham ©

Edgefield ª

Felbrigg ©

Gimingham §


Gresham ©




Holt ª



Knapton §




Mundesley §

North Repps §

North Walsham ª

Overstrand §



Runton ©


Sheringham ©


South Repps §





Thorpe Market


Trimingham §

Trunch §

West Beckham




© - Previously part of the Aldborough Gilbert Union; workhouse at Sheringham
§ - Previously part of the Gimingham Gilbert Union; workhouse at Gimingham
ª - Parish workhouse

Location map (750 KB) Workhouse details

The Erpingham Union Records

The Erpingham Union's 2098 images are copies of the Minute Books of the meetings of the Board of Guardians from 12 April 1836 to 26 January 1852, with each image covering two pages.  All of the images have been transcribed in four volumes (below).  It should be noted that the LDS images are only a subset of the original documents that are held at the Norfolk Record Office (NRO).  The NRO's minute books continue well after the last date filmed by the Mormons (1852) and cover the period 1836-1930 (references C/GP 6/1-51).  If those later documents are digitised in my lifetime I will be happy to continue the transcription task!

In every case where a record is made of money received or expended, a number in the margin gives a cross-reference to the appropriate Folio(s) in the accounts Ledger.  The numbers have not been included in the transcription.

The Transcriptions

I have attempted to transcribe the original document as accurately as possible with regard to both content and format and for that reason I have kept corrections to a minimum and left several of the original grammatical and spelling errors as they are.  There are several instances of the 'grocer's apostrophe!'  The following points should also be noted:

 The Minutes

The following PDF files represent significant effort on my part over the last 3 years, so please don't 're-publish' them at another location in their entirety, but by all means feel free to link to them or reproduce extracts.

Minutes of Board Meetings of the Erpingham Union Poor Law Guardians Volume 1; 1836 - 1840 11.6 MB
Minutes of Board Meetings of the Erpingham Poor Law Union Guardians Volume 2; 1841 - 1844 10.6 MB
Minutes of Board Meetings of the Erpingham Poor Law Union Guardians Volume 3; 1845 - 1848 11.8 MB
Minutes of Board Meetings of the Erpingham Poor Law Union Guardians Volume 4; 1849 - Jan 1852 7.2 MB
A Glossary of Terms used in the Minutes 144 KB
A chart of workhouse occupancy 1837-1847 derived
 from weekly returns made in the Minutes

Supporting Documents

The following documents contain more detail about the individuals mentioned in the Minutes.  Do please get in touch if you can add information or help to identify particular people. 

The Elected Guardians 270 KB
The Ex-officio Guardians 71 KB
The Paupers, their friends and relations  (note that the dates that are included against each name are those of the related Board meetings) 777 KB
The Officers of the Union (salaried) 258 KB
Other Players - tradesmen, contractors, big-wigs, hangers-on etc. 483 KB
Key dates relevant to one Phoebe Randall 228 KB
A list of Paupers in Sheringham Workhouse 2 Oct 1841 (loose sheet found in first Minutes book) 82 KB
1841 Census return for Sheringham Workhouse 32 KB
1841 Census return for Gimingham Workhouse 26 KB
1851 Census return for West Beckham Workhouse 125 KB


I would love to hear from you if you're able to correct, comment or expand on any details contained in these files.