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Boards of Guardians under the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834

Transcribed, Compiled and Submitted by Robert at

Boards of Guardians were created by the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 to supervise the operation of each local Work House {Poor House}.

They administered Workhouses within a defined Poor Law Union consisting of a either group of parishes, or a certain number of townlands, centered on a town or city{where the actual Workhouse building was erected} , either by order of the Poor Law Commission, or by the common consent of the parishes.

Once a union was established it could not be dissolved or merged with a neighbouring union without the consent of its board.

Each board was composed of “Guardians” {Committee Members} elected by the owners and legal occupiers of land liable to pay the new Poor Law Rate.

They were selected from among the “gentry”,business or professional classes.

Depending on the value of the property held, the elector could cast from one to three votes. Where property was held by a corporation or company, its board could nominate an officer to cast its votes.

Each civil parish in the union was represented by at least one guardian, while those with larger populations having two or more. The exact constitution of each board was determined by the Commissioners.

Guardians were subject to annual re-election. In addition to the elected guardians, any ** Justice of the Peace residing in a parish of the union was entitled to be an ex-officio guardian.


**  A public official, solicitor or highly respected person, having jurisdiction to hear minor civil and criminal cases and to hold preliminary examinations of persons accused of more serious crime and having the authority to take oaths, solemnize civil marriages and so on.