West Sussex Poor Law Records, part 3

This record is held by West Sussex Record Office

Details of PLDB
Reference: PLDB
Title: West Sussex Poor Law Records, part 3

This catalogue is a union list of certain documents created by administration of the Poor Law, which, with four exceptions, are in the parish collections deposited in West Sussex Record Office. The parishes are those lying in the modern Administrative County of West Sussex. The documents listed record decisions or actions by parish officers or justices of the peace, so as to apply the provisions of the Poor Law in individual cases, usually people who have become or may become a burden on the parish's poor rate.


The number of records is some 13,900. Only 350 predate the Restoration; 580 come from 1661-1700; 6700 are 18th century, and 6000 are dated 1801 to 1835, after which date the parishes lost most of their Poor Law functions. A few parishes continued to conduct settlement examinations and issue removal orders, and 200 records are dated between 1836 and 1867.


Parish records deposited in WSRO have been catalogued using a standard classification. The series and sub-series from which the records in this union list come are those numbered as follows:


29 Constables - warrants and miscellaneous


32 Settlement


32/1 Indemnity bonds and certificates


32/2, 3 Removal orders


32/4 Examinations


33 Apprenticeship


34 Bastardy


34/1 Bonds


34/2 Orders


34/3 Examinations


35 Settlement - miscellaneous


37 Poor Law miscellaneous, pre-1834


The order of the records in the A2A catalogue is by the serial number assigned on entry to the original database and is not otherwise significant. Records for the same parish may be spread through several parts of the catalogue.


The layout of the index cards onto which information was extracted from the original documents was designed before WSRO embarked on computerising its catalogues. The information has been manipulated to meet the requirements both of the cataloguing system and of A2A, as follows. Each original document is deemed to concern a 'subject', the person principally affected by or involved in the administrative action or decision. For example this is the head of the household named in a settlement certificate or removal order, or the mother of a bastard child named in a bastardy order, and a child placed by the parish as an apprentice. The Title field of a record in the present catalogue gives: the name of the parish in whose archive the document survives: the type of document: the forename and surname of the subject.


In the field Scope and Content, the first paragraph gives such information as is given on the 'Subject', in the following order:


the subject's prefix (e.g. Mr), forename, surname and suffix (e.g. Esq., or of East Grinstead), age, occupation; marital status: the spouse's prefix, forename, surname and suffix; the parish or parishes named, other than that holding the document, typically the parish which issued a settlement certificate or the parish to which the subject was being removed; and any comment or further information.


Subsequent paragraphs record information on each 'Child' named: prefix, forename, surname, suffix, age.


Lastly are paragraphs for any 'Other' people who are a party to the order or decision: prefix, forename, surname, suffix, occupation, status in the order or decision, frequently in this catalogue, putative father or apprentice's master.

Date: 1589-1867
Related material:

See the Quarter Sessions records for decisions on parish officers' actions, concerning which there was an appeal to Quarter Sessions.

Held by: West Sussex Record Office, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Physical description: 1000 files
Custodial history:

This catalogue originated in a project conceived and directed by Peter Wilkinson at West Sussex Record Office. In the late 1980s and early 1990s volunteers extracted details from the original records onto index cards. Subsequently volunteers keyed the information on the cards relating to settlement and some relating to apprenticeship into a Paradox database designed by John Burrowes. In 2002 this database was made available to the public from the WSRO pages on the West Sussex County Council website. In 2004 John Farrant converted the database from Paradox to Microsoft Access (and Excel). Peter McLeod then mounted the settlement records with a new interface on the Sussex Record Society website (www.sussexrecordsociety.org) which may be more suitable than A2A for some types of searches. Volunteers keyed further cards relating to apprenticeship and boarding out into Excel during the summer of 2005. The enlarged Excel database was manipulated to generate records for the WSRO CALM database, from which files in EAD were exported and submitted to A2A in September 2005. The Sussex Record Society website has been updated in parallel and will again be from time to time be as further relevant records are added to the CALM database.

  • Sussex
  • West Sussex
  • Local government
  • Social services
Administrative / biographical background:

See Poor Law Records of Mid Sussex 1601-1835, edited by Norma Pilbeam and Ian Nelson, Sussex Record Society vol. 83 (2001) for an introduction to the legislative and administrative background to the documents.

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