Catalogue description Local Government Board and predecessors: Assistant Poor Law Commissioners and Inspectors, Correspondence

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Details of MH 32
Reference: MH 32
Title: Local Government Board and predecessors: Assistant Poor Law Commissioners and Inspectors, Correspondence

This series contains correspondence of the Poor Law Commission and Board with assistant poor law commissioners and poor law inspectors, and of the Local Government Board with its general, engineering, medical, school, boarding-out and other inspectors. Also contains separate volumes of correspondence on special subjects with various inspectors and also circulars of the Board, reports of inspectors on the conditions and classification of work houses, a medical report on infant feeding, and a report by Edwin Chadwick on outdoor relief, 1840.

Date: 1834-1904

The papers are for the most part arranged under the names of inspectors.

Related material:

For registers of the Poor Law Commission's correspondence see MH 33

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English

Local Government Board, 1871-1919

Poor Law Board, 1847-1871

Poor Law Commission, 1834-1847

Physical description: 118 volume(s)
Unpublished finding aids:

A geographical finding aid to indicate the areas for which named officers were responsible is available in the reading rooms at The National Archives, Kew.

Administrative / biographical background:

The Local Government Board was served by a number of inspectorates which maintained direct contact with local officials, undertook local enquiries and inspection and gave professional guidance to local government and poor law officers.

The General Inspectorate was formed in 1871 from the inspectors of the dissolved Poor Law Board. The inspectors each covered a district of the country and were aided from 1872 by assistant general inspectors appointed because of the additional duties imposed by the Public Health Act of that year. They remained primarily concerned with poor law inspection but were also used for local enquiries and applications for grants in aid over the whole range of local government services.

A number of minor inspectorates were also associated with poor law inspection. The Metropolitan District Inspectorate formed a separate establishment, including general, medical and lady inspectors, and was responsible for the inspection of asylums, training ships, smallpox and fever hospitals and charitable homes as well as poor law institutions and schools in London. The Schools Inspectorate was responsible for the inspection of poor law schools. A Lady Inspectorate (Boarding Out Inspectorate) was ultimately established to undertake inspection of poor law institutions with special reference to girls, child welfare and hygiene and later to superintend arrangements for the boarding out of children in care.

The Audit Department under the direction of the chief inspector of audits carried out central and administrative work in connection with the operations of the district auditors, who had wide powers of inspection and supervision of local authority finance and expenditure. The small headquarters staff were until 1900 under the direction of an assistant inspector of audits, who was then replaced by a principal clerk.

The Engineering Inspectorate was taken over with the Local Government Act Office of the Home Office in 1871. Under a chief engineering inspector, the inspectors were employed in holding local inquiries into schemes of sewerage, water supply, new roads, public buildings and a number of other matters from the technical point of view, and in examining such schemes in connection with loan sanction. The inspectorate was generally known as the Engineering Department and was associated with the administrative Sanitary Department in the supervision of environmental health services. After 1900 it also performed the work of inspection of burial grounds under the Burial Acts, previously carried out by the Home Office through a Burial Grounds Inspectorate.

The Medical Inspectorate was taken over by the board with the Medical Department of the Privy Council Office in 1871. The inspectors were responsible to the medical officer for enquiries and reports into medical aspects of public health, the accumulation of information on epidemics, disease mortality and allied subjects, and the supervision of the public vaccination service. After 1876 the medical officer had two assistants, one for vaccination, the other for general health questions; the latter also served later as the medical inspector for general sanitary purposes. A Housing Inspectorate and a Town Planning Inspectorate were formed in 1910 and 1914 respectively.

There were also a number of minor inspectorates appointed for specialised subjects. A superintendent of roads in South Wales, transferred from the Home Office in 1872, had both executive and inspectional powers over county roads in South Wales and, from 1880, in Herefordshire. In 1882 the post, which came under the Turnpikes and Highways Department, was abolished. An inspector of loans and local acts, responsible to the Local Loans and Local Acts Department, supervised the use of loans by local authorities and also reported to Parliament on financial aspects of bills for local acts.

An inspector under the Canal Boat Acts 1877 and 1884 was charged with the inspection of canal boats in the interests of public health. The post of inspector of river pollution was for the most part discharged by an engineering or alkali works inspector. Foods inspectors were appointed by the Medical Department under the Food and Drugs Act 1907.

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