Cardiff Poor Law Union Records

Scope and Content

Records of the Cardiff Poor Law Union, 1830-1930: Board of Guardians minutes, including several series of Committee Minutes, 1836-1930; Register of Officers, 1902-1957; weekly returns of number of paupers, 1914-1930; letter books (including appointments and applications letter books), 1868-1930; printed abstracts of accounts and lists of paupers, 1853-1912; printed abstracts of accounts, 1887-1926; year books, 1893-1930; miscellaneous papers, 1845-1925; Children's Homes, foster mothers' journals, 1930; Vaccination Committee minutes, 1890-1930; Rating Assessment Committee minutes, 1862-1927; rate books for Cogan, Llandough and Penarth parishes, 1880-1902; Rural Sanitary Authority minutes, 1872-1894, including ledgers, 1873-1894; letter books, 1872-1894; printed abstracts of accounts, 1878-1894; printed annual reports of Medical Officer of Health, 1875-1893; reports of Inspectors of Nuisances, 1873-1894; miscellaneous papers, 1872-1894; School Attendance Committee minutes, 1877-1903; Ordnance Survey plans, 1880-1919

Administrative / Biographical History

In 1836, the County of Glamorgan was divided into five Poor Law Unions: Bridgend and Cowbridge, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath, and Swansea. The Cardiff Poor Law Union consisted of 45 parishes when it was set up in 1836, including two Monmouthshire parishes (Rumney and St Mellons) in the east; it extended into the Vale of Glamorgan on the west, and northwards as far as Eglwysilan, Llantrisant and Llantwit Fardre. These three parishes were removed from the union in 1863, and joined with three parishes from the Merthyr Tydfil Union to form the new Pontypridd Union. The Board of Guardians consisted of representatives for its constituent parishes, a total of about 70 members in the 1890s. Most poor relief matters in the early years were dealt with in the main meetings of the Guardians, but separate committees were set up from the 1880s onwards, dealing with specific aspects of the work of the Guardians. Separate committees also dealt with the Board's non-Poor Law functions of vaccination, rating assessment, school attendance, and its responsibilities as rural sanitary authority. A union workhouse was built on Cowbridge Road, Canton, Cardiff, in 1839, and rebuilt in 1880-1881; an infirmary was added as part of the workhouse in 1872, and was enlarged several times. From 1863, children were accommodated separately, in the Industrial Schools at Ely, where they were taught trades; towards the end of the nineteenth century, there was a change in the policy and most children were accommodated in 'Scattered Homes', in different parts of the union, each under the care of a foster mother. The remaining children were accommodated in new 'Headquarters Homes' which were built on part of the Industrial Schools site. By 1903, the original Industrial Schools buildings were no longer used for children and were adapted for use as an auxiliary workhouse for adults, especially the aged, infirm and 'mental defectives'. This workhouse became known as Ely Lodge in 1914, and the name of the main workhouse was changed to City Lodge. Outdoor relief was administered by local relieving officers, each responsible for a relief district. In 1930, the poor relief responsibilities of the Cardiff Board of Guardians were taken over by the Public Assistance Committee of Cardiff City Council and the Public Assistance Committee of the Glamorgan County Council. City Lodge and Ely Lodge continued in existence as the Public Assistance institutions; City Lodge was transferred to the National Health Service in 1948, becoming St Davids Hospital. From 1840 until 1930, the Guardians were responsible for vaccination in the whole of the union (this responsibility passed to Cardiff City Council, for the area of the union within the city, and to the Glamorgan County Council for areas outside the city); they were responsible for rating valuation throughout the union from 1862 until 1925, when responsibility for supervision of rate assessment in the area of the union outside the city of Cardiff passed to the Barry Area Assessment Committee, advised by the Glamorgan County Council, and Cardiff City Council became solely responsible for valuation within the city. In 1872, the Guardians became responsible, as the rural sanitary authority, for matters relating to public health in all of the union except the areas covered by the Cardiff, Canton and Roath Local Boards of Health (two further areas were subsequently made urban sanitary authorities and excluded from the rural sanitary area: Penarth Local Board, set up in 1887, and Barry and Cadoxton Local Board, set up in 1888); in 1895, the Guardians' responsibility for public health in the remaining areas of the union passed to the newly-created Llandaff and Dinas Powis (later renamed Cardiff) Rural District Council. From 1876 to 1903, the Guardians were responsible for school attendance in those areas of the union not covered by School Boards.


Since the original order of the records had been lost, they were arranged by the function of the Board of Guardians to which they relate, and within each function by the officer who created the records: Poor Law functions - records of the Clerk to the Board of Guardians, and records relating to children's homes; Non-Poor Law functions - vaccination, rating assessment, Rural Sanitary Authority, School Attendance; and miscellaneous records.

Access Information

All of the records are open, with the exception of the Foster Mothers' journals; these contain material relating to named individuals and are closed to the public for 100 years at the discretion of the Glamorgan Archivist.

Acquisition Information

Rural Sanitary Committee records and Board of Guardians' Yearbooks and Abstracts of Accounts were deposited by Cardiff Rural District Council in 1948 and 1956; Ely Homes Foster Mothers' Journals were deposited by Glamorgan County Council Children's Officer in 1963; sealed order establishing the Union and a draft agreement between Glamorgan County Council and the Corporation of Cardiff, 1929, were deposited by South Glamorgan County Council Social Services Department, 199; a register of officers was deposited by Cardiff County Borough Council in 1997; most other records were transferred from Cardiff Central Library in 1976. Volumes of Ordnance Survey plans deposited by Cardiff Council, 2015


Compiled by Hayden Burns for the ANW project. The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Glamorgan Record Office, Catalogue of records for the Cardiff Poor Law Union; Riden, Philip, Records Sources for Local History,(London, 1987); Stephens, W. B., Sources for English Local History, (Cambridge, 1981).

Other Finding Aids

A detailed catalogue is available online.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Fair condition

Archivist's Note

Compiled by [INSERT NAME] for the Glamorgan Archives, with reference to [NAME ANY PUBLICATIONS USED].

Conditions Governing Use

Normal Glamorgan Record Office conditions apply

Normal Glamorgan Archives conditions apply.

Appraisal Information

All records which meet the collection policy of the Glamorgan Archives have been retained.

Custodial History

The custodial history of these records has not been documented, but it appears that they did not remain together as a record group but were divided between the different successor bodies to the Board of Guardians. The records of the Guardians as Rural Sanitary Authority, together with some yearbooks, abstracts of accounts and miscellaneous papers, were inherited by Cardiff Rural District Council in 1895. The minutes and letter books of the Board of Guardians, together with lists of paupers and yearbooks, were transferred to Cardiff Central Library at some point after 1930. The records of the children's homes passed into the custody of Cardiff City Council in 1930, and some subsequently passed to South Glamorgan County Council in 1974. It is unclear what happened to the records of the workhouse, although since the building remained in use as a public assistance institution until 1948, it seems likely that they remained in the custody of the master of the institution. It appears that at some point the workhouse records were destroyed.


Accruals are not expected.

Related Material

Glamorgan Archives holds related material, including: GCPA, records of Glamorgan County Council, Public Assistance/Social Welfare Committee; GDS, records of Glamorgan County Council, Public Assistance Department; BCPAC, minutes of Cardiff City Council Public Assistance Committee; BCPAC 5/1, papers relating to acquisition and maintainance of Children's Homes in Cowbridge Road, 1910-1937; BCPAC5/2-4, Children's Homes, indexes and creed registers, 1913-1949; SDSC 5-6, Children's Homes, admission registers and creed register, 1891-1948; SDSC 11, registers of children hired out or taken as servants, 1872-1949; SDSC 13, [Infant Life Protection] registers, 1909-1961; RDC records of Llandaff and Dinas Powis/Cardiff Rural District Council; GCRA records of Glamorgan County Council, County Rate Assessment Committee; GCCV, records of Glamorgan County Council, County Valuation Committee; BC, minutes of Cardiff City Council (relating to rating and valuation). Note that no records for the Barry Area [Rating] Assessment Committee have been deposited in the Record Office.

Geographical Names