Merthyr Tydfil Poor Law Union and the Workhouse/Public Assistance Institutions and Cottage [Children's] Homes Records

Scope and Content

Records of the Merthyr Tydfil Poor Law Union and of the Workhouse/Public Assistance Institutions and Cottage [Children's] Homes: Board of Guardians minutes (including committee minutes), 1836-1930; salaries register, 1919-1930; registers of pauper lunatics, 1869-1948, records relating to the purchase, building and alteration of institutions, 1849-1930; printed abstracts of accounts and lists of paupers, 1850-1913; Workhouse and related institutions, admission and discharge and creed registers, 1857-1934; miscellaneous registers and lists, 1875-1940; masters' reports and journals, 1912-1928; account books and inventories, 1891-1942; notices displayed in the workhouse, [c. 1900]-1910; Pontsarn Sanatorium, creed register, 1913-1914; Industrial School/Cottage Homes, admission and discharge and creed registers, 1877-1970; children's case papers and history books, 1906-1950; report and diet books, 1929-1941 and 1967-1970; account and inventory books, 1934-1970; photographs, [late 19th century]-[1920s]; Relieving Officers' abstracts of outdoor relief lists, Aberdare, 1923-1943; and [rating] assessment committee minutes, 1862-1880.

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 Merthyr Tydfil Union at this time covered the parishes of Aberdare, Gelligaer, Llanfabon, Llanwonno/Llanwynno, Merthyr Tydfil and Ystradyfodwg in Glamorgan, together with the parishes Penderyn and Vaynor in Brecknockshire. In 1863, the parishes of Llanfabon, Llanwonno/Llanwynno and Ystradyfodwg (with the exception of Rhigos) were removed from the Merthyr Tydfil Union and joined with three parishes from the Cardiff Union to form the new Pontypridd Union. The Board of Guardians of the Merthyr Tydfil Union consisted of members for each constituent parish. Most poor relief matters in the early years were dealt with in the main meetings of the Guardians, but separate committees later set up to deal with specific aspects of their work. Separate committees also dealt with the Board's non-Poor Law functions: vaccination, rating assessment, and school attendance, and its responsibilities as rural sanitary authority. A Union workhouse was built at Thomastown, Merthyr Tydfil, in 1853; it was improved and enlarged in the 1870s, and again in the early twentieth century, and a new infirmary was added in 1899. By 1920, it had accommodation for 450 inmates in the workhouse itself, and for a further 126 in the infirmary. In the early 1920s the name changed from `workhouse' to `Poor Law institution' and later to `public assistance institution'; by the late 1930s it was known as Tydfil Lodge. An Industrial School for children opened at Trecynon, Aberdare, in 1877, in a building which had originally been intended as a hospital for the Union, but which had proved to be unsatisfactory. The school became known as the `Training' rather than `Industrial' School about 1895. In about 1904, four cottage homes were built opposite the Training School, and between 1909 and 1913 scattered cottage homes, each with a foster mother looking after a small group of children, were established at Cwmbach, Hirwaun, Abercwmboi, Bargoed, and Glannant Street, Aberdare. A receiving home for children was built in Llewellyn Street, adjacent to the Training School, in 1909. Between 1912 and 1919 a new site at Llwydcoed, Aberdare, was developed as cottage homes for children, with an administrative block and receiving home. The Training School was converted for use as a subsidiary workhouse for adults. Two institutions for the elderly were provided in the second decade of the twentieth century: Pantyscallog House, Dowlais, accommodated elderly and infirm women from 1912/13 and in 1920 Windsor House, Aberdare opened on part of the subsidiary workhouse site to accommodate elderly and infirm men. Although physically separate, both these institutions were administered as part of the workhouse. A sanatorium was also built at Pontsarn, in the parish of Vaynor, several miles to the north of Merthyr Tydfil. It opened in 1913. Outdoor relief was administered by local relieving officers, each responsible for a relief district. In 1930, the poor relief responsibilities of the Merthyr Tydfil Board of Guardians were taken over by the Public Assistance Committee of Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council (for that part of the Union which lay within the Borough), by the Public Assistance Committee of the Glamorgan County Council (for that part of the Union which lay outside the Borough and within the county of Glamorgan), and by the Public Assistance Committee of Breconshire County Council (for that part of the Union which lay outside the Borough and within the county of Brecknockshire). The workhouse became the responsibility of the County Borough, and in 1948 became a National Health Service Hospital under the name St Tydfil's Hospital (now catering for geriatric patients). Responsibility for the children's homes passed to Glamorgan County Council; the homes continued in use until 1970. As far as non-Poor Law functions of the Merthyr Tydfil Board of Guardians were concerned: from 1840 until 1930 they were responsible for vaccination in the whole of the Union (responsibility for this function passed to Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, for areas within the Borough, and to the Glamorgan and Breconshire County Councils for areas outside the Borough); they were responsible supervision of rating valuation throughout the Union from 1862 until 1925, when this duty passed to the Pontypridd Assessment Committee (for Aberdare and Mountain Ash), Caerphilly Assessment Committee (for Gelligaer) and Assessment Committees in Breconshire (for the Brecknockshire parishes), advised by the Glamorgan and Breconshire County Councils respectively; Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council became solely responsible for valuation within the borough; in 1872, the Guardians became responsible, as the rural sanitary authority, for matters relating to public health in those parts of the Union not included in the Merthyr Tydfil, Aberdare, and Mountain Ash Local Boards of Health; two further areas were subsequently made urban sanitary authorities and excluded from the rural sanitary area: Pontypridd Local Board set up in 1873, and Caerphilly Local Board in 1893; the Guardians' responsibility for public health in the remaining areas of the Union passed to the newly-created Gelligaer and Rhigos Rural District Council and Vaynor and Penderyn Rural District Council; from 1876, until 1903, they 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 have been arranged according to the function of the Board of Guardians to which they relate, and within each function by the officer who created the records.

Access Information

No restrictions for most of the records. Items containing information on named individuals (particularly records relating to the workhouse and the cottage homes) may be restricted in accordance with the Data Protection Act and Glamorgan Archives policy. Written permission may be required before these archives can be consulted. These records (marked with an asterisk in the detailed list) are closed to the public for 75 or 100 years at the discretion of the Glamorgan Archivist.

Acquisition Information

Minutes of the Board of Guardians and of the Assessment Committee and Abstracts of Accounts and Lists of Paupers, Director of Welfare, Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council were deposited, 1955. Records of the workhouse/public assistance institution and Lists of Paupers were deposited by the Group Secretary, St Tydfil's Hospital, 1955. Four volumes of minutes were deposited by the Chief Librarian, Merthyr Tydfil Central Library, in 1955. Records of the children's homes were deposited by the Glamorgan County Council Children's Officer, 1970 .


Compiled by Hayden Burns for the ANW project. The following sources were used in the compilation of this description: Glamorgan Record Office, Schedule of Records of the Merthyr Tydfil Poor Law Union and of the Workhouse/Public Assistance Institutions and Cottage [Children's] Homes; Riden, Philip, Records Sources for Local History, (London, 1987); Fraser, D., The New Poor Law in the Nineteenth Century, (1976).

Other Finding Aids

A handlist is available at the Glamorgan Record Office.

Archivist's Note

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

Conditions Governing Use

Usual Glamorgan Record Office conditions apply.

Appraisal Information

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

Custodial History

The custodial history of this collection has not been documented, but it seems that the records for the workhouse/public assistance institution remained in the institution until several years after it had become a National Health Service hospital. The records for the children's homes similarly appear to have remained in the homes until their closure in 1970. It is not clear who had custody of the Guardians' minutes, although some stray volumes appear to have been transferred at some stage to Merthyr Central Library. When deposited in the Record Office, the records were reunited to form one collection.


Accruals are not expected.

Related Material

Further material in the Glamorgan Archives is DART; DXEO; CLMS; and CLWDS. Related units of description in the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, Swansea & Llangevelach hundreds sessions of the peace minutes book, 1677-1678.