Find out if your ancestor was destitute and found themselves in a workhouse in the north of England in the Manchester Workhouse Registers. Search more than 5,500 entries covering more than 100 years of British Poor Laws. Find out their name, previous residence and religion as well as clues to other members of the family.
Each record contains both an image and a transcription of the original record. The information contained varies but you can find out the following about your ancestor:
Discharge or death date
Details of other family members (including those outside the workhouse)
Location of workhouse
There were workhouses in Manchester at least since 1776/ 77 when a Parliamentary report listed a workhouse in the city that accommodated 180 inmates as well as four smaller workhouses. Until 1834 these workhouses were overseen at local parish level. Then in 1834, the Poor Law Amendment Act changed everything, shifting provision for the poor away from parish level on to separately administered Poor Law Unions.
The Manchester Poor Law Union was formally established in December 1840. Ten years later, in 1850, Manchester town had grown large enough to need a Poor Law Union of its own. The other parishes became the new Prestwich Union.
Workhouses were designed with a deterrent in mind. They were for the truly destitute, those who genuinely had nowhere else to go. Inmates were strictly segregated. The old and the young, men and women, the fit and infirm were all grouped separately. Families only had a few brief hours together once a week. Food was plain and monotonous and inmates were expected to work for their keep. Tasks included pulling apart old ropes for reuse or grinding corn for flour on treadmills. In Manchester the inmates wove cotton fabric for sale outside.
They worked from six in the morning in the summer until six at night. In the winter from 7 for as long as they had light. Strict rules warned against drunkenness, lying and swearing and inmates were not allowed to leave the premises without permission from the Wardens.
Some people only stayed in the workhouses briefly, when there was no other option, others spent their entire lives in the same workhouse.
Under a further Poor Law Amendment Act in 1868 workhouse authorities were required to record in Creed Books each inmate’s religious affiliation as a way of ensuring that each person’s religious instruction could be met and adhered to.
The records here are made up of both the Admission and Discharge books and the Religious Creed Registers.