"Boards of Guardians" came into being as a result of the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 (see An Act for The Amendment and better Administration of the Laws relating to the Poor in England and Wales, 14 Aug. 1834, 4 & 5 Wm. IV, cap 76). By the terms of this Act, the parish as a unit of local poor law administration was replaced by the combination or "union" of a number of parishes, the governing body of this new Poor Law Union being the Board of Guardians. (The 1834 Act created a central poor law authority in the form of three Crown - appointed Poor Law Commissioners for England & Wales. In 1847 this central authority was re-organised and re-constituted as the Poor Law Board. In 1871 under the terms of the Local Government Board Act, 1871, see An Act for constituting a Local Government Board and vesting therein...the powers and the duties of the Poor Law Board, 14 Aug. 1871, 34 & 35 Vic., cap. 70, the Poor Law Board was constituted the central authority for poor law administration. It continued as such until its dissolution in 1919 when the newly formed Ministry of Health took charge of many of its functions including poor law administration).
Local Boards of Guardians held office for one year only and were elected annually at the end of March by owners and occupiers of property within the Union who could individually hold more than one vote, according to rating qualifications (see Poor Law Amendment Act op. cit., sec. 40). Only rate-payers of a parish and parishes within the Union were eligible for election as Guardians, the rating qualification for membership of each Board being determined, initially, by the Poor Law Commissioners. Justices of the Peace residing within the Union were ex-officie members of the Board of Guardians. Boards of Guardians continued to act as local authorities for poor law administration until the passing of the Local Government Act, 1929 (see An Act to amend the law relating to the administration of poor relief, registration of births, deaths and marriages, highways, town planning and local government.... 27 Mar. 1929, 19 & 20 Geo. V. cap. 17) under the terms of which their functions were transferred to county councils, county borough councils, etc.
In Liverpool area between 1837 and 1929 there functioned three Boards of Guardians - those governing the West Derby Union, established in 1837 (for the area covered by the Union, see notes and list under 353 WES; those governing the Toxteth Park Union, established in 1857 (for the area covered by this Union, see notes and list under 353 TCX below; and the Liverpool Select Vestry, constituted a Board of Guardians in 1842. The Poor Law Administration Act, 1842 (see designated "the Parish of Liverpool" the area under the jurisdiction of this Board and the area is further described in 1890 as being bounded on its northern side by Islington and Soho, on its eastern side by Crown Street and Moss Street, on its southern side by Parliament Street and on its western side by the middle of the River Mersey (see Liverpool Citizen, 1889 - 1890, 22 Jan. 1890, p. 6). Notes on the Liverpool Select Vestry as a Board of Guardians are given below.
The passage of the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 (see above) did not immediately affect Liverpool and the administration of poor relief remained in the hands of the Select Vestry. At a Special Vestry meeting of 11 Mar. 1841 it was resolved that "... since the introduction of Mr. Sturegs Bourne's Act in the Parish of Liverpool, the assessment and collection of the Poor Rates and the administration of relief to the poor have been conducted with general satisfaction to the parishioners at large..." (see Peet, Vol. 2, op. cit. p.360) and at the same meeting a large number of rate payers petitioned the churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor "... the Poor Law Commissioners, having given the Select Vestry notice that it is interested to introduce the New Poor Law into Liverpool immediately after Easter... that you... call a Special Vestry to take into consideration the propriety of adopting such measures ...". (see Peet, Vol. 2, op. cit. p. 359.
As a result of this meeting a deputation appealed to the Poor Law Commissioners against the introduction of the "New Poor Law" into Liverpool but the appeal was unsuccessful and on 25 Mar. 1841 a Board of Guardians was elected to act as the local authority for poor law administration in the Parish of Liverpool and to supersede the functions of the Select Vestry (see Peet, Vol. 2 op. cit., p. 360, note 1). At an Easter Vestry of 13 Apr. 1841 the Select Vestry announced that their "office is at an end. That the administration of the affairs of the Parish and government of the poor are transferred from them to the Guardians of the Poor, elected under the Poor Law Amendment Act" (Peet. Vol. 2, op. cit. p.363).
The new Board of Guardians was very unpopular in Liverpool and at a Special Vestry meeting of 4 Nov. 1841 (see Peet, Vol. 2, op. cit., pp. 364 - 365) on the strength of "a requisition from rate payers of this Parish, most numerously and respectably signed" it was resolved that the Churchwardens should be empowered to apply to Parliament for a local act to be passed enabling the parish of Liverpool to administer its own poor relief again. It had been found that "... the New Poor Law... is not only not wanted in this Parish, but that the system is more cumbersome and expensive, and is not so efficient or satisfactory either to the rich or poor as the Select Vestry system...".
The application to Parliament was successful and on 30 Jun. 1842 An Act for the Administration of the Laws relating to the Poor in the Parish of Liverpool..., 5 & 6 Vic., cap. 88, was passed.
By the terms of this Act the Board of Guardians elected in March 1841 was dissolved and its place was taken by "The Select Vestry of the Parish of Liverpool" which was "deemed to be a Board of Guardians for the Relief and Management of the Poor and subject to the Rules, Orders and Regulations of the Poor Law Commissioners... (see sec. 1). Thus the Parish was to remain the unit of poor law and administration in Liverpool but its governing body, the Select Vestry, was constituted a Board of Guardians in accordance with the terms of the Poor Law Amendment Act, 1834, op. cit.
Prior to 1841 the relief of the poor in the township of Liverpool was the responsibility of the parish authorities (see the records of the Liverpool Civil Parish, listed at 353 PAR above, also H. Peet (ed.) Liverpool Vestry Books, 1681 - 1834, Vol. 1, 1681 - 1799, 1912 and Vol. 2, 1800 - 1834, 1915). The parish administration of the poor law in Liverpool is described in some detail by W. Lyon Blease The Poor Law in Liverpool 1681 - 1834 in Transaction of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire, Vol. 6, 1909, pp. 97 - 182 (this paper with revisions and additions is also given as The Poor Law and Parochial Government in Liverpool 1681 - 1834 in H. Peet (ed.) Liverpool Vestry Books, op. cit. Vol. 1, pp xc11 - xcv).
Although the township of Liverpool did not become a parish in its own right until 1699, it appears (probably by virtue of a statute of 1562, 5 Eliz. I, cap. 3, sec. 16, entitling chapelries of ease to act as poor relief authorities independant of the parishes to which they belonged) to have acted as its own poor law authority from an early time. At least as early as 1656, it is recorded in the Liverpool Town Book that "this towne shall keepe and maintain their owne poore...and...the antient custome for the ould Churchwardens to bee Overseers of the Poore the years ensueing be duly observed..." (see Liverpool Town Books, 352 MIN/cou I 1/3, p. 642).
Blease op. cit. describes the years 1681 - 1733 as "the period of universal outdoor relief" but at the end of this period, in 1752, a workhouse, the first to be built as such in Liverpool, was erected in Hanover Street (later, in 1770 - 1771, to be replaced by another built on Brownlow Hill) and from this period the increase in administrative duties in the number of paupers recessitated a more efficient system of parochial government. The administration of the poor law in the parish was, therefore, left largely to a standing committee, known as the Parish Committee, and to permanent salaried officials paid by this Committee. The earliest mention of this Committee as such appears in September 1752 in the first Liverpool Vestry Minute Book, 1681 - 1761 (see 353 PAR 1/1/1, fo. 140 r) but the minutes of its meeting were not recorded separately until 1803 (see Parish Committee and Select Vestry Minute Books, 1803 - 1841, listed at 353 PAR 1/2/1 - 1/2/7).
On 10 May 1821 the Parish Committee was superseded by a Select Vestry, elected under the terms of the Sturges Bourne Acts, 1818 and 1819 (see An Act for the Regulation of Parish Vestries, 3 Jun. 1818, 58 Geo. III, cap. 69 and An Act to Amend the Laws for the Relief of the Poor; 31 Mar. 1819, 59 Geo. III, cap. 12). These Acts had been aimed at giving parish government a more efficient constitution and their effect in Liverpool was that the Select Vestry carried on the work of the former Parish Committee, especially with regard to the administration of poor relief, and also that the employment of permanent salaried officials (as practised by the Parish Committee) was now confirmed by law. The first Liverpool Select Vestry consisted of sixteen members elected by rate payers (see Peet, Vol. 1, op. cit., p. 1xxiv) and co-existed with the old General Vestry to which it presented two half-yearly reports (for the minutes of the Select Vestry, see Select Vestry Minute Books, listed at 353 PAR 1/2/3 - 1/2/7 above).
The first Select Vestry was elected on 28 Jul. 1842. It consisted of the Rector, Churchwardens, Overseers of the Poor and twenty one elected members. Those eligible for electrion must own or occupy property in the parish of a noteable value of not less than £50 per annum. One third of the elected Vestry men were to go out of office annually, by rotation, and were to be replaced by newly elected members (outgoing members could also be re-elected). The Vestry's administration, duties, finances, etc., were laid down in the terms of the 1842 Act op. cit.
"For over fifty years the Select Vestry carried on its statutory duties to the satisfaction of the rate payers and the well being of the poor of the parish..." (see Edward Horrigan The Select Vestry: its History & Work in Liverpool Daily Post & Mercury, 15 - 21 Sep. 1908, bound in Cuttings Historical and Topographical relating to Liverpool, Vol. 9, 1908, pp. 154A - 154L). Then in 1894 the Local Government Act was passed 'see An Act to make further provision for Local Government in England & Wales, 5 Mar. 1894, 56 & 57 Vic., cap 73). One of the effects of this Act in Liverpool was that the parochial machinery for administering poor relief (set up under the 1842 Liverpool Poor Law Administration Act, op. cit.) was brought to an end. The Select Vestry was replaced by a Board of Guardians elected in accordance with the terms of the new Local Government Act op cit. The Parish of Liverpool was divided into twelve wards each of which elected three Guardians (see City of Liverpool: Council Proceedings 1895 - 1894, pp. 238 - 241). Electors within the wards were allowed three notes each, not more than one of which could be given to one candidate. Guardians were elected for three year terms, one third of the Board going out of office annually, by rotation (see Local Government Act, op. cit., sec. 20). Boards of Guardians were empowered to elect a chairman and/or vice chairman and "not more than two other persons from outside their own body". In Liverpool, according to Horrigan op. cit. these additional elections were confined to vice chairman and two extra members. The election of the first Board of Guardians in Liverpool took place on 13 Dec. 1894 and the Board's first meeting on 1 Jan. 1895.
Although newly constituted the Board used the old title "Select Vestry" - "... a Meeting of the Select Vestry of the Parish of Liverpool held upon... the First day of January 1895 in the Board Room of the Parish Offices, Brownlow Hill... (being the First Meeting of the Guardians elected under the provisions of the Local Government Act, 1894", see Select Vestry Minute Books, 1900 - 1903, 353 SEL 1/8 below, p. 140). According to Horrigan op. cit. there was "an odour of popularity about the old title of "Select Vestry" and so it has come about that the name Board of Guardians is lost in the more familiar designation". The Board retained its title "Select Vestry" until its absorption into the West Derby Union in 1921 (see below).
In 1898 the electoral procedures for the Select Vestry (Board of Guardians) were amended. The Parish was now divided into three wards - Abercromby, Exchange & Scotland - which returned fifteen, twelve and nine Vestry men (Guardians) respectively (see City of Liverpool: Council Proceedings, 1897 - 1898, pp. 132 - 135, 138 - 143, 1325 - 1351).
At the height of its activity in 1890, the Liverpool Citizen 1889 - 1890 (see 22 Jan. 1890, p. 6) describes the Select Vestry as having under its jurisdiction a number of institutions - the Brownlow Hill Workhouse (originally erected on the site in 1771 by the parish, it was rebuilt by the Select Vestry in 1846), the North End Sailors' Home used to accommodate aged men, the Dingle Mount asylum for "female imbeciles", the Netherfield Road home for aged women, Fulwood Lodge, Aigburth, for infant children, the Maghull Convalescent Home for boys and the Kirkdale Industrial Schools, Westminster Road.
In 1921 the Liverpool Corporation Act passed (see An Act to Consolidate with Amendments the Local Acts in force within the City of Liverpool: to provide for the Union of the Parishes therein and to Consolidate the Local Rates leviable in the City... 4 Aug. 1921, 11 & 12 Geo. V (Part 3, secs. 20 - 51). Under the terms of this Act the Select Vestry (Board of Guardians) of the Parish of Liverpool was dissolved (as was the Board of Guardians of Toxteth Park Union, see notes under 353 TOX below) and the area under its jurisdiction was added to the West Derby Union (see notes under 353 WES below).
According to the Select Vestry Minute Book, 1921 - 1922 (see 353 SEL 1/2 below, pp. 287 and 288) the last meeting took place on 28 Mar. 1922 and the Select Vestry was dissolved as from 31 Mar. 1922.
The following works are among those which give information on the Poor Law and on the Select Vestry in Liverpool.
An Act for the Amendment & better Administration of the Laws relating to the Poor in England & Wales.
14 Aug. 1834, 4 & 5 Wm. IV. cap. 76.
(The Poor Law Amendment Act).
An Act for the Administration of the Laws relating to the Poor in Liverpool..., 30 Jun. 1843. 3 & 6 Vic., cap. 88 (L. & P.).
An Act to Consolidate with Amendments the Local Acts in force within the City of Liverpool: to provide for the Union of the Parishes therein and to Consolidate the Local Rates leviable in the City.... 4 Aug. 1921, 11 & 12 Geo. V, Part 3. (The Liverpool Improvement Act, 1921).
Bagley, J. J. & A. J, The English Poor Law (Sources of History Series), 1966.
Bleaze. W. Lyon. The Poor Law in Liverpool 1681 - 1834 in Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire & Cheshire, Vol. 61. 1909, pp. 97 - 182 (for revised edition see The Poor Law & Parochial Government in Liverpool 1681 - 1834, in H. Peet (ed.) Liverpool Vestry Books. 1681 - 1834, Vol. 1, 1912, pp xvll - xcv).
Election of Guardians: order of the City Council made in pursuance of the General Order of the Local Government Board, Sept. 29, 1894, & under Sec. 48 of the Local Government Act, 1894 in City of Liverpool: Council Proceedings, 1893 - 1894, pp. 333 - 337.
Golding, L., A Dictionary of Local Government in England & Wales, 1962.
Horrigan, Edward. The Select Vestry: its History & Work in Liverpool Daily Post & Mercury, 15 - 21 Sep. 1908 in Cuttings Historical & Topographical relating to Liverpool. 1908, Vol. 9, pp. 154A - 154L.
Passing of the Select Vestry
[articles on the history of the Select Vestry and the future of the Poor law in Liverpool] in Liverpool Courier, 27 - 29 Mar., 20 Apr. 1922 in Cuttings Historical & Topographical relating to Liverpool, 1922, Vol. 23, pp. 14 - 21.
Lipman, V. D. Local Government Areas 1834 - 1945. 1949.
Liverpool's Poverty Town in Liverpool Citizen, 1889 - 1890, 22 Jan. 1890, p. 6.
Peet, H. (Ed.) Liverpool Vestry Books, 1681 - 1834, Vol. 1, 1681 - 1799, 1912 and Vol. 2, 1800 - 1834, 1915.
Notes on Select Vestry Committees
At the first Board meeting of the Select Vestry held every April after the annual election, there were appointed, besides ordinary and special committees, a number of general or standing committees. For many years the general committees consisted of the Contract and Supply Committee, the Finance Committee, the Industrial Committee and the Workhouse Committee, the minutes of all of which are listed below. There were sometimes additions to this group. For a time the Grove Mount Committee (see 353 SEL 4 below) was listed as a general committee. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century there was an increase in the number of general committees appointed (for one example only, a Buildings Committee was appointed "to take cognizance of all new works and... alterations of the Parochial Buildings... from April 1899) but prior to 1911 it is not known how the minutes of these later committees were recorded. On 16 May 1911 it was resolved at a Select Vestry meeting to embody "... in the Agenda of the Vestry Meetings Reports of Committees' proceedings and to print copies of the minutes of each Vestry Meeting... for a period of trial (see Board Minute Book, 1911, 353 SEL 1/13 above, p.5.
This system was apparently successful because at a Board meeting of 27 Jun. 1911 (see 353 SEL 1/13, p.31) it was recommended that "The printing of the Committees' proceedings on the Agenda for Select Vestry Meetings be continued and that the printed Minutes of the Vestry Meetings be shortened by embodying by reference only the recommendation of Committees and setting forth in detail the action taken thereon by the Vestry". From this date it appears that no separate volumes of committee minutes were kept.
1. Select Vestry: Board Minute Books, 23 vols., 1852 - 1922
2. Contract & Supply Committee Minute Books. 10 vols., 1861 - 1911
3. Finance & General Purposes Committee Minute Books, 20 vols., 1846 - 1911
4. Grove Mount Committee Minute Books, 1 vol., 1895 - 1898
5. Highfield Committee Minute Books, 1 vol., 1906 - 1907
6. Industrial Schools Committee Minute Books, 12 vols., 1845 - 1908
7. Maghull Committee Minute Books, 1 vol., 1878 - 1894
8. Medical Relief Committee Minute Books, 1 vol., 1850 - 1853
9. Special Committee on Cholera Minute Books, 1 vol., 1866
10. Workhouse Committee Minute Books, 17 vols., 1842 - 1911
11. Account Books, 1 vol., 1870 - 1871
12. Apprenticeship indentures docs.
13. Deeds, mostly relating to loans raised for the use of the Select Vestry. 31 docs., 1842 - 1868
14. Newscuttings books, 5 vols., 1858 - 1885, 1919 - 1922
15. Orders of the Poor Law Commissioners, Poor Law Board and Local Government Board to the Select Vestry. 10 docs., 1842 - 1906
16. Workhouse Baptismal Registers. 3 vols., 1831 - 1858, 1874 - 1928
17. Miscellaneous, 3 vols., 6 docs., 1846 - 1905
Liverpool Workhouse, Brownlow Hill
18. Admission Registers, 62 vols., 1869 - 1925
19. Admission and Discharge Registers or Religious Creed Registers 101 vols., 1841 - 1928
20. Registers of Births (in the Workhouse) 9 vols., 1841 - 1914
21. Registers of Deaths (in the Workhouse) 4 vols., 1914 - 1924
Kirkdale Industrial Schools
22. Admission and Discharge Registers, 1 vol., 1862 - 1965
23. Classification Registers, 13 vols., 1845 - 1897
24. Religious Creed Registers or Admission and Discharge Registers, 8 vols., 1869 - 1904