Manchester City Council

Libraries Poor Law, workhouses and industrial schools

Old Poor Law (pre 1834)

Before 1834, the administration of the Poor Law was the responsibility of the parish or township. The system was introduced by the Poor Law Acts of 1597 and 1601, and the Act of Settlement of 1662. The parish appointed Overseers of the Poor who collected rates from the occupiers of land and property, and spent income on helping poor people.

What's available

Records on microfilm (marked MFPR) are available on the ground floor at Central Library, no appointment needed. Resources marked with GB are available in the search room, please make an appointment (with at least one day notice).

We hold some records of the churchwardens and Overseers of the parish of Manchester. In the main they are purely administrative (ref GB127.M3). There are other records similar to these in the Muniment Room of Manchester Cathedral and one Overseers' account book 1664 to 1711 has found its way into John Rylands Library (English MS No 97, edited in Chetham Society Volume 80).

We hold 609 apprenticeship indentures (indexed by name of child and master), mainly for children put out by the churchwardens and Overseers from 1700 to 1913 on microfilm until 1900 (ref MF 3009, 3019, 3020). To search the index, use the archives catalogue. The collection is also on findmypast, access is free from any of our libraries.

We also have records for Overseers of the Poor:

You may also find records for Overseers of the Poor surviving in parish records. For example:


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