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Great Yarmouth children's homes

Norfolk Poor Law Unions 1834-1930

The Poor Law Unions were responsible for the maintenance of children whose parents, for various reasons, could not provide them with a satisfactory family life.

These children were usually accommodated in the Union Workhouse during the 19th century.

Here, unlike most of their contemporaries, they did receive some basic education.

There was a growing movement in the early 20th century to take children out of the workhouse and either accommodate them in a children’s home or board [foster] them out in the community.  

In Norfolk there were 22 Poor Law Unions, including those for the City of Norwich and the Boroughs of King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth.

“The parish of Great Yarmouth was constituted as an Union under the New Poor Law, in March 1837, and was authorised to expend £7,100 in the erection of a new workhouse, which stands on the North Denes, and is a commodious brick building, with room for 400 paupers. The old workhouse, which had sometimes more than 300 inmates, formed, with the Children’s Hospital, the remains of the ancient Hospital of St Mary ….” 

(William White, History, Gazetteer, and Directory of Norfolk (Sheffield, 1845) p265)

The Poor Law Unions were abolished in 1930, following the Local Government Act of the previous year.

Their duties and properties were transferred to Norfolk County Council, Norwich City Council and Great Yarmouth County Borough Council.

Poor Law Union records, 1834-1930

  • Board and committee minutes, 1837-42, 1859-61, 1889-91 (Y/WE 69-72). All other minute books before 1910 were destroyed by bombing during the Second World War.
  • Board and committee (including homes committee, children’s committee and boarding out committee) signed minutes, 1910-30 (Y/WE 73-155).
  • Duplicate board and committee unsigned minutes, 1910-15 (Y/WE 157-161).
  • Boarding out committee (boarding out and district nursing committee from April 1928, boarding out, district nursing and children’s committee from January 1933) minutes, 1927-42 (Y/WE 209).
  • Children’s homes, Gorleston, admission and discharge register (listing ‘Cottage’ to which sent), 1914-33 (Y/WE 305).
  • Children’s homes, Gorleston, register of children in care (one child per page), 1918-27 (Y/WE 306).
  • Children’s home case papers, 1910-43 (Y/WE 310-311). Closed to public inspection for 100 years.