Godstone Poor Law Union application and report books

Godstone WorkhouseThe application and report books were a record of those applying for poor relief, kept by the relieving officer. They hold a wealth of detail relating to the applicants, which may include their immediate family, their occupations, addresses, ages and the reasons why they applied for poor relief. Sadly, few survive for Surrey, with the exception of Godstone Union which has a set of these books from 1869 to 1915.

Applications for poor relief were made either to the Relieving Officer or to the Board of Guardians directly, and the details entered into the book. The books were 'signed off' by the Board of Guardians every quarter, and a note of the decision or direction by the Board inserted at the quarterly meeting.

The books are laid out over two pages, and generally give the following information:

  • Number in the Relief List
  • Date of application
  • Names of applicants
  • Age
  • Residence
  • Length of time in Union
  • Calling or occupation
  • Marital status
  • Ability (whether disabled)
  • If in receipt of relief
  • Present cause of seeking relief
  • Observations and names of relatives liable to relieve the applicant
  • Weekly earnings
  • Date of last visit
  • Quantity and nature of relief
  • Relief ordered by Guardians
  • Other orders
  • Observations

Mike Couper and his late wife Gill, two of Surrey History Centre's volunteers, have painstakingly indexed these books. You can search by either name or parish and the indexes include the date of application and the age of applicant. They will then give the reference number for the volume (BG5/55/2 for example) and the page number.

In the course of their work, the Coupers have noted several points which may help researchers using these indexes:

  • The volumes include the parishes of Bletchingley, Caterham, Chelsham, Crowhurst, Farleigh, Godstone, Horne, Limpsfield, Lingfield, Oxted, Tandridge, Tatsfield, Titsey, Warlingham and Woldingham. See the detailed catalogue list (BG5/55/1-14) for further details
  • Volume 8 of the set is in such poor condition that sadly it was unable to be indexed. This volume covers the latter part of the 1870s
  • There is often information about family members who are not applying for relief, for example, references to desertion by spouses or individuals in gaol
  • Occasionally, where the book has been damaged or handwriting is poor, the name is illegible. This will be shown as [????]
  • Quarterly lists often do not have a date, so they have put the month only
  • Where no exact dates are shown this is because no dates are listed in the books
  • Younger children are often added to a family group even if they were born some time later than the application date
  • Where the applicant has died, both 'dead' and 'deceased' were used in the descriptions. They have been transcribed as written
  • In some family groups there are step children (with a different surname). These will be 'lost' in the alphabetical list, although they would be listed with their parents
  • Families moved around and this can be seen more clearly from the alphabetical indexes
  • Fractions such as 2¼ have to be shown as 2.25

While every effort has been made to ensure that these transcriptions are correct, if any errors are found please do contact Surrey History Centre and we will make any appropriate corrections

You can search the indexes either by place or by name.

If your ancestors appear in the application and report books, why not visit the History Centre and see if you can find anything more about them? We hold the census for Surrey (which includes the parishes in the Godstone Union), parish registers, rate books and numerous other sources for the family and local historian.

CDs of the indexes are also available for sale, price £5 each (plus £3.50 postage and handling in the UK; £5 Europe; £7 rest of world) from the Surrey Heritage online shop by Visa/Mastercard/Debit card, or from Surrey History Centre, 130 Goldsworth Road, Woking, Surrey GU21 6ND. If paying by cheque, please make payable to "Surrey County Council". If you are contacting us from outside the UK, please let us know your country of origin as changes in VAT legislation may affect the services we can provide.

To search the indexes, select the files below.

Files available to download

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