Other functions of the Board of Guardians

Throughout the lifetime of the poor law, the range of functions for which the boards of guardians were responsible increased dramatically.

Some of the most important changes came about as a result of the Medical Charities Act, passed in 1851, which empowered the boards of guardians to divide the poor law unions into dispensary districts and to provide dispensaries in the same.

Other important functions were given to the boards of guardians after the formation of the Local Government Board in 1872. These included the registration of births, deaths and marriages; the building of labourers' cottages in an attempt to improve the housing conditions of the agricultural labourer; inspection of sewerage schemes; and the prevention of public nuisances. For example the relieving officer of Milford union was directed to visit the houses of those admitted to the workhouse and to cause the removal of any filth or nuisance in order to prevent the spread of infectious disease.

The boards of guardians also had responsibilty for authorising loans from the poor rate, distributing seed potatoes under the Seed Potato Supply Acts, the care-taking and closure of burial grounds; and in 1896 it was also made responsible for the making of laws in relation to the speed and design of cars.

Above Image: Extract from a meeting where the guardians appointed Committees of Management for the various Dispensary Districts in Milford Union, (BG/119/1/6, 27th March 1854)

Click here to view a transcribed version of the above image

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