contained in each

List of unions in Dorset

List of Dorset Poor Law Unions

The Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 and its administration entailed the creation of entirely new administrative areas throughout the United Kingdom: groups of parishes known as Poor Law Unions or simply Unions.

(Parish here = civil parish, defined as "area[s] for which a poor rate is or can be assessed" in mid-19th century legislation, as for example the Poor Law Amendment Act 1866; the thing is of course older than the term).

These groupings were based on geographical and demographic practicalities and took little account of most previous administrative arrangements, even cutting across county boundaries if necessary. By doing so there were created new Poor Law Counties, so called, in regard to the Poor Law itself, and other administrative functions, such as the decennial census, which used the Union boundaries. Note below, for example, Bourton and Silton, which although in Dorset, were for decades in the Wiltshire Union of Mere, and thus the Poor Law County of Wiltshire; the Somerset parishes in Sherborne Union, and thus in the Poor Law County of Dorset; and Lyme Regis, in Axminster Union and the Poor Law County of Devon.

In Dorset, however, the 1834 Unions were closely related to the pre-existing divisions (a unit developed principally for tax purposes), updated as recently as 1830 in a local Act of Parliament. See List of divisions in Dorset.

The Unions once established were used as the basis for subsequent administrative changes: they were taken from 1837 as the civil registration districts, and also as the basis for the sanitary districts introduced in the 1870s (see List of sanitary districts in Dorset).

Unions in Dorset and the civil parishes contained in each

Beaminster Union

Blandford Union

Later Additions:
Chettle (transferred from Wimborne PLU 1894); Farnham (transferred from Wimborne PLU 1894)

Bridport Union

Later Additions:
Charmouth (transferred from Axminster PLU 1896)

Cerne Union

Cranborne, see Wimborne

Dorchester Union

Later Additions:
Watercombe (from 1862)

Poole Union

Later Additions:
Branksome (from 1894)

Purbeck, see Wareham

Shaftesbury Union

Later Additions (all in 1894):
Alcester (created from Shaftesbury); Bourton and Silton (transferred from Mere PLU); Buckhorn Weston and Kington Magna (transferred from Wincanton PLU)

Sherborne Union

Sturminster Union

Later Addition:
Hanford (from 1858)

Wareham & Purbeck Union

Separate Poor Law Unions for Wareham and for Purbeck were formed 25 March 1836, but were merged into a single Wareham & Purbeck Union in September 1836.

Weymouth Union

Wimborne & Cranborne Union

Separate Poor Law Unions for Wimborne and for Cranborne were formed on 28 September and 30 September 1835 respectively, but were merged into a single Wimborne & Cranborne Union in October 1836.

Later additions:
East Woodyates and West Woodyates (created 1858)
Almer (transferred from Blandford PLU 1894)
Alderholt and Verwood (created from Cranborne 1894)
Holt and Pamphill (created from Wimborne Minster from 1894)
Colehill (created from Holt 1896)

Unions in other Poor Law counties containing Dorset civil parishes

Axminster Union

(in Devon)

Chard Union

(in Somerset)

Mere Union

(in Wiltshire)

Wincanton Union

(in Somerset)

See also

External links


  • Civil Division of the County of Dorset, 1833
  • Place Names of Dorset, vols 1-2 (EPNS)
  • Hutchins, Rev J, History of Dorset, vols 1-4 (3rd ed, reprint)
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