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The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act established Poor Law Unions, a move away from the parish based system of poor relief that had been in place since the 17th century.

The Unions were to administer workhouses for the local poor. Workhouses were supposed to be a deterrent to the able-bodied pauper. Under the Act, poor relief would only be granted to those who passed the “workhouse test”, in other words you would have to be desperate to enter a workhouse.

Pontypool Poor Law Union was formed on 23rd May 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, which consisted of 26 men representing its 22 constituent parishes. The 797 records in this set each contain a transcription of the original workhouse death register. This includes information such as the deceased pauper’s name, age, year of birth, date of death and burial, their parish, poor law union and place of burial.