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London Metropolitan Archives



Reference code(s): MAB

Held at: London Metropolitan Archives


Date(s): 1867-1947

Level of description: Collection

Extent: 180.36 linear metres

Name of creator(s): MAB | Metropolitan Asylums Board x Metropolitan Asylums Board


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Metropolitan Asylums Board was established by an Order of the Poor Law Board, 15 May 1867. This Order combined the London unions and parishes in to one 'Metropolitan Asylum District' to comply with the stipulations of the Metropolitan Poor Act of 29 March 1867 (30 and 31 Vict c 6). This Act provided for "the Establishment in the Metropolis of Asylums for the Sick, Insane, and other Classes of the Poor and of Dispensaries; and for the Distribution over the Metropolis of Portions of the Charge for Poor Relief; and for other Purposes relating to Poor Relief". The Metropolitan Asylum District was responsible for "the reception and relief of poor persons infected with or suffering from fever or the disease of smallpox or who may be insane".

The first Metropolitan Asylums Board consisted of 60 members, 45 represented the parishes and unions of London and 15 were nominated by the Poor Law Board (afterwards by the Local Government Board and latterly by the Ministry of Health). The number was subsequently increased to 73 members.

Fever and smallpox epidemics had revealed deficiencies in Poor Law provision in the Metropolitan area. In most unions patients suffering from all diseases were crowded together in the workhouse infirmaries. The Boards first task was to devise ways of isolating patients with infectious diseases. The main difficulties confronting the Board were the spasmodic nature of the demands for hospital accommodation during the first 30 years of its existence (the worst outbreaks of smallpox occurred in the years 1870-2, 1884-5, 1893-4 and 1901-2), the objections of local residents to the establishment of hospitals in their neighbourhoods and the statutory limitation of patients to persons within the scope of the Poor Law.

MAB was delegated responsibility for accommodating and treating different diseases during the course of its life (taken from Ayers, 1971, pp 269-270):

Physical disorders:
Infectious and contagious diseases
1867 Scarlet fever; typhoid fever; typhus, smallpox. Poor law cases only before 1883
1883; 1893; 1894 Asiatic cholera. Accommodation available in case of need.
1888 Diphtheria. Poor law and non-pauper cases admitted from 1888. Free treatment after 1891
1905 Plague. Accommodation available in case of need.
1907 Cerebro-spinal meningitis
1911 (Feb) (Poor law)
1911 (May) Measles (non-pauper)
1911 Whooping-cough (poor law)
1912 Whooping-cough (non-pauper)
1912; 1926 Puerperal fever and puerperal pyrexia
1919 Trench fever; malaria; dysentery
1924 Certain contagious conditions of the eye (children received through the LCC)
1924 Zymotic enteritis
1897 Poor law children
1911 Insured persons under the National Insurance Act, 1911
1913 - 1921 Non-insured persons
Venereal disease
1916 Parturient women
1917 Infants suffering from ophthalmia neonatorum
1919 Other women and girls
Children's diseases
1897 Ophthalmia and ringworm (children)
1924 Interstitial keratitis and infantile paralysis
1925 Marasmus
1925 - 1929 Encephalitis lethargica (cases suffering from after-effects)
1926 Rheumatic fever; acute endocarditis, chorea
1928 Women suffering from carcinoma of the uterus

Mental disorders and epilepsy
1867 Harmless poor law 'imbeciles' (adults and children, capable of improvement and non-improvable)
1891 Suitable cases certified under the Lunacy Acts transferred form the London County 'lunatic asylums'
1897 Feeble-minded poor law children (uncertified)
1916 - 1917 Sane epileptics (poor law)
1918 Cases certifies under the 1913 Mental Deficiency Act (poor law and non-pauper)
1924 Mentally infirm persons over 70 years of age (poor law) who had not previously been certified

Healthy classes
1875 Poor law boys training for sea service (non-poor law boys were later received through the LCC be private arrangement
1902 - 1910 Juvenile offenders (MAB remand homes were transferred to the LCC in 1910)
1912 Homeless poor
1914-1919 Destitute enemy aliens and war refuges

Throughout its history the Board was kept under strict control by the central authority and approval had to be obtained from the Poor Law Board (later the Local Government Board) for all appointments of staff, purchases and allocation of property, etc. Some extra duties were placed upon the Board solely by Orders issued by the Local Government Board, e.g., the care of children suffering from opthalmia and from contagious diseases of the skin and scalp or because of some physical or mental defect, in need of special schooling (1896); and the control and management of London casual wards (1911). The most important statutes affecting the work of the Board were:-
The Diseases Prevention (London) Act, 1883 (46 and 47 Vic c.35, which removed the civil disabilities which had previously been attached to admission to the Board's hospitals)
The Public Health (London) Act, 1891 (54 and 55 Vic c.76, sanctioning the treatment of fever patients who were not paupers)
The Public Health (Prevention and Treatment of Disease) Act, 1913 (3 and 4 Geo.V c.23, sanctioning the treatment of tuberculosis patients by the Board)
The Youthful Offenders Act, 1901 (1 Edw.VII c.20 under which the Board established remand homes)
The Mental Deficiency Act, 1913 (3 and 4 Geo.V c.28 as a result of which the Board undertook the care of uncertified mental cases)
The Local Authorities (Emergency Provisions) Act, 1928 (18 and 19 Geo.V c.9 under which the Board was given co-ordinating powers over the London Poor Law Unions in respect of the Metropolitan Common Poor Fund)

Under the Local Government Act, 1929 the powers and duties of the Board were transferred to the London County Council.

An explanation of terminology: At the time of the Metropolitan Asylums Board there was no distinction between learning difficulties and mental disorders. The Mental Deficiency Act, 1927 uses the following terms:
(1) The following classes of persons who are mentally defective shall be deemed to be defective within the meaning of this Act:-
(a) Idiots, that is to say, persons in whose case there exists mental defectives of such a degree that they are unable to guard themselves against common physical dangers:
(b) Imbeciles, that is to say, persons in whose case there exists mental defectiveness which, though not amounting to idiocy, is yet so pronounces that they are incapable of managing themselves or their affairs or, in the case of children, of being taught to do so:
(c) Feeble-minded persons, that is to say, persons in whose cases there exists mental defectiveness which, though not amounting to imbecility, is yet so pronounced that they require care, supervision and control for their own protection or for the protection of others or, in the case of children, that they appear to be permanently incapable by reason of such defectiveness of receiving proper benefit from the instruction in ordinary schools:
(d) Moral defectives, that is to say, persons in whose case there exists mental defectiveness couple with strongly vicious or criminal propensities and who require care, supervision and control for the protection of others.
(2) For the purposes of this section, 'mental defectiveness' means a condition of arrested or incomplete development of mind existing before the age of eighteen years, whether arising from inherent causes or induced by disease or injury.
Note: the 1913 Act said that mental deficiency had to exist from birth or from an early age.


Scope and content/abstract:

MAB/1-142: Board Minutes and Agendas.
MAB/143-1448: Minutes, agendas and papers of Committees and Sub-Committees (Special and Joint, Ambulance, Asylums, Casual Wards, Children's, Contracts, Fever Patients, Finance, General Purposes, Hampstead Asylum, Hospitals, Hours and Wages of Staff, Law and Parliamentary, Metropolitan Common Poor Fund, Nursing Staff, Sanatorium (Tuberculosis), Smallpox Patients, Training Ship Exmouth, Works).
MAB/1449-1457: Registers of members.
MAB/1458-1493: Year books.
MAB/1494-1547: Letters from the Poor Law Board, Local Government Board and Ministry of Health.
MAB/1548-1562: Orders of the Poor Law Board and Local Government Board.
MAB/1563-1572: Regulations and standing orders.
MAB/1573-1576: Seal books.
MAB/1577-1684: Annual reports of the Board and its committees.
MAB/1685-1721: Miscellaneous printed reports and papers.
MAB/1722-1735: Legal papers.
MAB/1736-1750: Lists of staff and papers relating to staff.
MAB/1751-1836: Statistics.
MAB/1837-1847: Press cuttings.
MAB/1848-1872: Contracts.
MAB/1873-2247: Financial records.
MAB/2248-2255: Plans.
MAB/2256-2633: Papers, reports, etc., relating to institutions run by the Board.

Index of institutions found in the records with their reference numbers (MAB/xxxx):
Atlas Hospital Ship, 1069
Banstead Road School (see Downs School)
Belmont Asylum, 0239-0242, 2256-2267
Bethnal Green Casual Ward, 2590
Bridge School, 0500-0505, 0600, 2268-2272
Brook Hospital, 0145, 0857-0872, 2273-2280
Camberwell Green Remand Home, 2606-2617
Caterham Asylum/ Hospital, 0145a, 0243-0286, 1855, 2281-2299
Caterham Farm, 0285
Chelsea Casual Ward, 2591-2593
Clapton Asylum, 0801-0802
Cleveland Street Children's Infirmary, 0505-0507, 2300-2305a
Colindale Hospital, 1251-1256, 2306
Darenth School, 0145, 0287-0335a, 1856, 2307-2325
Dartford Institution, 0968
Deptford Hospital (see also South Eastern Hospital), 0144
Downs Hospital, 0509-0514, 0600, 2325-2331
Dreadnought Hospital, 1068
East Cliff House (see also Princess Mary's Hospital, Margate), 0600
Eastern Hospital, 0886-0918, 0968, 1857, 2332-2355
Edmonton Epileptic Colony, 0336-0341
Elm Grove Home for Defective Children, 2356-2357
Endymion Hospital Ship, 1069
for Hospital Ships see Joyce Green Hospital
Fountain Hospital, 0342-0350, 0515, 0792, 0921-0927, 0950-0964, 2358-2362
Fulham Hospital (see also Western Hospital), 0144
Geneva Cross, 1692-1693
Goldie Leigh Homes, 0516-0521, 2373-2375
Gore Farm, 0928-0944, 0967, 1858, 2363-2372
Grove Hospital, 0145, 0945-0964, 2376-2379
Grove Park Hospital, 1257-1258, 2380-2382
Hackney Casual Ward, 2594-2596
Hampstead Asylum, 0801, 0803
Hampstead Hospital (see also North Western Hospital), 0143, 0145a
Hampstead Temporary Hospital, 0143
Hanwell Home, 0522
Harrow Road Remand Home, 2618-2625
High Wood Hospital, High Wood School, 0523-0536, 0600-0601, 2383-2389
Highdown (see King George V Sanatorium)
Hither Green Lodge, 0731
Homerton Fever Hospital (see also Eastern Hospital), 0145a
Joyce Green Hospital Farm, 0968
Joyce Green Hospital, 2390-2391
King George V Sanatorium, 1259-1260, 2392-2394
Kingswood Road, Fulham, 0537-0543
Lambeth Casual Ward, 2597
Leavesden Asylum, 0145a, 0351-0397, 1860, 2395-2407
Lloyd House, 0545-0547, 2408
Long Reach Hospital, 2250
Millfield, 1261-1268
North Eastern Hospital (Tottenham), 0967, 0994-1012, 2409-2410
North Western Hospital, 0145a, 0965, 0966, 1013-1038, 1861, 2251, 2411-2423
Northern Defective Homes, 0600
Northern Hospital (Winchmore Hill), 0969-0993
Park Hospital, 0145, 0548-560, 1039-1044, 1446, 2424-2434
Pentonville Road Remand Home, 2626-2635
Pinewood Sanatorium, 1269-1271, 2435
Poplar Casual Ward, 2598-2601
Princess Mary's Hospital, 1272-1281, 2436-2441
Queen Mary's Hospital (Carshalton), 1045-1061, 1445, 2442-2449
Rochester House, 0398-0401, 2450
Rushington, 0600
Saint Anne's Home, Herne Bay, 0569-0576, 0600
Saint George's Home, 1251-1256, 2451-2452
Saint Luke's Hospital, Lowestoft, 1283-1285, 2453-2454
Saint Margaret's Hospital, 1063-1065
Saint Pancras Casual Ward, 2601
Sheffield Street Hospital, 1066-1067
South Eastern Hospital (Deptford) (see also Deptford Hospital), 0967, 0968, 1116-1140, 2252, 2456-2467
Southern (Carshalton) Hospital, 0145, 0968, 2455
Southern (Convalescent) Home (see also Gore Farm)
Southern Defective Home, 0600
Southern Hospital (see also Queen Mary's Hospital)
Southwark Casual Ward, 2602
Stockwell Hospital ,0145a
Sutton Schools (see Belmont Asylum)
Tooting Bec Asylum, 0412-0432, 1447-1448, 2486-2491
Training Ship Exmouth, 1287-1362, 2492-2581
Western Hospital (see also Fulham Hospital), 0145a, 1201-1223, 2582-2583
White Oak School, 0600, 0603-0617, 2584-2588
Whitechapel Casual Ward, 2603
Witham Schools, 0795


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:

The establishment of institutions in temporary buildings, and the frequent changes of use depending upon immediate needs together with the name changes make the records confusing reading, especially as, in the early years, separate committees were established for each institution.

In 1899 a rationalisation of the committee system took place and most of the institutional management committees became sub-committees of the main committees - Asylums (later Mental Hospitals), Children's Hospitals (later Infectious Hospitals) and Tuberculosis (later Sanatoriums). In the list, for the sake of clarity, all the committees have been grouped in this way from the beginning but with cross-references from the names of the institutions.

Subject files and correspondence, except for letters from the Poor Law (later the Local Government) Board appear not to have been passed over to the Council and most of the papers 'presented' to the Board and its committees were destroyed during the 1939-45 war so that minutes form the bulk of the records.

Except for the T.S. Exmouth, whose records are very full, the records of individual institutions are for the most part fragmentary. In some cases, e.g., the T.S. Exmouth where the institution continued in the same user for some years after it was taken over by the Council and the records are continuous, an ad hoc decision has been taken to keep the series together and they have been listed here, though strictly speaking from 1930 onward they are records of the LCC and not of MAB. A complete break has however been made in the committee records.

Conditions governing access:

These records are open to public inspection, although records containing personal information may be subject to closure periods. Records relating to patients are closed for 100 years under the Public Records Act.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright: City of London

Physical characteristics:


Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:


Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information:


Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Received in multiple accessions (AC/53/063; AC/54/012; AC/55/039; ACC/2368).


Existence and location of originals:

Existence and location of copies:

Related material:

For the London County Council, which took over Metropolitan Asylums Board institutions, see reference LCC. Please consult the Hospital Records Database on The National Archives website for the locations of the records of individual hospitals.

Publication note:

For a general history of the Board and its work see England's first state hospitals and the Metropolitan Asylums Board 1867-1930 by Gwendoline M. Ayers (Wellcome Institute of the History of Medicine, 1971), LMA Library reference 26.03 AYR.

MAB publications held at the LMA library have the Library classification 26.03 MAB. The minutes of the Board are on the oversize shelves in the Information Area, but the remaining material is held in store. Please ask at the Library enquiry desk for details of how to order this.
Minutes of the Metropolitan Asylums Board 1867-1930 [indexed]
Minutes of the Mental Hospitals Committee 1925-1930 [indexed 1925-1928]
Annual reports of the Chairman of the Board 1875, 1885-1897/8
Annual reports of the Metropolitan Asylums Board 1898-1929/30 [include reports of committees]
Annual reports of the medical superintendents... for the year 1886... with observations thereon by the Statistical Committee:
Annual reports of the Statistical Committee 1887-1897
Other Publications:
Expenditure statements 1902-1913/4
Financial statements 1888-1906
Handbooks/Yearbooks 1884-1929/30 [incomplete set: see catalogue entry for full details]
The Metropolitan Asylums Board and its work 1867-1930, compiled by Sir Alan Powell [published 1930]

The Library also holds annual reports and histories for a number of the Board's hospitals and institutions. Please check the Library Catalogue for full details.



Rules or conventions: Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions: April to June 2009

Asylums | Medical institutions | Health services
Care of poor and aged | Care | Health services
Care of the sick | Care | Health services
Child health services | Health services
Homeless people | People by roles | People
Poor | Disadvantaged groups
Poor Law | Social security | Social services
Poor Law boards of guardians | Local boards | Local government | Public administration | Government
Poor relief | Social welfare
Psychiatric hospitals | Hospitals | Health services
Tuberculosis | Diseases | Pathology
Venereal diseases | Infectious diseases | Diseases | Pathology
Sexually transmitted diseases x Venereal diseases
Actinomycetales infections

Personal names

Corporate names
MAB | Metropolitan Asylums Board x Metropolitan Asylums Board

London | England | UK | Western Europe | Europe