George Edward Douglas, c1835-


George, born in Ireland, was the Master of St Marylebone Workhouse, Northumberland St, St Marylebone, London in 1881. He died 24th June 1900.

His wife Ann Elizabeth, bc 1840 in Oxford, was Matron Of The Workhouse. She died April 21st 1898, aged 58 years.

Their daughter, Annie, bc 1863 was Lady Secretary

Their other children, May Eaton, Lilian, George Edward, and Daisy also lived there.

In 1867, the workhouse played a part in a local disaster. On 15th January 1867, the workhouse Master, George Edward Douglas, was walking with his wife (who was also the Matron) in Regent's Park when ice on the frozen lake gave way and 200 skaters fell into the freezing water. Douglas immediately organized the transport of survivors back to the workhouse for medical attention. Forty recovered bodies were also taken to the workhouse.

There were 1532 residents in the workhouse at the time of the 1881 census. George and Ann were Master and Matron for 32 years. During this period, and particularly following the Metropolitan Houseless Poor Acts of 1864 and 1865, significant improvements were made to the workhouse.

It is inevitably the worst cases of cruelty and neglect by workhouse masters that drew most attention at the time and provide sue! (?) compelling material for the modern historian, but it is necessary to balance these accounts with those of efficient and humane masters who gave good service to both guardians and paupers. One such was George Edward Douglas, who was appointed as master of the St Marylebon(sic) Workhouse in 1862. It is perhaps significant that, unlike many masters of the time who were recruited from the harsh worlds of the army or the prisons, Douglas had worked his way up through the posts of storekeeper and master’s clerk in the institution before this promotion. Any workhouse in the centre of a great city was certain to require firmness and stamina on the part of the master in order to control the often unruly inmates, but Douglas was able to combine this with a sensitive appreciation of the needs of the vulnerable. (Oral History, Health and Welfare, 2005)

In 1867 a major administrative change occurred under the Metropolitan Poor Act, the Directors and Guardians drawn from the Vestry being replaced by an elected Board of Guardians, independent of the Vestry and subject to regulation and control by the central Poor Law Board. From the 1860s, in consequence of this system and the appointment of an enlightened master, George Douglas, Marylebone workhouse began to lose a longstanding reputation for harsh discipline and even savagery.
Survey of London Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London


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