The Metropolitan Asylums Board or Board of of the Metropolitan Aslum District, also referred to as the MAB/M.A.B., was an authority entrusted with the building and management of large infirmaries and institutions for the treatment of the sick poor of the entire London area. It was funded a common poor rate across the capital, and initially had responsibility for those suffering from smallpox, fever, or insanity.

Established under the terms of the Metropolitan Poor Act 1867, the board was wound up in 1930, when its functions were transferred to the London County Council.

Formation and membershipEdit

See also: List of members of the Metropolitan Asylums Board

The 1867 legislation provided that a single Metropolitan Poor Rate would be levied across the Metropolis: this being defined as the area of the Metropolitan Board of Works. The Poor Law Board (a central government body) was empowered to form the areas of the various parish and poor law unions into districts for the provision of "Asylums for the Sick, Insane, and other Classes of the Poor".[1]

An order was signed on May 16 1867, combining all the parishes and unions in the Metropolis into a single Metropolitan Asylum District "for the reception and relief of the classes of poor persons chargeable to some union or parish in the said district respectively who may be infected with or suffering from fever, or the disease of small-pox or may be insane."[2]

A board of management was established with 60 members: 45 elected by the various poor law boards of guardians and 15 nominated by the Poor Law Board. The first board went out of office in March 1868, with each having a three-year term thereafter.

The 45 elected members represented the various poor law parishes and unions.

The Local Government Board replaced the Poor Law Board in 1871, and in 1886 made an order enlarging the Asylums Board to 72, with 54 elected members and 18 nominated. In 1892 one additional elected member was added, and the MAB's membership remained at 73 until its abolition.

Coat of armsEdit


Armorial bearings of the Metropolitan Asylums Board, granted in 1914.

In January 1914 the board resolved to seek the grant of armorial bearings from the College of Arms as there was thought to be "a necessity of placing some distinctive device at the entrances to the board's institutions".[3] The letters patent granting the arms were received in March.[4]

The blazon of the arms was:[5]

Argent, on a cross gules, the rod of Aesculapius or, a bordure engrailed sable. Crest — Issuant from a celestial crown gules, a demi-figure representing St Luke or. Supporters — On the dexter side, an eagle, the wings elevated erminois gorged with a collar composed of roses alternately gules and argent; and on the sinister side a dragon pean gorged with a collar, affixed thereto a chain reflexed over the back or.
Motto — " Miseris succurrere disco."

The shield featured a red cross on white: St George's Cross but also the "red cross" of medicine and ambulance work. On this was placed a golden staff of Aesculapius, legendary founder of medicine. The shield was edged with a black bordure or border. The crest showed the figure of St Luke rising from a celestial crown. The saint had appeared on the board's seal. The supporters were an eagle for "health and strength" and a chained dragon symbolising "disease held in check". About the eagle's neck was a collar composed of red and white roses. This was a reference to the Wars of the Roses which, according to Shakespeare, began in the Temple Gardens adjacent to the board's headquarters.

The Latin motto: Miseris succurrere disco or "I learn to succour the distressed", was taken from Virgil's Aeneid.[6]



The board initially met in the headquarters of the Metropolitan Board of Works at Spring Gardens near Trafalgar Square. The central office was soon established at Norfolk House on The Strand.[7] In 1900 they moved to a newly-built building on a corner site between Carmelite Street and the Victoria Embankment.[8] The building was in the French Renaissance style by the architect Edwin Thomas Hall. The Thames frontage was described as "adorned with some artistic sculpture representing incidents in the Board's operations".[9]


  1. The Metropolitan Poor Act, 1867: with notes and appendix (1867).
  2. "The New Regulations as to the Metropolitan Sick Poor". The Standard: p. 3. 17 May 1867. 
  3. "Metropolitan Asylums Board. Proposed Coat Of Arms". The Times: p. 3. 12 January 1914. 
  4. "Coat Of Arms For Metropolitan Asylums Board". The Times: p. 4. 23 March 1914. 
  5. The Book of Public Arms, 2nd Edition (1915).
  6. Gwendoline M Ayers. England's First State Hospitals and the Metropolitan Asylums Board, 1867-1930. University of California Press.
  7. Albert Julius Palmberg (1895). A treatise on public health and its applications in different European countries.
  8. Metropolitan Asylums Board Offices, Carmelite Street. English Heritage.
  9. A Pictorial and Descriptive Guide to London: Its Public Buildings, Leading Thoroughfares and Principal Places of Interest. Ward Lock. 1901. p. 239. 

External LinksEdit

A history of the MAB can be found at [1].


Details of archives can be found here [2] and here [3].

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