Bradford Poor Law Union (renamed Bradford on Avon from 5th July 1895) officially came into existence on 25th March 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 25 in number, representing its 15 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

County of Wiltshire: Atworth, Bradford (6), Broughton Gifford (2), Great Chalfield, Holt, Leigh Wooley, Limpley Stoke, Little Chalfield with Cottles, Monkton Farleigh (2), South Wraxhall [Wraxall], Trowle (Tything), Westwood (2), Winkfield [Wingfield] with Rowley (2), Winsley.
County of Somerset: Freshfield.

The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 12,660 — with parishes ranging in size from Little Chalfield with Cottles (population 83) to Bradford itself (3,352). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1831-4 had been £10,112 or 16s.0d. per head of the population.

The Bradford Union workhouse at Avoncliff is thought to date originally from about 1792 and the larger part of the U-shaped building originally comprised seventeen individual industrial dwellings, each one bay wide and three storeys high. In 1836 the Poor Law Commissioners authorised an expenditure of £3,000 on purchase of the building which was intended to accommodate 250 inmates. In 1837, a further expenditure of £1,986 was approved for extending and adapting the building, including the opening up of many of the internal dividing walls. The workhouse Master's quarters were at the centre. Female inmates were accommodated at the east and males at the west. The site layout and location are shown on the 1901 OS