Epsom Workhouse


Index

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[Content]

Epsom Workhouse pre 1834
Epsom Workhouse post 1834
Early Decisions
Workhouse Uniform
Diet
Tasks
Schooling
Chapel
Vagrants
Discipline
Extensions, Additions and Plans
Out-Relief
Statistics etc.
Other Records
Miscellany
Central Oversight of the Workhouse

Content

The Epsom Workhouse pre 1834

A Destitute woman with child c.1876from London Street Life in Historic by John Thomson
A Destitute woman with child c.1876
from London Street Life by John Thomson

This page concentrates on the Epsom workhouse but for an introduction to the workhouse system in general please see our Workhouse Background Page.

Epsom Workhouse in 1823 by J Hassell
Epsom Workhouse in 1823 by J Hassell
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum (Opens in a new window)

It is not known when Epsom's first workhouse was built but it was in existence in the late 18th century. The few surviving vestry minutes show that there was a serious complaint against the master of the workhouse in 1776. In June 1777 the vestry minutes record that newspaper adverts were to be placed to the effect:
"That the Maintenance and Care of the poor of this Parish, will be set, to a Person properly qualified for the office, from Michelmas day next ensuing, for the Term of three years".
In October 1777 Mr Evans was given the contract but by the summer of 1779 a vestry panel reported:
"We found the Children nearly in a State of Nakedness, most part of them without Stockings or Hose, dirty, lousey, and in a very wretched Condition.
That the older people declared, they were in the same State, as the Children dirty or lousey , and in a very bad Situation. We tasted the Beer, and the old people declared, that instead of the Beer being Bittered with Hops, it was Bittered with Feverfew And We think the Same.
We found there, Thomas Scriven a lunatick , partly naked, and chained, with the door open, ... (hogs?) in the room, ... (which?) might have destroyed him.
The Children said they are not to read.
We found the House was very Offensive above Stairs, that We could not go to Inspect the rooms and bedding."
Mr Evans was dismissed and his final bill was disputed which lead to the threat of legal proceedings.

Things must have improved as in Frederick Morton Eden's book State of the Poor published in 1797 he writes of the Epsom workhouse that:
"The poor have been farmed for more than 20 years; this reduced the rates by one-half and has kept then at about 2s.6d in the year. The contractor receives £550 per year. The average number in the house is 60, more than 75 or less than 45, but always highest in winter. They are chiefly employed in spinning coarse woollen or linen yarn, but their earnings are small. Bill of fare: Breakfast - Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, broth; Tuesday, milk porridge; Thursday Saturday, milk porridge or gruel. Dinner - every day, meat and bread. Supper - every day, bread and cheese or butter. Each person has a pint of small beer at dinner and supper. The provisions are plentiful, wholesome and good. In the case of sickness the Poor are attended by a doctor. The children are taught reading and catechism by one of the elder paupers."

In 1801 the vestry decided that rice was to be used as much as possible to reduce bread consumption in the workhouse. In the same year they decided that a separate isolation house was needed for those suffering from 'the itch' and that they should buy looms and oakum for use by the inmates. Children should also be apprenticed out.

Advert to place apprentices in The Times 29 Jun 1824
Advert to place apprentices
The Times 29 Jun 1824

Link to the Ewell Parish Workhouse page


The Epsom Workhouse post 1834

Epsom Union Workhouse (Post 1834)
Epsom Union Workhouse (Post 1834)
"... is a structure of better appearance than many of its kind, and in the Tudor style"


For a full and very informative account of the post 1834 Workhouse please read this lengthy History of Epsom Workhouse written in 1927 (.pdf format). As this newspaper report cover 31 pages we felt that the following summary would help those pressed for time.

The Epsom Poor Union was formed on 31st May 1836 by 15 parishes, (this grew to 16 when Headley joined the union more than 40 years later in 1879). It covered a population of 15,700 spread over an area of 40,400 acres. Each parish elected one or more Guardians to administer the workhouse and the out-relief (payments to those remaining in their own homes). To finance the new Union the Guardians charged each parish a proportion of the total costs (the exact formula used is still not clear).

Outline map showing the parishes that made up Epsom Poor Law Union
Rough outline map showing the parishes that made up the
Epsom Poor Law Union including Headley which only joined in 1879.

Parish Guardians Size in Acres
(approx)
Population
(1831 Census)
Initial
Rateable
Value
Initial
Rates
Levied

for the
first 3
months
Proceeds
from sale
of old
premises

(if known)
Ashtead 1 2522 607 £580 £60 £262
Banstead 1 5840 991 £681 £110 £419
Carshalton 3 2680 1919 £1605 £180 £469
Cheam 1 1850 997 £790 £150  
Chessington 1 1230 189 £118 £20  
Cobham 2 5240 1422 £1002 £100  
Cuddington 1 1850 138 £223 £50 £318
Epsom 3 3970 3231 £1796 £190 £980
Ewell 2 2410 1630 £1063 £110 £315+£270
Fetcham 1 1750 384 £99 £14  
Great Bookham 1 3170 890 £512 £70 £245
Leatherhead 2 3250 1724 £1115 £110 £680
Little Bookham 1 950 191 £91 £30  
Stoke D'Abernon 1 1940 289 £236 £55 £307
Sutton 2 1830 1121 £599 £90  
TOTALS 22 40482 15723 £10,510 £1339 £4265


Early Decisions

The first meeting of the Guardians was held on 2 June 1836, when a chairman and vice chairman were elected and they appointed W. Everest of Epsom their first clerk at a salary of £150pa. They agreed at their second meeting to close the majority of the old parish poor and workhouses and build a new central workhouse in Epsom to accommodate 250 people. Till the new building was ready they decided to move the able-bodied males, over 13 years, into one of the existing houses (possibly Ewell which was also temporarily retained). The aged and infirm were moved to the old Epsom Poor House, children (girls under 16 and boys under 13) were to be moved to Carshalton and Leatherhead was to be used for the reception of aged and infirm women with able-bodied women distributed amongst the remaining houses. All the other buildings and lands were to be sold off.

This advert calling for plans appeared in the Times of 2 July 1836
This advert calling for plans
The Times of 2 July 1836

Adverts were placed calling for workhouse plans and 17 sets were received. The designs of Mr William Mason of Ipswich were accepted. His design was for a building to house 300 people laid out in a double-cross with an extra yard. It is recorded that whilst it was plain it did not look too much like a prison, and the parts for the aged and children resembled an Almshouse. The Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72) has the following description "...the workhouse is a structure of better appearance than many of its kind, and in the Tudor style". Land in Dorking road at the rear of the old Epsom poor house was bought for about £900, the committee notes record that "there is little freehold land to be acquired in the parish and it all bears a very high price". The old Epsom Poor House could also accomodate from 80 to 100 people. The building work started on 12 October 1836 and was carried out by T Butcher of Guildford whose tender was for £4742. The builder wanted to hand over the building in March 1838 but after the Board demanded some remedial work and negotiated a reduced bill, the process of equipping out the building started in September of that year. The initial furniture and equipment for the 300 residents only came to £150!!! In the absence of a commercial loan the chairmen loaned the Board £2500 each at 4½%pa. to pay for the new building.

Advert seeking a loan
Advert seeking a loan
The Times 12 March 1839

Epsom Union Workhouse on the 1866 OS Map
Epsom Union Workhouse on the 1866 OS Map

The first master of the new workhouse was Mr John Trower at £40 pa., and his daughter was expected to act as an unpaid matron. Trower and his wife were soon dismissed for incompetence and a new couple took over as Master and Matron at £70 and £30pa. Three medical Officers were appointed, one for Sutton, Cheam, Carshalton and Banstead, one for Epsom, Ewell, Ashtead, Chessington and Cuddington and a third was to cover the remaining parishes. Two superior health officers were appointed at £110pa., a labour master at 16s per week and a porter at £35pa but his wife was expected to work full time unpaid. After over two years in operation the Board appointed a Chaplain at £100pa.

Item in the Times about closing the old Carshalton workhouse
Article on the closing of the old Carshalton workhouse
The Times 10 October 1838

In a break from the piecemeal approach to purchasing supplies that was usual in the past, the Board advertised for and accepted tenders for the supply of food and goods, for example:
- Knives, Forks 10s a doz.
- Spoons 1s.10d a doz.
- Bread of the best seconds Wheaten Flour made was 14s. a cwt.
- Flour the best seconds quality 38s. a sack
- Good Ox Beef, free from bone 6s.8d a stone.
- Good mutton at 7s per stone
- Legs of good beef at 5s per stone
- Beef Suet at 7d per pound
- Good Irish butter 79s per cwt
- Cheese 5¼d a lb.
- Wallsend coals 30s. cwt.
- Congou Tea 3s.8d a lb.
- The best Patna Rice full grained and free from dirt 24s per cwt
- The best round Oatmeal well sifted and free from husks 20s. a cwt.
- The best Scotch Barley 22s. a cwt
- Salt 1s.9d a lb.
- Pepper 1s.6d a lb.
- Pimento 1s 4d a lb
- Ginger 1s.4d a lb.
- Good Flour Mustard (Seconds) 7d a lb.
- Best Vinegar 2s.4d a gallon
- Best Store Candles 5s.6d for 12 lbs.
- Iron bedsteads 6ft by 3ft 6in at 35s each to weigh 1cwt 0qrrs 24lbs
- Iron bedsteads 6ft by 2ft 6in at 25s each to weigh 0cwt 3qtrs 12lbs
- The best hard pale yellow soap made from good materials and of a firm consistency as per sample left at 50s per cwt
- Good substantial Elm Coffins properly pitched inside and to be made of inch Elm and Shrounds, for Paupers of the age of 14 yeas and upwards at 17s 6d (under 14years at 7s 6d)
- Leather shoes ranged from 2s.4d (Children) to 3s.10d (Adults)
- Wosted hose 12s.6d a doz.
- Men's hats 9s. a doz.
- Men's Fustian Suits 11s7d each
- Linsey Wolsey 1s.0¼d per yard
- Welsh Flannel 1s. per yard
- Blue Handkerchiefs 6½d each
- Women's Dunstable bonnets 22s a doz.

This advert calling for tenders to supply the workhouse appeared in the Times of 17 August 1836
This advert calling for tenders to supply the workhouse
appeared in the Times of 17 August 1836

Workhouse Uniform

Men and boys wore striped calico shirts, worsted stockings, fustian suits, smock-frocks and shoes with hats or caps. Aged and infirm men also had flannel underwear. Elderly and infirm women were dressed in blue print or striped gowns, lindsey wolsey petticoats, chequered aprons and neckerchiefs, chequered muslin caps and bonnets for outings. Able-bodied women wore similar but less warm clothing. Girls wore striped frocks, stockings, shoes and bonnets.

Diet

Spitalfields Soup Kitchen 1867
Spitalfields Soup Kitchen 1867
Illustrated London News

We do not have details of the diet that the inmates were given in the new workhouse but the Board would have submitted a feeding plan to the central Pool Law Commissioners for approval so the diet is unlikely to be too different from that in other workhouses.

The following 'Dietary' for Epsom Workhouse came into effect on 2 January 1837:

Dietary for able-bodied Men and Women
Breakfast Dinner Supper
Bread Gruel Cooked Meat Potatoes Soup Suet or
Rice Pudding
Bread Cheese Broth
Oz. Pints Oz. lb. Pints Oz. Oz. Oz. Pints
Sunday Men 6 5 1 - - 6 -
Women 5 5 1 - - 5 -
Monday Men 6 - - - 6 2 -
Women 5 - - - 5 2 -
Tuesday Men 6 5 1 - - 6 -
Women 5 5 1 - - 5 -
Wednesday Men 6 - - - 6 2 -
Women 5 - - - 5 2 -
Thursday Men 6 5 1 - - 6 -
Women 5 5 1 - - 5 -
Friday Men 6 - - - 14 6 2 -
Women 5 - - - 12 5 2 -
Saturday Men 6 - - - 6 2 -
Women 5 - - - 5 2 -
-o0o-
Old People of 60 years of age and upwards may be allowed 1oz of Tea, 5oz. of Butter and 7oz of Sugar per week, in lieu of Gruel for Breakfast, if deemed expediant to make this change.
Children under 9 years of age to be Dieted at discretion; above 9 to be allowed the same quantities as women.
Sick to be dieted as directed by the Medical Officer.
Click for example Workhouse Recipes.

We do know that half a pint of common table beer was only to given to people over 60 on meat days and to women employed in laundry work who would also get an extra 3oz. of bread and 1oz. of cheese. When there was an epidemic of fever the Board would supplement the rations with a little extra bread or meat or beer. Potatoes were the only vegetable given to adult inmates but after the first winter children in the infirmary would get fresh greens or turnip tops.

The first complete union accounts include the following figures for the workhouse: Beer £24 19s.6d; Tea £15 16s.1d; Meat £7 19s.7d; Groceries £7 3s.6d; Bread £17 19s. 9d. For the same period out-relief expenditure on bread was £156 and meat £12.

Tasks

Men ground broken glass into powder using iron pestles and mortars. Corn and barley was also ground for workhouse use but anybody could bring their corn in to be ground at 2d a bushel. Oats and peas were also cracked in a mill. After a year the Board bought a mill that could be worked on by between six to twenty men at a time. Some inmates would be put to mending shoes or making clothes for other inmates. Women and girls would work in the kitchens and laundry and carry out the bulk of the cleaning. In the 1850s some young women under 20 were employed in the Ewell Bleach Works. In the late 1870s old men were put to chopping wood. In 1884 the board decided that each able bodied man should break into small pieces 5 cwt. of stone, or a team of 8 men crank a saw mill to saw half a fathom of wood, each day.

Gustave Doré - Scripture Reader in a Night Refuge
Scripture Reader in a Night Refuge
by Gustave Doré

Schooling

Initially most workhouse children were educated by a pauper inmate who was paid 4s. a week and had double rations. Later the Board engaged teachers at 15s. a week with board and lodgings. The school room was small, had virtually no equipment so the children could only have had very basic lessons in the three R's. In 1868 inspectors reported that 13 infants used a single pail to wash in and the single towel they used was only changed weekly! Following their report more pails and towels were bought together with a few books, sheet alphabets and spelling cards. In 1881 the Board supplied maps of the World, Europe and England and Wales, they also decided that the school room should be in a separate building in the grounds. The children were taken out for exercise three times a week but this only started after the workhouse had been opened for 36 years!

Treats

For the first few years there is unlikely to have been many if any treats as these were sternly discouraged by the Poor Law Commissioners but the influence of Dickens and others gradually softened this hard line and occasional treats were allowed. In 1857 the children were taken to the Crystal Palace but the auditors objected to the cost £4 5s. and the Commissioners allowed the expediture on this occasion but said that similar costs should not occur again. In 1865 an Epsom Resident treated the children to another visit to Crystal Palace. This trip prompted the chaplain to seek donations for trips outside the workhouse for other groups of inmates. In 1878 Lord Rosebery's wedding was celebrated with a treat for the workhouse inmates who also benefited from Rosebery winning races such as his 1905 Derby win he also paid for a celebration for the relief of Ladysmith and even donated a piano. We have found a 1889 programme (This modern reproduction is in .pdf format) for an entertainment when some of the local dignitaries entertained the inmates.

Workhouse life was designed to be very drab and dull to discourage the poor from seeking relief; for example see the poem Christmas Day in the Workhouse or this article following a visit to London's Whitechapel workhouse by Charles Dickens which was first published in 1850. The inmates had very little in the way of entertainment so the rare occasion that some entertainment was laid on for the inmates must have been generally welcomed.

Chapel

Epsom Workhouse (All Saints) Chapel Interior c.1888
Epsom Workhouse (All Saints) Chapel Interior c.1888
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum (Opens in a new window)

Inmates attended religious services in the main workhouse building and it was about 40 years after the workhouse was opened that a Chapel was built. It was consecrated by the Bishop of Guildford on 1 December 1879 and had a stained glass window that was given by Lord Rosebery.

Epsom Workhouse Chapel By Herbert Medhurst March 1920
Epsom Workhouse Chapel
By Herbert Medhurst March 1920
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum (Opens in a new window)

Vagrants

Gustave Doré - Refuge - Applying For Admittance
Refuge - Applying For Admittance
by Gustave Doré

One of the main aims of the 1834 act was to deter vagrancy so as with most workhouses vagrants were discouraged. They were often kept apart from other inmates having poorer, and at times unheated accommodation, given harsher treatment and the more unpopular work. Early in 1849 the Master was instructed to only admit tramps who were unable to proceed with their journey and overseers and the relieving officers told to only give relief in cases of illness or extreme destitution and that all able-bodied vagrants were to be handed over to the police if asking for alms. A notice was put on the gate to this effect and within 9 months the Board reported that the steps had been entirely successful. The policy changed in the mid 1860s as the Board decided to admit vagrants for just one night and they were detained until 11 o'clock the next morning. Each was to be given six ounces of bread for supper and six ounces of bread at seven o'clock for breakfast, children and the sick and infirm to be fed at the discretion of the Master. After breakfast every tramp was to pick two pounds of oakum and if any refused or misbehaved they were to be given into custody and brought before the magistrates. In November 1872 the board decided to build a new casual ward.

Epsom Workhouse Interior photographed c1950s when it was a hospital
Epsom Workhouse Interior photographed c1950s when it was a hospital
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum (Opens in a new window)

Discipline

Very firm discipline was undoubtedly the general rule and by the standards of today the rules, that inmates were forced to live by, seem incredibly harsh. But by the standards of the time there is no known record of exceptionally harsh treatment in the Epsom Workhouse in the Times or other newspapers.

Epsom Workhouse Building photographed c1950s
Epsom Workhouse Building photographed c1950s
Image courtesy of Bourne Hall Museum (Opens in a new window)

Extensions, Additions and Plans

We know that the original workhouse building was added to or extended as follows:

  • 1840 The infirm were moved from the old Poor House to a ward in the main building
  • 1851 A new infirmary building built at a cost of £1230 using a loan from the chairman at 3½%
  • 1872 The board decided to build a new casual ward.
  • 1882 Guardians authorised to spend £11,000 for the erection of a new pavilion style infirmary with 120 beds, (architect was a Mr Appleton of Sutton)
  • 1882 enlargement of the boardroom and offices
    Board Room, The Builder 15 September 1882
    Board Room, The Builder 15 September 1882

  • 1884 Authorised to spend £700 for the completion of infirmary and boardroom plus £400 for fitting out the infirmary (Local Government Board papers)
  • 1885 A mortuary was added
  • 1888 Tender sought for
    - a three storey block for old men,
    - a detached single-storey receiving ward with 24 beds,
    - a dining hall and
    - casual wards for 60 vagrants [It seems that the first floor of the casual wards had some wide cells indicating that these were for mothers with children, and the ground floor had the cells for mothers and infants] and - a disinfector in the cellar (Architect Herbert D Appleton) (The Builder 15 Sept 1888)
  • 1897 Tenders sought for erection of laundry buildings etc. (Architect H.D. Searleswood) (The Builder 10 April 1897)
  • 1910 Authorised to spend £3179 for the erection of a nurses home and alterations at workhouse.(Architect A.C Williams)
  • 1937-38 A new nurses home was erected cost £95,600. (The Builder 12 November 1937)

Workhouse map. Click on a building to open block plans. Casual Block New Infirmary Block Childrens and Nurses Home Main Block
OS Map of the Workhouse in 1932
Click on a block to bring up a block plans (in .pdf format)

For block plans (in .pdf format) please click on the following links:
Main Block
Casuals Block
Infirmary Block
Childrens Home

Here is a transcript of the 1930 Report on the Workhouse Building (.pdf format). The total capacity of the Workhouse in 1930 appears to have been as follows:

Block Section Ground Floor First Floor Second Floor    Men     Women  Children
Hospital Male 68 38 - 106    
Female 33 33 -   49 17
Exten 22 28 -   50  
Childrens Home Boys Day Rooms Etc 18 Rooms Vacant     18
Girls Day Rooms Etc 20 2     22
Old Infirmary Male 23 19 14 56    
Female 7 8 Stores & Staff Rooms   15  
Main A Day Rooms 27 27 54    
B Day Rooms 15 14 29    
C Day Rooms 27 26 53    
D Dining Room Masters Brs Lumber Rooms      
E Masters Quarters Masters Brs Maids Rooms      
F Board Room and Central Kitchen Stores -      
G Office and Stores Sisters Quartrs 6   6  
H Day Room 8 15   23  
J Day & Staff Mess 23 38   61  
K Day Nurserys 17 + 3 cots 18 + 4 cots   35 7
Casual Male 34 22   56    
Female 9 beds + 3 cots       9 3
Mental Male 4 Stores   4    
Female 4     4  
Receiving Male 5     5    
Female 5       5  
        TOTALS 363 257 67
        GRAND TOTAL 687    


Out-Relief

Although the workhouse provided the necessities of life in the way of food, clothing and accommodation, hundreds of people were given help in their own homes. This out-relief was given out by Relieving Officers who were instructed to give half of the relief in the form of food or clothing if they assessed that more than 1s.6d was needed.

Initially the area the Union covered was divided into two districts for out relief:
Western: Ashtead, Great Bookham, Little Bookham, Chessington, Cobham, Epsom, Fetcham, Leatherhead, Stoke D'Abernon and Headley (from 1879)
Eastern: Banstead, Carshalton, Cheam, Cuddington, Ewell, and Sutton
After 1879, but before 1893, the number of areas was increased to three:
Western: Great Bookham, Little Bookham, Chessington, Cobham, Fetcham, Leatherhead, and Stoke D'Abernon
Central: Ashtead, Cheam (to 1893), Cuddington, Epsom, Ewell, and Headley
Eastern: Banstead, Carshalton, Cheam (from 1893), and Sutton

Statistics etc.

Please note that Epsom workhouse was also recorded in some official records as Middle House, Dorking Road, Epsom. This probably stems from the 1904 guidance issued by the Registrar General that workhouse births should be disguised by the use of non-committal addresses. Similar guidance relating to deaths was only issued in 1919 and at the same time the practice of putting a letter W in the margin of the entry was also discouraged.

Epsom Union Workhouse Admissions 01 January 1840 to 31 December 1911

Workhouse Statistics for the Quarter ended 29 September 1840 (in Excel format - 3 sheets in one workbook)
Workhouse Statistics for the Quarter ended 25 September 1847 (in Excel format - 2 sheets in one workbook)
Workhouse Statistics for the Quarter ended 25 March 1848 (in Excel format - 2 sheets in one workbook)
Workhouse Statistics for the Half Year ended 25 March 1850 (in Excel format - 2 sheets in one workbook)

1841 Workhouse Census - The handwriting on the six pages of this census that cover the workhouse is faint and in places very difficult to read. The number of differences between local interpretations and some online transcriptions is high. We have reluctantly decided NOT to put an unreliable census extract on line.

1850 Cheam In-Relief List
1850 Cheam Out-Relief List
1851 Workhouse Census
1861 Workhouse Census
1861 List of Long term Residents of Epsom Union Workhouse
1871 Workhouse Census
1881 Workhouse Census
1891 Workhouse Census
1901 Workhouse Census

Epsom Union Workhouse Births
Epsom Union Workhouse Deaths


Other Records

The records for Epsom Workhouse, including admission books, are held at the Surrey History Centre (Opens in a new window).

Miscellany

  • Epsom Union in common with other workhouses was often referred to as "The Spike".
  • At one stage the Matron is thought to have broken with the normal custom and lived outside the workhouse crossing the railway line each day by a bridge that has since been removed.
  • Ashtead's poorhouse, (or workhouse or charity house) was a three-storey building which stood from circa 1813 right on the Epsom boundary at "Moorwood Place" Ashtead, after the union was formed it continued to be used to house the needy.
  • Rev Barrington Taylor, bachelor curate at St Giles, Ashtead, was chaplain to the inmates from 1840-1866
  • Ashtead's Poor rate in 1888 was 1/7 in the £ - collected by the then aptly named Assistant Overseer, Mr Swindells, a retired Church School teacher who was also Collector of Taxes!

Central Oversight of the Workhouse

Overseeing the setting up and running of the Poor Law Unions were three Poor Law Commissioners, who were assisted by their Secretary Edwin Chadwick and a small central administration. Local inspections were carried out by a small number of Assistant Commissioners. The Commissioners were in effect a Quango* that operated from 1834 until a scandal in 1845 at the Andover Workhouse brought about a change a couple of years later.

In 1847 an Act of Parliament replaced the Poor Law Commissioners with a Poor Law Board whose president was an MP. The Secretary to the Board, who was now a civil servant, acted as the chief executive. The Assistant Commissioners were now called 'Poor Law Inspectors', two of whom had special responsibility of Poor Law Schools.

In 1871 the role of the Poor Law Board was taken over by a separate department within the wide ranging Local Government Board. A Cabinet minister now headed the new Board; the Poor Law Inspectors were re-titled 'General Inspectors' and were now helped by "Assistant Inspectors" all of whom worked to a Chief Inspector. Some of the General Inspectors had special responsibility for medical matters while three women inspectors had responsibly for children in foster homes.

In 1919 Poor Law administration came under the Ministry of Health, which took over many of the functions of the Local Government Board. Although a more senior Cabinet Minister headed the Ministry, the range of function the new Ministry held meant that the Poor Law department was, in effect, reduced in status. Workhouse medical matters were now the responsibility of the Medical Officers of Health's department.

The workhouse system was formally abolished on 1st April 1930, being replaced by other social legislation, but inmates were not turn out on that date and many workhouses continued to be run into the 1950s under County Council control.

(* = A body which has a role in the processes of national government, but is not a government department or part of one, and which accordingly operates to a greater or lesser extent at arm's length from Ministers)



If this page has stirred up an interested in workhouses in general, we have no hesitation in recommending Peter Higginbotham's workhouse website (Opens in a new window).

Useful Links:
Ewell Parish Workhouse page
www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk
www.surreycc.gov.uk/surreyhistorycentre


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