Boston had a workhouse from around 1726 (Hitchcock, 1985). A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded parish workhouses in operation in Boston (for up to 26 inmates), Butterwick (10), Freiston (16), Kirton (15), Leak (35), Leverton (16), Sibsey (20), Skirbeck (12), and Swineshead (30). Boston's workhouse stood next to the gaol on St John's Row.
Eden, in 1797, reported on poor-relief in the parish of Swineshead, later to form part of the Boston Poor Law Union:
A workhouse stood on the east side of what is still called Workhouse Lane at Algakirk.
Boston Poor Law Union was formed on 22nd September 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 38 in number, representing its 27 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
County of Lincoln: Algakirk, Bennington, Bicker, Boston (5), Brothertoft, Butterwick, Carrington, Dog Dyke, Fishtoft, Fosdyke, Frampton, Freiston (2), Frith Ville, Kirton (2), Langrick Ville, Leake (2), Leverton, Sibsey (2), Skirbeck, Skirbeck Quarter, Sutterton (2), Swineshead (2), Thornton-le-Fen, West Ville, Wigtoft, Wrangle (2), Wyberton.
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 29,898 — ranging from West Ville (population 118) to Boston itself (11,240). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £16,695 or 11s.2d. per head.
In October 1836, the new Boston Board of Guardians advertised for plans for a new workhouse for 300 inmates and costing no more than £5,000. On 15th November, the plans submitted by George Gilbert Scott were accepted, subject to approval from the Poor Law Commissioners. The new workhouse, with it capacity raised to 350, was built in 1837 at the south side of Skirbeck Road immediately to the north of Boston Dock. The final cost was in the region of £8,000.
The workhouse design was typical of Scott's work. At the front, facing onto the road, was a single-storey entrance range with an archway at its centre, the Guardians' board-room at one side, and a chapel at the other. Probationary wards were attached at the rear.
Behind this was the main accommodation block, with a four-storey central portion occupied by the master and matron, with three-storey wings to the east (for males) and west (for females). To the rear stood the infirmary with the laundry and workshops at its sides. A 'vagrant lodge' was added to the south of the infirmary, although it may have originally been built as a fever hospital.
The workhouse location and layout can be seen on the 1903 map below.
After 1930, the site later became a Public Assistance Institution known as St John's Buildings and the infirmary block as St John's Home.
All that now remains of the workhouse is the entrance block, which stands in the shadow of giant storage silos. After lying derelict for many years, the building has been renovated by the Heritage Trust of Lincolnshire and is now used by Lincolnshire Social Services.
By the 1920s, the Boston Union had established a cottage home for 13 pauper children at Brothertoft Road, Boston.
- 1881 Census
- 1901 Census. Workhouse Governor: Thomas William Steel; Workhouse Matron: Mary Martha Steel.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals. Before travelling a long distance, always check that the records you want to consult will be available.
- Lincolnshire Archives, St. Rumbold Street, Lincoln LN2 5AB. Extensive holdings include Guardians' minute books (1836-38, 1841-1930); Admissions and discharges (1838-9, 1876-1930); Births (1866-79, 1914-42); Deaths (1866-1941); Offences and punishments register (1880-1941); Schools admissions/discharges (boys 1868-1902, girls 1850-1901); Certification book for pauper lunatics (1890-1928); etc.
- Hitchcock, T.V. (1985) The English workhouse: a study in institutional poor relief in selected counties. l695-l750. (DPhil thesis. University of Oxford.)
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