In 1702, Gloucester was one of the early cities to establish a local act incorporation for the administration of poor relief. A workhouse was in operation from 1703 to 1704 but by 1707 the incorporation's activities had lapsed. In 1725, the SPCK's An Account of Several Workhouses... reported that:
The 1725 workhouse, known as the New Bear, was closed in 1757 through financial difficulties. It re-opened following a further Local Act being obtained in 1764. In 1776, the workhouse could house up to 200 inmates, who were employed "Principally in pin-making; but the aged and infirm pick oakum. The women in washing, brewing, and other household work." A workhouse master was employed at £15 per annum, a matron at £10, a schoolmaster at 10 guineas, and an apothecary at £20 per annum. Several paupers were also employed: a schoolmistress at 3 pence per week, a pauper at 3 pence per week, and a nurse at 12d per week.
Gloucester Poor Law Union was formed on 30th April 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 49 in number, representing its 35 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
City of Gloucester:
St Aldates (2), St Catherine's with Kingholm St Catherine's (2), St John Baptist (3), St Mary-de-Crypt (2), St Mary-de-Grace (2), St Mary-de-Lode with Kingsholm St Mary (3), St Michael (2), St Nicholas (3), St Owen (2), The Holy Trinity (2).
County of Gloucester: Barnwood, Barton St Mary, Barton St Michael, Churchdown, Down Hatherly, Elmore, Hempstead, Hucclecot, Lassington, Littleworth, Tuffley, Longford St Catherine's, Longford St Mary, Maismore, Matson, Norton, North Hamlet, Over Higham and Linton, Quedgley, Sandhurst, South Hamlet, Twigworth, Upton St Leonard's (2), Whaddon, Wootton St Mary - Ville of Wootton
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 21,368 — ranging from Matson (population 55) to Gloucester St John Baptist (2,465). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1831-34 had been £6,931 or 6s.6d. per head.
The new Gloucester Union workhouse was built in Gloucester in 1837-39 on the southern side of what is now Great Western Road (then called Workhouse Lane). It was designed by the partnership of Scott and Moffatt and adopted a version of their characteristic design with a single-storey front reception block with central entrance archway, a parallel main accommodation block behind, and an infirmary at the rear.
In 1850, the original infirmary was demolished to make way for the South Wales Railway. In 1852, a new infirmary building, designed by Jacques and Son, was erected at the west of the workhouse at a cost of £1550. Casual wards were erected to the west of the infirmary. The site location and layout is shown on the 1923 map below.
In 1911, a casual ward was erected on the north side of the road, a little to the east of the workhouse. It included two association wards for 15 inmates each, and ten single cells. There were also twenty stone-breaking cells.
In 1914, construction began of a large new union infirmary, directly opposite the workhouse. It comprised a central administrative block and nurses home, with pavilion ward blocks to each side. It was designed by Walter B Wood of Gloucester. In 1915, before the building was completed, the two ward pavilions was taken over by the Red Cross as a reception hospital for the war-wounded. Building work re-commenced in 1919. In 1929, the workhouse buildings came under the control of the local authority and the infirmary became the City General Hospital. As of 2020, only the old administration block survives. There is still a plaque commemorating the wartime use of building on one of the old entrance gateposts on Great Western Road.
The old workhouse buildings to the south side of Great Western Road were demolished in 1961 and replaced a few years later by an eight-storeyed building for the Post Office's telecommunications services. That building has now too been completely demolished and the site is currently a car park..
From1899, boys were housed at Tuffley Court, Tuffley, and girls at 1-2 Theresa Place (now the Linden Tree pub, 73-5 Bristol Road), Gloucester. In 1902, the guardians purchased Ladybellegate Lodge, on Ladybellegate Street. It was used to house aged women until 1915, when the girls from Theresa Place were transferred there after the latter was closed. In 1928, Ladybellegate Lodge was replaced by Wooton Lodge, on Newland Street. From 1908 to 1915, aged men were housed at Somerset Lawn, on Spa Road, Gloucester.
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.
- Gloucestershire Archives, Clarence Row, Alvin Street, Gloucester GL1 3DW. Holdings include Guardians' minute books (1835-1930); Outdoor relief lists (1903-09); etc.
- Higginbotham, Peter The Workhouse Encyclopedia (2014, The History Press)
Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.