Holsworthy Poor Law Union formally came into existence on 1st December 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 30 in number, representing its 23 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
Devon: Abbots Bickington, Ashwater (2), Black Torrington (2), East Bridgerule, Bradford, Clawton, Cookbury, Holsworthy (3), Halwell, Hollacombe, Luffincot, Milton Damerel (2), Northcote, Pancrasweek, Pyworthy (2), St Giles-in-the-Heath, Sutcombe, Tetcot, Thornbury, Virginstow, Broadwood Widger (2).
Cornwall: West Bridgerule, North Tamerton.
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 11,197 ranging in size from Abbots Bickington (population 77) to Holsworthy itself (1,628). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-35 had been £7,333 or 8s.3d. per head
According to the Poor Law Commissioners Report of 1839, Holsworthy was one of a group of about 35 Unions "which for the present decline to concur in providing an adequate Workhouse". However, a new Union workhouse was eventually built in 1853 at Trewyn to the north of Holsworthy. It was designed by Edward Ashworth and accommodate 80 inmates. The workhouse location and layout are shown on the 1905 map below:
The building had a somewhat unusual T-shaped plan. At the front, the Guardians' board-room lay to the right of the entrance, with girls' day room and scullery behind. To the left of the entrance were dining hall with kitchen and boys' day room to the rear. Women's and men's accommodation was in the rear wing.
To its rear was the main accommodation block at the centre of which was located the master's quarters, with accommodation for males to one side, and females at the other.
In 1871, the Guardians were authorized to spend £3,090 on the building of detached infectious wards. A 12-bed infirmary block was erected to the west of the workhouse in 1904 at a cost of about £1700.
The former workhouse buildings have now been converted to residential accommodation.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.
- North Devon Record Office, Tuly Street, Barnstaple, EX31 1EL. Very few local records survive — holdings include: Guardians' minute books (1836-9, 1926-32); Assessment committee minutes (1896-32); etc.
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