West Ward, Westmorland
A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded a local workhouse in operation at Crosby Ravensworth with accommodation for up to 11 inmates.
In 1832, Gilbert Union was formed by the parishes of Barton, Lowther, Askham, Clifton, and the townships of Little & Great Strickland and Martindale. To provide workhouse accommodation, the hired an old mansion house at Eamont Bridge (in the parish of Barton) dating from 1686, together with old farm buildings to its rear.
The West Ward Poor Law Union formally came into being on 6th September, 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 24 in number, representing its 22 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
County of Westmorland: Askhma, Bampton, Barton, Bolton, Brougham, Clifton, Cliburn, Crosby Ravensworth (2), King's Meaburn, Low Winder, Lowther, Martindale, Morland, Newby, Patterdale, Shap (2), Sleagill, Sockbridge, Great Strickland, Little Strickland, Thirmby, Yanwath and Eamont Bridge.
The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 7,899 with parishes ranging in size from Thirmby (population 81) to Shap (1,084). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £2,724 or 6s.11d. per head of the population.
The Eamont Bridge Workhouse
The first West Ward union workhouse was established in the former Gilbert Union premises at Eamont Bridge. In 1851, it could accommodate 73 inmates. A Poor Law Board report in 1867 noted that "the provision for sick and infectious cases is deficient; the building is old and most unsuitable for the purpose."
The Shap Workhouse
A new West Ward union workhouse was erected in 1877 on Home Lane in Shap and was first occupied on 17th December that year. It accommodated 60 inmates and cost £7,000 to build. The workhouse location and layout can be seen on the 1897 map below.
At the rear, the central wing wing probably contained the workhouse kitchens.
A single-storey range to the east of the main workhouse building may have housed vagrants' wards.
A single-storey infirmary and mortuary stood to the north of the workhouse.
By 1924, the workhouse had closed and its inmates transferred to the East Ward union workhouse at Kirkby Stephen.
The Shap workhouse building was later used as a children's home by the Carlisle Union. When this closed, the whole site was sold to the local Shap Granite Company as housing for the workforce.
- 1851 — Master: George Clark.
- 1858 — Master: William Burton; Matron: Mrs Sarah Burton; Chaplain: Rev George Courtenay Hodgson; Surgeon: William Irving.
- 1881 Census
- 1896 — Master: James Glessal; Matron: Mrs Elizabeth Glessall; Chaplain: Rev. Stephen Whiteside; Medical Officer: Septimus Farmer.
Note: many repositories impose a closure period of up to 100 years for records identifying individuals.
- Kendal Archive Centre, Kendal County Offices, Kendal LA9 4RQ. Holdings include: Guardians' minutes (1836-1930); Letter books (1873-1930); Service register (1871863-1930); etc.
- Tyson, Blake (1987) The Mansion House, Eamont Bridge, Cumbria. (in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society, 31, pp146-174.
- Thanks to Elizabeth Ellis for help in compiling this page.
Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.