A parliamentary report of 1777 record a parish workhouse in operation at Whitchurch with accommodation for up to 40 inmates.
The success of the Shrewsbury Incorporation, formed in 1784, led to the formation of a number of other such Incorprations in the area, including Atcham, Oswestry, Ellesmere, and Montgomery and Pool. Whitchurch was incorporated under a local Act in 1792. This gave it the powers, amongst other things, to erect a workhouse which it did in 1794 at a site on Claypit Street.
Whitchurch's Local Act status made it immune from many of the provisions of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. However in 1854, a new Whitchurch Poor Law Union was created which took in parishes from Nantwich and other adjacent Unions. The new union overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 37 in number, representing its 25 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
Counties of Chester, Salop and Flint:
Agden, Bickley, Bradley, Chidlow, Chorlton, Cuddington, Duckington, Edge, Hampton, Ightfield, Iscoyd, Larkton, Macefen, Malpas (2), Marbury with Quoisley, Newton juxta Malpas, Norbury, Oldcastle, Overton, Stockton, Tushingham with Grindley, Whitchurch (12), Wigland, Wirswall, and Wychough.
Later Addition: Threapwood (from 1894).
The population falling within the union at the 1851 census had been 11,400 with parishes ranging in size from Chidlow (population 12) to Whitchurch itself (5,976). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1851-54 had been £2,452 or 4s.4d. per head of the population.
After the new union was formed, the Claypit Street workhouse was enlarged. The original building was a symmetrical red-brick building facing to the south-east. Women and children were housed in the eastern part of the building and men in the western part. An infirmary block, now demolished, was added at the north. A casual ward block, complete with sleeping and work cells, stood at the western corner of the site. The workhouse location and layout are shown on the 1901 map below.
In 1883, a 150-seat chapel was built to the south of the workhouse at a cost of £639. Its design was in the then popular Arts-and-Crafts style.
The former workhouse later became Deermoss hospital and the surviving buildings now form part of Whitchurch Hospital which provides geriatric care.
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.
- Shropshire Archives, Castle Gates, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 2AQ. Please note that records may contain gaps or have access restrictions - please check before visiting. Main holdings: Guardians' minutes (1792-1930, with gaps); etc.
Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.