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Bedale, North Riding of Yorkshire

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Up to 1834

According to a parliamentary survey in 1776, a workhouse was in operation at Bedale and Ascough [Aiskew] housing up to 80 inmates, and another at Ilton for 20. The buildings were said to be adapted from cottages or farmhouses and poorly suited for the purpose (Hastings, 1996).

After 1834

Initially, Bedale was included in the Northallerton Poor Law Union. However, a number of influential local landowners and magistrates felt that Bedale should be the centre of its own Union. In support of this aim, twelve Guardians representing the Bedale district disrupted the Northallerton Board's business to such an extent that in 1839, a new Bedale Union was created incorporating parishes previously falling within the Thirsk and Leyburn Unions.

Bedale Poor Law Union formally came into being on 28th March 1839. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 25 in number, representing its 23 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

North Riding of Yorkshire: Ainderby Myers with Holtby, Aiskew (2), Bedale, Burneston, Carthorpe, Crakehall; Exelby, Leeming and Newton; Firby, Gatenby, Hackforth, Ilton with Pott Killerby, Kirkby Fleetham, Kirklington with Upsland, Langthorne, Masham (2), Rand Grange, Scruton, Snape, Swainby with Allerthorpe, Swinton with Watermaske, Theakston, Thornton Watlass, Well.
Later Additions (from 1870): Burrill cum Cowling, Burton upon Ure, Clifton upon Ure, Rookwith, Thirn.

The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 8,348 with parishes ranging in size from Swainby with Allerthorpe (population 27) to Masham (1,276) and Bedale itself (1,266). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1836-38 had been £2,925 or 7s.0d. per head of the population.

Initially, the new union took over the existing Bedale parish workhouse. Pigot's Directory of 1841 records that the union workhouse was on the Market Place, with Jno. [John] and Sarah Teale as master and matron. Construction of a new Bedale Union workhouse for a 100 inmates commenced in 1839 at South End in Bedale. It was designed by John and William Atkinson of York who were responsible for a number of other Yorkshire workhouses including Beverley, Easingwold, Goole, Guisborough, Howden, Pocklington, Skirlaugh and York.

The site location and layout are shown on the 1854 map below.

Bedale workhouse location, 1854.

Bedale workhouse from the east, c.1905.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The buildings consisted of a main block facing onto the road, with small separate blocks at each side. The main block had a three-storey central portions, with two-storey wings at each side.

Bedale main block from the north-west, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The rear of the main block had canted corners whose windows provided the staff with views over all the exercise yards at the rear.

Bedale main block from the south-east, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

In 1895, the workhouse was the scene of a violent death — a newspaper story of the period reported:

A shocking quarrel, attended with fatal consequences, occurred on Wednesday morning at the Workhouse, Bedale, Yorkshire. It appears that a middle-aged Woman, named Margaret Appleton, who was employed as help at the Bedale Workhouse, sent a man named George Dixon, 50, to dig some potatoes in a garden adjoining, for the inmates' dinner. As he did not return with the potatoes she went into the garden to inquire the reason. Words appeared to have passed between the two, when, Dixon says, Mrs Appleton snatched the gripe from him and struck him across the head with it, inflicting a wound about three inches long. This exasperated him beyond control, and he seized the gripe from her, and felled her to the ground with it. He struck her on the left side of the head, knocking a big hole in her skull. She fell to the ground, and Dixon walked into the vagrants' ward, and said to the Porter, "Boynton, I have killed Margaret." Blood was then streaming down his face, which he said was the result of the blow that the deceased had inflicted. Dr Fothergill was sent for, and he found that Mrs Appleton had been killed by the blow. He dressed Dixon's wound, and ordered him to be put to bed, which was done. He is, however, watched by the police.

By 1924, the workhouse had closed and its former inmates were boarded out at the Beverley union workhouse.

In the 1930s, the building was converted to become Mowbray Grange Sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis patients. It later became Mowbray Grange Hospital but the site was sold off in 1991 and has now been converted to residential use.




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.


  • Bedale Workhouse by Dr P Hastings (1996, Ripon Museum Trust leaflet).


  • None.

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