Builth Poor Law Union was formed on 2nd January, 1837. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 35 in number, representing its 31 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
Altmawr, Builth, or Llanfair in Bualt (3), Crickadarn, Gwaravog (Llanleonfel Parish), Llanafan fechan or Llanfechan, Llanafan-fawr (2),
Llanddewi Abergwessin, Llanddewi'r Cwm, Llanfihangel Aberguessin, Llanfihangel Bryn Pabjoan, Llanganten, Llangynog, Llanleonfel, Llanynis,
Llysdinam, Maesmynis, North Gwenddwr, Penbualt (Llangammarch Parish), Rhosferig, South Gwenddwr, Treflis, Llangammarch Parish.
Radnorshire: Aberedeu, Bettws Disserth, Creguna, Disserth & Trecoed (2), Llanbadarn y Garreg, Llandrindod, Llanelwedd, Llansaintfraed in Elvel, Llanfaredd, Rhulen.
The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 8,512 with parishes ranging in size from Altmawr (population 43) to Builth itself (1,034). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £3,753.
Like a number of other unions in rural central Wales (Lampeter, Presteigne, Rhayader and Tregaron) the Guardians of Builth Poor Law Union resisted the construction of a workhouse, preferring instead to dispense out-relief to people in their own homes. However, in 1875, under the threat from the Local Government Board to dissolve the union, a new workhouse for 60 inmates was finally opened.
The new workhouse was situated on a site to the south of Builth at the east side of the Brecon Road. Its location and layout are shown on the 1905 map below.
The buildings had an irregular layout with a conventional T-shaped block at its centre, but with another long range along its south-eastern edge. The entrance at the south-west appears to have been flanked by two small buildings, perhaps a board-room and vagrants' ward. A small T-shaped block at the north-east was probably an infirmary, with a small isolation block and mortuary beyond.
Unfortunately, the new building turned out to be defective in its construction. In June 1875, the Guardians commissioned an assessement of the structure from Hereford architect W.E. Martin. Martin's report found that the external walling as the 'very worst and cheapest description of random rubble work, the foundations insufficient, the mortar a mixture of lime, limestone partly burnt, ballast, mud, small coal, and ashes, scarcely deserving the name of building.'
After 1904, for birth registration purposes, the address of the workhouse was recorded as 'Victoria House, Brecon Road'.
In August 1914, the guardians agreed to allow the women's ward to be used as a wartime Red Cross hospital, with the boardroom also being given up for the same purpose in 1916.
In November 1914, with only twenty-three paupers in residence, a proposal was made to close the workhouse and sell the building. Despite periodic discussions along these lines, the workhouse continued in operation until 1930. Unlike other establishments in the county, which became council-run Public Assistance Institutions, the Builth workhouse was then closed. The buildings were demolished in 1943.
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.
- Powys County Archives Office, Unit 29, Ddole Road Enterprise Park, Llandrindod, LD1 6DF. Very few records survive — holdings include: Guardians' Minutes (1902-07); Lists of staff and inmates (1923); etc.
- Higginbotham, Peter The Workhouse Encyclopedia (2014, The History Press)
- NEW! Workhouses of Wales and the Welsh Borders. The story of the workhouse across the whole of Wales and the border counties of Cheshire, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire. More...
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