Ancestry UK

Marlborough, Wiltshire

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Up to 1834

Marlborough was the subject of a report in An Account of Several Workhouses..., dated September 2nd, 1727:

We have in this Town two Parishes, both of which have agreed to erect Workhouses. One is finished, and settled under good Regulations, the other is in some Forwardness, and we hope soon to see it perfected, from whence I promise my self some good Fruits, that I cannot see from our Charity School, which, considering the Nature of our Poor, and some other Circumstances, can hardly ever be brought to answer the first Intentions of the Subscribers. It is therefore wished that the Charity which supports the School, were grafted on the Workhouse and thereby both may become more useful.

A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded parish workhouses in operation in Marlborough—St Mary for up to 52 inmates and in Marlborough—St Peter and St Paul for 50 inmates.

In 1788, a visitor reported that:

the work-house for St. Peter's parish in Marlborough adjoining to the bridewell, is quite out of repair, and the clay floors in holes. The rooms and inhabitants were very dirty, and had no linen or means of cleanliness. They had little or no bedding: some lay on straw on the floors, and others had a few rags to cover them on old bedsteads. It is no wonder that a putrid fever lately ran through this house. The other poor-house, in St. Mary's parish, is equally neglected: three or four lay in a bed with only rags and straw, and some of the children were almost naked.

After 1834

Marlborough Poor Law Union was formed on 24th November 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 16 in number, representing its 14 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

Wiltshire: Avebury, Berwick Basset, Broad Hinton, East Kennet, Fifield, Mildenhall, Marlborough St Mary (2), Marlborough St Peter and St Paul (2), Ogbourne St Andrew, Ogbourne St George, Preshute, West Overton, Winterbourne Basset, Winterbourrne Monkton.

The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 8,774 with parishes ranging in size from East Kennet (population 103) to Marlborough St Mary (1,849). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-35 had been £5,250 or 12s.0d. per head of the population.

Situated to the north of the town, the new workhouse for 180 inmates was built in 1837. It was based on a standard cruciform plan to a design by W Cooper, for which the Poor Law Commissioners authorised the expenditure of £4,362. The builder was T Willes.

Marlborough workhouse site, 1922.

Marlborough workhouse from the east, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The workhouse entrance block contained the Guardian's board room, porter's room, waiting room etc.

Marlborough entrance block from south, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The pediment over the entrance block contains a slab recording the date and architect of the workhouse. The upper portion suffered when it was concreted over in contravention of the building's current listed status.

Marlborough, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

To the rear, accommodation wings for the various classes of inmate (male/female, infirm/able-bodied etc.) radiated from a central supervisory hub where the workhouse master's quarters were located.

Marlborough from the north-east, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

A two-storey block at the north-east side of the site may have been a vagrants' ward.

The workhouse later became Marlborough Poor Law Institution then a Children's Convalescent Hospital. It has now been redeveloped as retirement housing.




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.

  • Wiltshire and Swindon Archives, Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, Cocklebury Road, Chippenham SN15 3QN. Limited holdings include: Guardians' minutes (1845-1917, with gaps); Annual returns of lunatics (1885-1893); Relied order book (1910-17); etc.



  • None.

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