A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded a parish workhouse in operation at Llandderfel with accommodation for up to eight inmates.
Bala Poor Law Union was formed on 10th January, 1837. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 12 in number, representing its 5 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
County of Merioneth: Llandderfel (2), Llanfawr (3), Llangower, Llannwchyllyn (2), Llanycil (4).
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 6,654 with parishes ranging in size from Llangower (population 412) to Llanycil (2,359). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £2,891 or 8s.8d. per head.
Bala's first Union workhouse was built in 1839-41 at the south side of Bala High Street. In 1838, the Poor Law Commissioners authorised the expenditure of £1,970 on construction of the building which was to accommodate 80 inmates. A further £900 was authorised in 1841. The workhouse location and layout (highlighted in pink) are shown on the 1899 map below:
It had a T-shaped entrance block facing onto the High Street. To the rear was a two-storey octagonal hub with accommodation wings to each side. A large rectangular block stood towards the rear of the site.
In 1875, the Bala Board of Guardians that decided that the old building was no longer satisfactory. Perhaps this was because the original buildings could not be expanded, or it was felt that a less central site was desirable for the establishment. A new and larger workhouse was erected on a site to the west of the town on the north side of Mount Lane. Designed by Mr WH Spaull of Oswestry, the building contract for £2,250 was placed with Robert Roberts, mason, and Robert Roberts, joiner, of Bala.
The old workhouse building was later used as a militia barracks, and then as a factory for bottled mineral water, for biscuits, and most recently for the manufacture and sale of clothing.
The new workhouse building has now been demolished although some of the stonework has been re-used in the construction of the medical centre that now stands on the site.
- Meirionnydd Archives, Ffordd y Bala, Dolgellau LL40 2YF. Holdings include: Guardians' minute books (1837-1930); Ledgers (1837-1917); Deaths register (1946); etc.
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