A large work-house was built at Bodmin in 1756 "on some of the Friery lands now belonging to the corporation, at the expence of Sir William Irby, bart., afterwards Lord Bolton." (Lysons, 1814)
A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded parish workhouses in operation at Bodmin for up to 70 inmates, and at Blisland for 4 inmates.
In 1804, prison reformer James Neild visited the Bodmin workhouse. He later recorded:
Bodmin Poor Law Union was formed on 10th May 1837. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 36 in number, representing its 21 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
Blisland, Bodmin — Parish, Bodmin — Borough (4), Cardingham (2), Endellion (2), Egloshayle (2), Helland, St Kew (2), Lanhydrock, Lanhivet (2), Lanlivery (3), Lostwithiel (2), Luxulion (2), Saint Minver Highlands (2), Saint Minver Lowlands, Saint Mabyn (2), Temple, Saint Tudy, Warleggon, Withiel, Saint Winnow (2).
Later Additions: Wadebridge (1898).
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 18,836 with parishes ranging in size from Temple (population 29) to Bodmin Borough (3,375). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £6,660 or 7s.1d. per head of the population.
The Bodmin Union workhouse was built in 1838-42 to designs by William Dwelly and was intended to accommodate up to 250 inmates. It was erected at a cost of around £5,000 on an elevated site at the north of Bodmin. Its location and layout are shown on the 1881 map below:
At the south was a two-storey front block.
To the rear was an H-shaped main block, of two-storeys for the most part, but with an octagonal three-storey hub.
A further block to the north included an infirmary accompanied by various outbuildings. A small isolation hospital was erected to the north-west.
The surviving former workhouse buildings have been converted into residential accommodation. The former isolation hospital is now a private house.
Bodmin Union Children's Homes
In 1913, the Bodmin Union spent £550 on the erection of a home for 12 detsitute girls at 17 Beacon Road (number 22 now occupies the site following renumbering). Another house, for 14 destitute boys, was taken on Berrycombe Hill.
Bodmin was also the home of the Cornwall County Lunatic Asylum, later St Lawrence's Hospital.
- Cornwall Record Office, Old County Hall, Truro, Cornwall, TR1 3AY. Relatively few records survive — holdings includeGuardians' minute books (1842-4, 1877-81, 1884-7, 1896-1930); etc.
- Lysons, Samuel (1814) Magna Britannica, volume 3.
- Philp, Tony (2005) A Social History of Bodmin Union Workhouse (Bodmin, Cornwall: Bodmin Town Museum)
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