A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded a parish workhouse in operation at Burton Bradstock with accommodation for up to 12 inmates.
A building known as Church House in Whitchurch Canonicorum was once used as the parish poorhouse.
Bridport Union records indicate the existence of a a pre-1834 workhouse although its location is not known. There are references in 1840 and 1880 to two buildings in East Street, formerly known as Higher and Lower Almshouses, being used as an extension for the union workhouse.
Bridport Poor Law Union was formed on 28th of March 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 27 in number, representing its 19 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
Dorset: Allington (2), Askerswell, Bothenhampton, Bradpole (2), Bridport (4), Burton Bradstock (2), Catherston Leweston, Chideock, Chilcombe, Litton Cheney, Loders, Stratton St Gabriel, Swyre, Symondsbury (2), Walditch, Whitechurch Canonicorum (2), Wootton Fitzpaine. Later Additions: Charmouth (from 1896).
The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 14,644 with parishes ranging in size from Catherston Leweston (population 27) to Bridport itself (4,242). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-35 had been £7,209 or 9s.10d. per head of the population.
The new union workhouse, for 200 inmates, was built at the junction of Barrack Street and Bedford Place. Designed by Henry J Whitling, the three-storey building was constructed from local stone. It followed the popular cruciform plan which created yards for the different categories of inmate.
The site location and layout can be seen on the 1908 map below.
In 1840, the Guardians' minutes record that they "moved that the Master be directed to keep those paupers infected with the Itch separate from the other inmates, and that his attention be particularly directed to this Resolution as the disease has so long been prevailing in the House."
In 1948, the institution became Port Bredy geriatric hospital. It closed in 1996 and was converted in 1999-2000 for residential use.
- Dorset History Centre, Bridport Road, Dorchester DT1 1RP. Holdings include: Guardians' minute books (1835-1930); Assessment committee minutes (1862-1927) etc.
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