Hailsham had a workhouse by 1762. The timbered building, at the corner of Vicarage Road and Market Street, housed up to forty inmates who were occupied in spinning wool. The establishment also possessed a cider press.
Heathfield's workhouse, on Church Street, was established in 1757. In 1777, it could house twenty-five paupers. In 1832, thirty-six were in residence. Part of the building is now a cottage.
In 1777, workhouses were also in use at Chiddingly (25 places), Herstmonceux (45), Hooe (30), Ninfield (15), Warbleton (60) and Wartling (40). Chiddingly's workhouse was located at Nash Street, Golden Cross. In1832, it had twelve male inmates and ten female. The property is now a private residence variously known as the Old Workhouse or Robin Mead.
Hooe's workhouse was at the north-east of Hooe Common. The site is shown on the 1873 map below.
What in now Whitehouse Farm, on Hooe Road, Russell's Green, was once the Ninfield parish workhouse.
The Warbleton workhouse, situated opposite the parish church, later became a school and is now three cottages.
Laughton's workhouse was on Church Road. The building is now three cottages named Meadowside, Beech Cottage and Church Cottage.
Hellingly had a workhouse at Upper Horsebridge at the west side of what became Union Road (now Hawks Road). In 1832, it had forty-two inmates aged from one to eighty years.
In 1832, Herstmonceux's workhouse, at Gardner Street, had twenty-three inmates. The inmates' diet included meat on five days a week, while – it was said – the industrious labourer in his cottage had no such fare.
Hailsham Poor Law Union was formed on 10th April 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 16 in number, representing its 11 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
County of Sussex:
Arlington, Chiddingly, Hailsham (2), Heathfield (2), Hellingley [Hellingly] (2), Herstmonceux (2), Hooe, Laughton, Ninfield, Warbleton (2), Wartling.
Later Additions: Chalvington (from 1898), Ripe (from 1898).
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 11,825 with parishes ranging in size from Hooe (population 525) to Heathfield (1,801) and Hailsham itself (1,445). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1831-34 had been £18,351 or £1.11s.0d. per head of the population.
The union initially continued using the workhouses at Hellingly (for men), Warbleton (boys), Arlington (women and small children), Herstmonceux (girls), and Hailsham (the aged and infirm). In 1835-6, a new workhouse was built at Hellingly (perhaps on the existing parish workhouse site) with Sampson Kempthorne as architect. It adopted a cruciform layout and could accommodate up to 270 inmates. The other workhouses were then closed, apart from Hailsham, which provided 50 places for elderly inataes. After an additional block was erected at the Hellingly site in 1854, accommodating an additional 40 inmates, the Hailsham workhouse was then also closed.
The infirmary at the west of the Hellingly workhouse was enlarged in 1870, and a new board-room was erected at the opposite side of Union Road in 1878. The site location and layout are shown on the 1908 map below:
After 1930, the workhouse briefly operated as a Public Assistance Institution but was closed in 1932 and subsequently demolished. Housing now occupies the site.
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.
- East Sussex Record Office, The Keep, Woollards Way, Brighton, BN1 9BP. Holdings include Guardians' minutes (1836-1930); Births register (1836-1930); Deaths register (1836-1930); Admissions and discharges (1835-1930); etc.
- Higginbotham, Peter Workhouses of London and the South East (2019)
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