A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded parish workhouses in operation at Alford, for up to 15 inmates, and at Bolingbroke, for up to 40.
Eden, in 1797, reported on poor-relief in Spilsby:
A Poor-house has existed many years at Spilsby, and to it are sent such Poor as do not receive relief at home. They are under the direction of a worsted manufacturer, who lives in the Workhouse, and provides clothes and other necessaries for the inmates. He is allowed 3s.6d. a week per head, with their earnings, which are inconsiderable. There are 8 children under 12, one man and one woman each over 70, and a woman of 35. 14 out-pensioners receive 28s. weekly. The house is a good building, but much out of repair, and not so clean as it ought to be. The beds are filled with feathers and well provided with covering. The table of diet is as follows: Breakfast—Sunday, milk or broth; Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, broth ; Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, milk pottage. Dinner—Sunday, Thursday, beef, mutton or pork; Monday, cold meat; Tuesday, bullocks' or sheep's heads ; Wednesday, light dumplins; Friday, bread and cheese, puddings or dumplins; Saturday, pudding or dumplins. Supper—Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, bread and cheese; Tuesday, Thursday, bread, cheese and milk. From Lady-day to Michaelmas the Poor in the house rise at 6 and go to bed at 9. Doors are shut at 8.30. The rest of the year they rise at 8 and go to bed at 8. Doors are shut at 6. About 4 or 5 certificates are granted in a year, and about 1 removal in the same time. A contested removal seldom occurs more often than once in 10 years. The rent of a few houses amounting to £30 a year is yearly given to poor housekeepers who receive no parochial aid. There is also a school for 15 poor children, with a salary to the master. A Sunday school has been established for 50 scholars.
Eden also reported on the parish of Alford:
Before 1791 the Poor were taken care of by the overseers, who rented a house, where most of the Poor were kept and those who were able to work were employed. A school of industry was kept up for a few years, but being thought disadvantageous was discontinued in 1794. Since 1791 the Poor have been farmed and maintained in a Poor-house, where there are at present 15 inmates, of whom 3 are under 7, 3 between 7 and 15, and the rest chiefly old people. No information could be obtained of earnings; they are probably insignificant, as an old woman, who is almost a pauper, is the governess of the house. She is often opposed by very clamorous competitors for power, and is scarcely able to retain the reins of government, much less to enforce good order and industry. This is the general bill of fare. Breakfast every day-Bread and milk. Dinner—Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday-Bread, potatoes, broth, dumplins, and butcher's meat; Monday, Wednesday, Friday-Bread, cold meat and milk; Saturday-Bread and butter or cheese, and milk. Supper—Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday&—Broth and bread; other days—Bread and milk. One pound of bread a day is allowed to each adult. The beds are mostly filled with feathers. That neatness which discovers itself in some workhouses is not to be found here. Several small donations, amounting to £6 a year, are distributed among the Poor who do not receive parish relief. No certificates are granted except to parishioners resident in the county. About 3 are granted yearly; usually 2 or 3 removals yearly. One lately contested cost the parish between £60 and £70.
A workhouse stood on Workhouse Lane, off Wigg Lane, at Chapel St Leonards.
Spilsby Poor Law Union was formed on 13th April 1837. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 69 in number, representing its 66 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
County of Lincoln:
Addlethorpe, Alford (2), Anderby, Ashby, Aswarby, Bilsby with Thurlby, Bolingbroke, Bratoft, Brinkill, Burgh in the Marsh, Calceby, Candlesby, Claxby, Croft, Cumberworth, Dalby-cum-Dexthorp, Driby, Farlesthorpe, Firsby, Friskney (2), Gunby, Hagnaby, Halton Holgate, Hareby, Harrington, Hogsthorpe, North Holme, Huttoft, Hundleby, Ingoldmells, Irby in the Marsh, East Kirkby, East Keal, West Keal, Langton by Spilsby, Markby, Mavis Enderby, Mumby with Chapel Mumby, Orby, South Ormsby with Ketby, Partney, Raithby, Rigsby with Ailsby, Sansthorpe, Scremby with Grebby, Skegness, Skendleby, Spilsby (2), Great Steeping, Little Steeping, Stickford, Stickney, Sutterby, Sutton in the Marsh, Thorpe, Toynton All Saints, Toynton St Peter's, Ulceby with Forthington, East Ville, Mid Ville, Wainfleet All Saints, Wainfleet St Mary, Well and Derthorpe, Welton in the Marsh with Boothby, Willoughby, Winthorpe.
Later additions: Chapel St Leonards (from 1896), New Leake (1894), Northholme (1837), West Fen (1880).
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 23,316 — ranging from Sutterby (population 31) to Alford (1,784) and Spilsby itself (1,384). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £14,822 or 12s.9d. per head.
Spilsby Union workhouse was built in 1837 at the south side of the Hundleby Road to the west of Spilsby. Intended to accommodate 260 inmates, its construction cost £around £3,500. The architect was George Gilbert Scott who, together with his partner William Bonython Moffatt, designed the workhouses at Boston, Horncastle and Louth.
The Spilsby design followed Scott's typical plan with an arched single-storey entrance block, three-storey main accommodation block, and small infirmary and ancillary buildings to the rear. The workhouse layout can be seen on the 1904 map below.
Spilsby workhouse site, 1904.
After 1930, the former workhouse became a Public Assistance Institution. After 1948 it became the Gables Hospital, now closed, which provided geriatric care.
All that now remains of the building is the central portion of the main block.
Spilsby main block from the north-east, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.
Lincolnshire Archives, St. Rumbold Street, Lincoln LN2 5AB.
Relatively few records survive. Holdings include Guardians' minute books (1837-72, 1876-1930); Assessment committee minutes (1862-1927); etc.