St George's, Middlesex
In 1868, the recently formed Metropolitan Asylums Board set up six new Sick Asylum Districts for the purposes of providing hospital care for the poor on separate sites from workhouses. One of the new Districts, named Kensington, comprised the poor law parishes of St Margaret and St John, Westminster, and St Mary Abbots, Kensington. However, in 1870, the District was dissolved and St Margaret and St John joined the parish of St George, Hanover Square to form the St George's Poor Law Union. The new union redeployed its combined resources to provide both workhouse accommodation and hospital care on separate sites.
St George's Union was formally constituted on 28th March, 1870, and administered by a 22-strong Board of Guardians, comprising 13 from St George's, and 9 from St Margaret and St John. (Later, in 1913, St George's was to become part of the new Westminster Union.)
The St George's union initially inherited several existing workhouses from its member parishes including the St Margaret and St John workhouse on Wright's Lane, and the St George Hanover Square's Mount Street and Fulham Road premises.
Fulham Road Workhouse and Infirmary
In 1876-8, a piece of land adjacent to the Fulham Road workhouse site, known as Mount Senario Gardens, was acquired from a neighbouring priory. This allowed the workhouse to be extended and a separate infirmary to be added. Additions to the workhouse included new administrative offices, new receiving wards, a new dining hall, and additional accommodation blocks for able-bodied inmates and married couples. A new 600-seat chapel was also built in an Early English style. The architect was H Saxon Snell. The foundation stone of the infirmary was laid on July 26th, 1876, by Hugh Horatio Seymour, Chairman of the St George's Guardians. It was officially opened on February 20th, 1878, by G Slater-Booth, MP, President of the Local Government Board.
The new infirmary, situated to the south-west of the workhouse, consisted of seven pavilion ward-blocks. Each of the four-storey blocks contained a 28-bed ward on each floor. The blocks were linked by a single-storey corridor at the south-west end. The infirmary cost £85,000 and could accommodate a total of 808 patients, at that time the largest number of inmates of any London hospital. Its layout is shown on the map below.
The architect's drawings give a vivid impression of the tall ward blocks on the relatively small infirmary site which was only 2.75 acres in area.
A contemporary description gave details of the new buildings:
ENLARGEMENT OF THE
Other architect's drawings shows the impressive Fulham Road frontage:
Following the extension of the Fulham Road premises, the Mount Street and Wright's Lane workhouses were closed.
A nurses' home was erected on the Fulham Road site in 1899, and later additions included isolation blocks and a mortuary.
In 1880, St George's had one of its most unusual inmates — an African Zulu.
In 1894, the British Medical Journal set up a "commission" to investigate conditions in provincial workhouses and their infirmaries. Following a visit to the Fulham Road site (still referred to by its earlier designation as the St George Hanover Square workhouse), the commission's report made fairly unhappy reading. The wards, especially the dormitories, were crowded. The old and infirm, 60 in the male wards and 153 in the female, were looked after by just two nurses assisted by paupers. The report suggested that the pauper assistants took advantage of those in their care and were liable to "levy contributions from the helpless before rendering service." In the dormitories, cleaners were observed trying to "eradicate the vermin by burning out the nests and eggs in the interstices of the bedsteads." The inmates, it was noted, often preferred to use their chamber pots in preference to the wash-basins for washing themselves. The ancient laundry was "small and ill-found". Although more than 16,000 items were washed each week, "the mangles are turned by hand, the washing machine is small, there is only one wringer, the drying closets are small, there is no callender, indeed no machinery to speak of." Further details are available in the full report.
After 1930, the Fulham Road workhouse and hospital came under the control of the London County Council and the site was renamed St Stephen's Hospital. A completely new hospital now occupies the site.
Not long after the formation of the St George's Union's, the old Mount Street workhouse site's lease was coming to an end. The Duke of Westminster, the land's owner, was initially inclined to renew the lease, but eventually changed his mind. Instead, he offered an alternative site at Wallis's Yard (now Warwick Row) off Buckingham Palace Road where a new "Receiving House" and casual ward were built in 1883-4 to a design by Henry Saxon Snell. The building's location is shown on the 1888 map below.
The ground and first floor of the front building was used for the reception of up to sixty casuals, each of whom was accommodated with a separate apartment or cell. The third floor wass fitted up as sick wards for twelve patients of each sex. The central portion of the ground-floor of the front block contained the entrance-hall, with master's and porter's office, and, adjoining it, a committee-room and waiting-room for applicants for out-door relief. The buildings in the central block contained accommodation for fourteen paupers of each sex, and there were two padded rooms for dangerous lunatics. A small number of paupers were kept at the buildings and employed in performing cleaning and similar duties. The buildings at the rear consisted of a kitchen, with larders and stores, a laundry, disinfecting closet, and other offices. Stabling, with large ambulance accommodation, was provided at one end of the site left of the entrance. The contract for the erection of the buildings, including engineering work and all fittings, amounted to £20,900.
The Wallis's Yard workhouse continued in operation until 1921 and the buildings no longer exist. The Mount Street premises were demolished in 1886 as part of a major redevelopment of the area.
Millman Street Children's Home
Until 1914, St George's operated a children's home at Milman's Street, Chelsea.
City of Westminster Archives Centre, 10 St Ann's Street, London SW1P 2DE.
Holds only pre-1870 parish records except for:
- Fulham Road Workhouse: baptism registers (June 1879 - August 1900)
- Wallis's Yard Workhouse: baptism registers (January 1866 - December 1892)
The Ancestry website has two collections of London workhouse records:
- The London Workhouse Admission and Discharge Records (1738-1930) are searchable by name.
- The Poor Law and Board of Guardian Records, 1430-1930 are more extensive but only provide browsable page images.
London Metropolitan Archives, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R OHB.
- Mount Street workhouse holdings include: Creed registers (1874-84); Register of children boarded-out (1871-1913).
- Wallis's Yard workhouse holdings include: Births (1885-97); Deaths (1885-1918); Creed registers (1884-93, 1910-21)
- Fulham Road workhouse holdings include: Admissions and discharges (1866-1916); Births (1879-89); Baptisms (1900-07); Deaths (1870-1932); Master's journal: (1903-13); etc.
- Fulham Road infirmary holdings include: Baptisms (1878-86); etc.
- Other holdings include: Guardians' minute books (1870-1915); Financial records (1870-1921, with gaps); Staff records (1863-1914); etc.
Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.