Atcham (and Shrewsbury from 1871), Shropshire
Pontesbury had a workhouse from 1732. Parish registers indicate that there was a workhouse at Alberbury by 1766 and at Condover by 1782.
Ruckley had a parish workhouse in a cottage at the west of the village, now known as Duffy's Cottage.
In 1792, the parishes of Atcham, Wroxeter, Berrington, Cound, Eaton Constantine, Kenley, Leighton, Uffington, Upton Magna, and the Chapelry of Cressage, were incorporated under a Local Act of parliament. It was one of several such incorporations (Oswestry, Ellesmere, Whitchurch, and Montgomery and Pool) to be formed following the example set by Shrewsbury in 1783. The Act gave the incorporation powers, amongst other things, to erect and operate a workhouse which it did soon afterwards at a site at Cross Houses, at the north side of the road to Much Wenlock. The H-shaped building, designed by J.H. Haycock, was three storeys high and constructed in red brick
Atcham Poor Law Union was formed on 18th November 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 46 in number, representing its 45 constituent parishes or townships as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
County of Salop:
Acton Burnell, Alberbury, Albrighton, Astley, Atcham, Battlefield, Berrington, Cardeston (or Cardiston), Church Preen, Church Pulverbatch, Condover, Cound, Cressage, Eaton Constantine, Fitz, Ford, Frodesley, Great Hanwood, Habberley, Harley, Hughley, Kenley, Leighton, Lutton, Melverley, Minsterley, Montford, Pitchford, Pontesbury (2), Preston Gubbals, Ruckley and Langley, Shineton, Shrawardine, Stapleton, Sutton, Uffington, Uppington, Upton Magna, Westbury, Withington, Woollaston, Wroxeter.
County of Montgomery: Bauseley [Bausley], Criggion, Middletown, Rhos Goch.
The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 17,910 with parishes ranging in size from Rhos Goch (population 59) to Pontesbury (2,936). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £9,830 or 11s.0d. per head of the population.
The new Atcham Poor Law Union took over and adapted the existing Cross Houses workhouse which for which the Poor Law Commissioners authorised an expenditure of £4,500.
In 1850, a new infirmary was erected at the rear of the main buildings.
In 1871, the union absorbed the parishes belonging to the recently dissolved Shrewsbury Incorporation, namely Holy Cross with St Giles, St Alkmund, St Chad, St Julian, and St Mary, plus the parish of Meole Brace. It was then renamed the Atcham and Shrewsbury Poor Law Union. Over the following three years, the Cross Houses workhouse was enlarged, taking its capacity to 550 inmates.
The 1850 infirmary was converted to house able-bodied inmates and a new dining-hall and kitchen erected linking it to the main block.
The main block was then used to house aged inmates, and three-storey boys' and girls' wings were added at each end.
A long, three-storey infirmary block was erected at the north of the main workhouse.
A two-storey fever ward block, with adjoining mortuary and chapel of rest, was built to the rear of the new infirmary.
A new entrance block was added at the south of the site and a chapel erected at east of the workhouse.
The site location and layout are shown on the 1901 map below:
In 1896, new receiving wards and vagrant cells were added at the west of the site entrance. In 1903, a nurses' home was erected at the west of the site, and an infirmary matron's house at the north-east of the 1872 infirmary.
During the First World War, the Union workhouse became Berrington War Hospital.
Afterwards, it reverted to civilian use becoming the Poor Law Hospital for Shropshire and was later known as Cross Houses Hospital. It was later used as offices by the Shropshire Health Authority but in 2004, after a period of lying empty, the site was redeveloped with the original main building, the 1850 infirmary and the chapel being retained.
The Atcham Union operated a number of children's scattered homes in Shrewsbury. The first, opened in 1911, was Besford House on Trinity Street. It was followed in around 1915 by Belle Vue House, also on Trinity Street, and Pen-y-Bont on Betton Street. In the 1920s, these three could house a total of 100 children. A receiving home for twelve children was opened at 143 Abbey Foregate. Other locations that may have served as homes were Grasmere, London Road (for boys), and on Holywell Street.
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.
Shropshire Archives, Castle Gates, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 2AQ. Please note that records may contain gaps or have access restrictions - please check before visiting. Holdings include:
- Atcham Incorporation — Admissions (1794-1836); Register of apprentices (1802-6, 1812-14); etc.
- Atcham Union — Guardians' minutes (1836-1930); Creed register (1906-14); A wide variety of administrative papers.
Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.