East and West Flegg, Norfolk
Up to 1834
East and West Flegg was one of the Norfolk Incorporations formed by special Acts of Parliament in the latter half of the eighteenth century. The 1775 Flegg Act "for the better relief and employment of the poor within the hundreds of east and West Flegg in the county of Norfolk" (15 Geo. 3. c.13) was for "the Relief and Assistance of such as by Age or Infirmities are rendered incapable of supporting themselves, to the better Employment of the Idle and Industrious, to the Correction of the Profligate and Idle, and to the Education of the poor Children."
On 7th October 1775, a committee reported on a site at Rollesby for a house of industry. On November 1st, Great Yearmouth bricklayers John Hammond and John Symonds were contracted as builders, with the proposal to make bricks on Rollesby South Common. Advertisements were placed inviting plans and estimates for the new building. A number of submissions including ones from Charles Elder and John Green were considered but none was deemed suitable. However, two months later on 19th February 1776, a revised plan from Charles Elder was accepted, with an estimated construction cost of £2,300. Elder was paid ten guineas for his work. The new workhouse could accommodate up to 400 inmates.
The workhouse was enlarged in 1818 and 1834. The inmates were employed in the manufacture of rope, twine, fishing nets, sacks, canvas, tarpaulins etc.
Unlike many of its neighbours, East and West Flegg maintained its Incorporation status after the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act (a situation which continued until the abolition of poor law unions in 1930). The Incorporation's constituent parishes were: Ashby with Oby, Billockby, Burgh St Margaret and St Mary, Caistor next Yarmouth, Clippesby, East Somerton, Filby, Hemsby, Martham, Mautby, Ormesby St Margaret, Ormesby St Michael, Repps with Bastwick, Rollesby, Runham, Runham Vauxhall, Stokesby with Herringby, Thurne, West Somerton, and Winterton. Runham Vauxhall joined the Incorporation in 1894.
Despite its Incorporation status, East and West Flegg was often referred to as a "union", for example as on the 1904 map below which shows the location and layout of the workhouse buildings at that date. A 16-bed infirmary, together with an adjacent burial ground, stood a little way to the east of the main buildings.
In 1894, the British Medical Journal set up a "commission" to investigate conditions in provincial workhouses and their infirmaries. Following a visit to the East and West Flegg establishment, the commission's report noted that the building was old with steep staircases, no running water, and the drainage carried by a pipe to a nearby field. In the main building, the dayroom for the elderly and infirm had "an air of home-like comfort" with armchairs around an open fire. However, in the infirmary or "sick house", conditions were dark and "cheerless" — no fire, and a bad smell emanating from a sink pipe. Infants were left in the care of a pauper idiot. Further details are available in the full report.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, part of the workhouse building was pressed into use as a court-house.
The workhouse was closed in January 1917 and the remaining 27 inmates were transferred to the Blofield Union workhouse at Lingfield.
In the 1990s, the building operated as the Old Court Guest House, but is now a private residence.
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.
- Norfolk Record Office, The Archive Centre, Martineau Lane, Norwich NR1 2DQ. Holdings include: Incorporation minute books (1775-1804); Board of Guardians' minutes (1899-1907, 1926-30); etc.
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