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Hursley, Hampshire

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Up to 1834

A parish workhouse was erected near the centre of Hursley in 1828.

After 1834

Hursley Poor Law Union was officially formed on 11th August 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 9 in number, representing its 5 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

Hampshire: Compton, Farley Chamberlayne, Hursley (4), North Baddesley, Otterbourne (2).
Later Additions: Ampfield (from 1894), Chandler's Ford (from 1894).

The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 2,718 with parishes ranging in size from Farley Chamberlayne (population 165) to Hursley itself (1,418). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1832-35 had been £2,159.

The Hursley Workhouse

After the formation of Hursley Poor Law Union, the former parish workhouse in Hursley continued in use as the union workhouse. It comprised two long parallel rows of cottages running north-south, the L-shaped eastern row having a short frontage onto the street at its northern end. The area between the two main blocks formed yards for different classes of inmate. Two small blocks, running east-west ran across the central area at its centre and southern ends. The site location and layout is shown on the 1867 map below.

Hursley workhouse site, 1867.

Hursley workhouse from the north-west, 2006.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Hursley workhouse west range from the north-east, 2006.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Hursley workhouse east range from the south-west, 2006.
© Peter Higginbotham.

In 1866, the workhouse was visited by Poor Law Inspector Mr. W.H.T. Hawley. His report noted that:

  Building.— The building stands in a low, confined site, and was originally a parish house. As to extent, it is sufficient to accommodate the number of paupers who are usually sent there; but the internal arrangements are defective, and do not provide for a proper classification of the inmates. Two rooms are set apart for infectious case; but although they are approached by a separate entrance they are not detached from the main building. No separate sick wards are provided for the children. The ventilation and light are moderate, as well as the drainage. The general sanitary state of the house is good.
  Furniture.— The beds are stuffed with straw, and metal hand basins are used for washing.
  Inmates.— The inmates are divided into four classes, viz.:
  1. Old and infirm men, and boys over seven years of age.
  2. Old and infirm women, and girls over seven years of age.
  3. Able-bodied men.
  4. Able-bodied women, and girls under seven years of age.
The men are clothed in a fustian jacket and trowsers, lined, and smock frocks; the women in woollen linsey gowns and flannel petticoats, and all the inmates are well supplied with under-clothing. The boys and girls are dressed in the same way as the adults. The aped men are employed in garden work; the able-bodied men in stone breaking. The women do the general household work, sewing, &c. No provision is made for recreation.
  Medical Attendance.— The medical officer finds all the drugs for the house, with the exception of quinine and cod-liver oil, for which the Guardians have a depot.
  Nursing.— There is no paid nurse; the inmates do the nursing, both night and day.
  Chaplain.— There is a chaplain, who performs the duties prescribed by the order. No provision is made for the religious instruction of inmates not in communion with the Established Church.
  School.— The children attend the National School in the village of Hursley. When in the workhouse they are in the same wards as the aged and infirm of both sexes.
  Generally.— Infectious wards separated from the workhouse are required, as well as separate sick words for the children. Alterations are required in the workhouse to classify the children and separate them front the adults.

The workhouse, unnamed though clearly identifiable as Hursley, was also the subject of an article in the magazine All the Year Round in November 1867. The article noted a number of deficiencies in the building: inadequate classification of the inmates, the disgusting state of the water closests, and a cesspool under the windows of the lying-in and infectious wards which had remained unemptied for at least twelve years. The residents, though, seemed well-fed and happy enough. The author also questioned the dubious arrangement by which the workhouse site was being rented from a member of the Board of Guardians, a situation not permitted by the Poor Law Board's regulations. The full text of the article is available on a separate page.

The two main workhouse ranges survive and have been converted to residential use.

The Chandler's Ford Workhouse

In 1899-1900, a new workhouse was erected at Chandler's Ford. It was designed by Cancellor and Hill of Winchester, and built by Musselwhite and Son of Basingstoke who had tendered a price of £9,198 for the work. The foundation stone was laid by Colonel Charles George Heathcore, Chairman of the Board of Guardians, on October 5th, 1899.

The photograph below from 1899 shows what appears to be an inspection of the building work by the Board of Guardians.

Hursley main building from south-west, 2000.
Courtesy of Chris Vine.

Hursley main building from south-west, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The Chandler's Ford site layout can be seen on the 1908 map below:

Hursley Chandler's Ford workhouse site, 1908.

An excellent contemporary description of the new building was given in the trade periodical The Builder:

On the ground floor are the master's office, sitting-room, and dining-room; a day-room for the male and female sick, a day-room for the male and female able-bodied, a room for children, and two separation wards. On the first floor are infirmaries for male and female, each holding eight beds; and bedrooms for the able-bodied males and females, each holding eight beds, with bath room. The Master's bedroom is at the centre of the building, and next to this a special ward for each sex. On the floor above are two rooms to be used for any special purpose which may be required. The kitchen and the administrative part are placed at the back of the main block, and connected by a covered way. The covered way is meant to be only temporary, so that later on It can be taken away and a dining hall be placed between the main building and the kitchen, and approached from both. The kitchen and that portion of the work has been planned on a sufficiently large scale to be used without alteration if the buildings has to be enlarged, and the main block itself is so planned that it can at any time be enlarged by extending it east and west. Complete laundry buildings are provided, and the necessary workshops and so on for the able-boiled. The buildings altogether will accommodate about 60. Particular attention has been paid to the tramp wards; receiving wards are provided for both sexes, and bathrooms; five sleeping cells for males are being built, and these can bo extended indefinitely as occasion may require. The porters' room is attached to this building, and a drying room for the tramps clothes, stores, etc. The whole of the drainage will be conveyed into filtration tanks and is to be taken to the north of the building; the natural fall of the ground lends itself to this, and after treatment these filtration tanks will be utilised for garden purposes, or as required. This system was approved by the Local Government Board, and Is similar to what has been adopted at Sutton (Surrey) workhouse. A large underground rain water tank is to be provided south of the building, which will take the water off the main building, and is so placed as to be suitable in the emergency of fire. The rain water at the back is stored for laundry purposes. The buildings are to be of red brick, relieved with moulded string course of brick, with weather tiling in the gables.. The roofs will be slated. The corridors downstairs and the staircases are being done la granolithic, and the paving of the kitchen is the same. otherwise there are ordinary wooden floors. The Board-room block comprises a board room 30ft. by 2Oft., with committee room attached 15ft. 6in by 12ft., with a waiting lobby, lavatories, etc. The entire building has been schemed with the idea that it is only a small portion of what will probably be a bigger scheme, and therefore the architects have everywhere kept in view how best to enlarge it without unnecessary expense later on. There is ample room on the site (some 12 acres of land having been purchased) for erecting an infirmary behind the present building If required. As we have said on previous occasions, it is an extremely good site; It would have been almost impossible to have found a more level site, for with a building 212 feet long there is only a fall of four inches from one end to the other; it is on high ground sand the soil is gravel. Chandler's Ford bricks are being used entirely, the facing bricks of the main building coming from Wren's yard. The heating will be carried out by Haden and Sons, of Trowbridge.

Hursley entrance from the south-west, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Hursley main building from north-east, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Hursley board room block from south, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The Union's Board of Guardians met monthly on a Thursday afternoon in the board room. The minutes for the meeting of 31st October 1902 include a report from the master of the workhouse, Mr J Marshall, that during the twelve months up until 29th September, 1,548 casuals had been admitted into the casual ward, an increase over the previous year of 1,068. Even more were expected in the forthcoming year. He also reported that two casuals had destroyed their clothes on October 15th, and had been sentenced to seven days imprisonment in the workhouse's own prison block. The chairman remarked that the ratepayers, in face of that, need not wonder why the rates went up. The master said, "It takes so much soap to wash them" (general laughter) after which the meeting was closed.

The workhouse later became known as Leigh House Hospital. In around 1925, it became a TB sanatorium. In more recent times, it housed an adolescent psychiatric unit. The buildings have now been demolished and the site redeveloped for residential use.


  • 1881 Census (Interestingly, the workhouse master in 1881, George Redhead, is noted as being blind.)



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.



  • None.

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