A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded a parish workhouse in operation at Liskeard with accommodation for up to 60 inmates.
Liskeard Poor Law Union was formed on 1st February 1837. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 46 in number, representing its 26 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
Cornwall: Boconnoc, Broadoak, Callington (3), Calstock (4), St Clear (2), St Dominick (2), Duloe (2), St Ive, St Keyne, Lanreath, Lanselloes (2), Lantegloes-by-Fowey (2), Linkinhorne (2), Liskeard Borough (4), Liskeard Parish (2), East Looe (2), West Looe, St Martin, Merval, Menheniot (2), St Neot (2), Pelynt (2), St Pinnock, South Hill, Talland (2), St Veep.
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 24,244 — ranging from St Keyne (population 301) to Liskeard Borough (2,853). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £11,524 or 9s.6d. per head of the population.
The Liskeard Union workhouse was built in 1837-9 on a two and a half acre site at the west side of Station Road in Liskeard. It was designed by George Gilbert Scott and his partner William Bonython Moffatt who were also the architects for other Cornish workhouses in Penzance, Redruth, St Austell, and St Columb Major. Intended to accommodate 350 inmates, the Poor Law Commissioners authorised the sum of £5,250 on its construction. The workhouse location and layout are shown on the 1905 map below:
Liskeard followed Scott and Moffatt's standard design. It had a single-storey front block with a central entrance archway. To the rear lay a three-storey accommodation block with males placed to one side and females the other. The master and matron's quarters lay at the centre.
In 1894, the British Medical Journal set up a "commission" to investigate conditions in provincial workhouses and their infirmaries. Following a visit to Liskeard, the commission's report found much to criticise about the workhouse infirmary which served the poor over a wide geographical area. The building was old and difficult to keep clean. There was only one bath and no hot water supply — any hot water required had to be heated in, and baled out of, a copper. Only one nurse was employed, assisted by a number of feeble-minded inmates; at night-time, these were the only form of help available in the wards. The commission recommended that a new infirmary be erected and extra staff appointed to supplement the existing arrangements which were described as "wholly insufficient". Further details are available in the full report.
A new infirmary, at the west of the workhouse, was built in 1898-1899 at a total cost of £5,900.
The former workhouse buildings later became Llamellion Hospital. The entrance block survives, minus its central archway. The main block has been truncated to a single storey,
In the early 1900s, Liskeard Union operated a scattered home for pauper girls at 6 Westwood on Old Road.
In 1914, a children's home was at 5 Wadeland Terrace, New Road, Liskeard.
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.
- Cornwall Archives, Kresen Kernow, Little Vauxhall, Redruth TR15 1AS. Few records survive — holdings include Guardians' minute books (1894-1929); etc.
- Higginbotham, Peter The Workhouse Encyclopedia (2014, The History Press)
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