Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire
A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded a parish workhouse in operation in 'Melton Mobray' with accommodation for up to 40 inmates. In 1835, there was a workhouse in the town on Back Street (now Leicester Street).
Melton Mowbray Poor Law Union officially came into existence on 26th March 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 56 in number, representing its 54 constituent parishes as listed below:
County of Leicester:
Ab-Kettleby, Asfordby, Ashby Folville, Barsby, Branston, Brooksby, Buckminster, Burrough-on-the-Hill, Burton Lazars, Coston, Great Dalby, Little Dalby, Dalby-on-the-Wolds, Eastwell, Eaton, Edmondthorpe, Freeby, Frisby-on-the-Wreak, Gaddesby, Garthorpe, Goadby Marwood, Grimston, Harby, Hoby, Holwell, Hose, Kirby Bellars, Long Clawson, Melton Mowbray (3), Nether Broughton, Old Dalby, Pickwell with Leesthorpe, Ragdale, Rotherby, Saltby, Saxby, Saxelby, Scalford, Sewstern, Somerby, Sproxton, Stapleford, Stathern, Stonesby, Sysonby, Thorpe Arnold, Thorpe Satchville, Twyford, Waltham-on-the-Wolds, Wartnaby, Welby, Wycomb and Chadwell, Wyfordby, Wymondham.
County of Nottingham: Over Broughton.
Later Additions: Bescaby (from 1858), Shoby (from 1858), Sysonby with Eye Kettleby (from 1894).
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 17,872 with parishes ranging in size from Brookesby (population 10) to Melton Mowbray itself (3,356). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-5 had been £9,433 or 10s.7d. per head of the population.
A Union workhouse was built in 1836 at the east side of Thorpe Road in Melton Mowbray. It was designed by Charles Dyer and adopted an elongated H-plan layout, rather than one of radial layouts more popular at the time. Its layout and location are shown on the 1902 OS map:
An infirmary designed by RW Johnson was erected at the east of the workhouse in 1869-70. At the centre were a surgery. kitchen, and nurse's quarters. Male and female patients had separate entrance to each side.
A vagrants' block was located at the south of the workhouse. It contained work cells for stone-breaking at the southern side. The cells walls contained outlet grids (now bricked up) through which were placed the small pieces of broken stone.
The former workhouse later became St Mary's Hospital, with a 'birth centre' also based at the site. Following the closure of the hospital in 2015, the site was acquired by a property development company, with plans to convert the workhouse building to residential use. In 2020, there was a local campaign to save the casual ward, whose demolition was proposed under the redevelopment scheme.
By the 1920s, the Melton Mowbray Union had established a children's home at Brookfield House, Snow Hill, Melton Mowbray. It could accommodate 20 children
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.
- The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland, Long Street, Wigston Magna, Leicester, LE18 2AH. Holdings include: Guardians' minutes (1855-8, 1927-30); Births register (1836-1913, with gaps); Deaths (1836-47); Creed registers (1877-1931); Admissions and discharges (1924-27); etc.
- Higginbotham, Peter The Workhouse Encyclopedia (2014, The History Press)
Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.