Ancestry UK

Mildenhall, Suffolk

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Up to 1834

Mildenhall had a parish workhouse from the 1720 in a property situated immediately to the south-west of St Andrew and St Mary's Church. It was provided by Thomas Hanmer, local benefactor and a Speaker of the House of Commons who also endowed some adjacent almshouses.

Mildenhall almshouses commemorative plaque, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded a parish workhouse in operation at Mildenhall with accommodation for up to 70 inmates.

After a visit in 1782, the prison reformer John Howard reported:

The work-house, or houSe of induStry for this pariSh, situated near the church, was one of the cleaneSt I ever saw. Here were upwards of forty perSons at my firSt viSit, and at my laSt viSit sixty nine, whoSe countenances beSpoke their satisfaction and the attention paid to them. If all the pariShes had been as careful to promote cleanlineSs and induStry in their own work-houSes, there would have been no occaSion for pariShes uniting in houSes of induftry, moSt of which I have viSited in this and the adjoining county.

The Mildenhall workhouse rules in 1830 can be viewed on a separate page.

After 1834

Mildenhall Poor Law Union was formed on 12th November 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 15 in number, representing its 13 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

County of Suffolk: Barton Mills, Cavenham, Elvedon or Elden, Eriswell, Freckenham, Herringswell, Icklingham St James and All Saints, Kentford, Lackenheath, Mildenhall — St Andrew's (3), Tuddenham — St Mary, Wangford — St Dennis, Worlington.

The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 8,100 with parishes ranging in size from Wangford, St Dennis (population 52) to Mildenhall itself (3,267). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-35 had been £5,978 or 12s.9d. per head of the population.

In 1836, the new Mildenhall Union took over the existing parish workhouse and the Poor Law Commissioners authorized the sum of £400 for its enlargement. It then comprised three main sections: a central accommodation building, a building to the north containing the Master's accommodation, and a building to the south which included the Guardians' board room. The workhouse location and layout are shown on the 1882 map below.

Mildenhall workhouse site, c.1882

Mildenhall original workhouse from the east, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.

King's Way Workhouse

In 1894-5 a new workhouse was built at the north side of King's Way. It comprised a T-shaped main block, two storeys high, with women's accommodation at the east, and men's at the west. A small side-wing at the west side contained boys' and married couples' accommodation. A central wing at the centre contained the dining-hall and kitchen. A separate infirmary stood at the north of the site. The site entrance at the south was flanked by the Guardians' boardroom at the east and vagrants' wards at the west.

Mildenhall workhouse site, c.1903

Mildenhall King's Way bird's-eye view from the south, 1896.
© Peter Higginbotham.

A contemporary report provides a more detailed description of the buildings:

THESE new buildings, which are grouped together at right angles to the main road leading to Bury St. Edmund's, were officially opened on Dec. 13, 1895. The grounds are entered from the main road through wrought-iron entrance gates and ornamental brick and stone piers. On the right hand is the board-room block, containing spacious board and committee-rooms, clerk's room, waiting room, and lavatory ; on the left hand and opposite this building is the porter's lodge and tramp block for males and females, with day and night cells, association wards, receiving wards, &c. Behind these is situated the main block, with the master's house in the centre, three stories high. The right wing, two stories high, accommodates the female paupers, and the left wing the male paupers, with necessary day-rooms, dormitories, attendants' rooms, &c. A range of buildings, one story high, flanking the male paupers', contains the boys day-rooms, dormitories, &c., and accommodation for married couples, with garden for each. At the back of the master's house is the administrative block, containing spacious kitchen, scullery, and stores for meat, bread, linen, clothes, and dry goods ; also a lofty dining hall, and behind the kitchen are located the boiler-house, coal-house, and pump-room. The boiler-house contains two boilers for supplying the whole of the buildings with hot water and steam for the purposes of cooking, warming rooms and corridors, and water supply to baths, sinks, and laundry. The cold-water supply is obtained from a well, and forced by steam-pumps to large tanks in the tank-room, over master's house, and from thence it is distributed to various parts of the buildings. At the back of the grounds, completely isolated from all other buildings, are located the infirmary buildings, containing nurses' administrative department, with lying-in wards at back, and right and left wings for male and female patients, with foul wards for each sex at the extreme ends, quite distinct from general wards. A mortuary is erected on the west side of the site. Airing yards are provided for each sex in the different departments, bounded by high brick walls. All the baths, closets, slop-sinks, and other conveniences are up-to-date in design, and all sanitary blocks are intercepted from main buildings by fresh-air lobbies. All the different departments in the various blocks are connected by covered ways, so that communication can be made between each without being exposed in wet weather. The rainwater is stored in a large rainwater tank near the laundry block, and all the sewerage is conveyed to a tank at the extreme end of the- site ; all necessary manholes, flushing tanks, and interceptors are provided on the most approved modern system. The buildings are all built with Suffolk white bricks and dressings, quoins, moulded courses, and other finishings in red bricks. The roofs are covered with slates. The whole of the work has been expeditiously carried out by Messrs. Kerridge and Shaw, contractors, Cambridge. The moulded brickwork was supplied from Mr. Brown's brickyard, of Braintree, and Mr. Walter Godfrey has acted as clerk of works. The whole of the buildings have been designed and carried out by Mr. Frank Whitmore, architect, of Chelmsford and Bury St. Edmund's, and county surveyor for West Suffolk. The cost of building and site has been about £11,500.

Mildenhall King's Way site from the south, 1908.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Mildenhall King's Way site from the south, 1908.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The King's way workhouse buildings have now been entirely demolished and a library and other buildings now occupy the site.

Mildenhall King's Way site from the west, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham.




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.

  • Suffolk Archives, 77 Raingate Street, Bury St Edmunds IP33 2AR. Relatively few records survive. Main holdings are Guardians' minute books (1837-1930).



  • None.

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