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Northwich, Cheshire

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Up to 1834

A parliamentary report of 1777 listed local workhouses in operation in: Barnshaw cum Goostrey (for up to 15 inmates), Newton (50), Over (30) and Weaver (30).

After 1834

Northwich Poor Law Union was formed on 20th October 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 59 in number, representing its 61 constituent parishes and townships as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians where not one):

Cheshire: Acton, Allostock, Anderton, Barnton, Birches (0), Bostock, Byley-cum-Yatehouse, Castle Northwich, Clive, Cogshall, Comberback, Crowton, Croxton, Cuddington, Darnhall, Davenham, Delamere, Eaton, Eddisbury, Goostrey-cum-Barnshaw, Hartford, Hulse, Kinderton-cum-Hulme, Lach Dennis, Leftwich, Little Badworth, Little Leigh, Lostock Gralam, Low Oulton, Marbury, Marston, Marton, Middlewich, Minshull Vernon, Moresbarrow-cum-Parme, Moulton, Newhall (0), Newton, Northwich, Oakmere, Occleston, Onston, Over (2), Peover Nether, Ravenscroft (0), Rudheath, Shipbrook, Shurlach, Sproston, Stanthorne, Stublach, Sutton (0), Wallerscoat, Weaverham, Weaver, Wharton, Whatcroft, Wimboldesley, Wincham, Winnington, Witton-cum-Twambrook (2).

The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 26,906 with parishes and townships ranging in size from Birches (population 9) to Witton-cum-Twambrook (2,912), Over (2,605), and Northwich itself (1,481). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been £10,795 or 8s.0d. per head of the population.

Northwich Union workhouse was built in 1837-9 on London Road in Northwich. The site was some distance from the centre of the town so that the sight of the inmates would not 'discommode or prove offensive to the citizens'. The building was designed by George Latham and broadly followed the Poor Law Commissioners' model 'square' plan. In 1838, the Commissioners authorized an expenditure of £4,530 on its construction. The location and layout of the site are shown on the 1908 map below:

Northwich workhouse site, 1908.

The building had a two-storey entrance block which contained the porter's room, board room, and receiving wards.

Northwich entrance block from the north-east, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham

The main accommodation block at the rear was of three storeys, with female wards at the north and male wards at south. The school, kitchen, and dining-hall were placed in the central axial range.

Northwich school-room and rear entrance block from the south-west, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham

A fever hospital was added in 1850, and in 1863 a chapel was created above the dining-hall. In 1863, improved receiving wards with proper baths were installed. In 1892, the entrance range was extended at its southernend with the additions including a master's house and a new boardroom.

Northwich 1892 extension from the south, 2001.
© Peter Higginbotham

From 1904, to protect them from disadvantage in later life, the birth certificates for those born in the workhouse gave its address just as 160 London Road, Northwich. -->

An aerial view of the workhouse and adjacent railway line, thought to date from the 1920s, is shown below. The visible section of the workhouse includes parts of the women's section, their yard, the workhouse piggeries, hen house and part of the fever hospital. Some women in bonnets are visible in the yard and some pigs are visible in the piggery.

Northwich workhouse aerial view, 1920s.
© The Salt Museum, Northwich

After 1930, the site became Northwich Poor Law Institution, later Weaver Hall old peaople's home, which operated until 1974. Only the front part of the workhouse buildings survives and is now home to the Weaver Hall Museum and Workhouse.

Cottage Home

In 1923, the union established a children's 'cottage home' at The Lymes, 271 London Road, Leftwich.




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.

  • Cheshire Archives and Local Studies, Cheshire Record Office, Duke Street, Chester, Cheshire CH1 1RL. Holdings include: Guardians' minutes (1883-6, 1920-5); Register of inmates (1919-46); Creed register (1872-1942); Births (1849-1913); Deaths (1855-1914); Alphabetical list of persons aged 65 or over (1923-42); etc.


  • Rochester, Mary The Northwich Poor Law Union and Workhouse (Salt Museum leaflet).
  • Hogg, S (1998) Cold Comfort at the Northwich Union Workhouse (Northwich & District Heritage Society)


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