In the reign of Elizabeth I, a building known as the College for the Poor was founded on a site at Chilvers Coton, Nuneaton, at the west side of what is now College Street. In 1777, it housed up to 33 inmates. The property was rebuilt in 1809 by the Fitzroy-Newdegate family on whose land it stood. The labour for the rebuilding is said to have been provided by French prisoners from the Peninsula War who had previously been imprisoned in the hulks in Portsmouth Harbour.
In 1777, parish workhouses were also in operation at Nuneaton (up to 70 inmates) and Buckington [Bulkington] (40).
Nuneaton Poor Law Union was formed on 6th April 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 19 in number, representing its 7 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
County of Warwick:
Arley, Astley, Bulkington (8), Caldecote, Chilvers Coton (4), Nuneaton (3), Weddington.
Later Additions (from 1896): Burton Hastings, Stretton Baskervile, Wolvey.
The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 13,068 with parishes ranging in size from Weddington (population 69) to Nuneaton itself (7,999). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-35 had been £7,101 or 10s.10d. per head of the population.
In 1836, the existing Coton Chilvers workhouse was taken over by the Nuneaton Poor Law Union. By 1884, it accommodated 226 inmates. The site layout is shown on the 1903 map below.
There is a single-storey block at the south of site which may have been a vagrants' ward.
An 80-bed infirmary and a laundry were erected in 1905 at a cost of £12,000 plus £2,200 for fittings.
After 1930, the workhouse site became a Public Assistance Institution. The site eventually grew into what is now the George Eliot Hospital.
The main workhouse buildings are believed to have been demolished in the 1970s, and little now (2001) remains apart from the 1905 infirmary block at the west of the site.
The Nuneaton Union established a children's home at 23 Henry Street, Nuneaton. In 1924, it could accommodate 36 children. The property no longer exists.
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.
- Warwickshire County Record Office, Priory Park, Cape Road, Warwick CV34 4JS. Holdings include: Guardians' minute books (1836-1930); Accounts (1842-1930); Vaccination registers (1857-1925).
- Higginbotham, Peter The Workhouse Encyclopedia (2014, The History Press)
Thanks to Caroline Wetton for her contribution to this page.
Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.