Ancestry UK

Oakham, Rutland

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Up to 1834

A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded a workhouse in operation in Barlythorpe to accommodate up to 8 paupers.

In Empingham, a large building in Main Street now known as The Wilderness was the parish workhouse from 1794 to 1836.

Empingham parish workhouse, 2004.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The Empingham workhouse was the subject of a report in by Eden, in his 1797 survey of the poor:

The Poor-house at Empingham is called the House of Protection, both to obviate prejudice against the name of Poor or Workhouse, and because it is a protection to the aged sick and infirm. It was built on an extensive plan by Sir Gilbert Heathcote, and furnished by the parishioners. The parish supplies two suits of clothes and changes of linen to each pauper on entering the house; and the master is bound to keep them and (if any leave the house) to send them out equally well apparelled. Boys are occasionally let out to farmers; when put out apprentices, the fee is paid by the parish. No inmate has died as yet. The house is under the regulation of a committee who visit weekly in turns, and to whom the master or the Poor are to appeal for redress, when requisite. It will be seen by the table of diet that the Poor have good eating : Breakfast—every day, men, milk or broth; women, tea and bread and butter. Dinner—Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, beef or mutton with vegetables; Monday, broth and cold meat, stewed with plenty of vegetables; Wednesday and Friday, the same without broth; Saturday, apple pudding or oatmeal and milk—that is, milk boiled and thickened with oatmeal. Supper — Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, milk or broth; Monday, milk; Wednesday, broth; Saturday, milk or water gruel.

A house at 9 Top Street in Exton was used as a parish workhouse up until 1836.

Exton parish workhouse, 2003.
© Peter Higginbotham.

After 1834

Oakham Poor Law Union officially came into existence on 29th April 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 31 in number, representing its 30 constituent parishes as listed below:

County of Rutland: Ashwell, Barrow, Braunston, Brooke, Burley, Cottesmore, Edith Weston, Egleton, Empingham, Exton, Greetham, Gunthorpe, Hambelton, Horn, Langham, Lyndon, Manton, Market Overton, Martinsthorpe, Oakham Lordshold (2), Oakham Deanshold with Barleythorpe, Oakham Lordship, Stretton, Teigh, Thistleton, Tickencote, Whissendine, Whitwell.
County of Leicester: Cold Overton, Knossington.
Later Additions: Leighfield (from 1861).

The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 10,336 with parishes ranging in size from Martinsthorpe (population 2) to Oakham Lordship (1,558). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-5 had been £4,333 or 8s.5d. per head of the population.

Oakham Union workhouse was built in 1836-7 at a site to the north-east of the town. The architect was William J Donthorn who was responsible for the design of many workhouses in the east of England including those at nearby Uppingham, and at Ely and Wisbech in Cambridgeshire. The Poor Law Commissioners authorised an expenditure of £3,730 on construction of the building which was intended to accommodate 167 inmates. The site location and layout are shown on the 1902 OS map:

Oakham Site, 1902.

Oakham main building from the east, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Oakham main building from the south-west, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Oakham much-altered former ward block from the east, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The workhouse later operated as Catmose Vale Hospital. The surviving buildings are now occupied by Oakham School.




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.


  • Clough, T H McK The Documentation of the Oakham Workhouse clock, Rutland Record 2 (1982), 82f.


  • None.

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