Ancestry UK

Settle, West Riding of Yorkshire

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Up to 1834

According to Brayshaw (1932), the first mention of Settle Workhouse occurs in the minutes of a Town Meeting in 1739:

MAY 4TH, 1739.
Be it remembered that Ruth Armistead has undertaken the care of the Work-House as heretofore for the ensuing year at the rate of forty shillings.
Also Thomas Newhouse of Settle hath undertaken the care of the maintenance and labour of the persons in the above Workhouse, and give true accounts thereof as often as required, at the rate of forty shillings for the ensuing year.

This workhouse was used until 1759, when an agreement was entered into between Thomas Salisbury, of Settle, Gentleman, of the one part and William Birkbeck, John Birkbeck, Peter Wilson Overend, Thomas Carr, Abraham Sutcliffe, and Richard Foster, principal Landowners and Inhabitants of the Town-ship of Settle, and Thomas Williams, William Hall, and John Richardson, Church-warden and Overseers, on behalf of the Landowners and Inhabitants of Settle. Thomas Salisbury agreed to lease to the other parties two dwelling-houses, a barn, and two gardens in Upper Settle for twenty-one years at four pounds per annum, and also to make the property into a "convenient poor-house sufficient to hold all the poor belonging to the said township of Settle", upon being paid the sum of eighteen pence per annum for every twenty shillings he spent upon the buildings. The lessees agreed to keep in repair the buildings "with moss and glass" (i.e. roof and windows) during the term. The workhouse provided by Thomas Salisbury comprised the two cottages immediately below the Roman Catholic Church on Albert Hill.

Settle former township workhouse, c.1930.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Settle former township workhouse, 2008.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Eden, in his 1797 survey of the poor in England, reported of Settle that:

The Poor receive an allowance at home, and most have their rents paid and clothes provided for them. There are 12 other families in distant parts of the county to whom relief is sent. Many others have their house rents paid, or receive occasional assistance. The rates have fallen in recent years, due it is said to the introduction of cotton manufacture, which has raised the demand for labour and afforded full employment to the wives and children of the industrious Poor.

The parish of Giggleswick was part of a union of seven parishes which operated a poorhouse on Raines Road at Giggleswick. The union erected a new workhouse building in 1834 as noted in "Sexton Dicky's" broadsheet for that year:

A Poor-house built at Giggleswick,
And everything likewise made fit;
It is intended for the poor,
I thought there was plenty before.
It is designed for good ends,
As poor people have but few friends;
So then I hope that none will rue,
If all accounts I hear be true.

In 1809, the parish of Langcliffe erected a workhouse and overseers cottage near the centre of the village. Some inmates were employed in hand finishing cotton when the mills on the Ribble could not work because the river was too low. The building was later used a post office, a village shop, and a teashop. It is now two private houses known as Cock House and Grisedale Cottage.

Langcliffe former parish workhouse, 2008.
© Peter Higginbotham.

A row of cottages, originally known as Poorhouse Row, served as Lawkland's poorhouse/workhouse from at least 1823. At the end of April in that year, there were 14 inmates — four from Lawkland, seven from Horton and three from Austwick. Between 1823 and 1837, a total of 357 different paupers, 167 male and 190 female, resided in the workhouse for periods ranging from one day to several years. Over the same period, There were 36 deaths in the establishment. In 1826, at the peak of the workhouse's usage, the average nightly occupancy was just over 35 inmates. In a parliamentary report published in 1834, James Jackson, a Guardian of the Poor, recorded that there were 18 inmates: five males (aged 88, 71, 25, 15, and 10) and 13 females (three aged from 75-87, one aged 60, seven from 30 to 41, and two children aged 5 and 4). The workhouse Governor at that time was John Shackleton. The workhouse closed in 1837. The site later became known as The Terrace and is now The Cottages.

Lawkland's Poorhouse Row, 1894.

Lawkland former workhouse from the north-east, 2010.
© Peter Higginbotham.

According to a report in 1834, the township of Bentham had a workhouse in operation with an average of 35 inmates, of all ages and sexes.

After 1834

Settle Poor Law Union was formed on 20th January 1837. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 33 in number, representing its 31 constituent parishes and townships as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

West Riding of Yorkshire: Airton, Arncliffe, Austwick, Bentham (2), Burton in Lonsdale, Clapham cum Newby, Giggleswick, Halton Gill, Hanlith, Hawkswick, Hellifield, Horton in Ribblesdale, Ingleton, Kirkby Malham, Langcliffe, Lawkland, Litton, Long Preston, Malham, Malham Moor, Nappa, Otterburn, Rathmell, Scosthorpe, Settle (2), Stainforth, Swinden, Thornton in Lonsdale, Tosside, West Halton, Wigglesworth.

The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 14,322 with parishes ranging in size from Hanlith (population 42) to Bentham (2,179) and Settle itself (1,627).

The new Settle Union took over the existing workhouse at Giggleswick for which the Poor Law Commissioners authorised the expenditure of £2,550. The buildings were extended over the years, with a hospital block and a block for mental defectives being added at the south of the workhouse. A porter's lodge and casual wards were erected at the northern edge of the site.

Settle workhouse site, 1909.

Settle main block from the south-east, 2008.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Settle main block from the north-east, 2008.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Settle porter's lodge from the south-east, 2008.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Land to the south of the workhouse was used to grow vegetables.

Settle workhouse hospital block (left) and main block from the south-east, early 1900s.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Settle hospital block (left) and main block from the south-east, 2008.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Settle boys' mental block from the east, 2008.
© Peter Higginbotham.

There was a woodshed near to the road at the south-east of the workhouse. Bundles of firewood chopped by inmates were sold to local residents as illustrated by the receipt below from 1912.

Settle firewood receipt, 1912.
© Peter Higginbotham.

In 1930, control of the workhouse site passed to the West Riding County Council. The plan below shows the layout of the buildings at that date.

Settle workhouse site, 1930.

A council architect assessed the buildings and found them "in fair repair", but "inconveniently planned" and "difficult to work". The lighting was mostly by gas, and the heating by open fires. The contents of the various blocks were listed as follows:

Main block basement
Paint shop, joiner's shop, potato-peeling room, tailor's room, potato store, painter's store, padded room, potting shed, coal place, butcher's shop, disused bakehouse, bread store
Main block ground floor
Female day-rooms, bathroom and wc's; sewing room; female officers' mess-room and bed-room; dormitory for two mental defectives; master's office sitting room, and scullery; male dining-room for 50; clothing store; main kitchen with coal-fired range and two gas cookers; washhouse with one vertical steam engine, one hydro, two washing machines, one wringer, one trough, five draw-out horses; boiler house with "Cornish" boiler and "Meldrum's" steam feed; Sulphur disinfector and steam disinfector; five male dayrooms; 15-bed male dormitory; Male bathroom and wc's; male officers' dayroom.
Main block first floor
Male dormitories (one 6-bed, two 8-bed, four 5-bed); bedrooms for master and officers; clothing and boot stores; six female staff bedrooms; female dormitories (two 6-bed).
Casual wards
Porter's bedroom (for lodge attendant and the Tramp Major); male sleeping/association wards (one 6-bed, one 14-bed) and bathroom; female association ward and bathroom; female 3-bed dormitory on first floor; male receiving ward.

After 1930, the workhouse became a mental deficiency colony. In 1948, under the National Health Service it became Castleberg Hospital and continued to provide care for those with learning difficulties, and also for the elderly. The main part of the workhouse buildings have recently been redeveloped as residential accommodation.




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.

  • North Yorkshire County Record Office, Malpas Road, Northallerton DL7 8TB. The few surviving records comprise the Guardians' minute books (1902-6), correspondence including letter books (1841-1902) and loose correspondence (1861-1924), various contracts and bonds, printed returns and circulars with miscellaneous accounts of salaries and expenditure (1887-1939), general ledgers (1929-1930), treasurer's ledgers (1901-1916), and overseers' balance sheets (1901-1915).


  • Settle and Sedbergh Workhouses by Anthony Chadwick (Ripon Museum Trust leaflet, 1996)
  • A History of the Ancient Parish of Giggleswick by Thomas Brayshaw and Ralph M. Robinson (London: Halton & Co., 1932)


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