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Towcester, Northamptonshire

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Up to 1834

An Account of Several Workhouses... in 1725 noted the existence of a workhouse at Towcester. A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded parish workhouses in operation at Towcester (for up to 40 inmates) and Abthorpe (30 inmates).

A late 18th century house on The Lane in Wappenham served as a poor house for the parish.

Wappenham parish workhouse, 2004.
© Peter Higginbotham.

After 1834

The Towcester Poor Law Union formally came into being on 20th May 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 31 in number, representing its 23 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

County of Northampton: Abthorpe (2), Adstone, Blakesley, Blisworth, Bradden, Cold Higham, Easton Neston with Hulcote, Gayton, Green's Norton (2), Litchborough, Maidford, Pattishall (2), Plumpton, Shuttlehanger [Shutlanger] (2), Silverstone (2), Slapton, Stoke Bruern [Bruerne], Tiffield, Towcester (4), Wappenham, Loys Weedon or Weedon Pinkney [Weedon Lois], Whittlebury, Woodend.

The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 12,142 — with parishes ranging in size from Plumpton (population 75) to Towcester itself (2,671). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1832-5 had been £10,332 or 17s.0d. per head of the population.

A new Towcester Union workhouse was erected in 1836 on a site at the north of Towcester. The Poor Law Commissioners authorised an expenditure of £4,000 on construction of the building which was to accommodate up to 208 inmates. In 1837, an additional expenditure of £1,043.18s. was authorised, either to complete the building or for additions to the original plan. The workhouse was designed by George Gilbert Scott who was the architect of many other workhouses including ones at Kettering, Northampton, Oundle and Brackley. The location and layout of the Towcester workhouse is shown on the 1889 OS map below.

Scott's design for Towcester workhouse was a variation on the popular cruciform layout. The large main block had a four storey central portion, polygonal at the rear, with three storey wings to each side.

Towcester site from the north, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Towcester main block from the east, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

Towcester rear of main block from the north-west, 2000.
© Peter Higginbotham.

The range of buildings to the west of the main block are thought to have contained a laundry, washhouses and vagrants' accommodation.

The former workhouse site was later used a council works depot. It had now been converted to residential use. The access road to the site is now named Gilbert Scott Close in commemoration of the building's architect.




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.

  • Northamptonshire Record Office, Wootton Hall Park, Northampton, Northants, NN4 8BQ. A wide variety of records survive including: Guardians' minutes (1835, 1839-1930); Admissions and discharges (1901-5, 1922-9); Deaths (1837-1930); Creed register (1914-30); Register of lunatics (1892-22); Punishment book (1899-1933); etc.



  • None.

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