West Firle, Sussex
In 1812, the parishes of Glynde, West Firle and Beddingham obtained a Local Act for the 'Better Employment and Support of the Poor and operated a joint workhouse.
The West Firle Poor Law Union was formed on 25th March 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 9 in number, representing its 8 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
County of Sussex: Alciston, Beddingham, Berwick, Chalvington, Glynde, Ripe, Selmeston, West Firle (2).
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 2,364 with parishes ranging in size from Chalvington (population 188) to West Firle itself (618). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1831-34 had been £2,957 or £1.5s.0d. per head of the population.
West Firle Union workhouse was built in 1835-6. It was designed to accommodate 180 inmates and the Poor Law Commissioners authorized an expenditure of £2,950 on its construction. Its location and layout are shown on the 1875 OS map.
The main building was constructed in flint and had an H-shaped plan, with outbuildings to the east and another long block at the west.
In 1898, West Firle merged with the Chaileyand Lewes Unions, with the new body continuing under the name of Lewes Union. Some former West Firle parishes joined the adjacent Eastbourne Union. The Lewes and West Firle workhouses were closed and their inmates transferred to the former Chailey Union workhouse at East Chiltington.
The West Firle workhouse, later known as Stamford Buildings, suffered severe damage during the Second World War when a spitfire crashed into it. All that now remains is the northern part of the 'H' which has been converted into two houses.
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.
- East Sussex Record Office, The Keep, Woollards Way, Brighton, BN1 9BP. Holdings comprise: Guardians' minutes (1862-98); Accounts (1836-94).
- Higginbotham, Peter Workhouses of London and the South East (2019)
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