Westbury & Whorwellsdown, Wiltshire
A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded a parish workhouse in operation in Westbury which could accommodate up to 100 inmates.
The Westbury & Whorwellsdown Poor Law Union formally came into being on 14th November 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 17 in number, representing its 10 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
County of Wiltshire:
Steeple Ashton, West Ashton, North Bradley (2), Bulkington, East Coulston, Edington (2), Great Hinton, Keevil, Southwick (2), Westbury (5).
Later Additions (from 1894): Bratton, Dilton Marsh, Heywood.
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 11,674 with parishes ranging in size from from East Coulston (population 103) to Westbury (7,324). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-35 had been £9,719 or 14s.9d. per head of the population.
Westbury and Whorwellsdown Union workhouse was set up in an existing building at a site to the south-west of Westbury. The buildings were substantially altered and enlarged in 1836-7 for which work the Poor Law Commissioners authorised an expenditure of £3,849. The architect for the scheme was TL Evans who also designed Union workhouses at Watford and Bishop's Stortford. The three-storey main building formed an H-shape with a supervisory hub at the centre. The site location and layout are shown on the 1924 OS map.
Below is a photo of the Westbury Board fo Guardians in the 1920s, kindly contributed by Rod Smith, whose wife's grandparents, John and Susan Marshall, were Master and Matron. John Marshall on the top row at the far right, and Susan Marshall is on the front row wearing the nurse's head veil.
The workhouse appears to have been closed soon after 1930. By 1936, maps show that many of the buildings had already been demolished, leaving only the entrance block and the rear range connecting to the central hub. In 1960, the site was being used as the offices and yard of the building firm of T Holdoway and Sons. The surviving buildings have now been redeveloped for housing.
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.
- Wiltshire and Swindon Archives, Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre, Cocklebury Road, Chippenham SN15 3QN. Few records survive — holdings include: Guardians' minutes (1835-1925); Ledgers (1836-1923); Letter book (1848-72); etc.
- Victoria County History of Wiltshire, VIII, Oxford University Press.
- Deaths in Westbury and Whorwellsdown Poor Law Union Workhouse, 1836-40 by P Blake.
Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.