In 1789-90, a parish workhouse was erected on the west side of the High Street at the north of Westbury.
Westbury-on-Severn Poor Law Union was formed on 28th September 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 18 in number, representing its 13 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
County of Gloucester:
Abinghall, Awre (2), Blaisdon, Bulley, Churcham, Flaxley, Huntley, Littledean, Longhope (2), Minsterworth, Mitcheldean, Newnham (2), Westbury (3).
Later Addition: Hinders Lane and Dockham (1858-84).
The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 8,760 — with parishes ranging in size from Flaxley (population 186) to Westbury itself (2,032). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1833-35 had been £3,466 or 7s.11d. per head of the population.
Initially, Westbury Union took over the existing Westbury parish workhouse at a rent of £60 per annum. In 1836, the Poor Law Commissioners authorised an expenditure of £500 on its enlargement.
In 1869, the workhouse was substantially altered and extended. The architect for the scheme was Alfred W Maberley who had also had a hand in the design of workhouses at Norwich and King's Lynn. Following the rebuilding work, the building consisted of three main sections. Fronting onto the road at the east were the board-room, porter's lodge, vagrants' wards and stables. To the rear, separated by inmates' airing yards and the Master's garden were the Master's quarters, day rooms and kitchens. A large new two-storey block at the west contained the dining-hall with a chapel above, school rooms, day rooms and dormitories. New vagrants' wards were erected in 1900. The workhouse location and layout are on the 1901 map below.
At the end of September 1882, the Board of Guardians appointed Mr W.B. Waterer as new master of the workhouse. At their next meeting, a fortnight later, they decided not to confirm the appointment as Waterer had "withheld information which has since come to the board's knowledge." Waterer had previously been master of the Holbeach union workhouse and six months previously had been found guilty of the manslaughter of one of the inmates. This was presumably the information he had neglected to include in his application.
From 1904, to protect them from disadvantage in later life, the birth certificates for those born in the workhouse gave its address just as 1 High Street, Westbury on Severn.
The workhouse buildings have been demolished and modern housing now occupies the site.
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.
- Gloucestershire Archives, Clarence Row, Alvin Street, Gloucester GL1 3DW. Holdings include Guardians' minute books (1835-1930 with gaps); Ledgers (1835-1930, with gaps); Officers' service register (1850-1930); etc.
- Higginbotham, Peter The Workhouse Encyclopedia (2014, The History Press)
- Thanks to Jerry Green for the aerial view.
Unless otherwise indicated, this page () is copyright Peter Higginbotham. Contents may not be reproduced without permission.