Link back to main ROSSBRET websiteSt Austell Workhouse


Link back to main ROSSBRET websiteSt Austell Workhouse


St Austell Workhouse and Poor Law Union

St Austell is a market and union Town, parish and head of a County Court District, 40 miles from Penzance, 14 north east from Truro, 40 from Plymouth and 11 miles south south west from Bodmin. The Town, seated on the southern slope of a hill, is of comparatively modern date, and owes its prosperous condition to the numerous tin and copper mines and china clay works in the surrounding district. The streets though still narrow and irregular, have been much improved through the modernising of the old shops and the erection of new buildings, The Town is governed by an Urban District Council of 15 members, formed under the provisions of the "Local Government Act, 1894".

The union comprises the following parishes: St. Austell, St-Blazey, Creed, St Dennis, St Ewe, Fowey, Golant, Gorran, Grampound, Holmbush, Mevagissey, St Mewan, St Michael Carhayes, Mount Charles, Roche and St Stephen in Brannel.

St Austell Union Workhouse situated on high ground to the north of the Town, and was erected 1839 in the Elizabethan style, from designs by the Architects G. Gilbert Scott and W. Bonython Moffatt. It was built to accommodate 300 inmates.

Union Officers 1897
Treasurer Richard Foster
Clerk to the Guardians and Assessment Committee John Stephens
Relieving Officer - Eastern District Thomas Mason Hocking
Relieving Officer - Western District Arthur J. Clemmow
Superintendent Registrar Robert Gould Lakes

The Board of Guardians met alternate Fridays at 10am at the Workhouse Board Room. The area of the Union in 1897 58,266 acres; rateable value 150,768, and population in 1891 was 30,695.

Workhouse Staff 1897
John Henry Turner Workhouse Master
Mrs Turner Workhouse Matron
William Mason M.D. Medical Officer

From 1st Report of the Local Government Board 1871-72

                                    St. AUSTELL. Part I

Pages 110-112

I - There is no periodical revision of the relief lists by the Board of Guardians. The lists are from time to time gone through by the vestry in each parish.

II - The longest period for which relief is granted is indefinite. The relief is entered as "regular" and goes on at the discretion of the relieving officer.

III - "Sick" cases are given relief for a fortnight or month at a time.

       "Widows with children" are given relief for fixed periods, varying from two months to a year, according to the age of the children.

       "Old and infirm" chronic cases are placed upon the regular list.

IV - The personal attendance of the applicant is required upon original applications, but not afterwards. The relieving officer reports upon the case when first brought before the Board, but does not always visit the home before the case is brought on for renewal.

V - No steps are taken by the Guardians with regard to the attendance at school of out-door pauper children.

VII - The Guardians personally question the applicants; in the majority of cases some members of the Board are personally acquainted with their circumstances, and in many cases visit them at their homes.

VIIa - The relief is entered by the Chairman in the Application and Report Book, and by the clerk in the Relief Order Book.

IX - No relief is given in kind, except that which is given by the relieving officer upon his own responsibility, or on the recommendation of the medical officer.

X - The workhouse is offered to able bodied men, and to persons who make dishonest or suspicious statements as to their earnings. In one relief district I was informed that not more than one in ten to whom it is offered as a test accept it, but that in the other district a larger proportion came in, expecting to be allowed out-relief after they had been a short time in the workhouse.

XI - Deserted wives are as a rule given out-relief. The workhouse is offered when collusion is suspected. The husband is prosecuted; no reward is offered for his apprehension.

XII - Money derived from a benefit club is looked upon favourably, but is not dealt with on any definite principle. Pensions are stopped and paid to the Guardians.

XIII - Relief in aid of earnings is given to widows and aged persons, but not in other cases.

XIV - Relations legally liable are compelled to contribute, and legal proceedings are frequently taken for this purpose.

XV - The provisions of the Prohibitory Order are strictly observed.

XVI - The medical officers do not attend the meetings of the Guardians

XVII - The Guardians have no system of communication with persons administering charitable relief.

Scale of Relief :- Widows with children received 1s-6d for each child. Nothing for the widow if able to work; 1s-6d if unable.

An old man or woman receives 2s-6d or an old couple 5s.

                                    PART II

1 - There are two relief districts and two relieving officers.

2 - There are no assistant relieving officers.

3 - There is no pay clerk.

4 - The relieving officers do all the visiting; they keep a diary in the form published by Messrs Knight.

5 - "Sick" cases are visited about once a fortnight as a rule, never less than once a month.

"Widows with children" and "old and infirm" chronic cases, are visited in most cases once quarter, in some once in 6 months, and in some even less frequently.

6 - When the relieving officer gives an order for the workhouse, h does not as a rule visit the home first. He reports the case to the Guardians at the next meeting.

7 - When the relieving officer gives temporary provisional relief he visits the home first, except in urgent cases, when he does so afterwards, but sometimes after as long an interval as a week. Such relief is always in kind, and is reported to the Guardians at their next meeting.

8 - The Guardians occasionally direct the relieving officer to relieve "at discretion" They require him to report what he has done at their next meeting.

9- The relieving officers as a rule visit only on pay day in each parish, but they also pay occasional visits at other times.

10-16 Mode of Payment :-

The relieving officer of the Eastern District pays at 7 places, of which one is the workhouse, 3 at schools, one at a town hall, one at a chapel, and one at a cottage. No person has to come more than one and a half miles to receive relief.

The relieving officer of the Western District pays at 9 places of which one is at a public house, one at a vestry room, 3 at schools, and 4 at private cottages, of which one is tenanted by a pauper. No person has to come more than a mile to receive relief.

When the head of the family, or wife if married, is unable to come in person to receive relief it is sent by a neighbour. Children are not allowed to come for relief. The neighbours in some cases get 1d for taking the relief; and one person sometimes takes for 7 or 8 others.

Wine and spirits are given by orders on a wine merchant at St. Austell's, and by orders on public house in outlying parishes.

All other relief in kind is given by tickets on tradesmen.

17 - There is no dispensary for out-door poor belonging to the Guardians.

18 - The relieving officers have fixed hours of attendance at each relief station.

St. Austell Union - Eastern District

Area 19,610 acres - Population (1861) 21,192

Maximum number of cases in receipt of relief in any one week, viz. 19th week ending 9th Feb 1871 was 124-9s-9d being 792 cases and 1,452 persons

Minimum number of cases in receipt of relief in any one week, viz. 26th week ending 29th Sept 1870 was 103-8s-8d being 734 cases and 1,302 persons

The population in the Eastern District has much decreased in consequence of the failure of the mines.

St. Austell : Western District

Area 34,907 acres - Population (1861) 12,254

Maximum number of cases in receipt of relief in any one week, viz. 19th week ending 9th Feb 1871 was 53-7s-6d  being 360 cases and 621 persons

Minimum number of cases in receipt of relief in any one week, viz. 22nd  week ending 1st Sept 1870 was 43-13s-6d being 346 cases and 559 persons

Source: From 1st Report of the Local Government Board 1871-72
Transcribed by Alan Longbottom


Cornwall Record Office
County Hall, 
TR1 3AY 
Tel 01872 273698


Kelly's Directory 1897
1st Report of the Local Government Board 1871-72, transcribed by Alan Longbottom

Page updated March 12, 2008

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