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Basingstoke Poor Law Union and Workhouse

The days of the workhouse

News that the Hampshire Clinic is to have a 6million extension to improve its services will be looked upon by most people as good news, although once upon a time this same site was regarded with trepidation by many in the locality, for it was on this land that the Basingstoke Workhouse was built in 1836.

This large building, built at a cost of 7,500, was one of many erected in Britain at that time to provide employment and shelter for poor people.

The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Acts made  it necessary for anyone seeking assistance to enter a workhouse, but those who took advantage of this service found themselves being treated in an inhumane way. A Board of Guardians was appointed for the Basingstoke area and it was them who laid down strict rules for the inmates, who at one time numbered 450 people.

A master and matron were also appointed, who were paid 50 and 25 per annum respectively, and it was in their record books that any incidents were recorded. One such event was a fire, started by an inmate in June 1877, which damaged part of the building.

In the workhouse, there was a chapel room, where every Sunday, religion was taught to those who had never been to church.

In 1898, another building was added in the grounds of the workhouse, but this time it was a hospital for elderly people which was erected in an effort to ease the pressure on the Cottage Hospital, built in 1879, in Hackwood Road. Unfortunately, when anyone was told that they were going to Basing Road, where the workhouse was situated, they automatically thought that they were headed for the dreaded building.

Finally, the Local Government Act of 1929 abolished the Workhouse Board of Guardians and its functions, but the building remained until the end of the 1960s when it was demolished.

Basingstoke Gazette Extra 10 May 2000
Submitted by Bob Skinner

LINK to Basingstoke Workhouse photographs


Notes on Warehams and Gillens submitted by Roy Grant, with thanks

Harriet Wareham  (nee Trigg, born c1795 parish unknown, died 22 February 1860, Old Basing Workhouse)

Harriet had a rough time in 1838 for page 257 of the workhouse minutes show she resided in Basing Workhouse and was only allowed out for 6 hours on 2 March in an unsuccessful attempt to find housing.  On 19 May 1838, her 2 year old daughter Mary died there, as did her husband David 5 days later.
She then gave birth to a boy who she called Robert who only lived for seven weeks until 7th July, when he too died in Basing Workhouse.

It was Robert's official birth certificate that revealed Harriet's maiden name of Trigg. After the loss of both a husband and a child, a devastated Harriet probably went to pieces, taking a lover or two and giving birth to
at least 2 more children in the workhouse in the early 1840s.  The last of these, George, born 5 January 1846, married Mary Ann Hoad in Farnham England in 1874, but by 1879 had made his way to Rockhamton in Queensland Australia.
A second marriage certificate there (to Mary Ann Bunting) and dated 23 May 1879, correctly confirms his mother to be Harriet Wareham formerly Trigg, but mistakenly in both documents he claims his father to be David Wareham who was already dead many years before his conception.

William Wareham
(brother of David above, who was born circa 1805, and died 29 January 1866)
William, David's younger brother and George's step uncle, had already been forced to make his way to Australia much earlier in 1831.  William had been transported to there for machine breaking during the Captain Swing Riots which swept Southern England in the 1830s. Lynn Haines, a direct descendant of William, often mused about why her ancestor William also began to call himself David, perhaps he just wished to perpetuate the name of his late elder brother who died some 7 years after his transportation, and he was never to see again!

Eli Gillen
Calendars of Prisoners in the County Gaol Basingstoke Quarter Sessions Dated 1836.

The above record shows that on 9 January 1836, 41 year old Eli Gillen of Basingstoke (whose reading skills were said to be indifferent) was sentenced to 6 months hard labour in the county gaol, with the first and last weeks to be spent in solitary.  A transcript of the court proceedings confirms that he admitted that he had broken into a barn and stolen 2 bushels of barley valued at one shilling.  Having served that sentence, he returned to Basingstoke, but finding no employment was forced into the parish workhouse.
It was there that he died.

He died there on 19th March 1838, the cause being recorded as apoplexy.
However, an entry in the Poor Law Records and minutes of meetings in the Basing Workhouse also adds the following further information.  The entry dated 20th April 1838 shows the Guardians considered
 "... a complaint by the Reverend James Blatch of misconduct on the part of a Mr Covey, towards Eli Gillen."
The Board stated they would request the attendance of Mr. Covey in
explanation between 12 & 1 o'clock on Friday next, and the widow Gillen (no Christian name) would also be ordered to attend.

Friday.  The report detailed the judgment made by the Chairman, who had read the statement from the Reverend James Blatch, heard the reply of Mr. Covey and examined the widow Gillen (first name still not given) and Mansbridge, the relieving officer.   The minutes read,
"This board is not of the opinion that Mr Covey did willfully neglect a case which he considered attended with imminent danger, but they are surprised to find that the description given by the widow did not convey to the mind of Mr. Covey, a suspicion that the case was of that nature.  But the Board must add that his observations to the widow on her application to him with the order were unnecessarily harsh."

Perhaps Eli Gillen had a seisure and whilst the widow Gillen demanded immediate medical attention for him, Mr Covey insisted Eli was malingering and should continue to work.

David Wareham
Ref 3M70/53/32 Old Basing Parish Records Settlement Examinations  Dated 1817
The above, produced when David Wareham was aged 15, stated that David should be considered as being of Nately Scures, for even though he was born at Woodmancott, his father had always been a legal parishioner of Nately Scures.  A subsequent investigation of the parish records of Woodmancott showed David Wareham to be the son of William & Mary Wareham, and that David was baptised in that village on 21 May 1801, a date that marginally differs with one provided by a contact in Australia who has researched it as 24 May 1801.

The above document also provided further additional information about David'  s past employ.
At Christmas 1813, David was hired for 2 by the yeoman, William Crockford of Worting and worked as a servant in husbandry, remaining there until the following Michaelmas.
He was then hired for a second year at wages of 3, but lodged on a farm in Basing owned by Mr Crockford.  After that he was hired for the following year by Mr Thomas Hasker of Basing.
David and his wife Harriet were also the subjects of a removal order dated 6.1.1821 which returned them from Holyborne to Old Basing.  (Hants Record Office ref. 3M70/56/53)

The parish registers show that David eventually died in Basing Workhouse in
April 1838 and that after his death his late wife Harriet produced two more children whose fathers are unknown.


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Page last updated March 12, 2008 by Rossbret