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Poplar Union Workhouse

LINK to photographs from Poplar Workhouse

Re-building and Enlargement of Poplar Union Workhouse 
At a special committee meeting of the Poplar Union Board of Guardians, Mr Barringer, in the chair, tenders were opened for the re-building and enlarging Poplar Workhouse. As far back as 1857, Mr Farnall, Poor-law Inspector of Workhouses, reported this workhouse to the Poor-Law Board, as "inadequate in size and inefficient in arrangement" 

At the present time it is overcrowded by 530 inmates, and for many months the guardians have been compelled to "farm out" more than 500 people, who, in addition to the first mentioned, claimed admission to the house. The greater portion of the old workhouse is to be demolished, and the guardians having acquired additional land at the rear, a new house is to be erected, capable of accommodating 808 persons. It was originally intended by the Board to provide accommodation for 1,000 paupers, and the plans were prepared in accordance with this intention; but upon the drawings being submitted for the Poor-Law Board's approval, those gentlemen refused to sanction the carrying of them out. And suggesting certain modifications, which brought the number to be accommodated down to 808, recommended the Poplar Board to prepare fresh drawings, embodying the views of the Poor-Law Board. 

There was considerable dissatisfaction expressed by the guardians at this, but it was eventually resolved to accept the upper Board's dictum, and the architect, Mr. John W. Morris, was instructed to prepare a fresh set of drawings. Having done so, the Poor-Law Board immediately approved them. The local Board then issued invitations to builders to send in tenders for the works. The architect's estimate for the cost of the works as originally determined upon by the guardians (viz; for 1,000 paupers) was 47,009, but the extensive modification suggested by the Poor-Law Board reduced this sum by 12,700, the estimate for the building for 808 paupers being therefore 35,000. 

There were fifteen tenders for this work sent in, as follows :- 
G.J. Watts 36,589 
Killbey 36,116 
John Kirk 36,896 
Cooper and Callum 34,980 
Scrivener and White 34,854 
Ennor 34,700 
Myers and Sons 34,564 
Henshaw 34,350 
Wicks, Bangs & Co 34,200 
Atherton and Latta 33,855 
Abraham 33,490 
Sheffield 33,267 
Webb and Son 33,263 
Hill, Keddell and Waldram 32,480 
Anscombe 32,300 

The special meeting having discussed the tenders, and conferred with the architect in reference thereto, decided to recommend to the Board's consideration the two lowest tenders, namely those of Mr Anscombe and of Hill, Keddell & Waldram. At the ordinary business meeting of the Board of Guardians held on Friday afternoon, the committee's recommendation was read by the clerk, and a very lengthy and animated discussion ensued. Numerous resolutions counter-resolutions, and amendments were proposed, some of which were seconded and put to the vote, whilst others could find no supporters, and consequently - fell through. One proposal advocated the addition of Mr Sheffield's name to the recommended list, on the score that that gentleman was resident in the district, and would employ labour from the district. Messr's Webb's tender was then proposed on the same grounds, and a third proposition suggested that the committee's recommendations be thrown over and the 15 tenders submitted to a vote. 

After more than two hours had been spent, Mr W. Hickson, Superintendent of the West India Dock Company, moved, and Mr. J.R.Ravenhill, engineer, seconded, that, Messrs Hill Keddell, and Waldram's tender be accepted as Mr Anscombe, whose tender was the lowest had not complied with the Board's condition in regard to the provision of sureties. He had not supplied the addresses of those named as his sureties. The resolution was carried by a majority of 6, and Mr Waldram signed the contract immediately.
Source: The Builder 1869 Vol XXVII 27th March 1869 p.251
Submitted by Alan Longbottom. 

Poplar New Workhouse 
At the last meeting of the Poplar Board of Guardians Mr Morris, the architect of the proposed new Workhouse buildings, represented the necessity of appointing a clerk of the works. He also stated that he would be glad to be informed if the Board contemplated any ceremonial in connexion with laying the foundation stone of the new house, and if so on what day they would fix upon, in order that the requisite arrangements might be made. 

The Board resolved to advertise for applicants for the situation, fixing the salary at 3 guineas weekly. They also decided that the Chairman should be invited to lay the foundation stone on the 14th of April. The Clerk said that, according to agreement, Mr Morris was entitled to the sum of 500 on the signing of the contract for the erection of the new workhouse. Resolved that a cheque be signed for the amount. 

The Clerk then said that Mr. Dobson was entitled to payment of the sum of 162 for taking out the quantities of the new buildings at half per cent. on the outlay. A cheque was also signed in payment of this sum. 
Source: The Builder 1869 Vol XXVII 10th April 1869 p.290
Submitted by Alan Longbottom. 

Mortuary for Poplar District
At a recent meeting of the Poplar District Board of Works, the General Purposes Committee brought up a report recommending that the offer of the Tower Hamlets Cemetery Company to sell a plot of land for the erection of a public mortuary should be accepted, and the plans prepared by the surveyor for the building adopted. Also that when built, the mortuary should be open for the use of the three parishes comprised in the district and that they should contribute towards the cost of the erection on the same basis as was observed in regulating their 
payment of the general expenses of the Board. These recommendations were adopted. The chairman explained that the adoption of the committee's report would not in any way interfere with a future proposition to erect other mortuaries in the extensive district over which the Poplar Board presides.
Source: The Builder 1869 Vol XXVII 7th August 1869 p634
Submitted by Alan Longbottom.

The Poplar Poor Law Homes
Report of the Chief Inspector of British Immigrant Children and Receiving Homes, For the year ending March 31st, 1915. Of special note, Mr. G. Bogue Smart, the inspector, sailed first on the Empress of Ireland which sank in the St. Lawrence after a collision with another vessel. He was lucky to be among the living. His report reads:

The Poplar Poor Law Homes

A visit full of interest and profit, from the point of view of my mission, was paid to the Poplar Training Schools at Shenfield on July 16 [1914].

In equipment and architectural design these homes and schools are regarded amongst the best in Great Britain, if not the most costly. The area covered by the cottages, school and workshop constitute these Homes, practically a self-contained village in themselves, with a juvenile population of eight hundred boys and girls under the age of sixteen years.

The children are gathered in from the borough of Poplar, which, owing to the density of population of that section of London and the poverty of a large part of the inhabitants, affords a never-ending supply of needy children fro whose benefit these magnificent Homes were established.

The children are well trained and cared for by an efficient staff of specially selected teachers. Starting with the kindergarten classes the curriculum extends to the higher grade of elementary education, such as we in Canada have in our public schools, with the addition of the teaching of
common trades, such as cookery, gardening, bootmaking and carpentry, a knowledge of which, though slight, is a great help to the children when thrown on their own resources either at home or in Canada.

During school hours I visited the various class rooms, where I accepted the opportunity of speaking to the children and inspecting their handiwork. They were all neatly clad, and as to be expected with some exceptions, bright and intelligent and showing promise of useful future development.

When I considered the inferior social strata whence some no doubt had originally come and compared their present appearance and address with that of some whom I had previously seen in the impoverished districts of Poplar and other East End districts of London, the great value of the provision thus made by the Local Government Board for these poor and unoffending children impressed me.

As I found to be the case in other schools of this class, the christian spirit of the work was also predominant at Poplar.

Source: Submitted by Marj Kohli

Poplar Guardians boarding out of aged inmates
A noteworthy experiment has during the year been made by the Poplar Guardians in boarding out aged inmates of the workhouse. A special committee appointed for the purpose reported in April and again in July as follows :-

Report of the Special Committee adopted by the Board on the 5th April 1899.

To consider -

1 - Any case of inmates over 60 years of age who have relations or friends capable and willing to take charge of them.
2 - The best means of providing additional accommodation and to report thereon.

Your Committee report that in pursuance of the first portion of the foregoing reference they have seen and carefully enquired into the circumstances of the inmates of the workhouse over 60 years of age, to the number of about 1,000.

"In the majority of cases, having regard to the age and infirmity of such persons, some of whom are blind and others quite helpless, we are satisfied that they would not be as well looked after and cared for out of the workhouse as they are at the present time. This appears to be fully recognised by the inmates themselves, many of whom spoke gratefully of the attention which they receive and the comforts they enjoy in the workhouse, and expressed a strong desire to be allowed to remain."

"We have, however, set aside for further enquiry, all cases where there appeared to be any prospect of relatives or friends being able to provide suitable accommodation in the event of the Guardians agreeing to allow out-door relief; the number of such cases being 201. As these enquiries proceed we propose to report thereon to the Board, and now submit the first list of cases, full particulars of which are recorded in a special Report Book, and recommend that out-door relief be allowed to the following persons to the extent of 6s per week each."

[In all 47 persons were recommended for a grant of 6s per week out-door relief.]

Source: 29th Report Local Government Board page 63
Transcribed by Alan Longbottom


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