Bridgwater Poor Law Union and Workhouse
Bridgwater Union Workhouse was erected 1836 from designs by Sampson Kempthorne, architect, and was based on the Hexagon Plan.
Bridgwater Union comprised the Parishes of Aisholt, Ashcott, Bawdrip, Bridgwater, Broomfield, Cannington, Catcott, Charlynch, Chedzoy, Chilton Common, Chilton Polden, Chilton Trinity, Cossington, Durleigh, Edington, Edstock and Beer, Enmore, Fiddington, Goathurst, Greinton, Huntspill, Lyng, Middlezoy, Moorlinch, Othery, Otterhampton, Pawlett, North Petherton, Puritan, St Michaelchurch, Shapwick, Spaxton, Stawell, Stockland Bristol, Nether Stowey, Over Stowey, Sutton Mallet, Thurloxton, Wembdon, Westonzoyland and Woolavington.
"With the reform of the Poor Law some of the worst evils of the old system of dealing with poverty were swept away. Unfortunately the inauguration of the system of Union Workhouses in Somerset was followed almost immediately by revelations of grave mismanagement at the Bridgewater Union Workhouse, brought forward by John Bower in 1839, under the title "Is Killing in an Union Workhouse criminal if sanctioned by the Poor Law Commissioners?"
He proved that an outbreak of dysentry, which resulted in ninety four deaths among the children and aged poor, was due to the substitution of oatmeal gruel for milk in the dietary, the change being continued in spite of the unfavourable report of the surgeon. The disease spread rapidly owing to the over crowded state of the workhouse, six children sleeping in one bed, and 50 in a dormitory 27ft by 15ft. Thirty eight deaths occurred in eight months; the visiting guardians did not visit the workhouse for forty weeks, and the number of deaths enabled the Chairman to congratulate the Board on a saving of £4,843!
This epidemic was followed later by an outbreak of Typhus, which caused six deaths in twenty days. The evidence given on an enquiry instituted by the House of Lords supported the statement that while the deaths among the convicts were 3% the deaths in the Bridgewater Union had reached 41% (John Bower, New Poor Law: The Bridgewater case, 1839)"
Source: Quoted from The Victoria History of the Counties of England.
A History of Somerset Volume II, by kind permission of the General Editor. London; Constable and Company Limited 1911
(Page number unavailable due to condition of book)
The Workhouse buildings have now been demolished.
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