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Chippenham Union Workhouse

The Chippenham Poor Law Union was declared 17 November 1835 and comprised the parishes of Avon, Biddestone, Biddestone St Nicholas, Biddestone St Peter, Box, Castle Combe, Chippenham Within, Chippenham Without, Christian Malford, Colerne, Corsham, Ditteridge, Draycot Cerne, Grittleton, Hardenhuish, Kellaways, West Kington, Kington Langley, Kington St Michael, Lacock, Langley Burrell Within, Langley Burrell Without, Leigh Delamere, Littleton Drew, Nettleton, Pewsham, Seagry, Slaughterford, Stanton St Quintin, Sutton Benger, Tytherton Kellaways, North Wraxall and Yatton Keynell

The new Union Workhouse, a building of stone, was erected in 1858 at a cost of 13,100 and capable of holding 401 inmates. It was situated at Rowden Hill in the parish of Lacock.

Chippenham  - Part I

I - There is a general revision of the relief lists every six months

II - The longest period for which relief is given is six months.

III - "Sick" cases are given relief for periods varying according to the report of the medical officer, generally for a fortnight, sometimes for as much as a month.

IV - The personal attendance of the applicants is required unless there is some good reason for their absence.

V - If the relieving officer when visiting finds children of school age kept at home he reports the case to the Guardians.

VII -  The Guardians personally question the applicants, and in the majority of cases their circumstances are personally known to some member of the Board.

VIIa - The chairman enters the relief in the Application and Report Book, and the clerk in the Relief Order Book.

IX - About one-seventh of the total relief is given in kind.

X - The workhouse is offered to all able-bodied applicants, to persons of drunken or incorrigibly idle habits, and to those who make a dishonest or suspicious statement to the Guardians or their officers. When offered as a test, not one in ten accept it.

XI - Out-relief is given to deserted wives unless collusion is suspected between them and their husbands. The husband is prosecuted, and a reward of from 2 to 5 is offered for his apprehension.

XII - Pensions and money from benefit clubs are taken into account in determining the amount of relief, but are looked upon more favourably than other sources of income.

XIII - Relief is given in aid of earnings, but not to any who are in regular and constant employment.

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

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

XVI - The medical officers does not attend the meetings of the Guardians.

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

Scale of Relief - A widow with 4 children has about 7s a week, of which from 4s to 5s is in money and from 2s to 3s in kind.

Old man or woman from 2s-6d to 3s : Aged couple about 5s-6d.

Part II.

1 - There are 3 relief districts and 3 relieving officers.

2 - There are no assistant relieving officers

3 - There is no pay clerk.

4 - The relieving officers do all the visiting : they do not keep a diary

5 - Sick cases are visited never less than once a week, frequently oftener.

     Widows with children are as a rule visited once a month : never less than once in 2 months.

     Old and Infirm cases are visited at about the same intervals as widows.

6 - There are not many cases in which the relieving officers give orders for the workhouse to any but houseless persons. If a person with a home in his district applies for an order, the relieving officer does not visit the house except in cases not previously known to him.

7 - When the relieving officer gives "temporary provisional" relief he visits the home first, except in urgent cases, when he visits afterwards, and always within a week. Such relief is always in kind, and is reported to the Guardians at their next meeting.

8 - The Guardians frequently direct the relieving officer to relieve "at discretion" They require a report from him at each ensuing meeting.

9 - The relieving officers visit at uncertain times and unexpectedly.

10-16 Mode of payment :-

In No 1 District the poor are paid in all the parishes at the house of one of the paupers.

In No 2 District the poor are paid in the vestry of a church in one parish. About 30 or 40 come there, but the vestry is quite large enough to hold them. Four cottages, for which the Guardians pay 6d a week, are used as relief stations, and in other parishes the poor are paid at the home of one of the paupers.

In No 3 District the poor are paid in one place at a market-house, for which the Guardians pay 6d a week; in another place in the vestry room of the parish, and in another a room hired by the Guardians at 13d a week.

In the majority of cases persons come themselves for their relief; if they do not it is sent by a neighbour or child, the relieving officer making inquiries from time to time to ascertain that it has been properly received. He would not intrust the relief to any person not previously known to him.

The relieving officer believes that in many cases the neighbour receives 1d of a half-penny for taking int. There are no cases in which the pauper is unable either to come or send, and therefore none in which he takes the relief to the home of the pauper.

No person has to come more than 2 miles to receive relief.

Bread (not baked by the Guardians) is taken round in the contractor's cart. The relieving officer is present when it is given out. In one district weights and scales are taken round with the cart, but not in the tow others.

All relief in kind, except bread, is given by tickets on tradesmen.

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

18 - The relieving officers are at home till 10 a.m. and have fixed hours at the relief stations.

Chippenham Union - Out-Relief                         

  acres Population Maximum Minimum Cases Persons Relieved
No. 1 District 17,987 9,387 345 313 607 527
No. 2 District 23,580 5,786 181 169 307 276
No. 3 District 14,887 6,856 228 214 408 375
Totals 56,545 22,029 754 696 1322 1178

Report signed by Jacob Phillips - Clerk to the Guardians

From 1st Report of the Local Government Board 1871-1872
pp. 208-209 Report on Administration of the Chippenham Union
Transcribed by Alan Longbottom

Link to inmates of Lacock Workhouse

Page updated March 12, 2008 by Rossbret