Link back to main ROSSBRET websiteHighworth


Link back to main ROSSBRET websiteHighworth


Swindon and Highworth Union Workhouse
Board day, every alternate Wednesday, at the Poor Law Institution, Stratton St Margaret, at 10.30am
The Union comprises the following parishes:

The population of the Union in 1911 was 65,890, area 53.986 acres, rateable value Lady Day 1915, 334,069.
Chairman of the Board of Guardians, James Smith Protheroe, 177 Victoria Road.
Clerk to the Guardians and Assessment Committee, John Peter Kirby, 100, Victoria Road, Swindon.

Poor Law Institution, Stratton St Margaret, 2 1/2  miles from Swindon, a building of brick and stone, erected in 1847, and will hold 460 inmates.
Rev. Sydney Denton, Chaplain
David Muir, Medical Officer
Herbert T. Bond, Master
Mrs Eleanor C. Kilby, Matron.
Source: Kelly's Directory 1915


"Westhill House was built in 1790 as the Highworth Workhouse. In 1835, Swindon and Highworth were joined in the Poor Law Union and the large house was used by both parishes. The former workhouse in Cricklade Road is an attractive building used in more recent years as a vicarage and a family home for the late Sir Noel Arkell of Arkell's Brewery.

Westhill House was built as a result of a 1789 Act of Parliament, with a Cotswold stone tiled roof and rendered stone rubble walls. It cost the parish 1,900 to build and was used to house the unemployed poor of the town, with the able bodied having to work for their keep. In 1835 Westhill House was considered the only suitable building to take the poor from both Highworth and Swindon. It became very overcrowded as a result, with up to 80 residents living there at any one time.
Demand soared as Swindon grew, and a larger workhouse was built in Stratton St Margaret in 1847, signalling the end of the Highworth one. 

The home was lavishly converted to a vicarage for St Michaels Church, and later turned into a family home by Sir Noel Arkell in the 1920s. Highworth Building Company bought the house in the 1960s and converted it to three private homes, and in 1979 it was registered as a Grade 2 listed building.

From the lounge window of the largest of the three homes the current owner can see an inconspicuous little brick building which is rumoured to be the old workhouse mortuary. Westhill House also holds a secret older than its own bricks and mortar. Underneath the building runs a series of cellars and tunnels which do not match up with the ground floor of the house. The tunnels are part of a network in Highworth which connected the church, monastery, pubs and other buildings in the town."
Submitted by Paula, Wiltshire, UK.
The article appeared in the Saturday April 22nd 2000 edition of the Swindon Evening Advertiser.


Page updated March 12, 2008 by Rossbret