Hereford Union Workhouse was built in Commercial Road, Hereford with work being completed in 1837It gathered the poor from the following parishes:
Aconbury, Amberley, Bartestree, Little Birch, Much Birch, Boulston, Breinton, Upper Bullingham, Lower Bullingham, Burghill, Tillington, Callow, Clehonger, Credenhill, Little Dewchurch, Much Dewchurch, Dewsall, Dinedor, Dormington, Fownhope, Grafton, Hampton Bishop, Holme Lacy, Huntington, Kenchester, Lugwardine, Marden, Mordiford, Moreton on Lugg, Pipe and Lyde, Preston Wynne, Stoke Edith, Stretton Sugwas, Sutton St. Michael, Sutton St. Nicholas, Tupsley, Wellington Westhide, Weston Beggard, Withington.
In following years, Allensmore, Dinmore, and Eaton Bishop were added.


Workhouses - Herefordshire - Hereford - exterior









Workhouses - Herefordshire - Hereford - exterior 2











Hereford Union Workhouse was built to house up to 300 inmates, and was designed in the manner of most workhouses of the time, – i.e. it had a long fairly imposing frontage with four abutting wings behind for the separation of males, females, young and old. There were also pig stys and various outbuildings for agricultural purposes. Once ready, the posts of Master, Matron (usually husband and wife), Porter, Cook, Schoolmaster and mistress, Nurse and Chaplain were advertised in the Hereford Times.

From records we can see that the uniform for inmates was rough woollen jackets, trousers, shirts, caps and shoes. The women were given woollen gowns, cotton dresses, calico shifts, and stockings.

Workhouse Rules and Regulations

In 1838 the workhouse opened it’s doors, and unlike Abbey Dore the regulations and rules were very strictly adhered to. Each new inmate was thoroughly searched on admission, and if they were found to be hiding any tobacco products, including snuff; any food; drugs; alcohol; gambling devices such as cards or dice, or improper (pornographic one presumes!) written material, then the offending articles were confiscated. Following this, each inmate was scrubbed before being clothed in the workhouse uniform, and their own clothes and belongings were put away after cleaning – to be returned to their owners when they left the workhouse. During the summer months they were required to get up at 5.45 a.m. and in winter an hour later. Bedtime was 8 p.m., although children and those sick or infirm may have had different hours at the discretion of the Master or Matron. Breakfast was held between 6.30 and 7.00 am in the summer, and slightly later in the winter; lunch (or dinner as it was called) was between 12 and l.00, and supper between 6 and 7 pm.

The inmates were checked over each day by the Master and Matron, and they were punished if found to be dirty, badly dressed, or late for anything. Also, bad language, fighting or not working hard enough warranted punishment, which was usually carried out inside the workhouse, and often involved cutting food rations severely.

Much of the work in the Hereford workhouse centred on stone breaking (the stones being required to be broken into very small pieces suitable for road making), oakum picking (pulling out strands of hemp for rope making), and cleaning hair or carding wool for stuffing saddles, but there were also large vegetable gardens and an area for pigs which was overseen by a farm manager.

Hereford Union Workhouse Master and Staff 1841

William Preece 50 Master
Esther Preece 50 Matron
William Hugh Preece 13 Son
Henry Parry 30 Porter
Eliz. McCann 50 Nurse


Hereford Union Workhouse Master and Staff 1851

William Preece 60 Master, b. Fownhope, Herefordshire
Esther Preece 60 Matron b. Liverpool, Lancashire
John Taylor 39 Porter b. All Saints, Hereford
Elizabeth Taylor 27 Wife, Dressmaker, b. Tupsley, Herefordshire
Ann Jenkins 46 Schoolmistress b. Holmer, Hereford
Thomas Bull 52 Farm Bailiff b. Evesbatch, Worcestershire
Mary Anna Bull 47 Wife, General Servant b. Grendon Bishop, Herefordshire
Mary Bull 16 Daughter, Apprentice Dressmaker, b. Bromyard, Herefordshire


Hereford Union Workhouse Master and Staff 1861


William Johnson 35 Master, b. Manchester
Elizabeth Johnson 36 Matron, b. Okehampton, Devon
William Hayden 36 Schoolmaster b. Somerset
M.A. Brougham 39 Schoolmater b. London
William Parry 39 Porter b. Kington, Herefordshire
Ann Crampton 55 Nurse b. Leominster, Herefordshire
Mary Winton 55 Cook b. Monmouthshire
John Bailey 65 Carpenter b. Withington, Herefordshire

Hereford Union Workhouse Master and Staff 1871

James McCormick 45 Master b. Canon Frome, Herefordshire
Jane McCormick 46 Matron b. Wrexham, Wales
Fanny Coates 28 Schoolmistress b. Chichester, Sussex
Margaret Stephens 51 Widow, Nurse, b. West Lothian
Henry Stephens 28 Porter b. Brecknockshire
Richard John Russon 36 Farm Bailiff b. Hereford

Hereford Union Workhouse Master and Staff 1871

William Mason 44 Master, b. Yarpole, Herefordshire
Martha Mason 36 Matron b. Goodrich, Herefordshire
Charles Price 31 Schoolmaster b. Leominster, Herefordshire
Charles Cross 19 Assistant Schoolmaster b. Edgbaston
Esther Price 19 Schoolmistress b. Leamington, Warwickshire
Margaret Stephens 61 Widow, Nurse b. Scotland
Eliza Frances Georgiana Hart 24 Assistant Nurse b. Shoreditch, Middlesex
Harriet Bisco 28 Girls’ Industrial Trainer b. Newent, Gloucestershire
John Smith 39 Porter b. Newnham, Gloucestershire
Kate Smith 37 Cook b. Monmouthshire

Hereford Union Workhouse Master and staff 1891

Charles King 47 Master b. Buckingham
Ruth King 58 Matron b. Thetford, Norfolk
Edith King 14 Daughter
May King 11 Daughter
Ethel King 9 Daughter
Sarah Ann Hales 31 Schoolmistress b. Bicester, Oxfordshire
Margaret Stephens 71 Widow, Nurse b. Scotland
Peter Friend 37 Porter b. Devon
Grace Friend 36 Wife f above, Cook b. Cornwall
Annie Brumbley 26 Assistant Matron, b. Birmingham
Arthur Wollard Button 25 Assistant Teacher b. Norfolk


Hereford Union Workhouse Master and staff 1901

Charles King 57 Master b. Buckingham
Ruth King 68 Matron b. Thetford, Norfolk
Edith King 24 Daughter, Assistant Matron
May King 21 Daughter, Telegraph & Sorting Clerk
Ethel King 19 Daughter, General Assistant
Sarah Ann Hales 41 Schoolmistress b. Bicester, Oxfordshire
Elizabeth Evans 35 Sick Nurse, b. Darley Dale, Derbyshire
Ada Elizabeth Crane 23 Sick Nurse b. Monmouthshire
Louisa Valence Scott 25 Sick Nurse b. Bishop Auckland, Durham
George Ward 45 Porter b. Lincolnshire
Mary Ann Ward 44 Wife of above, Cook b. Lincolnshire
Frederick Edward Wearen 19 Assistant Officer, b. Oddington, Gloucestershire

Hereford Union Workhouse Master and staff 1911

Charles King 67 Master b. Buckingham
May Harding Widow, Matron
Constance May Harding 5 Daughter of above, b. Hereford Workhouse
Edith King 34 Matron’s Assistant b. Lambeth, London
Frederick William Spiller 30 Porter b. Bridport, Dorset
Gertrude Spiller 31 Cook b. Wells, Somerset
Annie Cork 37 Superintendent Nurse b. Silverdale, Staffordshire
Annie Winifred Kelly 26 Assistant Nurse, b. Preston, Lancashire
Edith Bryant 26 Assistant Nurse b. Cardiff
Lily Morgan 31 Assistant Nurse b. Brynmawr, Breconshire
Emily Morgan 32 Assistant Nurse b. Tarrington, Herefordshire
Ethel Roust 23 Assistant Nurse b. Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
Mary Dyke 52 Widow, Fever Nurse, b. Tenbury, Worcestershire
Gertrude Prior 32 Laundress b. Beverley, Yorkshire


What’s My Line star Descended from Workhouse Matron


Mrs. May Harding, the Matron in 1911,  a widow whose  son Gilbert, born in 1908 in the Workhouse, found fame as a TV star in the 1950s on panel shows such as What‘s my Line.

Research on Hereford Union Workhouse – kindly supplied by Sally Crompton, a descendant of Ann Crompton.

This relates to the information on the 1861 census as shown above:

. ….. Ann’s surname is actually Crompton (nee Pendry).  She may well have said that she was 55 but I have her baptismal record (25 Jan. 1804) which shows that she must have been at least 57.  My husband is a direct descendent of hers: she is his 4th. great grandmother.

In 1861, Ann’s son-in-law – Henry Earle – and his wife – Margaret (her daughter) – were appointed as the new Master and Matron.  Her role then is both Cook and Nurse to ‘170 inmates’, 99 of which are children.  Initially, all is well and of the workhouse Christmas dinner in 1861 it is reported “A better dinner need not be served, and a kinder Master & Matron, or better conductors of the house had never been elected to those positions” (Hereford Journal, p.6, 4 Jan 1862).  In April 1864, however, the Master, Matron and she are forced to resign following much criticism by the Board of Guardians – led by the Chairman – who had vehemently opposed the Earle’s original appointment due to their lack of experience in this field.

Their original appointment had been vociferously contested by the Chairman whose Board had ruled to appoint them against his wishes.  The Board had been so aggrieved by his dictatorial style that one of their number had sent a letter to the press denouncing his inappropriate use of the Chair.

The Appointment Process

Originally there were 17 applicants which were reduced to 3.  including Mr. Henry Earle, Relieving Officer for the City Parishes and his wife.  Their testimonials were considered very satisfactory.  Whilst neither Mr Earle or his wife had any experience in the management of a Union, Mr Earle was considered to be knowledgeable in Poor Law matters, and a good accountant, who had evinced much energy and discretion in discharging the duties of Relieving Officer.  With his wife also, he was known to have been a teetotaller for some years. They were both young with three children, only one of whom, they proposed, if elected, to take into the house. Before proceeding to the election the Chairman briefly referred to the importance of having a first-class officer for the workhouse, so that the high reputation which it has attained should be kept up. The Chairman, who was against Mr Earle’s appointment – as he had no experience and his wife still less – asked whether the Board was prepared to make an experiment of electing patrons who had to learn their work.  As they had young children he believed that might be considered as not desirable in some respects although he did not wish to influence the Board in its decision (Ha!).  In the event, 42 voted, 21 for the Earle’s by show of hands which increased to 23 via voting papers which gave them a majority of 3.  Mr Earle’s salary was £60 a year and the Matron was awarded £40 a year, with rations etc.

In 1864 the Hereford Times reports that an opposition has been raised to the confirmation of the election by the Poor Law Board; that a notice of motion on the subject has been given by the Chairman of the Board, and that a discussion will shortly place the rate payers in possession of the grounds.

The Chairman had made a number of new appointments to the Board to ensure he would be backed in this motion.  He had harboured a grievance for the last 3 years over their appointment against his wishes and was determined to have his way.

Whilst they were forced out, Henry – clearly a capable man – went on to become Accountant.  House, Estate, Insurance and General Commission Agent for the Forest of Dean, Staffordshire and Red Ash Welsh Coals.  He also managed a Register Office for servants.