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.
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 Hugh Preece||13||Son|
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|
|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.