The Ledbury Union Workhouse was designed by George Wilkinson and built in 1836 in Union Lane and was opened the following year, (Union Lane is now renamed Orchard Road). The Workhouse had the innovation of water closets, and was in the classic cross shape to enable easy segregation of inmates – the elderly and infirm in one part; males in another, females, and lastly children. Ledbury took inmates from the following surrounding villages: Ashperton, Aylton, Bosbury, Canon Frome, Castle Frome, Coddington, Colwall, Donnington, Bishops Frome, Little Marcle, Munsley, Much Marcle, Pixley, Putley, Stretton Grandison, Tarrington, Woolhope, Yarkhill, and Mathon and Malvern from Worcestershire, the border being a short distance from Ledbury.
It could accommodate up to 150 inmates so was slightly larger than the Abbey Dore Workhouse, and was by all accounts far stricter. As with all Workhouses, once anyone entered Ledbury they would be stripped of their clothes and scrubbed, then dressed in a uniform.
In accordance with the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 conditions inside a Workhouse had to be far worse than any the applicants might experience outside, with less food of lower quality. Whenever a man was forced to enter the workhouse, he had to take all his family with him, but they were then immediately split up and spent the rest of their time apart in different parts of the complex, only being reunited once they left. This was perhaps a very cruel rule, but it was designed to ensure that nobody became too settle and comfortable!
In Ledbury Workhouse a bell was rung throughout the day to alert inmates to the next routine, and this bell can be seen (and rung with permission) in the Butchers Row Museum in Ledbury.
The following news items relate to the Ledbury Union Workhouse:
Refusal to break Stones
In July 1835 Caroline Hodges and Catherine Thomas of Ledbury Union Workhouse were charged with refusing to break a quantity of stones… They were committed to Hereford Gaol for 14 days hard labour
Riotous and Disorderly Conduct
On 8th July 1846 at the Ledbury Petty Sessions court Mr. Law, Master of the Ledbury Union Workhouse charged an old woman, Caroline Jones, with riotous and disorderly conduct on the previous Sunday in the Chapel, when she called him and the porter abusive names, and at the same time exposed her person. Committed to Hereford Gaol for 21 days hard labour.
Christmas Day in the Workhouse
January 1848 – The guardians of the Ledbury Union Workhouse proudly announced that on Christmas Day they regaled the inmates with a superb dinner of roast beef, plum pudding and cider, for which they were all most grateful.
Violent and Abusive Behaviour in the Workhouse
September 1862 – Amelia Lancett, chargeable to the parish of Bosbury, was summoned by Mr. Meredith, Master of the Workhouse for having behaved badly with violent and disorderly behaviour in the workhouse, by breaking the windows and using filthy and obscene language to the Governess and others. Committed for 21 days hard labour
New Year Treat for Inmates
January 1887 – Annual New Years treat was given to inmates…..through the efforts of Master and Matron, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Morgan a concert was given . A capital programme was gone through and highly appreciated. After the concert, dancing and other amusements were enjoyed by young and old and a very enjoyable evening was spent.
August 1891 – Mrs Ballard and the Messrs Ballard of the Winnings Colwall, made a yearly event of a treat for the inmates, which included dinner and tea at their home. Always referred to as a treat.
Ledbury Union Workhouse Staff and Inmates 1841 Census
|Ann Jones||9 mths||Daughter|
|Eliza Hill||9 mths|
|Daniel Suff (?)||3|