Plan of Weardale Union Workhouse

Ground Floor Plan of New Weardale Workhouse
Copyright: Weardale Museum

Weardale House

Weardale House, Stanhope, 2015

Workhouse Cell

Workhouse cell (213cm x 107cm) with pull down bed

Eastgate Roman Altar
Original Location: Weardale Rural District Council, Stanhope
Current Location: The Weardale Museum, Ireshopeburn
Theme: Political; Cultural/Social
Period: Post-medieval
Date: c.1866

What is it?
The plan is one of eight architectural drawings of the New Weardale Union Workhouse drawn in 1866 by architect Matthew Thompson, 5 Eldon Square, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. After the workhouse was closed the plans were deposited in the local government offices at Fairfield, Stanhope but a reorganisation in 1974 deemed them surplus to requirements and they were put in a builder’s skip. They were rescued by the caretaker who later presented them to the Weardale Museum when it opened in 1985.

What is its relevance to the North Pennines?
The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 swept away an accumulation of poor laws and replaced them with a national system of dealing with poverty and its relief based on Union Workhouses run by salaried Guardians. Smaller workhouses were closed to be replaced by larger ones in the major centres of population. There were only three in the North Pennines at Alston, Barnard Castle and Stanhope.

Why is it important?
Workhouse Plans rarely survive but this full set of detailed plans together with Guardian’s Minutes from the same period and census records of the inhabitants provide a valuable record of conditions made deliberately harsh to reduce the cost of looking after the poor and encourage them into work.

Further Information

    Text References:
  • Weardale Union Guardians’ Minutes 1865-68, Durham Record Office, Ref U/We 466
  • Stanhope Union Workhouse by Maureen Thomas, Weardale Gazette 2005 magazine
  • Life in the Workhouse, Peter Bowes, Weardale Gazette Spring 2015 magazine
  • A grim Almanac of the Workhouse by Peter Higginbotham ISBN 978-0752487397
  • Voices from the Workhouse by Peter Higginbotham . ISBN 978-0752467498
  • The Workhouse Encyclopedia by Peter Higginbotham ISBN 978-0-7524-7012-2
  • Life in a Victorian Workhouse by Peter Higginbotham ISBN 978-0-7524-5423-8
  • The Prison Cookbook by Peter Higginbotham ISBN 978-0-7524-5423-8
  • The Workhouse Cookbook by Peter Higginbotham ISBN 978-0-7524-4730-8
  • Workhouses of the North by Peter Higginbotham  ISBN 0752440012

  • External Links:

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