West Bromwich Pauper Memorial - Commemorating and Remembering
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West Brom Pauper Memorial:
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The Poor Law
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History of Sandwell Priory
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History of All Saints Church
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West Bromwich Poor House
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Wigmore Schools
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Heath Lane Memorial
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The Paupers Trail
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West Bromwich Poor House

Originally the poor or destitute of the parish would have been cared for by the Priory which was established by 1160 in Sandwell Valley. However, Sandwell Priory was one of the first to go in the Dissolution of the Monasteries during Henry VIII’s reign. So, from 1601 the poor now became the responsibility of the local parish church.

Use these links to find items of interest in this section:

The Poor House 'Foundations'
A Brief Chronology
Guardians of the Workhouse
Growth of the Poor House
Admission to the Poor House
Classification of Inmates
Daily Routine
Work
Children in the Work House
West Bromwich Union Infirmary
Local Goverment Act 1929

The Poor House 'Foundations'
The responsibility of the poor relief in the Parish was entrusted to the Overseers, superintended by the local magistrates. Workhouses were to be made as unpleasant as the most unpleasant way of earning a living outside to deter people from ‘sponging’.

The poor were to be classified as:-
1. Idle and were made to work.
2. Impotent and were relieved. (back to top)

A Brief Chronology

In 1734 it was agreed that a house be fitted and prepared with necessaries for the setting of the poor of West Bromwich to work and for the relief of the lame and impotent.

In 1735 the charges for erecting a workhouse were opposed by the freeholders who said that the erection of a workhouse would be a ‘great damage and pernicious consequence to the parish’ – this was signed by John Turton, Ralph Moor and 67 others.

August 1735 a Workhouse was purchased with accommodation for 19 paupers.

Numerous extensions were made up to 1777 when it housed some 100 persons.

In 1791 the boundary wall had to have spikes fitted to stop the inmates from absconding.

In 1814 a committee was formed to consider a new workhouse.

In 1834 the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed.

As a result of this Act many workhouses were built to accommodate the poor. They were intended to be so harsh and hostile that only the truly destitute would want to go there. Many families, the old and infirm were so poor they were classed as paupers a word used to describe a person who had no means to support themselves.

In 1836 the West Bromwich Poor Law Union was declared this was made up of West Bromwich, Wednesbury, Handsworth with Soho (Perry Barr), Oldbury, Warley Salop and Warley Wigorn. (back to top)

Guardians of the Workhouse 1836(?)
Chairman: Rt. Hon.The Earl of Dartmouth,
Vice Chairman: James Spittle,
Members: William Cooksey, Joseph S.Chavasse, John Lees, Thomas Botley, Samuel Kendrick, Henrhy Knight, James Wathew, Samuel Danks V.C., Edward Elwell, Ambrose Lees, Richard Davis, Joseph Spittle, Christopher Wren, Walter Williams, Robert L Chase, John Jarvis, Samuel Parish, Samuel Marsh, Richard Blocksidge, Joseph Tomlinson, and Benjamin Sadler.
Clerk to the Board: John Marshall (back to top)
Auditor: J.W. Pickle

Growth of the Poor House
With the advance of the Industrial Revolution people were drifting in to the towns from the country and we saw a rapid increase in the population of the area from 52,500 in 1841 to 70,000 just 10 years later.

The pressure therefore for accommodation of the poor mounted and eventually the new workhouse was built between 1855-58 in a Gothic styled building, designed by Briggs & Everall, architects, of Birmingham, at a cost of some £27,000. It was by some reckoned to be one of the noblest buildings of its kind in South Staffordshire. (back to top)

Admission to the Workhouse
Admission to the Workhouse was by interview by a Relieving Officer, a Board of Guardians or in urgent cases by the Master of the Workhouse.
On admission the paupers went to the Relieving Ward where men and women were separated, stripped, washed and issued with the workhouse uniform. They would then have an examination by the Medical Officer and be classified... (back to top)

Classification of inmates
1. Aged or Infirm Men.
2. Able Bodied Men and Youths above 13.
3. Youth and Boys above 7 and under 13.
4. Aged or Infirm Women.
5. Able Bodied Women and Girls above 16.
6. Girls above 7 and under 16.
7. Children under 7. (back to top)

Daily Routine
1. Rise 6am
2. Breakfast 6.30 – 7am
3. Work 7am - Noon
4. Dinner Noon – 1 pm
5. Work 1pm – 6pm
6. Supper 6pm – 7pm
7. Bed/lights out 8pm.

All meals were eaten in silence, with the men and women and children separated. (back to top)

Work
All inmates who could work had to do so and often included:
1. Workhouse Maintenance.
2. Laundry and Cleaning.
3. Sewing.
4. Stone breaking (small stone to be used for road maintenance).
5. Oakum Picking.
6. Agricultural/horticultural work. (back to top)

Children in the workhouse
Children were viewed as not morally responsible for their destitution.
In 1862 an Act of Parliament provided for the maintenance and education of Pauper Children. Inspections were to be carried out by Poor Law Board Officers.

To find out more about the school, visit the Wigmore Schools page. (back to top)

West Bromwich Union Infirmary

  • The fastest growing department of the Workhouse was the Infirmary.
  • In 1867 the Metropolitan Poor Law Act provided for separate administration for the Poor Law Infirmaries.
  • In 1884 the West Bromwich the Guardians built a new separate Infirmary and from then on continual improvements were made.
  • In 1927 a Nurses Home was erected with tennis courts at the front and gardens at the rear.
  • The Infirmary continued to grow and became known as Hallam Hospital
  • It is now the home of Sandwell N.H.S. Trust. (back to top)

Local Government Act 1929

  • Abolished Boards of Guardians and the authority passed to the Local Councils.
  • West Bromwich Infirmary (Hallam Hospital) passed to the Public Health Committee.
  • The District School (Wigmore) passed to the Education Committee.
  • The Workhouse (Hallam House) passed to the Public Assistance Committee and was eventually closed in 1937.

Today the only building surviving of the Workhouse is the Guardians Boardroom.

Many who died in the Workhouse are buried in Heath Lane Cemetery which is why we felt that it is the right place to erect a memorial to their memory.

Find out more about Heath Lane Cemetery.

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The Infirmary of the Workhouse
The Infirmary of the Workhouse

a different view of the Infirmary showing the sanitary towers i.e. the block where the toilets etc. were housed

The content of this website is copyright of the West Bromwich Pauper Memorial Committee and the Local Heritage Initiative, 2006 - 2008