... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Sunday 13 June 2021

Ecclesall Bierlow Poor Law Union offices and Workhouse

The Workhouse in the distance - now a gated community of a different kind
I put this one off for a while after picking it (rather like the Big Day Out to Ladybank) as it was a relatively long walk - in the end I made it a round trip of seven miles, nicely broken by a cup of tea and a chat with a friend in Nether Edge, and Saturday June 12th was a perfect sunny day for it.

Workhouses were built across the country following the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act in 1834 (and I could have told you that date without looking it up) which ended 'outdoor relief' - i.e. the provision of parish funds or food to people in their own homes, forcing the destitute into the workhouse instead.  The Act was based on the principle of 'less eligibility' - the idea that claiming parish relief should be the absolutely worst thing short of starvation, lest a life on benefits otherwise prove too attractive to the lazy and indolent.

The Ecclesall Bierlow Workhouse Union was founded in 1837, and purchased the land for the Workhouse in 1839. It was built in 1841-2 (according to Pevsner) and opened in 1844, the architect being William Flockton. It was expanded considerably over the following decades, with the  addition of an infirmary, an asylum, a school and 'casual' or vagrants wards, where a (wooden plank) bed for the night could be bought for the price of nine hours hard labour.

The Workhouse was built on Cherry Tree Lane, but later gave its name to Union Road. Opposite the Workhouse are the Ecclesall Bierlow Poor Law Union Offices, built in 1902 (and yes, Holmes and Watson really were a firm of Sheffield architects).

The Poor Law Union Offices
Both buildings are now flats; from 1929 until the end of the 20th century, the Workhouse buildings were in use as Nether Edge Hospital.

There is an interesting history and lots of old photos here, and they have also published an account of a visit in 1896 by a Sheffield surgeon, whioch is well worth a read.