Union Workhouse

From Historical Hastings

Pest Houses

The first workhouses, or 'Pest Houses for Paupers' were funded by Parish funds, and located towards the outskirts of the parish boundaries. St. Leonards Poorhouse was the last one established, in part due to the relatively new nature of the town, and in part because there was a policy by the town's Commissioners to lodge their destitute either with established families, where they could earn their keep, or by removing them to other towns
St. Mary-in-the-Castle poorhouse, opposite York Buildings
St. Clement’s, at the western end of George Street (now number 42)
All Saints near the Old London Road, on the site that later became the Springfield Nursery
St. Leonards Poorhouse was established at or near the Bohemia Road end of Magdalen Road based upon descriptions given by Brett[1]

1834 Poor Law

In 1834, a new 'Poor Law' was passed on the 14th of August, which necessitated the closure of the small, parish poor-houses of which almost every church in town had one[1]. There is a reference to a 'new workhouse' located in Elphinstone Road during 1888 in connection with the sinking of a well[2]

1892 Mapping showing the location of workhouse

In 1836, construction of a new dedicated Hastings workhouse following a cruciform design by Sampson Kempthorne and Annesley Voysey on the east side of Cackle Street (latterly Frederick Road) commenced[3], taking in 160 inmates from the earlier establishments on the 10th of July 1837 as follows:

Fairlight: 14 Pett: 5
Guestling 3 St. Leonards: 7
St. Clements: 43 St. Mary in the Castle: 16
St. Mary Magdalen: 3

Whitehall Complains about Conditions

By 1866, inspections by Whitehall’s Poor Law Board criticised the workhouse for many “serious defects”, having been run as cheaply as possible with little attention paid to the requirements of sick inmates. The Board of Guardians constructed a new sixty-bed infirmary as a result[4].

Extension and new buildings

An extension to the poorhouse was planned in 1892 following a competition for designs - that of P. H. Tree of St. Leonards being the winning design. Construction of this elaborate design stalled and, as a result, a cheaper design by Alfred W Jeffery and William Skiller. The mayor Alderman Frederick Tuppeny laid the foundation stone on the 5th April 1900 - Cackle Street being renamed Frederick Road after him in 1904. At the opening on the 22nd April, 1903 a public viewing by ticket was held, the site being empty of inmates. Some of the visitors were accompanied on their tour by the Workhouse Master, Mr Merryweather, and the Matron, Miss Brown. A central administration block was flanked by a pair of three-storey dormitory blocks, segregated by sex - one for males, the other for females with a chapel located slightly to the south of this construction. A 240-yard tunnel linked both halves of the site underneath Frederick Road, the older buildings to the east being used as the infirmary[3].

Municipal Hospital

In 1930, the newly opened Hastings Municipal Hospital opened, sharing the site, the workhouse being run in parallel to the hospital (which was renamed 'St Helen's Hospital' in 1948[5]), the two organisations running in parallel until the 1960s[6].

Redevelopment into Housing

Today the 1903 buildings on the west of Frederick Road have all been demolished in favour of a housing development following the closure of St. Helen's Hospital during 1994. The road names in the 1996 development[7] are largely after notable people connected with the institutions; Cookson Gardens (after Catherine Cookson), Ticehurst Close (after Frederick Ticehurst, one of the union medical officers and five-times mayor of Hastings), and Tuppenney Close (after Frederick Tuppenney, Chairman of the Guardians from 1889 until his death in 1910, and three-times mayor of Hastings)[3].

As to the 1837 building on the east side of the road, much of this still survives and, following a spell of semi-dereliction was refurbished as private housing in 1996[8]


References & Notes

  1. a b Brett Manuscript Histories Vol. 1 Chap. 11 Pg. 100
  2. Hastings & St Leonards Observer 03 November 1888 pg. 5
  3. a b c Workhouses Hastings
  4. The Hastings Chronicle: Poor valley – The Hastings Chronicle, accessdate: 25 January 2022
  5. East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust: NHS 70th – St Helen’s Hospital – East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, accessdate: 24 April 2021
  6. John Shepperd via Facebook
  7. Hastings Borough Council Planning application ref HS/OA/96/00288
  8. Hastings Borough Council Planning application ref HS/OA/96/00297