Tag Archives: Rent

Workhouse Tales: St Alkmund’s, Derby

In carrying out research into burial within Derby (Midlands, UK) during the 18th – early 20th centuries, I’ve started to look at the Parish records. As might be expected (in skimming through looking for other information), I’ve encountered references to the workhouse.[i] I’ll post these as and when I come across them, and get the chance to collate the information to put online. (Text in bold represents transcriptions.)

(As at this point I’m not directly looking for such information, the references relating to poor relief below have not been collected systematically, but only represent those, scattered across the records, that I’ve alighted upon in speeding through the microfilm; they’re mostly sporadic extracts that caught my eye.)

During trips to the Local Studies Library this week:


I began to look at the Vestry Books / Church Wardens’ Reports and Poor Rates for St Alkmund’s Parish (located on the western side of the town, and containing many poor residents: see fig. 2). The parish church (a mid Saxon foundation): fig. 1 was demolished in the late 1960s, to make way for the ring road; according to an eye-witness account, common graves were evident during the demolition – a topic that I’m currently investigating.[iii]

Fig. 1 St Alkmund’s Church, 1750

(From Wikipedia)[ii]

The workhouse of the parish was located in nearby Lodge Lane, within the West End area of Derby; a survey of 1797 records 36 inmates: 6 children under 7 years, 8 aged 7 – 12 who “do a little work”, the remaining 22 being mostly middle-aged women, mainly employed in the silk and cotton mills; earning c. 16s. a week in this work, they are permitted to retain 2d. in the shilling.[iv] The workhouse, which contained eight ground floor rooms, eight first floor rooms, and a bakehouse, was described in 1800 as ‘one of the best’.[v]

Fig. 2 1806 Map of Derby: NW quadrant

St Alkmund’s Church (centre right, labelled 2), and Lodge Lane (centre), 1806 (from here): click on map for larger image

Funding Poor Relief

Beginning with Parish Records for St Alkmund’s Church (Reel 30):

Item 1 Church Wardens’ Repts. for 1801-03 1801 John Brentnall D[r?] to the Parish of St Alkmund’s     

[It’s supposed that this records the appointment of a Dr to provide medical attention to the poor of the parish] [1802]

December 29th           Doctor Sheppard halfe years salary    2 “[£]  12″ [s]  ” 6p

Later (Item 2 1870-78) the reports record the amount collected during church services, and the proportion extracted for poor relief. The following isn’t much use at the moment, as I need to go back to find the balance (it appears that this amount is a running total):

1871                                                                                                                         L    s    d

Mar 3 [By cash from Offertory] (poor deduct 4    0    0)                         2   11  11

Mar 31       ”       ”       ”        ”    (   ”    ”    ”    ”    4 18 1 ¼)     3    13    6 1/4

1874 Poor fund received from Offertory [£] 48.00

The average poor rates assessment for 1783-85 had been £409 7s 1d.[vi]

~ 0 ~

Reel 31 Item 1 Rate Book 1829-31

First Assessment 1831 Rate of 1 shilling in the pound on the occupiers of Buildings and one shilling and halfpence in the pound on the occupies of all lands – in the parish of St Alkmunds in the Boro. of Derby for the necessary relief and employment of the poor of the said parish Made and assessed the 5th day of May 1831

~ 0 ~

Reel 32 St Alkmund’s Vestry Book Item 2 Vestry Book 1783-1822

30th September 1783 … …Nine pence in the pound upon all lands and six pence in the pound upon all houses Within the said parish for the necessary relief of the poor of the same parish
13th April 1784 … …four pence halfpenny in the pound upon lands and three pence in the pound upon all houses for the necessary repair of the church and … nine pence on the pound upon all lands and six pence in the pound upon all house for the necessary relief of the poor
10th March 1802Eighteen pence in the pound upon all lands and twelve pencehouses
19th April 1802Nine pence in the pound upon all lands and six pence in the pound upon all houses

(The reports record this range of fees for many years: i.e. the usual costs being 9d & 6p for lands and houses, respectively, with occasional increases to 18d & 12d) …

The report for 3rd April 1809 records the appointment of a person (secretary, clerk, or accountant?) to oversee the distribution of poor relief, whose duties include:

Attend paying at the workhouse every Thursday evening & enter the payments as they are paid to each personEnter the wages of each person in the workhouse what they earn & what is allowed to them out of it to compare the tickets or vouchers that they bring from their employers, to see that the money received is right

Medical Provisions

11th April 1803 Ordered That Messrs Wright & Hayden be appointed surgeons and apothecaries to attend the poor of this parish – for which – purpose they are to attend upon all poor belonging to the parish residing within the Town and also the Liberties of Darley and Chester – to administer all necessary Medicines and to perform all operations of surgery also to attend to such Casual [?] illness & cases in surgery [?] As may happen to arrive within any of the said Districts to persons not being parishioners for one week from the time of being called in the overseers for the time being undertaking to obtain as ample a validation [?] from the parish to which such persons legally belong as […?] and to pay the same to Messrs Wright and Hayden at the salary of twenty pounds [?] … Not to attend to any case in midwifery

During the meeting on Monday April 12th 1813, it was decided that the Annual salary of the Dr “for the use of the parish shall cease

Poor management of Parish funds

The vestry appear not to have been behaving as they should regarding taxes:

2nd Oct. 1811Deputation of the Borough [?] … to the office of affairs of taxes with a request to suspend all proceedings against the parish in order that time may be given to make necessary arrangements

With the meeting on 12 Dec. 1812 resolving that “considerable improvement might be made in the mode of conducting the concerns of the parish“, and appointment of a committee to look into such prospects

But it wasn’t until Monday April 12th 1813 that it was agreed that the “Provisions of the Act, 22nd George 3rd” (‘Gilbert’s Act’ of 1782) “for the better management and employment of the poor”. It was also resolved that the proportion of costs due to land and houses should be consistently 3: 2

Further resolutions regarding management of poor relief were reached on Easter Monday April 19th 1813: that “all accounts should be cleared every year”; and that houses rated at 18p or less, “when landlords will pay the assessments”, should have “one-half of the assessment abated”.

Workhouse Staffing Problems

The report for 13 April 1812 records the results of attempting to find a replacement for the “Poor House” Workhouse superintendent, Ann Keeling, after it seems she announced her wishes to leave her post. Four candidates were thought to be suitable; however, on investigation of their characters, they were “judged to be improper for filling the situation”; consequently Keeling was appointed to continue for another year, on a salary of £20 Mrs. Keeling was still in her post 2 ½ years later, and again gave notice to quit.

The report for Sat Oct 5 [or 3rd?] 1814 records the intention to advertise in “the Derby Paper” the following week to find a replacement “Mistress of the workhouse”, who should be: “a woman who can be well recommended for her industry, good temper, cleanliness, and trust-worthiness, to superintendent the workhouse, and not exceeding the age of 45 years

By 1833, the workhouse was run by Mrs Anne Walker, and was in need of repair.[vii] It was also agreed at the meeting that “Compliment of one pound be given to Mrs Keeling for her late attention to the cleanliness and good conduct in the workhouse” The final workhouse-related account that I had time to go through was in the report for the meeting on Wed Dec 7 1814, when it was recorded that furniture for the workhouse parlour should be bought, including a chest of draws; a wardrobe is also mentioned.

[i] For further information on workhouses, see the excellent website: http://www.workhouses.org.uk;
[iii] Many thanks to Derek Palmer – local historian, who was involved in demolitions at the time, in working for the corporation – for this information
[iv] For further information on St Alkmund’s workhouse, see http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Derby/; and Glover, Stephen (ed. T. Noble) 1833 The History, Gazetteer, and Directory of the County of Derby, Part II, p. 520
[v] Glover, History of the County of Derby, p. 520; http://www.dfhs.org.uk/index.php?id=workhouses
[vi] Ibid.
[vii] Ibid.