Mount Bures Community Web Site
The average annual poor-rate expenditure for Mount Bures was one of the highest per head in the Lexden Hundred:-
1776: £27 annually
With the introduction of the
"Poor Act", the residents previously under the control of the
Sudbury Union, would now come under the control of the Lexden Union. Consequently
when the Workhouse shut, the residents would have been transferred to
The new Lexden and Winstree workhouse was built in 1836 at the south side of the London Road in Stanway. The building, which was designed by Foden and Henman, cost £6,800 to construct and could accommodate 330 inmates.
Poor relief can be traced back as far as the 1300`s. After the Black Death (1348-9) labour was in short supply and wages rose steeply. To try and keep this in check, several Acts were passed aimed at forcing all able-bodied men to work and keep wages at their old levels. These measures led to labourers roaming around the country looking for an area where the wages were high. Some took to begging under the pretence of being ill or crippled. In 1349, an act prohibited private individuals from giving relief to able-bodied beggars.
With the decline of the monasteries, and their dissolution in 1536, together with the breakdown of the medieval social structure, charity for the poor gradually moved from its traditional voluntary framework to become a compulsory tax administered at the parish level. This was the start of parochial poor relief.
Act in 1723 introduced the 'workhouse test' whereby a pauper would only
be granted poor relief through being admitted to a workhouse. Consequently
several hundred parish workhouses were set up. A parish workhouse was
generally a very small establishment, often in rented existing buildings
rather than specially built premises. The running of workhouses was often
handed over to a `manager` who would, for an agreed price, feed and house
the poor. He would also provide the inmates with work and benefit from
any income generated. This system was known as 'farming' the poor.
The burden on small villages was intolerable and so it was decided by central government to review the arrangements for dealing with the homeless. Villagers were poor enough without subsiding others, who may not have lived in the parish.
The Poor Law Amendment Act (Poor Act)
In 1833 Earl Grey, the Prime Minister, set up a Poor Law Commission to examine the working of the poor Law system in Britain. In their report published in 1834, the Commission made several recommendations to Parliament. As a result, the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed. The act stated that:
(a) no able-bodied person was to receive
money or other help from the Poor Law authorities except in a workhouse;
Life was very grim, it was made purposefully harsh to dissuade people from seeking help. Those individuals arriving from out of the local area, were actively dissuaded from staying more than one night before being ejected and moved on.
People ended-up in the workhouse for a variety of reasons. Usually, it was because they were too poor, old or ill to support themselves. This may have resulted from such things as a lack of work during periods of high unemployment, or someone having no family willing or able to provide care for them when they became elderly or sick. Unmarried pregnant women were often disowned by their families and the workhouse was the only place they could go during and after the birth of their child. Some were publically flogged.
A census of residents in 1881
for the Sudbury Workhouse, shows this vividly.
Residents in the Workhouse dated 1861
Residents in the Workhouse 1871
Two residents of Mount Bures were listed in the 1881 Sudbury Workhouse census:-
The 1881 census for Mount Bures itself, recorded 5 paupers, two widows aged 51 and 67 and three men, two aged 57 and the other 67.
Courtesy of Ancestry.com
Prior to the
establishment of public mental asylums in the mid-nineteenth century (and
in some cases even after that), the mentally ill and mentally handicapped
poor were often consigned to the workhouse. Workhouses, though, were never
prisons, and entry into them was generally a voluntary although often
The Mount Bures Workhouse, Part 2
The Victoria History of the
County of Essex