Bures-online.co.uk
Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet

 


By the mid 1830`s all of the Bures residents were transferred to Sudbury.
This page gives a very brief history of the Sudbury Institution.


Walnutree Hospital (Sudbury Workhouse) 2008

The first workhouse in Sudbury opened in 1702, by renting St Gregory`s College an ex 14th monastery (now the site of St Gregory`s Church)
This operated for 133 yrs until the Poor Law Amendment came in existence during 1834.

The Poor Law came about because there was a depression with thousands unemployed, and the villages could not cope with so many destitute people. Parishioners were fed up with paying to much tax to keep these people fed and housed. Many took advantage of the system and let the local workhouse look after them. The new law provided for one central workhouse to replace the multitude of parish workhouses. The area covered by the central workhouse was known as a Union.

A new Sudbury Poor Law Union was formed on 24th September 1835. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, representing the 42 parishes it covered, 24 Suffolk parishes and 18 in Essex

The Workhouse we know today as Walnutree was built in 1837 at a cost of £10,000 to accommodate 400 inmates
By 1837 and 1841 most village workhouses were sold and money transferred to Sudbury.

The registered Guardians in 1856 from Bures St Mary were Mr H. Westropp and from Bures Hamlet, Mr C. Pettit

The 1881 census recorded,121 men, 14 boys, 69 women and 11 girls.
On entering workhouse families would arrive together probably thro an iron gate but immediately be spilt up, men one way, women another Children were separated unless they were babies
Some families never saw each other again, the separation must have been heartbreaking for families.

Workhouses were more like prisons life was harsh mainly to deter spongers, they were made to feel shameful and humiliated, there was no sympathy whatsoever.
Many inmates preferred the County Gaol as the food was much better, hardly a week went by without riots or malicious damage so inmates could get transported to Bury Gaol.

Inmates were categorised into seven sections
(1) Aged and infirm men
(2) Aged and infirm women
(3) Boys up to 15
(4) Girls up to 15
(5) Able bodied males over 16
(6) Able bodied females over 16
(7) Children under 7
Paupers with mental disorders were known as imbeciles, idiots or lunatics

Women paupers were put to work with domestic chores, knitting sowing spinning
Men and boys weaving, carpentry, gardening stone breaking, wood cutting

No one was allowed to leave without the strict permission of the master

The paupers who died at the workhouse were not given a church service because of the cost, a short service was held in the graveyard where they were most probably buried away from other people, in a piece of rough ground

The Public Assistance Act of 1929 saw the Union Workhouse was taken over by Suffolk County Council
Under the Act the Essex inmates were all returned to the care of Essex County Council. most probably at Braintree and Colchester
Now called the "Sudbury Institution", it was still known locally as the Workhouse or Poor House

The 1938 census recorded, 48 males, 15 females, 3 children. The census did not include vagrants. These were deemed a nuisance and actively discouraged from entering the workhouse
If they did get in they were only given bread and water, usually stayed for one night.
They were classed lower than the inmates and their treatment was very harsh.
Most tramps were infested with fleas and lice, they were given a bath and deloused
Sudbury during 1901 had 1162 vagrants pass through their doors
As a deterrent they were forced to do manual work, such as stone breaking this cut the numbers by half.
Any refusal to work could result in hard labour, however many fled over the boundary walls to avoid the work.

NHS was launched in July 1948 and the Institution renamed "Sudbury Walnutree Hospital, Again because of the number of inmates (8 left) it did not shake of its Workhouse status. No more vagrants/tramps were admitted
The Women were kept busy by carrying out domestic work and the men kept the fires burning and labouring.
By 1950 most of them had moved out to other locations.

Lily Ambrose was the last inmate at Walnutree, she was born in Hartest 1898, entered the establishment in 1914 and finally died in 1985, the last destitute person to be there - end of an era


CLICK HERE for the 1881 census of residents taken at the Sudbury Workhouse.
It records a child of 1 month with its unmarried mother and other elderly residents up to 91 years of age.
This makes very distressing reading, when you consider the age range.

Bures residents listed at the Sudbury Workhouse in 1881.

NAME

MARRIED
SINGLE

AGE
GENDER
DESCRIPTION &
HANDICAP
BIRTHPLACE
William CANT
M
77
M
Inmate Farm, Labourer
Bures Mount, Essex
Joseph BALDWIN
S
26
M
Inmate, Farm Labourer Imbecile
Bures St Mary,
Edward CROSSMAN
M
89
M
Inmate, Farm Labourer Imbecile
Bures St Mary,
Henry CROSSMAN
S
70
M
Inmate, Fisherman
Bures St Mary, Suffolk
Mary HEAD
S
66
F
Inmate, Domestic Servant
Bures Hamlet, Essex
Henry HOLMES
M
60
M
Inmate, Farm Labourer
Bures Hamlet, Essex
Mary Ann HOWARD
S
30
F
Inmate, Farm Servant
Bures Hamlet, Essex
Thomas SCALES
S
36
M
Inmate, Farm Labourer Imbecile
Bures St Mary,
William STEDMAN
M
65
M
Inmate, Baker
Bures Hamlet, Essex
Emily WEBBER
S
16
F
Inmate, Domestic Servant
Bures Mount, Essex

Reference:-
(1) Beyond the Bricks of Walnutree Hospital Sudbury
Phyllis Felton
(2)
Peter Higginbotham
(3) Bury RO,