Serving the communities of Bures St Mary and Bures Hamlet




Workhouses in Bures

Two Workhouses existed in Bures until 1834-37.
They were made redundant by the opening of the Sudbury Union Workhouse.
( now the Walnutree Hospital)

Definition of the Poor:- the sick, the disabled, the elderly. the mentally ill, the unemployed,the underemloyed, the seasonally employed, widows, vagrants, orphans, gypsies and ilegitimates.


In 1706 Glebe Terrier, records indicate two small cottages for the Poor were located in the High Street, possibly at the top near its junction with Cuckoo Hill.
" two cottages being habitations for poor people, in which some of the poor constantly dwell, being putt in by the consent of the overseers"

1709 Glebe Terrier again:
mentions two small cottages on the Suffolk side worth about 50/- per year"

1729 Glebe Terrier now mentions a further Poor House
"Houses for use by the Poor:-
"One small cottage adjoining the churchyard worth about 50/- per years in occupation of William Hill"
"two cottages in the street on the Suffolk side wworth about 50/- oer year"

1760 Glebe Terrier records
"Two houses used for the Poor on the Suffolk side leading to Sudbury"

1770 Glebe Terrier records
" In Bures St Mary the two poor houses are converted into one capacious workhouse

1776 Local records
£204.8.4 spent on the Poor in Bures ( not known
Existing Parish Workhouse holds 50 inmates

1783 Local records
£217.11.11 spent on the Poor, of this £1.13.6 was spent on entertainment for the Officials.
Some money was also spent on gettingh the Poor to work in the Workhouse

1784 Glebe Terrier records
"In Bures St mary there is a capacious Workhouse with a very small rear yard"

1803 Local records
£678.8.2 spent on the Poor in Bures, of this £170 was on relief. £476 on Workhouse expenses and £29.17.0 on clothes for repairing paupers

1813 Local records
£1116.0.0 spent at Bures, this year was one of the very hard years in suffolk. Wheta reached a record price. £40 spent on families of Militia Men

1816 Local records
£759.2.0 Spent on the Poor. Depression caused farmers to go out of business, Social unrest breaking machinery

1817 Local records
£1233/8/0 Spent on the Poor, Riots and Ely and Littleport

1823 Local records
£1488.12.0 Spent on the Poor

1826 Local Records
£1444.0.0 Spent on the Poor

1831 Local records
£1389.16.0 Spent on the Poor, great Social unrest in Bures

1834 Local records
£1085.9.0 Spent on Poor, Population had risen due to the extent of the steep rise in the Poor Rate

1838:- As mentioned earlier, The Manse stands on the grounds of the workhouse. Records show there was no Manse at this date, so the Workhouse must have still been running

1841:- Records indicate the property at this time was no longer the Workhouse.

1858:- "The Manse in connection with the said Chapel, 24th July 1858" - confirms the Manse was on site by this date

Consequently, Sometime between 1760 and 1770 these were converted into a Workhouse capable of housing 50 residents. We know from records this was located to the right of "The Manse", at the top of the High Street.
It was managed by Mr & Mrs Sadler.
No records exist today of the residents who were housed there.

The two cottages (workhouse) was demolished soon after closure during the mid 1830`s and the two properties we see today "The Manse" and "Junipers" were built on the land it occupied.
The "Manse" it is believed, stands on the garden of the former workhouse

bures workhouse
"Junipers", Site of the Bures St Mary Workhouse

Bures workhouse
Side of Junipers along Sudbury Rd.
Outline of "window sill" in wall.
Is this the original workhouse wall ?

Dr Brown(dec) local historian reported in 1981 that the foundations of the workhouse could still be seen quite clearly in the rear garden of this property.

In 1776, the Bures St Mary workhouse records
indicated 50 inmates.

***Charity Commission Papers dated 1916.

Residents in the former Workhouse, taken from the 1841 Census.
Joseph Cansdale 25 Agricultural Labourer


Cannot fully understand why these four families should take up residence in one single establishment.

Mary Cansdale 20  
Henry Griggs 45 Agr Lab
Charlotte Griggs 40  
Henry Griggs 10  
Ruth Griggs 5  
Harriot Griggs 5  
Henry Aliston 25 Agr Lab
Susan Aliston 20  
William Aliston 1  
John Carrington 45 Agr Lab
Susan Carrington 45  
Charles Carrington 20 Agr Lab
William Carrington 15 Agr Lab
Henry Carrington 10 Agr Lab
Mary Carrington 9  
John Carrington 2  
Emma Carrington 1  
Susan Polley 20  

Interesting Press Cutting :-

Bury & Norwich Post, January 24th 1857
On Saturday last, Sir John Walsham attended by several other Guardians of Sudbury Union, held an investigation at the Workhouse, the subject being a charge made against Richard Pratt, the Relieving Officer of the Bures district, it was alleged by several witnesses that on Friday the 25th of December 1856, Mr Pratt while relieving in Lt Cornard was in such a state of intoxication as to render him unfit for proper performance of his duties. Mr Shepherd who appeared for the accused called several witnesses who contradicted the assertions, the whole event has been sent to the Poor Law Board who's decision is expected in a few days


Another Bures Workhouse was located at the bottom of Station Hill in Bures Hamlet, at a location occupied by todays "White House". Records show it housing only 9 residents. No idea when it opened, but it was before 1784 (see below)

In 1838, John Garrad purchased the property from the Sudbury Union for the sum of £200 to be used as a private residence. (see opposite >>>>) The original Workhouse was subsequently demolished by the end of the year and replaced with the fine building we see today.
It stood closer to the road than its successor, the White House, but the entire site is completely empty on the Bures Hamlet 1839 tithe map.

Interesting to note that this property was once again used for public use during the 1st World War.
Records state
It is remembered that there was an outbreak of diphtheria during the "'14-18" war, and the White House, which was standing empty at the time, was cleaned through in twenty four hours and patients brought in. The then Vicar's wife, Mrs. Molesworth, who had been trained as a nurse took charge of the temporary hospital.


Bill of Sale


Extracts taken from Parish Records:-

1709 Glebe Terrier:- "one small cottage in the Hamlet near the mansion of Herbert Pelham, Gent worth about £3 per year"
NOTE:- Herbert Pelham lived at Ferriers

1729 Glebe Terrier:-"one small cottage in the Hamlet near the mansion of Herbert Pelham, Gent worth about £3 per year.
All which cottages are inhabited by the Poor at the discretion of the Churchwardens and Overseers"

1784 Glebe Terrier:- Bures Hamlet hath a Workhouse for the poor, with about a "rood" of ground adjoining to it worth about 30s per annum near Mr Gurdon, late Mr Pelhams.


Initially the Sudbury area employed three workhouses: one at Sudbury for able-bodied men and boys over 13, one at Bures for aged and infirm men and women, and one at Melford for able-bodied females up to 16 and boys from 7 to 13.

It was not unknown for the village policeman to escort vagrants out of the parish so they would not become a burden on the local taxpayer. As long as they were left in another parish, the residents/policeman were content.
The local parish paid out £1371 in 1832 and £1085 in 1834 for the relief of the poor, quite a substantial sum of money out of local funds.

The Poor.

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.

Other Local Parish Workhouses


Bures had six other Workhouses within five miles of the village - see map.

A Parliamentary 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;
(b) conditions in workhouses were to be made very harsh to discourage people from wanting to receive help;
(c) workhouses were to be built in every parish or, if parishes were too small, in unions of parishes;
(d) ratepayers in each parish or union had to elect a Board of Guardians to supervise the workhouse, to collect the Poor Rate and to send reports to the Central Poor Law Commission;

So in 1834 "The Poor Act" came into existence which subsequently closed both of the workhouses in Bures and those in surrounding villages.
These were replaced with larger purpose built establishments located at:-
Sudbury: Walnutree Workhouse (now Hospital)
Braintree: St Michaels Workhouse (now Hospital)
St Marys Workhouse, Balkerne Hill (now residential)
Colchester (Lexden union): London Rd, Stanway, now known as St Albrights Hospital

All inmates from Bures were transferred to Sudbury around the mid 1830`s
CLICK HERE to read more information about Sudbury Workhouse

List of local Workhouses, circa 1776.

Assington(20, Bures St Mary (50), Bures Hamlet (9), Great Cornard (20), Little Cornard/Workhouse Green(14),Nayland (40), Sudbury (30), Fordham (22), Stoke next Nayland (40), Wormingford(?) Pebmarsh (12) Mount Bures (?), Lt Horkesley(?)

This is just a sample list, but it does indicate that the majority of villages had their own workhouse.

Wiston or Wissington on the Nayland Rd:- No records of a Workhouse, but the Parish rented the "Pound House" probably to accommodate the local widows. A 19c document mentions a mother who died in the Wiston Workhouse, but no records have ever surfaced to say where this was located
(Courtesy of Rosemary Knox publication)

The road to the left on the photograph, leads down to Wiston Church.

The local Nayland workhouse was located in Fen Street and belonged to the Nayland Feoffees, now known as the Nayland Charities.
There was also a Workhouse at Assington in Further Street from 1774 to 1834. Further Street is the main A134 which runs outside the village, was the Workhouse situated there to keep it well away from the locals ??

Wormingford was located along the main Colchester Rd, whilst Lt Cornard (Workhouse Green)was at the top of Spout Lane.

Life was very grim, it was made purposefully harsh to dissuade people from seeking help. There was a strict timetable regime, usually rise at 6.00am and prepare for bed at 8.00pm. Meals were usually soup, bread and cheese, meat and potatoes.
Those individuals arriving from out of the local area, were actively dissuaded from staying more than one night before being ejected and moved on. It was not unusual for paupers to trudge from workhouse to workhouse seeking refuge.

Mrs Janet Frost, a Bures resident can remember vagrants making there way through the village travelling between the workhouses at Sudbury, Colchester and Nayland. Sympathetic shopkeepers, would often keep boiling water and tea handy ready for those asking for sustenance.
The vagrants who travelled between Sudbury and the Colchester Workhouse used Sandy Hill at Wormingford as their halfway stop. Smoke could often be seen rising from that direction from their camp fires.

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.

In 1866 the village once again took on the responsibility of looking after its own poor by the opening of the `almshouses` in Cuckoo Hill.

Bures resident listed at the Colchester (Lexden) Workhouse in 1881.

Jemima Hills
Bures, Suffolk

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 painful decision

By the 1930`s Workhouses were officially abolished, but in reality they continued under their new name of Public Assistance Institutions or "Institutions"

With the introduction of the NHS in 1948, it surprisingly did not see the end of the "Institution"
The new management run "Hospitals" as they were now called, maintained "Reception Centres for Wayfarers", i.e. casual wards for vagrants, until the 1960s.

Definition of Glebe Terrier:- A Glebe Terrier is a term specific to the Church of England. It is a document, usually a written survey or inventory, which gives details of glebe, lands and property in the parish owned by the Church of England and held by a clergyman as part of the endowment of his benefice

updated 06/12/2012
Kellys Directory
Suffolk Records Office. Survey Of Suffolk Parish doc
Dr Brown(dec) notes
Visit Peter Higginbothams Workhouse web site at:- http://www.workhouses.org.uk for a vast amount of detailed information. Highly recommended, all you need to know about Workhouses.

Stewart Malcolm (dec) for the Bill of Sale Poster
updated 25/3/2017