Shadow

The history of Clophill, Bedfordshire, UK
Including historical descriptions, maps and statistical analysis.

The Workhouse

Clophill had a workhouse until 1836 when Ampthill Union workhouse was opened.

Since Elizabethan times there have been laws (known as the Old Poor Laws) requiring parishes to supply relief to parishioners who were destitute. There were two types of relief, outdoor relief and indoor relief. With outdoor relief the poor lived in their own homes and were given either money or food and clothes. In contrast, recipients of indoor relief were required to enter a workhouse or poorhouse where they could be fed and clothed. The law required each parish to elect two Overseers of the Poor. The post holders were unpaid and acted under the supervision of local JPs.

Their duties included setting the Poor Rate and collecting it from property owners (rate payers). They then used the money to relieve the poor by giving them either money or food or admitting them to a suitable institution (Indoor relief).

The Deserving Poor

The Deserving Poor, who were unable to work due to infirmity, injury or old age, would be taken into the local almshouse or the parish workhouse. The ill would be admitted to the hospital and orphans would be taken into an orphanage if available.

The Undeserving Poor

The Undeserving Poor, who were fit for work but wouldn't, would be taken into the workhouse where they would be set to work on hard tasks such as breaking stones or picking oakum. Oakum-picking was the teasing out of fibres from old ropes and was very hard on the fingers. The loose fibres were then sold to ship-builders for caulking or packing the joints of timbers in wooden vessels. This treatment was to encourage them back to paid employment.


Clophill Workhouse

Little is known about it but, according to Mary Phillips in The Clophill Story, "the old workhouse stood next to the house which up till some thirty years ago was the New Inn." (The New Inn was 120 High Street.)

She also says "Another old workhouse and an old brickyard are mentioned in a deed referring to property in the Back Street area to which Edward Crouch was admitted tenant in April 1877 on death and under will of George Crouch."

New Inn

The New Inn

Over the centuries different houses could have been used as the workhouse.

In 1777 a government report, "Abstracts of the Returns Made by the Overseers of the Poor", counted twenty paupers in the Clophill Workhouse.

As the population of the village in 1801 was 706 this represents about 3% of the population.


Union Workhouses

In 1832 a Royal Commission into the Operation of the Poor Laws found that the old system was badly and expensively run and so the Poor Law Amendment Act was passed in 1834 (known as the New Poor Law). The Act was intended to impose both order and conformity and reduce the costs of poor relief. Parishes were grouped together in Unions and a central workhouse was built to serve the union. The Cedars in Dunstable Street, Ampthill, was built as the Ampthill Union Workhouse in 1836 to house the 469 paupers from 19 parishes, including Clophill. The architect was James Clephane who was also the architect of the new Wrest Park House built during the same period. The censuses show that there were less than a hundred inmates until 1911 when the number rose to 147, possibly because the Woburn workhouse was closed and its inmates moved to Ampthill. Why such an oversized workhouse was built is not known.

The Square Plan

The most widely adopted of the model plans were those produced by the architect Sampson Kempthorne. His cruciform or "square" design featured an administrative block at the front containing a porter's room and waiting-room on the ground floor, with Guardians' board-room above. At the rear, a children's block linked to the supervisory octagonal hub where the Master's quarters lay. Male and female quarters emanated to the left and right of the hub, while kitchens and stores with dining-hall above stood in the wing at the rear.

Design

Workhouse Drawing

Drawing of typical workhouse

Workhouse Ground Plan

Drawing of typical workhouse ground plan

The square perimeter of the building comprised single storey workshop and utility blocks which also served to enclose the various inmates' exercise yards.

Today

Ampthill Union Workhouse

Ampthill Union Workhouse. Now the Cedars. Shows the octagonal hub at the centre of the cruciform.

Ampthill Union Workhouse

Ampthill Union Workhouse viewed from Ampthill Surgery Carpark

Each of the four areas was often divided by walls into two, allowing up to eight segregated exercise areas. Square-plan workhouse typically accommodated between 300 and 500 inmates.


The New Poorlaw

With the new act, outdoor relief was stopped and the destitute had to enter the workhouse to get relief. It was felt that outdoor relief was abused by the able bodied. People entered the workhouse for many reasons including old age, illness, extreme poverty, pregnancy and, in the case of children, becoming orphaned. Husbands, wives and older children were separated as soon as they entered the workhouse and lived in separate areas.

The Undeserving Poor (the idlers who wouldn't work) were kept away from the Deserving Poor as it was thought that they would corrupt them. The standard of living was kept below that of the poorest independent labourer to encourage the able bodied to leave and start work. The intention was that only the truly destitute would seek relief. The stopping of Outdoor Relief was widely opposed and led to riots, including one in the Ampthill area in May 1835.

Although the Workhouse was feared it did provide better accommodation than most agricultural labourers' cottages and a slightly better diet but still very basic and monotonous (gruel). The inmates received free health care and the children were found work, often apprenticeships.


Sources

Extract from the Ampthill Union Workhouse records for inmates born in Clophill

REGISTER OF BIRTHS

DOB Gender Parents Parish When baptised Remarks
09/01/1848 F MARDLIN Mary Ann Clophill
14/05/1849 F ODELL John and Sabara Clophill 24/06/2013 Mary Ann
30/05/1849 M WHITTAMORE Heneage Clophill 24/06/2013 William
09/04/1853 M BRYANT Eliza Clophill 17/04/1853 William
02/05/1865 F WALKER Elizabeth Clophill 9a.m.
11/07/1867 F SINFIELD Ruth Clophill
02/05/1870 F PAGE Louisa Clophill
18/11/1872 M BRYANT Rebecca Clophill 29/11/2013 George
17/04/1873 F WELLMORE M. Ann Clophill 19/04/2013 Ann
26/10/1873 M GUDGIN Rachel Clophill 11/12/2013 Charles
06/11/1879 M SlMPSON Ann Clophill 22/02/1880 R. Nov 27/79

WORKHOUSE PUNISHMENT BOOK

Name, Age, Born Offence Date of Offence Punishment inflicted by Master or other Officer Opinion of Guardians thereon Punishment ordered by the Board of Guardians Date of Punishment Remarks
LINCOLN Jos, age 36 yrs, Clophill Neglecting to pick 1 1/2 lb. of Oakum 10 Oct 1860 Left for the opinion of the Guardians The Master directed to take LINCOLN before the Bench of Magistrates now sitting
DAY John, aged 69 years, Clophill Swearing at James BROWN 6 Jan 1864 Dry bread for his supper and breakfast Approved, 6 & 7 Jan 1864
DAY John, aged 69 years, Clophill, Neglecting his work 15 Jan 1864 lb. of potatoes for his dinner 15 Jan 1864 Reported by James BROWN

APPRENTICESHIP INDENTURES

Follow David Gudgin's (Gudgeon) life after he left the workhouse.

Date Details
14/09/1871 Leonard GUDGIN lately an inmate of the Workhouse of the Ampthill Union, a poor child belonging to the parish of Clophill, aged 13 years, apprenticed to Charles WILKES of Short Heath near Wolverhampton, co. Stafford, lock manufacturer, for the term of 8 years. Premium - the said child being provided with an outfit. The father of the above named apprentice has deserted him and his mother is dead
14/09/1871 David GUDGIN lately an inmate of the Workhouse of the Ampthill Union, a poor child of the parish of Clophill, aged 13 years, apprenticed to George TUCKLEY of Lane Head near Wolverhampton, co. Stafford, lock manufacturer, for the term of 8 years. Premium - the said child being provided with an outfit. The father of the above named apprentice has deserted him and his mother is dead
01/08/1872 James DUDLEY lately an inmate of the workhouse of the Ampthill Union, a poor child belonging to the parish of Clophill, aged 14 years, apprenticed to George TUCKLEY of Lane Head near Wolverhampton, co. Stafford, lock manufacturer, tor the term of 7 years. Premium - the said child being provided with an outfit. The father of the above named apprentice are has deserted him and the mother is dead

Inmates of Ampthill Union Workhouse who were born in Clophill

1841 Census

NAME Age of Males Age of Females OCCUPATION if any
Emma Lincoln 35 Pauper of Clophill
Sarah Lincoln 12 Pauper of Clophill
Lucy Lincoln 9 Pauper of Clophill
Samuel Lincoln 6 Pauper of Clophill
Elizabeth Lincoln 4 Pauper of Clophill
Walter ? 9 Pauper of Clophill
Edith Bottoms 30 Pauper of Clophill
Mary Maudling 11 Pauper of Clophill
Eliza Bryant 8 Pauper of Clophill
John Bryant 6 Pauper of Clophill
William Bryant 4 Pauper of Clophill
Ellen Bryant 2 Pauper of Clophill

1851 Census

NAME Relation to Head of Family Condition as to Marriage Age of Males Age of Females Occupation
Ellen Bryant Pauper Inmate of Workhouse 11 Scholar at home
Ann Whittamore Pauper Inmate of Workhouse 6 Scholar at home
Ann Wilson Pauper Inmate of Workhouse Mar 71 Lacemaker
Levi Sinfield Pauper Inmate of Workhouse 13 Scholar at home
Hannah Tomkins Pauper Inmate of Workhouse U 33

1861 Census

NAME Relation to Head of Family Condition as to Marriage Age of Males Age of Females Occupation
Richard Matthews Pauper Inmate Mar 57 Formally Ag.Lab.
Susan Sharman Pauper Inmate 15 Scholar

1871 Census

Name Relation to Head of Family Condition as to Marriage Age of Males Age of Females Occupation
James Walker Pauper Inmate Widr 66 Ag. Lab.
William Payne Pauper Inmate Unm 46 Ag. Lab.
David Gudgin Pauper Inmate W 13 Scholar
John Gudgin Pauper Inmate W 7 Scholar

1881 Census

Name Relation to Head of Family Condition as to Marriage Age of Males Age of Females Occupation
Rosa Brown Inmate Unm 12
William Balls Inmate 5
Ann Stephens Inmate Unm 50
Eliza White Inmate Mar 64
George Dinton Inmate 13

1891 Census

Name Relation to Head of Family Condition as to Marriage Age of Males Age of Females Occupation
William Hines Inmate S 57 Agricultural Labourer
Mary Doggett Inmate S 21 Domestic Servant
Ann Stevens Inmate S 61

1901 Census

Name Relation to Head of Family Condition as to Marriage Age of Males Age of Females Occupation
Jesse Payne Inmate Widr 75 General labourer
Ann Stephens Inmate S 71 Charwoman
Joseph Webb Inmate S 56 Drover

1911 Census

Name Relation to Head of Family Age of Males Age of Females Condition as to Marriage Occupation
Joseph Webb Inmate 66 Single Formally Farm labourer
Samuel Mardlin Inmate 84 Single Formally Farm labourer
George Simpson Inmate 79 Widower Formally Farm labourer
Alfred Cooper Inmate 2
William Cooper Inmate 36 Married Farm Labourer