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William Duncombe

William Duncombe of Witham, Water engineer.

His career as the Waterworks Engineer, as told by the records of the Witham Urban District Council, i.e.

Witham UDC minutes 1911-1945. (Essex Record Office reference D/UWi 1 etc)

The troops referred to were billeted in Witham for training during the First World War.

These are notes by me, Janet Gyford, not the original words. If the original words are quoted, they are in punctuation marks.

Council, 29 May 1916
page 323. Letter from Mr J Goodey re long hours ‘he and Duncombe’ were working because of summer approaching and the number of troops. Suggest Duncombe made full time, or otherwise additional pay. To Water Works Committee.

Waterworks Committee, 2 June 1916, page 178
Mr Goodey to have extra help during the War ‘by Mr Duncombe going to the water Works at 2 p.m. each day instead of 4 p.m. as heretofore’.

26 June 1916   Council
page 327. Water works Committee, re extra help by Duncombe going in at 2 p.m. instead of 4 p.m., adopted.
pages 329-30. Letter from eight employees of council for further increase in wages. Refuse.

Waterworks Committee, 30 September 1919, page 10
Applications for post of engineer received. Names given. Only one from Witham, William Duncombe. 3 others. Proposed to have interview and pay 3rd class rail fares.

Waterworks Committee, 8 October 1919, page 13
William Duncombe appointed at £2 10 0 with house, coal and lighting. Also to undertake the Inspection of Taps at £10 a year.

Deputy clerk to arrange to compensate Mr Goodey for fruit trees left by him in the garden at the Waterworks.

Public Health Committee, 19 September 1932
page 39. Re-arrangement of outside staff in view of a bulk supply of water being shortly taken from the Silver End Development Co Ltd’.

W Duncombe now Waterworks Engineer. Offer him Working Foreman and free occupation of present house, also Tap inspector. £2 10s a week.

Public Health Committee, 15 February 1933
page 88. Remove W Duncombe foreman from his house at the Waterworks Braintree Road to the foreman’s house at the Old Waterworks Newland Street now occ by Mr Hume, nearer to duties.

30 October 1944.   Council
Page 705. William Duncombe, one of Council’s workmen for 45 years, had to retire through ill health. Letter to be sent.

Finance and General Purposes Committee, 12 December 1944
page 465. William Duncombe, foreman, retired because of illness and doctor’s advice. Enquiries re his position afterwards. Not a good time to replace him.
page 491 Re William Duncombe [mentioned before as retiring through illness]. Recommend making him Council’s Water Inspector at 7s 6d per week. 

29 January 1945   Council
Page 720. Finance and General Purposes Committee OK, though Councillor Cuthbe didn’t agree with paragraph re. William Duncombe.


The Brush Factory and the Thomasin family

The Brush Factory was one of Witham’s most important industries in the mid 19th century. It had developed from Matthew Thomasin’s wooden patten-making business of the early 1700s (Pattens were rather like clogs, worn outside the shoe).

The Works and the Yard were just off Newland Street (behind what are now numbers 67 and 83). In the Yard there were a number of buildings, including a mop manufactory and 15 or 16 houses, some of which were used for both living and working in.

The most essential raw material for brushes, bristle from wild boars, was imported from Russia. The completed brushes were despatched far and wide.

There were about twenty brushworkers in 1829, and fifty by 1841. It was skilled work. The Witham branch of the Brushmakers Society was particularly active. Like other similar groups, it was run by the members, whose contributions entitled them to receive sick pay and other benefits. They met first at the White Hart and later at the Swan.

The national Society was a pioneer of trade unionism, which was then illegal. Its members followed a 1,200 mile tramping route round the country, looking for work. If they did not find any on the whole route, they were paid ten shillings unemployment benefit. In the list, Witham was the first stop out of London, and the local branch here would help travellers and newcomers following the route.

William Kiddier, in his book The Old Trade Unions (pp.30-31), described an occasion when “the eyes of the Trade were on Witham.” In 1826 “The Society at Witham, with its 17 men, had for Secretary James Mount: one of the INTELLECTUALS. A name adopted by the Brushmakers for their best expounders of Trade Principles. The Witham Society sent James Mount as Delegate to London, where Witham was proposing new arrangements about sick pay and benefits. He slept 4 nights at the Clubhouse, April 11-14, 1826. A keen observer was Mount, and things he saw were dealt with in the Witham Society’s Circular. A lengthy document addressed to the Trade. Done in literary style. The collaboration of 17 Men – the Witham Society, all had their say, and James Mount put it together … The eyes of the Trade were on Witham.” In due course, the Society paid for some members to emigrate to America to find work, and Witham’s James Mount was probably one of them.

The tramping system meant that Witham’s brushworkers mostly came from other parts of the country. In 1841 four out of every five of them had been born outside Essex (compared with only one in every seventy of the farmworkers). The strange accents, tarry smells, and self-sufficient welfare system must have made the brush yard a mysterious place to local residents. Much of the work entailed dipping the separate sections of the brush into a tub full of hot tar. But by 1851 the tramping system was waning and half the workers were Essex men, with a third born in Witham.

The Thomasins themselves seemed destined not to fit in very well in Witham. This was quite common with factory owners – one of the several problems being that they usually paid more than the tradesmen, and especially more than the farmers. Also the factory owners were often nonconformists in religion (usually Congregationalists). The adherents of the Church of England considered themselves to be much superior to nonconformists.

A more particular difficulty for the Thomasins was their alleged association with the Witham Fires of 1828-29. There is a fuller account in my booklet “Men of Bad Character” in the books category. Jane Eleanor, the wife of brushmaker James Thomasin, was the aunt of Edmund Potto. Edmund was accused of starting the fires with which some of the farmers and tradesmen had been suffering. James Thomasin paid for defence witnesses, including James Mount, a brushworker. They all said that Edmund was not guilty but insane. Edmund was found guilty by the jury of sending a threatening letter, but not of fire raising. The judge scolded James Thomasin and said that he should have looked after Edmund better. Edmund was transported to Australia.

In the town, feeling was running high because the young boy James Cooke had earlier been hanged for arson when it seemed he was innocent. So for Edmund Potto not to be found guilty caused a lot of resentment, against the jury and against the Pottos and the Thomasins.

The arrival of the railway in 1843 probably increased the profits of local businesses. After James Thomasin died in 1845, his son George took over, buying more properties and also helping the nonconformist cause in local debates.

In 1850 Edward Cresy, a public health official, was sent by the government to make a survey of Witham. Thomasins’ yard was found to be in a similar state to the rest of the town. Mr Cresy wrote “The narrow yard, called Thomason’s is encumbered with several nuisances, dung-pits, &c., &c. There are 15 or 16 cottages, in some of which manufactories of mops and brushes are carried on; both drainage and ventilation are exceedingly defective, and every inch of space is encumbered with the rubbish belonging to the trades.”

George wasn’t deterred by this. Appointing Samuel Spooner as manager and ‘commercial traveller’ at the Works, he moved his own family away from the yard into the imposing Roslyn House, at the best end of the street (now 16 Newland Street). He described himself as a ‘gentleman’ when he completed the 1861 census forms. However his neighbour, Joseph Howell Blood, was the registrar, and wrote him down as ‘brush manufacturer’ instead. George has posthumously had the last laugh – his great-great-grandson, Mark Thomasin Foster, was High Sheriff of Essex from 2003-2004.

George died in his fifties in 1868, after trying to ‘doctor himself upon the homeopathic system’. Shops closed for his funeral and over fifty men and boys from the brush yard joined the procession. One of them, Thomas Farrow, had worked there for 55 years.

George’s assets were worth nearly £45,000 (about £2 million at today’s values) in addition to land and buildings. His young son James was set to be a stockbroker and not a brushmaker. So his widow, Mary Elizabeth, persuaded some of her sister’s family, the Adnams, to come from Berkshire and run the brush factory with Samuel Spooner, the manager.

So in 1869 it was “Messrs Adnams and Spooner’s brush manufactory”, who put forward a cricket team to play on the newly free Saturday afternoons under the Workshops Act. Not all of their opponents arrived and the Adnams won.
The directory of 1870 still gives them as “Adnams & Spooner, brush manufacturers”. However, they closed after three years, in 1871.

The two young men George and Ernest Adnams then left their father in Witham, and went to Southwold, on the Suffolk coast, to take over a brewery.

George was restless and moved to South Africa, where is said to have drowned (or, in some versions, was eaten by a crocodile). Another possibility is that he came back to England, and was the George Adnams who was recorded blind in the 1881 census, when he was living with his uncle’s family in London. I have not investigated this further.

To return to Ernest, at the Southwold brewery, it appears that in 1895 he received a handsome loan or gift from his aunt Mary Elizabeth Thomasin. In 1895 she and her son John George took out a mortgage for £2,000 on the Thomasin family’s considerable Witham estate. In the same year, John George acquired the Southwold brewery and transferred it to his cousin Ernest whose business was by then “Adnams and Co Ltd .”

The father of George and Ernest was another George Adnams. He stayed in Witham with his wife and daughters, and set up a fruit growing business. He was described in the 1881 census as “Farmer Of 120 Acres [with] 8 Men & 4 Women”.

He was also on the Committee of Witham’s Co-operative Society. He sold one of the family properties to the Co-op for their first Witham shop (at 85 Newland Street). To many of the townspeople that was a particularly unwelcome body, undercutting the regular shops.

George Adnams died in 1902, aged 84, and is buried at All Saints church (Holy Family).



Essex Weekly News, 24 September 1869

‘One result of the suspension of business on Saturdays at two-oclock, at Messrs Adnams and Spooner’s brush manufactory, under the Workshops Act, was a match at cricket between eleven of the firm and what was to have been eleven of the firm of Messrs. Johns and Co., fellmongers, Witham and Chelmsford’. The Chelmsford people didn’t turn up so the latter team consisted of two from the Witham firm and others from Witham. The brushmakers won with 98 runs to 61. G Adnams got 0 and E Adnams got 6.

Wally Slugocki

From Poland to Essex.   Wally Slugocki and the Second World War.

Written by Pat Slugocki,  from notes taken in December 1999

My husband, Wladyslaw (Wally) was born in 1925, in Szwejkow, a small village in what was then Poland, but is now in the Ukraine. His father, Marion, appears to have done a bit of everything. Basically, they were what we would today call peasants. They had strips of land at the rear of their smallholding where they grew all their own vegetables as well as tobacco which they sold to the nearest small town, Monazteryska (not sure about the spelling) which was about 3-4 miles away. They also sold butter in the market of this town. They had a horse and carriage of some sort, some chickens, geese, and a cow.

Wally’s family & his paternal grandparents all lived in the same house. There was no electricity, gas or sewerage. His grandfather’s brother lived next door. Wally’s mother’s parents were by then dead, but she had siblings living in the same village. Wally’s aunt, the much younger sister of his father, lived with her husband & small son only about 100 yards away. Wally remembers at the beginning of each November there would be snow about 6 foot high and it would not melt until early April. Water was obtained from a few pumps.

There were Ukrainians living in Szwejkow at the time, and there were tensions between the two nationalities. Szwejkow had previously been in the Ukraine. Wally’s father had some sort of authority and had to sort out any problems which arose.

In the village there were both an Orthodox church & a Catholic church. There was one school, & the two priests would come in and teach the children of their respective religions. There were also a couple of shops.

When the war came, the Germans invaded Poland from the West & the Russians from the East. On 10 February 1940, the Russians came in the middle of the night and took the Slugockis to the nearest railway station in their own horse & carriage. The family had to leave just as they were, they were not allowed to take anything with them. Their dog was left behind.

The Russians picked the Slugockis because Wally’s father was the Polish equivalent of the Town Clerk.  Wally was fourteen, & his sister, Bronia, was seven. This trauma affected her whole life and she suffered terrible depression for a couple of years before she died.

Wally’s aunt was not taken to Russia, she knew nothing about it until the next morning. It must have been a terrible shock to find that all her family had been taken. She believed that the Ukrainians had betrayed the family, and indeed, they removed everything they wanted from the Slugocki home. Aniela, the aunt, was still alive when we visited Szwejkow in about 2005, and the emotion, when she saw Wally, was something I shall never forget.

The family were taken by train to Siberia, the Ural mountains near Sverdlovsk (in 2000, known as Yekatarinburg, home of Yeltsin). Wally remembers the conditions on the train as standing room only, there was just about enough space to sit on the floor. There was a hole in the corner of the carriage, which people had to use as a toilet, two men held a blanket across the corner of the carriage to afford a little privacy. The train journey lasted for 27 days.

They stayed in Sverdlovsk, Siberia for one year. Wally’s paternal grandparents both died in Beresovsk, Siberia. The Camp was called Pervomayskoye- Oblast. Maria, Wally’s mother, had to work on a building site, and Marion (his father) worked in a gold mine, they all lived in one room. Wally remembers that they were paid for their work, and they had sufficient money to buy food. After some time, owing to an agreement between Russia & the Polish authorities, they were given documents enabling them to travel.

In order to get to a warmer place, the family went by train to Uzbekistan, the journey took a week. There was a typhoid epidemic in Uzbekistan, Marion (Wally’s father) and Wally both caught it, and were taken to hospital in Tashkent. There, Marion died, next to Wally. Wally was still in hospital when his father was buried, he was not buried in a proper coffin, just a plank, then a piece of board on top of the body. There was no food in Uzbekistan, so Maria, Wally and Bronia (Wally’s sister) went to Kermine. Here Wally joined the Polish cadets, and was separated from Maria and Bronia. He was trained for the Polish army, under the command of Britain’s General Montgomery, and went to a port called Krasnovodsk, Asia.

The civilians stayed behind. Wally got on a boat on the way to Teheran in Persia, and embarked at the port of Pahalev. Here Wally became very ill with dysentery, was in the sick bay in a field, and nearly died. From Pahalev he travelled by lorry to Teheran, over enormous mountains, the journey took a day. In Teheran there was a large disused factory, and the Army made a camp of it. Maria and Bronia were taken to Teheran as well, and when Maria made enquiries about Wally, she was told that he was dead. There was another Wladyslaw Slugocki who had recently died, and Maria found the grave in the nearby cemetery. However, a little later, she saw Wally in the town, but not to speak to, and she went back to the camp and found him. At that stage he was still convalescing. Maria and Bronia (Wally’s mother and sister) were staying in a civilian camp. They stayed there for three months, and came to see Wally every day during that period.

Then Wally and the army were moved to Baghdad, Persia, and the civilians were later moved to Lebanon. They lost contact again. From Lebanon, the civilians moved to Kol Harpur, Valvade, near Karachi, India. Wally stayed in Baghdad for six months, then he was picked to join the Parachute Brigade in England. He went to Bombay by boat, stayed there 3 days, then went to Cape Town, South Africa. From there he went by train to Durban, where they stayed for 8 months. Here he fell in love with bananas, and ate so many he nearly turned into one!

From Durban he went by boat to Achtertui, near Kirkcaldy, Scotland. By now, the UK did not need any more recruits for the Parachute Regiment, so Wally joined the Army, and was in the 1st Panza Division, 10th Dragoons Brigade. By now it was 1942. He trained in Scotland for 18 months. They prepared for D Day by having huge manoeuvres for two weeks, which was exactly like the real war. He travelled by lorry to Aldershot, got on a large boat at night in London Docks, and went to Normandy. He was part of the second phase. They landed on a beach in Normandy, he remembers most the dust and the thirst. He was in a light reconnaissance tank to spy out the land. He went to the first shooting line in Caen.

The Germans were pushed out of Normandy. At Ypres, Wally was shooting Germans with a machine gun to stop them getting to a huge main gun, and for this he was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre. They pushed on to Holland, and the Germans retreated, leaving very many mines behind. When Wally was on patrol, his tank blew up. Wally was thrown into a ditch with heavy gear on top of him. His uniform caught fire, the tank driver’s legs were blown off and the other man in the tank suffocated. Wally scrambled out of the ditch, and managed to remove his burning uniform. An Army ambulance picked him up, but he was only grazed, and carried on fighting.

Wally in uniform

They fought through Holland and stayed there for two months, over the worst of the winter, and had a bit of a rest. The place was Osterhuit, near Breda. Wally became very friendly with a Dutch family, and he went back to see them from Wilhelmshaven after the war had ended. They then pushed on to Germany up to Wilhelmshaven, where they stayed for a year in occupation.

The whole army returned to England in 1947, after the severe winter. Wally went first to Hull, then to a big camp on Salisbury Plain, near Devizes. He was asked to go to Newton Abbott to clear fields of mines for the farmers. Here he met a girl-friend called Jean! After this, he went to Slingford Camp at Horsham, Sussex. He was later demobbed at Horsham. He was sent to Ashford, Kent, where, owing to severe dyslexia, and therefore unable to take the opportunity of further education, he worked on a building site. He lodged at 81 Essala Road, Ashford.

The surname of his landlady was Glibbery. She was a war widow with two children, Shirley, 4, and Tony, 6. She had a boy-friend, and Wally used to babysit for them. He had to pay her 35/- a week, this included all meals, and washing his laundry. He remembers seeing the Golden Arrow engine pulling trains to Dover. By this time, Maria and Bronia (Wally’s mother and sister) were in Pulborough, Sussex, in a refugee camp. Wally heard that they were there, and went to see them. He went to stay with them for a week, he told his landlady, but not the Police. As he was classed as an alien, they had to keep tabs on him! After this, he lost the lighter building job he had had, and was given a heavier job, moving cement in a wheelbarrow. When he tried to tip the wheelbarrow, it went over and smashed some pipes!

Then Maria and Bronia were moved to Rivenhall, Essex, to a camp on the now disused airfield. So Wally moved to Braintree, staying in a hostel. He worked on a building site in Panfield Lane for about three months, and then got a job at Felsted sugar beet factory, where he stayed about two years. He used to go by bus, it took about 20 minutes. Then he worked in a furniture factory in Sible Hedingham, which was a 6 mile bus trip. He then he went back to the sugar beet factory.

He met a man in Braintree who was working at W J Bush & Co, at Witham. This man was moving to the Midlands, so Wally got his job. When he got there, a man was sweeping the yard. Wally asked him where the manager was, and it turned out to be George W Pole, who was the manager! By this time, Bronia had got a job and a flat in London, so Maria was on her own. Therefore Wally moved to Rivenhall. He started working at Bush’s on 21 May 1951. He went to see the Festival of Britain with Erwin Schulz and his wife. Wally and Maria stayed in the camp until 1959, when they were moved to a council house, 14 The Fortunes, Harlow, Essex. While there, he worked in Key Glass Factory.

Wally at Holland on Sea in 1960

Then they moved to London, to live with Bronia at 66 Loftus Road, Shepherds Bush, where Wally worked at a factory in North Acton, making instruments for clocks.

He had met me in 1959, as I was working at Bush’s as George Pole’s secretary. When Wally lived in London, he used to come down by train every Saturday, and we used to spend the whole day together in Chelmsford. When we married, we bought 254 Broomfield Rd, Chelmsford, and Wally and I both got jobs in Hoffman’s. Andrew was born while we were at 254 Broomfield Rd. Chelmsford. In November 1961, we moved to 34 Highfields Rd, Witham, where Louise was born.

Wally and Pat in 2016


The By-Pass

The By-pass

This was opened in 1964 to take the A12 past Witham. The A12 leads from London, to Lowestoft in Suffolk.
These extracts relate to the discussions up to 1937

UDC Public Health Committee, 11 December 1934
page 430. Representation from the County Council re Ribbon Development. Proposes sterilising the ground between Hatfield Peverel and Witham, having a proposed by pass of Witham 1.67 miles long, and another 0.4 miles to the west of the Fox. Also a Rivenhall by-pass continuing it at 0.9 miles, as far as Durwards Hall. 

UDC Finance and General Purposes Committee, 12 February 1935
page 497. Surveyor has met Mr Giles of Essex County Council about the proposed Witham by pass. Ask that ‘point of contact with main road on Colchester side should be at Little Braxted Lane’.

UDC Public Health Committee, 5 March 1935
page 510. The County Council now propose to by-pass Rivenhall End.

 UDC, April 1935, Braintree and Witham Times, review of 1935, 2 Jan 1936, page 2
‘Decision confirmed to by-pass Witham and part of Rivenhall in scheme for facilitating road travel between London and East Anglia. Witham tradesmen strenuously protest’.

UDC Water, Highways and Works Committee, 16 December 1936 page 629. Notice from Essex County Council under Restriction of Ribbon Development Act 1935. Restriction of development on the line of the proposed Witham to Rivenhall End by pass. Details listed.

UDC Joint Public Health and Water, Highways and Works Committee, 20 March 1937
Corner of Bridge Street and Howbridge Road. The County Surveyor wants it widened. The Committee thinks Bridge Street should be widened itself, instead of having a by-pass. Meet the County Surveyor. 

UDC Public Health Committee and Water, Highways and Works Committee, 4 May 1937, page 26a
Proposed to say to the Ministry of Transport that ‘one motor way should be put down parallel with the London-Yarmouth Road to take motor traffic’, instead of loops round each place. This proposal was deleted by the  full Council.

UDC Water, Highways and Works Committee, 5 May 1937
[page 60] Recommend not approving the bypass and suggest a through-road from Gallows Corner to Colchester. Endorsed, see Council minutes 283 and 286.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square, 43-73 Maldon Road.

Probably built in the 1820s, and demolished late 1930s or 1950s

Not comprehensive, just bits

 1 October 1825 (manor records, ERO D/DBw M40)
Benjamin Elmy had bought properties manor nos. 39 and 40 in Maldon Lane (Respectively one cottage and half an acre (rent 8d.) and one cottage part of three (rent 2d.) )

1829 (ERO T/Z 152/4)
Plan of boundaries for free delivery of letters, 10 December 1829. In Maldon Road is a square marked ‘new square’ which might well be Trafalgar Square.

29 January 1833 (ERO Sale catalogue B703)
For sale by order of trustees under the will of Benjamin Elmy, deceased.
Lot 1.  8 cottages in Maldon Lane. Fronted in white brick. Quit rent 4d. Occupiers John Boltwood, Samuel Everett, William Hart, John Savill, Thomas Chalk, William Bock, John Wilson, John Payne.
Lot 2. 8 cottages similar to Lot 1 on eastern side of ground. Quit rent 4d. Occupiers John Pitcher, Jos Somers, Samuel White, Thomas Farrow, William Blake, James Cowland, Abraham Leigh, William Walford.

28 February 1833 (manor records, ERO D/DBw M40)
Benjamin Elmy had died, had built 16 brick cottages. To sons William and John Elmy (see E.R.O. Sale Cat B703). Occupied by John Boltwood, Samuel Everitt, William Hart, John Savill, Thomas Chalk, William Bock, John Willson, and John Payne, and by John Pitcher, Joseph Sommers, Samuel White, Thomas Farrow, William Blake, James Cowland, Abraham Leigh, and William Walford.

21 November and 19 December 1833 (manor records, ERO D/DBw M40)
Wm and John Elmy sold to Edward Smith of Witham, linen draper. Occupied by John Boltwood Samuel Everitt William Hart John Savill Thomas Chalk William Bock John Wilson and John Payne, and byohn Pilcher Joseph Somers Samuel White Thomas Farrow William Lake James Cowland Abraham Mee and William Walford. 

1839, tithe map and award
Plot no. 289. Owned by Edward Smith. Occupied by James Boultwood and 15 others. Tenements and gardens. 1r 19p. 

1841 census (HO 107/343/17, f.29 onwards) (Square not named but probably these)
69 people in 15 houses, average 4.6 (1 unoccupied)
Boltwood 4, Lindsell 5, Hart 6, Sanders 3, Cousins 3, Farrow 6, Bock 7, Farrow 2, Fitch 3, Fabian 8, White 3, Farrow 9, Roberts 3, Sayers 2, Walford 5

In size order:
Farrow 9, Fabian 8, Bock 7, Farrow 6, Hart 6, Lindsell 5, Walford 5, Boltwood 4 (median), Cousins 3, Fitch 3, Roberts 3, Sanders 3, White 3, Farrow 2, Sayers 2

1841 census continued

Ann Boltwood 50 Dress maker born in Essex
Matilda Boltwood 20 Dress maker born in Essex
Elizabeth Boltwood 20 Dress maker born in Essex
Henry Wright 5 born in Essex


Jane Lindsell 70 Bonnet maker born in Essex
James Lindsell 30 Silk weaver born in Essex
Stephen Lindsell 40 Yeast dealer born in Essex
Joseph Lindsell 11 born in Essex
George Lindsell 6 born in Essex


William Hart 45 Bricklayer journeyman born in Essex
Elizabeth Hart 45 born in Essex
William Hart 15 Bricklayer journeyman born in Essex
Ann Hart 12 born in Essex
Alfred Hart 6 born in Essex
Harriet Hart 2 born in Essex


Daniel Sanders 30 Brushmaker journeyman not born in Essex
Sarah Sanders 20 born in Essex
Daniel Sanders 7 mo born in Essex


Andrew Cousins 30 Horse dresser not born in Essex
Amelia Cousins 25 born in Essex
Caroline Cousins 9 born in Essex


George Farrow 30 Shoe maker not born in Essex
Eliza Farrow 25 not born in Essex
Ellenor Farrow 7 born in Essex
Eliza Farrow 5 born in Essex
Frances Farrow 3 born in Essex
Sophia Farrow 3 mo born in Essex


William Bock 40 Carpenter journeyman born in Essex
Ann Bock 40 born in Essex
William Bock 15 Carpenter journeyman not born in Essex
Mary Bock 15 not born in Essex
George Bock 10 born in Essex
Walter Bock 5 born in Essex
Jane Bock 3 born in Essex


Elizabeth Farrow 65 born in Essex
Henry Farrow 35 Shoe maker journeyman born in Essex


Jane Fitch 25 Dress maker born in Essex
Jonathan Fitch 4 born in Essex
Emma White 17 born in Essex


Thomas Fabian 35 Brushmaker journeyman not born in Essex
Eliza Fabian 40 not born in Essex
George Fabian 15 Brushmaker apprentice not born in Essex
Thomas Fabian 15 Shoe makers apprentice not born in Essex
Eliza Fabian 15 not born in Essex
Jane Fabian 10 not born in Essex
William Fabian 7 born in Essex
Sarah Fabian 5 born in Essex


Samuel White 55 Gardner born in Essex
Elizabeth White 53 born in Essex
George White 9 born in Essex


Thomas Farrow 40 Brushmaker journeyman not born in Essex
Kitty Farrow 40 born in Essex
Mary Farrow 14 born in Essex
Thomas Farrow 12 born in Essex
Joseph Farrow 10 born in Essex
Alfred Farrow 8 born in Essex
Eliza Farrow 6 born in Essex
Sophia Farrow 6 born in Essex
Jane Farrow 3 born in Essex


1 unoccupied


John Roberts 20 Patten maker journeyman not born in Essex
Elizabeth Roberts 20 born in Essex
John Roberts 2 mo born in Essex


Sarah Sayer 60 Char woman born in Essex
Eliza Sayer 30 born in Essex


Lucy Walford 50 Washerwoman born in Essex
James Walford 15 Tailor journeyman born in Essex
Charlotte Walford 15 born in Essex
Edward Walford 10 born in Essex
Eliza Walford 7 born in Essex
Elizabeth Roberts 1 born in Essex

Edward Cresy’s report public health in Witham, 1850, pages 11-12
‘In Smith’s Square [Trafalgar Square] there are 16 or more cottages with their windows immediately over a very offensive watercourse, laid at the footing of the back wall, receiving the drainage of several premises, and no flushing or scouring is ever performed; the air around is most unpleasantly affected from all that finds its way into this quarter, namely, the overflowings from the several houses, courts, yards and stables; the ditches are full, without current, or the means of being cleansed’

1897, Building plan (ERO D/UWi Pb 1/1 no 94)Wash houses, Maldon Road. Mr Hicks (owner). James Gamble (builder). Perhaps Trafalgar Square.

1901 census (RG 13/1725, f.28 onwards)
15 houses (average 6.3 per house). One house unoccupied.
Pease 7, Haygreen 6, Wager 9, Algar 11, King 7, Clark 4, Smith 4, Hawkes 9, Bickmore 10, Webb 3, Prior 1, Baxter 3, Norman 10, Everett 6, Baxter 5
In size order, Algar 11, Bickmore 10, Norman 10, Hawkes 9, Wager 9, King 7, Pease 7, Everett 6 (median), Haygreen 6, Baxter 5, Clark 4, Smith 4, Baxter 3, Webb 3, Prior 1

1901 census continued

Robert Pease Head M 31 Railway labourer born Essex, Witham
Alice M Pease Wife M 31 born Essex, Dunmow
Annie Pease Daur 11 born Essex, Witham
Sarah A Pease Daur 8 born Essex, Witham
Alice M Pease Daur 6 born Essex, Witham
Gertrude Pease Daur 3 born Essex, Witham
Robert G Pease Son 1 born Essex, Witham


Herbert Haygreen Head M 36 Bricklayers labourer born Essex, Witham
Emma Haygreen Wife M 34 born Essex, Wickham
Percy Haygreen Son 11 born Essex, Witham
Frank Haygreen Son 8 born Essex, Witham
Edith Haygreen Daur 6 born Essex, Witham
William Haygreen Son 3 born Essex, Witham


William Wager Head M 27 Ordinary agricultural labourer born Essex, Coggeshall
Agnes Wager Wife M 35 born Essex, Witham
Annie Wager Daur 11 born Essex, Witham
Ernest Wager Son 9 born Essex, Witham
Edith Wager Daur 8 born Essex, Witham
Thomas Wager Son 5 born Essex, Witham
William Wager Son 4 born Essex, Witham
Edward Wager Son 3 born Essex, Witham
Nellie Wager Daur 1 born Essex, Witham


Henry W Algar Head M 43 Corn dealer’s carter born Essex, Hatfield Peverel
Emily Algar Wife M 44 born Essex, Rivenhall
Charles H Algar Son S 20 Carter to Urban D Council born Essex, Hatfield Peverel
Edward L Algar Son S 18 Bricklayer’s labourer born Essex, Hatfield Peverel
Sarah A Algar Daur S 16 Pea sorter born Essex, Hatfield Peverel
Robert S Algar Son S 13 born Essex, Witham
Alice M Algar Dau S 12 born Essex, Witham
Edith E Algar Dau 10 born Essex, Witham
Beatrice Lily Algar Dau 9 born Essex, Witham
Margaret E Algar Daur 6 born Essex, Witham
Florence E Algar Daur 2 born Essex, Witham


David King Head M 62 Ordinary agricultural labourer born Essex, Totham
Emma King Wife M 44 born Essex, Wimbish
David P King Son S 19 Ordinary agricultural labourer born Essex, Witham
William J S King Son S 17 Ordinary agricultural labourer born Essex, Witham
Olive E King Daur 8 born Essex, Witham
Alfred King Son 6 born Essex, Witham
Ellen L King Daur 1 born Essex, Witham


Henry Clark Head M 23 Ordinary agricultural labourer born Essex, White Notley
Eliza Clark Wife M 23 born Gloucester, Stroud
John Clark Son 1 born Essex, Witham
Lily Holmes Sister in law S 19 born Gloucester, Stroud


Ernest Smith Head M 25 Bricklayer’s labourer born Essex, Witham
Margaret Smith Wife M 23 born Essex, Braintree
Nellie Smith Daur 2 born Essex, Witham
Emily Smith Daur 2 mo born Essex, Witham


George Hawkes Head M 40 Carpenter born Essex, Witham
Jane Hawkes Wife M 39 born Essex, Rivenhall
George Hawkes Son S 13 Blacksmith born Essex, Witham
William Hawkes Son S 13 Agricultural labourer born Essex, Witham
Frederick Hawkes Son 12 born Essex, Witham
Edith Hawkes Daur 9 born Essex, Witham
John Hawkes Son 4 born Essex, Witham
Alice Hawkes Daur 2 born Essex, Witham
Lily Hawkes Daur 8 mo born Essex, Witham


William Bickmore Head M 30 Ordinary agricultural labourer born Essex, Brentwood
Annie Bickmore Wife M 26 born Durham
Alice Bickmore Daur 8 born Essex, Witham
William Bickmore Son 6 born Essex, Witham
Edward Bickmore Son 4 born Essex, Witham
Agnes Bickmore Daur 3 born Essex, Witham
Alfred Bickmore Son 1 born Essex, Witham
Edward Bickmore Father Widr 56 Ordinary agricultural labourer born Essex, Witham
Cluster[?] Bickmore Sister S 18 Pea sorter born Essex, Witham
Archie Bickmore Brother 13 Ordinary agricultural labourer born Essex, Witham


1 unoccupied


Henry Webb Head M 61 Ordinary agricultural labourer born Essex, Rivenhall
Eliza S Webb Wife M 54 Charwoman born Essex, Witham
Edward Webb Son S 15 Ordinary agricultural labourer born Essex, Witham


Florence Prior Wife M 21 born Essex, Witham


Robert Baxter Head M 68 Bricklayer’s labourer born Essex, Witham
Hannah Baxter Wife M 58 born Essex, Witham
James Baxter Son S 23 Bricklayer’s labourer born Essex, Witham


Samuel Everett Head M 43 Agricultural labourer born Essex, Witham
Annie E Everett Wife M 40 Pea sorter born Somerset, Ilminster
Daisy Everett Daur S 17 Pea sorter born Essex, Witham
Francis M Everett Son S 15 Agricultural labourer born Essex, Witham
Samuel Everett Son S 8 born Essex, Witham
Maurice W Everett Son 5 born Essex, Witham


Walter Baxter Head M 29 Coal and furniture carman born Essex, Heybridge
Hannah J Baxter Wife M 29 born Essex, Kelvedon
Alfred C H W Baxter Son 1 born Essex, Heybridge
Infant Daur 2 mo born Essex, Witham
Hannah Allen Serv M 60 Nurse (monthly) born Essex, Great Tey


Hubert H Norman Head M 38 Corn carman born Essex, Witham
Maria Norman Wife M 38 born Essex, Rivenhall
Edward W Norman Son S 16 Milkman’s assistant born Essex, Witham
Hubert A Norman Son S 15 Agricultural labourer born Essex, Witham
Frederick C Norman Son S 13 Agricultural labourer born Essex, Witham
Arthur E Norman Son 11 born Essex, Witham
Elizabeth Norman Daur 10 born Essex, Witham
Alice L Norman Daur 8 born Essex, Witham
George J Norman Son 7 born Essex, Witham
Nellie M Norman Daur 1 born Essex, Witham


1903- 1914, residence of Mrs Clara Jane Hammond, later Hubbard (PRO [TNA] BT 31/34043/1954, Witham Gas Co files. Two volumes).

Just checked shareholders lists in March each year, for Mrs Hubbard, who had two £5 shares and attended some shareholders’ meetings according to minutes in ERO. No Hammond or Hubbard 1902

1903 Clara Jane Hammond Sewage Farm
1904 Clara Jane Hammond, widow Witham
1905 Clara Jane Hammond, widow 8 Trafalgar Square, Witham
1906-1909 Clara Jane Hammond, widow Witham
1909 Clara Jane Hubbard Trafalgar Square Witham
1910-1913 Clara Jane Hubbard Mill Lane
1914 Clara Jane Hubbard, two £5 shares, transferred 29 Sept 1914, to Mary Ellen King Garrett.


 1923 electoral register, given at Trafalgar Square (in alphabetical order of names, no numbers given, might have missed some)

Algar, Henry William 

Barber, Charles Norris

Barber, Maud Sarah

Barber, Norris

Barber, Ellen May

Bickmore, Edward Bertie

Bickmore, Sarah


Chaplin, Harold John


Everitt, Samuel

Everitt, Edith Louisa

Fisher, Albert


Haygreen, William Charles

Haygreen, Percy Henry

Haygreen, Frederick George (a: 7 Trafalgar Square)


Hoy, Victor


King, William James Thomas

King, Alice


Ladkin, Charles


Mott, Walter Gabriel


Stock, Fred

Stock, Emma Jane


Watkinson, Frederick James

Watkinson, Kate


Wells, George


Wood, Henry James (a)

Witham UDC Public Health Committee, 14 March 1928
(page 113 of minute book 1927-1930) (part of ERO Accession A7059. Storage 5E32D. Ref D/UWi)

Medical Officer’s Report

‘Property Inspection.

He also reported on his recent inspection of house property in the District as follows:- …

[page 115]

Trafalgar Square. This property is greatly improved and the small faults found are having attention.

[no recommendation]

1930 electoral register (numbers are numbers in Maldon Road

  1. Taylor
  2. Chipperfield
  3. Fisher
  4. Symes
  5. Dickerson
  6. Wood & Kettley
  7. Mott & Coles
  8. Stock & Haygreen
  9. Barber
  10. King
  11. Dunbar
  12. Wells
  13. Wager & Clark
  14. Ladkin
  15. Wells
  16. Wager, Kemp & Smith


31 Dec 1931

Manor of Newland. Compensation agreement with ‘John Douglas Dean of White Lodge Colchester, gentleman’.

Free rent of 8d re 43-73 Maldon Road ‘now occupied by Watkinson, Fisher, Ager, Symes, Bickmore, Dickerson, Mott, Haygreen, Stock, Wood, King, Dimbar[sic], Barber, Ladkin, Wells, and Wager, all known as Trafalgar Square’ (manor records, ERO D/DBw M142, page 50)

30 September 1932 from UDC to Ministry of Health (PRO HLG 49/1157, Ministry of Health file on Cocks Farm estate) (i.e Cressing Road etc)
Ref to yours of 9th ult (?no copy)
Further spelling out needed. Long list. Urgent need. Working class families. Might reduce to 8 shillings rent in certain cases …

Typed list from Housing Committee 14 September 1932. Listing houses visited.

53 Maldon Road (Trafalgar Square). Mr H Wood. ‘Four room houses (living room, scullery and two bedrooms but only one bedroom fit to sleep in’. Sizes of rooms.
Husband and wife. Three girls aged 18, 9 and 8. Two boys aged 13 and 6. One man lodger. Occupies two houses.

51 Maldon Road (Trafalgar Square). Mr F Dickerson. House as above.
Husband and wife. Two girls aged 19 and 12. 2 boys aged 17 and 6.

47 Maldon Road (Trafalgar Square). Mr S Humphries.
Husband and wife. Two girls aged 13 and 9. 3 boys aged 20, 14 and 11.

45 Maldon Road (Trafalgar Square). Mr O Chipperfield.
Husband and wife. Two children aged 3 and 2.

61 Maldon Road (Trafalgar Square). Mr W King.
Father. Daughter aged 16. Son aged 12.

65 Maldon Road (Trafalgar Square), Mr F J Wells.
Husband and wife. 4 small children.

69 Maldon Road (Trafalgar Square). Mr C Ladkin.
Husband and wife. 6 children, eldest 10.

71 Maldon Road (Trafalgar Square). Mr E G Cunningham.
Husband and wife. 3 boys aged 12, 8 and 6

73 Maldon Road (Trafalgar Square). Mr W J Wager. Two houses.
4 adult men.

Signed J S Bradshaw Medical Officer of Health. G Ogden Sanitary Inspector.

UDC Public Health Committee, 18 November 1933
page 188. Slum Clearance properties visited. Clerk instructed to formulate scheme. Concerning Trafalgar Square, ask owner to meet Committee [MOH suggestions were to demolish nos. 43-57 backing onto School yard and recondition 59-73]

UDC Housing Committee, 18 December 1933
page 206. Trafalgar Square. Discussion some length about whether could be reconditioned for accommodating aged couples. Defer.

UDC Joint Public Health and Housing Committee, 16 February 1934
Slum Clearance. Ministry of Health acknowledges receipt of partial programme and want the rest.

Trafalgar Square. Letter from Bawtree solicitors on behalf of Mr Baker the owner to sell to Council for £1,250 and costs. Surveyor’s report. Recommends:
43-55 demolished
57-59 remain. 57 is better than the others. 59 is four bedroomed.
61, 63, 65, 67, 67a, 69, 71, all have bedroom over scullery ‘unfit to sleep in owing to the lean-to roof’. No proper food store, only one entrance door. Rec only let to aged persons.
73 has two bedrooms under lean to roofs and therefore not suitable to sleep and limit to small family.

Recommend including whole in programme as Improvement area so Mr Baker given usual opportunity to put his proposals to the Council. Also scheme to be prepared about what could be done if they were acquired. Also possibly acquire frontage to property occupied by Mr Dazeley not at present part of square. [I think this was Nelson House] 

UDC Joint Public Health and Housing Committee, 27 April 1934
page 285. Sub Committee appointed re Trafalgar Square.

UDC Joint Public Health and Housing Committee (Slum Clearance), 21 October 1935
page 169. Trafalgar Square. Undertaking received from owners’ solicitors to do agreed work. They haven’t done anything yet. Write.

UDC Joint Public Health and Housing Committee (Slum Clearance), 19 November 1935
page 203. Trafalgar Square. The four owners agreed to make habitable. Only one returned agreement. Tell them that need by Saturday or will take action.

UDC Joint Public Health and Housing Committee, 20 January 1936
page 251. Trafalgar Square. Details. Not settled yet.

UDC Public Health Committee, 17 March 1936
page 314. Trafalgar Square. Owners have undertaken to carry out alterations.

UDC Public Health Committee, 12 May 1936
page 357. Trafalgar Square. Undertaking to repair has expired and work not done. Recommend serving demolition orders.

UDC Finance and General Purposes Committee, 17 July 1936
page 478. Legal proceedings re slum clearance at Trafalgar Square and appeals against parking places; appoint a solicitor to appear. Mr Bright is already representing the Court for the parking places appeal so can’t do it.

UDC Public Health Committee, 15 September 1936
page 500. Trafalgar Square. ‘Letter from Messrs Trotter, Sons and Chapman, solicitors for the owners … in consequence of proceedings taken by them, several of these properties are now vacant and their clients are prepared to commence the necessary work of renovation in accordance with the undertaking previously given to the Council’. Will the Council adjourn the hearing at the Braintree County Court. Recommend don’t agree.

UDC Public Health Committee, 15 September 1936
page 407. Nuisances include 34-73 Trafalgar Square, Maldon Road, drains obstructed, person in default is H Keeble Esq, 15 Mill Lane.

UDC Finance and General Purposes Committee, 20 November 1936
page 592. Owners would sell Trafalgar Square to Council for £600 if Council bear own costs of present proceedings at County Court. No.

UDC Public Health Committee, 9 February 1937
page 682. Trafalgar Square. Appeal re-entered for hearing on 12 March next’.

1930s, JG’s slides, X series
X 68 and X639, show Trafalgar Square, Maldon Road, in 1930s, probably when empty. From Mike Wadhams Vol I set 27 (ERO T/P 339).

Other photos – see
m3011  Fisher family and view of their house
m1495 Maldon Road, Trafalgar Square in distance
m1872 School Group with a house in Trafalgar Square behind.

Oral history

Tape 1, Mrs Ireland

Q:        I suppose not really, no. Was the Council school going then as well?
Mrs I:  Oh we didn’t go, yes that was Maldon Road. [hushed] Terrible place. Down Maldon Road. Trafalgar Square, oh.
20 Q:        What sort of people were there there, then?
Mrs I:  Oh, horrible.
Q:        Did you, so you didn’t have much to ….?
Mrs I:  Well with fighting and bad language. Oh you mustn’t go there.
Q:        Really, you weren’t allowed to go down there, you mean?

Q:        So if they didn’t want, so if the chapel people didn’t want to go to the ….?
Mrs I:  Catholic, that didn’t go to the Board School, they went to these little schools.
Q:        So those were the people that didn’t want to mix with the others?
Mrs I:  Yes, that’s right, yes. Because it was, it was terrible.
22 Q:        So what sort of jobs did the people down Trafalgar Square do, do you remember? Did you know any of them at all? [Mrs I shaking head]. Or would you have to go there? [Mrs I shaking head] You didn’t even have to go there with your grandma or anything? [Mrs I shaking head]
Mrs I:  Well I’m afraid that was why I was very against the Witham Council.
Q:        Why was that?






Mrs I:  Well, because that’s where those people came from. But of course you don’t like to be snobbish. Course, that is the trouble, but of course, the husbands can’t help it can they? They marry these girls, don’t they? They leave Trafalgar Square and go away, you see, that come back, these fellows, where they meet them, I don’t know, I suppose they meet them in the War time like I met my husband. Oh yes, you know the …. Oh I suppose it was all right, it was just that we, just said these things [probably referring to girls from Trafalgar Square, such as the Woods, marrying men from elsewhere who came back and got on the Council].
Q:        You didn’t have anything to do with them, anyway?.
Mrs I:  No, no. You just kept by yourself.

Tape 5. Mrs Edith Brown, nee Hawkes, brought up in Trafalgar Square
Typescript not checked. There is more stuff about the family on the tape.

Mrs B:  Well, they used to take old places didn’t they so, that was very old, you know?

Q:          Was it?

Mrs B:  We lived there all my childhood days was spent there, we was born there, you know, and me brothers and that grew up, they all grew up ….

Q:          How many brothers and sisters did you have?

Mrs B:  I had, there was em, nine or ten of us (Q: Was there really?) There was George, Ted, John, (Mrs S: Alice.), Alice, Emily, Esmund, Lill, (Mrs S: Fred.), Yea, Fred and Ernie, oh, there was Vic, I think mum had about thirteen, I think she lost two, I think they’re all dead there’s only me and my sister at Ilford alive now. (Mrs S: No, it isn’t, Edmund’s still alive.) Edmund, yes, oh, I always forget me youngest brother, he’s 72. (Q: Laugh, Oh, yes, the youngest one!) Em, he lives at Brightlingsea. He was on the railway from when he left school, he went into signal box.

Q:          So what was your name before you married?

Mrs B: Hawkes.

Mrs B:  I was born down Trafalgar Square.

Q:          What year?

Mrs B: Oh, I’m 81 (Q: How old are you? 81) [Laugh] I was 81 Christmas, December (Q: Yes.) and my sister at Ilford is em just two years older and a month and hers is the 8th January, (Q: Oh, really?) She was, she’d be 79 January, then I had a younger sister I lost, she was about 3½ years younger than me, like me mother must have one in the January and the year, about a year and five months after she had another one, (Q: Yea.) and I remember her saying she lost one with convulsions, teething, you know, one daughter, Alice her name was and I’ve got a sister Alice live at Ilford, she was named after her,

Mrs B: Well, you didn’t get no money did you, ‘cause I remember when my brothers all went to work, ‘cause my mother like, had two families, she had em, there was George, Ted, Fred, Bill, and my sister Emily and me older sister, they were all working and married and there was John, me, Alice and Lill and Esmund, all like at school age, you know, all g’n to school, so there was like a family grown up and another lot going to school, me dad was a carpenter, we always had plenty, you know, was fairly comfortable, you know, good meals and me brothers used to go out with the doctors a lot, one brother nearly lived with Dr Ted Gimson, Bill, what died, he em, he used to go out with him everywhere on the boats fishing when it wa’nt shooting season, when it was shooting season he used to go out with them then, you know, (Q: Oh.) yea, he used to live there, up there a lot, his house, well Dr Denholm’s[?] got it now hasn’t he? (Q: Gimson’s, they call it Gimson’s don’t they?) Yes, Dr Ted had that built, (Q: I see.) yes.

Mrs B:  Yes, I can’t tell these views, I know ‘em we lived in the row across that way. (Q: Yea.) We had two houses right in the centre, but this generally shows all the old sheds and gardens (Q: That’s right, yes.) what we [???] (Q: That’s a bit mean, isn’t it?) [Laughter] (Q: Because they looked quite nice, they looked as if they were quite solid houses?) Oh, they were good old houses, well, years ago they did, they built them better didn’t they?

Q:          You said you had two didn’t you?

Mrs B:  We had a double house, yes, we had two front doors, but they were knocked into one (Q: Yea.) and erm we had like, two front rooms, two kitchens, ‘cause they knocked, and the same upstairs, they knocked so you could go right through.

Q:          Was that especially for you? (Mrs B: Hm?) Especially for your family?

Mrs B:  Me mother, yes, she moved out of a four, two bedroomed ones, each had a big family, so she had to go into a, she went into a double one, they did that then. (Mrs S: Do you want another look? [Laugh]) I can’t really tell what it is because it don’t show the entrance or …. (Q: Not all that good are they?)

Q:          So, what, you had two, so you had four bedrooms in the end?)

Mrs B:  We did, four bedrooms and four downstairs, yes.

Q:          So, still a, [???] still be quite a lot wasn’t it? That must be somebody’s back gardens mustn’t it, did you have much garden there?

Mrs B: Nice garden in the front, we had, me dad had a beautiful garden, beautiful flower garden.

The Picton family

The Picton family, of whom the Revd David was killed by a hand grenade in 1916

Notes by Janet Gyford, updated September 2013 

Essex County Chronicle, 8 October 1915
page 8 (see xerox). ‘Soldiers’ concert’ Congregational Schoolroom. Lieut Col Seymour Williams presided. Singers ‘included Mrs Seabrook, Lance Corporal Webber and Pt Brooks. Miss Picton played the violin’. (Essex Weekly News, 15 October 1915 )
page 8. ‘Maldon Division Liberal Council. Presentation to Mr W Pinkham. Yesterday the annual meetings of the Maldon Division Liberal Council were held at Witham … afternoon meeting … Mr Sydney Velden, the new agent, was introduced to the members. After tea a general meeting … they were met in a social way and not to discuss party questions. The Government were doing their best, and he thought they were unanimous in according them hearty support … appreciation of Mr Tweedy Smith’s services in continuing his connection with the party in that Division … Resolution … supported by the Rev D M Picton and Mr D B Smith. 

Essex County Chronicle, 26 November 1915
page 8. ‘Congregational School, Mrs Picton presented a dressing case to Mr J W Jones, treasurer of the clothing club, and a set of brushes to Mr A Rudkin, librarian of the school, on the departure of each for the Army. The Rev D M Picton gave the men a pocket testament each’.

 Essex County Chronicle, 18 February 1916, page 8
‘Congregational Church’. Second anniversary of settlement of Rev Picton. Preaching.

 Essex County Chronicle, 16 June 1916
Including a full-length photo of the three Pictons). ‘Witham Bomb Tragedy. Inquest and funerals’. Deaths of Revd D M Picton Congregational minister, and Lieut James McLagan, R E, and serious injury to Mrs and Miss Picton’. Lieut billeted at the Manse with them. Showing a hand grenade at ten on night. The two of them killed outright. Mrs Picton injury to foot and Miss Picton to eye and arm. 17 panes of glass blown out of window.

Rev Picton 52, Lieut 22, of 3/1st Highland Field Co., attached to the 1/3rd Lowland Field Co. RE. Walter Coker chair of jury. Inspected scene etc. and viewed bodies. Jacob Marsden Picton, draper of Westminster Bridge Road, his brother. Lots of detail. The Lieut an expert.

‘Remarkable demonstration of sympathy’. Cortege from Manse, ministers etc. Down High Street to church. Flags half mast and blinds closed. Interment in All Saints. ‘It is long since such a general scene of mourning was witnessed in the town’. Rev E M Edmunds of Hadleigh, formerly of Witham, there. Address. Miss Winifred Drake at organ. Relatives from all over.

Sunday services described. Also ‘Capt Yuille, CF, at his open-air service, made an impressive allusion … also loss … McLagan’.

Letter of appreciation by WCW of Witham. Tragic. Loveable, happy knack of making friends.

 Essex Weekly News, 21 July 1916
page 6, col 6. The Picton Fund. The Picton Memorial Fund, the appeal for which was generously responded to by all classes, has now been closed, the sum contributed being £320. Mrs and Miss Picton are both making steady progress towards recovery from their injuries and shock.

Info from emails from the late Alan Smith. His mother was Gwyneth, nee Picton, Reverend David Picton’s daughter, and his father was Leslie Smith.

 11 December 2002.

Just a few words on them to amplify what you have about the bomb accident and their part in the family.

Grandpa David Picton was Welsh and, I think, was born in Cynwyl Elfed, a small village near Carmarthen. He was, again I think, a grand -son or -nephew of a brother of the General Picton who commanded the 3rd Division for Wellington in the Peninsular War and was killed at Waterloo and has a statue in Carmarthen. (Certainly his purported general’s sword came down to me but that is another story.)

Rev. David was pastor at Halesworth in Suffolk where he married Elizabeth Rignall and where my mother was born before they came to Witham. As a result of the accident my grandmother had various metal plates and tubes in her legs and my mother lost an eye and had bits of shrapnel in her legs. After the accident they both went to live with the Misses Butler who lived at Hollybank in Guithavon Valley.

Having been head girl at Milton Mount College (for the daughters of Congregational Ministers) then at Gravesend, she went on after the accident to the Royal Academy of Music where she won the medals for her years in piano and violin. Having married my father after WW1, her music as a farmer’s wife was limited, but much enjoyed, to running the Women’s Institute Choir and playing the piano at home.

Granny Picton moved to a new house, Conwyl (?English version of Cynwyl) at 7, The Avenue at Witham in the 30’s where I stayed frequently as a boy. In the 50’s my first wife, Susie, and I lived in Conwyl and where my eldest daughter and son were born and where Susie sadly died. (My present wife, Jo, was a great friend of Susie’s and was good enough to take on me and two small children – we have had 5 ever since!)

8 Jan 2003

‘What I do know is that when my father, Leslie, came out of the army and decided to be a farmer, grandpa Ernest sent him to the Writtle Agricultural College to learn the business and then bought Mounts Farm at Rayne for him to run. My father and mother [Miss Picton] were married (1921) and lived at Mounts Farm where I spent most of my first two years. (Mounts Farm is miles from anywhere so I was born (1923) at the Misses Butler’s house, Hollybank, Guithavon Valley, Witham where granny Picton was then living)’.

Summary of various info about Leslie Ernest Walter Smith who in 1921 married Gwyneth Picton, dau of Rev Picton

Born c. 1895 Witham. In army 1919. Farmer afterwards; his father sent him to Writtle Ag Coll and then bought Mounts Farm, Rayne, for him

In 1921 married Gwyneth Picton, dau of Cong min who had been killed in accident with hand grenade at the Manse in 1917.

In 1925 went to father’s farm at Moulsham Hall (though also contin to run the Rayne farm). Joseph Ernest’s four farms put into partnership of Leslie and Esmond, probably in 1920s. In 1937 was of Moat farm and Whiteheads farm

Obit says till not long before 1954 farmed Moulsham Hall Gt Leighs with his brother and also at Rayne and at Whiteheads farm Witham Sold the first two not long before 1954 and moved to Littlestones, Avenue Road, Witham, and cont to farm Whiteheads,

Died August 1954 aged 59 when of Littlestones, Avenue Road

1930 electoral register
Elizabeth Mary Picton at Conwyl, The Avenue.


 Mrs Ena MacPherson, nee Beard, born 1915

“But the Manse, oh, did you hear about the Reverend Picton that lived there? (Q: Oh yes, with the hand, the hand grenade, yes. [killed 1916]. And I was the last one he held. My mother went there to tea that day, and he nursed me, I was one. And I’d just gone home, mother had taken me home, and that happened. (Q: Oh dear.) Dreadful. Mrs Picton used to sit behind us in the chapel.”

Gerald Palmer CBE, born 1910

“That same minister, a Reverend Picton, had officers billeted on him in the Manse, now 2 Newland Street. One evening, I think in June 1916, one of the officers took a grenade in to show them. He evidently mistakenly thought it was a dummy, and as he was explaining how it worked, he took out the pin. The officer and the minister were killed outright, his wife and daughter seriously injured. My parents somewhat foolishly took me next day to see the shattered windows of the house, and I remember being terribly upset by the affair.”

Mrs Annie Ralling, nee Baldwin, born 1900

“Then we had the Reverend Picton and he was killed during the First World War. A bomb went off near the War Memorial, you know. That first house there was the Manse at one time and there was a young officer and I think he was engaged to Mr Picton’s daughter and he was there describing the workings of a hand grenade and it exploded and blew the dining room. Miss Picton lost the sight of one eye and I think Mrs Picton was hurt in the foot and this young officer was killed and so was Mr Picton. Oh it was dreadful for the town. It was indoors in the dining room. The whole of the front of that house was blown out. [2 Newland Street]. Shelley’s, yes that’s right. He was ever such a nice man Mr Picton. He taught Connie Wright that I spoke about, and me, taught us to sing Aberystwyth, you know, Jesu, Lover of my Soul. We had to sing that to the Welsh tune because he was Welsh you see. He taught us how to sing it. Oh he was a wonderful man for singing. A very nice family. Miss Picton she married one of the Smiths, Leslie Smith. They used to live at Earlsmead.”

Walk 1. Round the ancient earthworks

Walk 1. Round the Ancient Earthworks

NB the illustrations have not yet been included

The route of walk 1. The circular earthworks enclose about 25 acres (10 hectares). There were two rings, the inner one higher, so today there is a ‘dome’ effect. This originated as an Iron Age ‘hill fort’ probably strengthened by the Saxons in 913 AD. For centuries afterwards the main Witham manor had its headquarters here. The walk starts in the centre, goes down to the edge, and then round about two thirds of the outside anticlockwise (looking out for the old embankment), and back to the centre again. Other interesting features include the late Victorian and Edwardian buildings of the ‘Temples Estate’ of over 100 houses, started 1882.

The distance is rather less than a mile (1 km). Street numbers  are given in brackets in the text (but not marked on the map). Landmarks may of course change or even disappear as time goes by. Pages 16 to 20 of the colour section show examples of bricks, railings, street furniture etc.

Start on the pavement at the edge of the Albert car park, opposite the railway.

The Albert and the Grange (hidden behind) – on site where Knights Templars and Hospitallers had chapel and farm buildings till 1500s. Albert a pub since 1842 – once had ship’s figurehead of African chief outside (18801990s), brought from London by innkeeper George Best (some thought it insulted Prince Albert).

Right of Albert car park, unexplained rise up to adjoining taxi parking place. Long yard visible – workshops and warehouses. Belonged to Joseph Smith and Son, prolific builders 1882-1914 (see pages 86-88). They were ‘builders, contractors, and brick manufacturers’ with a ‘steam joinery works & sawing & planing mills’. Had 40-foot brick chimney (12 metres) Old sawing shed now the carpet warehouse on far left (optional trip there and back). Tiny building on road side (1A) – taxis – built 1911 as haulage office. Then Employment Exchange in 1920s (manager Frank Cundy also taught typing). Then George Thompson, ‘coal and coke merchant, cartage contractor, firewood, logs, buyer and seller of old Tudor tiles and bricks’.

Cross both Braintree Road and Albert Road to reach railings by railway, i.e. passing snack bar, formerly a bus shelter, on your left.

Deep cutting dug by hand through earthworks for railway in 1843 (see pages 62-65). Station built 1906 after old one crushed by fatal crash of Cromer express (1905). Before, main entrance was on far side, and smaller one here. New 1906 station well built – lengthy specifications, e.g. ‘bull nosed’ bricks, brass fittings etc. Ironwork made by Crittall’s at Braintree (they had to build a new plant specially) – firm’s name visible under middle of three windows (and elsewhere in station) See colour pages 16 and 17.

Car park across rails was coal yard. Various industries came to that area 1880s onwards, including Cooper Taber (seeds) – from 1956 to about 1990 they had a prize-winning glass building by Chamberlin, Powell and Bon.

later the architects of the Barbican in London. Only industry remaining now is the maltings – taken over by Scottish company Hugh Baird, 1920s, much rebuilt since 1961.

Continue on down the hill, crossing to the left hand side sometime before the pavement runs out.

The Temperance Hotel (9 Albert Road) in the 1890s. Its builder and first owner was Robert Moore (from the same family that founded a well-known local carriers’ business in 1815 – it continued as a 20th century bus company). He was a member of Witham’s ‘Temperance Ark’, founded in 1875 to campaign for total abstinence from alcohol. To start with, he also had an undertakers’ business here. The boy on the horse is his son Robert Gladstone Moore. Note the decorated wooden gable end, and the moulded bricks between the upper and lower windows.

Opposite the station – in 1848 were stables, forges, workshops etc for building Maldon and Braintree railways. House (4) where William and Rebecca Pinkham first made gloves c 1904-05 (see colour page 12). Fern Cottages (5-8), built 1887 as part of new ‘Temples estate’, in which displays of dates, names and moulded bricks and chimneys were popular. Former Temperance Hotel

(9) with large balcony, built 1883.

Pair of tall semi-detached houses (13-14), the Pinkhams’ second glovemaking place (1905-12) – family lived in far one, about ten girls worked in other – connected by internal door.

Keep left at bottom – edge of earthworks is on your left – shown by raised houses – note level of front doors above road. Look at (but don’t follow) Cut Throat Lane on right – once a main road to Rivenhall. Disappointingly for some, it’s a corruption of ‘Cut Athwart Lane’ – lane cut across a field – there are others elsewhere in Essex. Has yellow brick wall – only surviving relic of vast Crittall’s metal window factory – transformed Witham 1920 – war work in Second World War – several bombings (see pages 110-112, 136, and colour page 13). Demolished 1992, now site of supermarket (designed to look rather like Crittall’s – long horizontal windows). In Albert Road, houses high up on old earthworks – bank dug into for car parking.

Staggered cross-roads. Narrow Braintree Road to your left – interesting 1880s houses – incredibly this road carried all traffic to and from Braintree until 1970. Going across into White Horse Lane (formerly called Hill Lane because of earthwork), you go to the right of an attractive tall weatherboarded building – former seed warehouse. Built 1890s for Thomas Cullen – brick extension added 1908. Now home of popular Witham Technology Centre. The drive-in at far end of it is up steep slope because of old earthworks. Archaeological excavation here in 1970 (when ‘new’ Braintree Road was built) rather inconclusive.

At the dead end, take path sloping up to right and cross the busy road carefully.

From the road, see the pleasantly ‘wild’ area. This and car park on land formerly bought by parish officers in 1600s, with money left by Dame Katherine Barnardiston. Rent paid for bread for the poor every Sunday till early 1900s. Once a gravel pit for road mending. Had playground with swings in 1900. Now known as Bell field (though name originally further east). Probably not for making bells – Witham’s church bells all made in other towns. Considered for Council houses in 1919 – Government commissioner said ‘too far beyond the town and shopping centres’.

To left of the field, take path between metal railings, leading down into the rest of White Horse Lane.

Immediately on right, concrete base in corner was site of Hurrell and Beardwell’s motor engineering and omnibus business’s first site (1920). New houses (2004) on right – replaced offices, earlier busy builders’ yard (191474), first John Dean’s, then Adams and Mortimer’s, whose stock, auctioned in 1974 (391 lots), included ‘100 squints and splays’, ‘complete contents of paint shop’, ‘2 planks of African pear’, and sacks and sacks of nails. On left side of road, earthworks again, this time in back gardens of bungalows. All formerly the Cullens’ garden, between their seed warehouse and their house.

Just past new cul-de-sac called ‘Bellfield Close’, a red brick house, 1928, inscribed ‘Stefre’ between the top windows. Previously site of butcher’s slaughterhouses, with pig styes, ‘sticking pound’, bullock pound, stables, hay loft, bone shed and chicken house. Built by Frederick Fuller (named after Stella and Fred) with Council subsidy. Electricity just arriving then – specifications asked for either nine gas points or sixteen electric points. It is said that wooden panelling inside the house was damaged by machine-gun fire from plane during Second World War.

Black weatherboarded office building – optional trip round it anticlockwise, past its door into long car park – has stone on its left wall with the initials of John Coote, 19th century resident of 4 Church Street whose back door you can see.

Back in White Horse Lane, continue to the White Horse, then cross over the main Chipping Hill road and down Moat Farm Chase, nearly opposite you (walk 2 crosses here).

House at bottom on left uses name Moat farm – in fact was outbuildings – farmhouse was on right (built 1500s, demolished 1950s). Medieval house here sometimes called ‘the Moot’ – perhaps place for Saxon ‘moot’ or meeting – these held in a banked square – perhaps where there was a square pond near the river in the 1800s ?

Brick bridge (built 1700s) once had a ford alongside on left – both used for carts and animals crossing to meadows – brick barrier narrowing the bridge is quite new.

At the other side of the bridge, turn left along the path or by the river towards the viaduct (after which you’ll turn left up the road).

The River Walk follows the river Brain nearly two miles through the town – established by Witham Urban District Council early 1970s. Meadow between path and river – previously, since Domesday (1086) and before, belonged to Powershall, over a mile away – people came from there to grow hay and graze animals. Given to Council 1937 as memorial to Philip Hutley, farmer at Powershall – known at first as ‘Hutley Memorial Recreation Ground’. The earthworks on left now on other side of river in gardens, partly natural. Through railway viaduct 30 or 40 feet (10 metres) high – built 1843, blocking view between Chipping Hill and rest of the town.

Going over river and up Armond Road, looking to right, area of grass and bushes about 30 yards away was place used for working and washing skins and cloth in medieval times, with house called ‘the Watering’ in early 1500s. Then at end of 1700s was a small bath house and cold water pool – special path from the mansion at the Grove. More recently, several cottages by river, picturesque but damp and crowded, demolished 1930s in Council slum clearance programme (see page 124-25).

At T-junction turn left up the hill; you are now in Guithavon Valley.

Now climbing outer earthworks. Jubilee Oak – on traffic island on right – ‘moss cupped oak’ planted 1887 – Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Suffered unauthorised ‘mutilation’ by electricity workers in 1935 – looked like lamp post for a time. Small plaque on ground by it for Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee, 2002. Continue uphill into main Collingwood Road, built 1869, was fields till early 1900s, then large houses came. ‘The most fashionable road in the place’ in 1919 according to postcard sent by a soldier to his mother.

On left, up the hill, Millfield Terrace (2-8, 57-67) – white brick – some dated, e.g. 57-59, the earliest two, with ogee arches (S shaped) over the windows, have ‘I C 1827’ for Iohannes (John) Crump. At 59 from 1880s to 1930s was dressmaker Elizabeth Smith with ‘Miss Smith, Robes’ on brass plate. Two newer houses inserted 1990s.

As you go on, look at buildings across Collingwood road, right to left. Red brick bungalow (46) with wooden fence – built 1920 as ‘Nurse’s bungalow’ (see page 126) – innumerable Witham babies born here – intended as War memorial, but sadly plaque by door recording this now hidden by bushes. To its left, Warwick House (48), tall, original cast iron railings (see colour page 19). Built 1910 for William Heddle, bishop of the Peculiar People. His son had shop here for credit drapery business till 1970s – men known as ‘johnny fortnights’ collected payments at your door. Two newer houses (48A-50) on site of former YMCA hut, built 1915 as social centre for soldiers billeted in Witham for training. Church House, built 1909 as a meeting hall – funded by anonymous donation (now known to be from Hester Holt) – designed by well-known Chelmsford architects Chancellor and Son. All these buildings have steep banks behind them from the earthworks.

Still looking to the other side of the road, junction with long straight Avenue marks edge of inner earthwork – gradient at this end formerly one in two – reduced in 1960 to one in twenty – old slope survives in pavements. Lodge, one gatepost, and small piece of railing between them, survive from when Avenue was in grounds of mansion at the Grove – people could walk here if they behaved. Burton family lived in lodge early 1900s – six redheaded children – bedrooms in attic reached by fold-down ladder in living room. House-building started 1920s and magnificent lime trees cut down. One of earliest houses was ‘North Corner’ (45) – white – down between the two roads – said to be first Witham house with Crittall’s metal windows.

Still looking over to the other side, Avenue Road – branching off to left of the Avenue – for centuries the only road between Newland Street and Chipping Hill. Edwardian wall letter-box. Pair of houses (62-64) at top on left dating from 1884 (then part of new ‘Temples estate’ like others in Avenue Road, some very imposing). Earlier the site of first (tiny) Church School, built 1813. Black brick wall further left – former site of parish pound for stray animals (till 1880s). Left again, past Easton Road, Slythe’s monumental masons – one of oldest Witham businesses still working. James Slythe came to town about 1840 – his son moved to this site early 1860, had the two white houses built 1862. Last of the family died in c 2000. Railway station entrance originally on this side. After it moved to the other side in 1906, the third James Slythe was too impatient to go across by road – used to scramble down the bank and across the rails – also complained about the soot from the steam trains.

Back on your own side of the road, Labour Hall, opened 1962, seriously damaged by fire June 2005. The site was formerly the cattle market. Just past it was the market office, of which part became a shop (‘The Cabin’) in 1930s, replaced 1990 by red brick office building. Graffiti on fence beyond (illustrated). Continuing across railway bridge (widened 1960), on left, Templemead flats (1990s) – on the site of old glove factory which was built for William Pinkham in 1912 (replacing the Albert Road house seen earlier), extended 1948, closed 1961 (see page 98). Then, for a time, Guys Mechanical Engineers – one of first companies to move from London in 1960s. The walk ends here, back at the Albert.

Markets and Fairs

Markets and Fairs at Witham

An earlier version of this summary is now in the Essex Record Office as T/P 570 (accession T1598)

© Janet Gyford 2001

These markets and fairs belonged to the combined manors of Chipping/Witham and Newland, and all the grants etc. are to the lords of those manors

See a separate document about the cattle market

The schedule in Essex Markets and Fairs, by W.Walker, published by Essex Record Office in 1981 (p.35), omits the records of a pre-1212 market at Witham.

Morant and other county historians referred to a market day on Wednesday, but this was a misreading of the Latin and it was actually Tuesday (see entry under 1218/9 below).

It is possible that the grant of 25 June 1703 may still authorise the lord of the manors to have a Tuesday market in Newland Street. The lord will be the heir of the Charles Du Cane who held the manors in 1937, or whoever he may have sold the rights to. The fairs which were also granted then were abolished in 1891.

The lord of the manor’s copy of the grant document of 1703 is in the Essex Record Office (part of D/DDc T81).

Chronological list

c.1153-4 (Stephen), also confirming 1100-1135

Confirmation of a market at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill]; it had been held in time of King Henry [1100-1135]. Grant to the Knights Templars. No day given.

Original: British Library, MS Cotton Nero, E.VI fo.290

Reproduced in: Lees, p.152; Gervers, pp.56-57

N.B. not mentioned in Walker

The market in Henry’s time would have been one of the earliest in Essex after the Norman conquest, according to R.H.Britnell.

c.1155 (Henry II)

Confirmation of a market at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill]. As 1153-4. To the Knights Templars. No new information.

Original: British Library, MS Cotton Nero. E.VI fo.304 (according to Lees)

Reproduced in: Lees, pp.152-3

N.B. not mentioned in Walker

1189 (Richard I)

Confirmation of a market at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill]. As 1153-4. To the Knights Templars. No new information.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C. Misc.Bundle 12/5 (according to Lees)

Reproduced in: Lees, p.141

N.B. not mentioned in Walker

1199-1200 (1 John)

Confirmation of a market at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill] (m.34 is also manor & half hundred). As 1153-4. To the Knights Templars. No new information.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 53/1, mm.34, 33

Reproduced in: Rot.Chart. (Rec.Com.), pp.2, 2-3; Gervers, p.31

N.B. not mentioned in Walker

1212 (14 John)

Grant of a charter for a Thursday market, & a 3-day fair at the Beheading of John Baptist [29 Aug.], at the new town of Wulvesford in Witham [i.e. Newland]. To the Knights Templars.

Original: P.R.O. C 53/10, m.4

Reproduced in: Rot.Chart. (Rec.Com.), p.188; Gervers, p.6

1218/9 (3 Hen.III)

Order to the sheriff of Essex that the market that was accustomed to be held every Sunday at Witham [i.e. Chipping Hill] shall be held every Tuesday at the same.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 54/21, m.12

Reproduced in Rot.Litt.Claus. (Rec.Com.), 386

N.B. This is widely quoted in error (though not dated) as being a change from Sunday to Wednesday (e.g. in Morant, p.105 (quoting Symonds), and in various directories). This must come from a misreading of the ‘mart.’ (Tuesday) in the original to mean ‘merc.’ (Wednesday). I checked this, and the ‘t’ does look like a ‘c’ but the ‘a’ is fairly unmistakable and the Record Commissioners’ calendar agrees. Also see below in 1379 when the Tuesday market at Witham [Chipping Hill] was moved to Newland.

1227 (11 Henry III)

Confirmation of a market at Wulversford [i.e. Newland] & fair (m.29 is also a manor & half-hundred). As 1212. To the Knights Templars. No new information.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 53/18, mm.32, 29

Reproduced in: Cal.Chart.R. 1226-57, 5, 8


Survey of Witham manor (possibly not including Newland?). Said the market was held on Tuesdays. Fairs were at the Feasts of St.Laurence & the beheading of St.John Baptist. Inquest into manor & Knights Templars possessions.

Reproduced in: Gervers, pp.52-53


The Knights Templars were disbanded by the King, who granted their property to the Knights Hospitallers.

1379 (3 Richard II)

Grant of a charter for a market. On Tuesday at Newland, part of manor of Witham, ‘in lieu of a market on Tuesday in the manor of Witham’ [i.e. Chipping Hill]. To the Knights Hospitallers.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 53/157, m.25

Reproduced in: Cal.Chart.R. 1341-1417, 258


Knights Hospitallers dissolved by Henry VIII. Their rights & properties were at first leased by, and by the 17th century held by, the tenants of Cressing Temple, the Smith/Nevill family.


Illegitimate child of a Coggeshall woman was said to have been conceived at Witham fair.

E.R.O. Q/SR 80/37, 80/53.

17th century

For the 17th-century market in Newland Street, see Witham 1500-1700 Making a Living by Janet Gyford, pages 138-142. There was a market house, also known as the market cross, as well as an outdoor market.

1616 (James I)

Grant for 37 years of two annual fairs, on the Monday before Pentecost (i.e. before Whit Sunday), and on Allhallows day (All Saints, November lst). The Annual fair had been held on the Sunday after the feast of St.Laurence (10 August or 3 February) on the hill called Chipping Hill since time out of mind. This profanes the sabbath; hence the change. To William Smith.

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] C 66/2063, no.3


The Smiths sold the manors & the rights etc. to the Blackman family.

Recited in the original: E.R.O. D/DDc T81 (date confirmed by court rolls in E.R.O. D/DBw M28).


The Blackmans sold part of the manors, including the manorial rights, to the Bennett family.

Original: E.R.O. D/DDc T81

1669, 14 August

John Bennett, lord of the manor, wanted to revive the fairs, which he wrote ‘have beene discontinued about 30 yeares, yett some Inhabitants doe remember what dayes they were kept the one being on Holyrood day’ [14 September]. He asked a Mr.Riley to find the original grant for the fairs; the letter is annotated with a note about the grant of 1212.

Original: E.R.O. D/DBw M85, 14 Aug.1669

1702/3, 8 Feb.

Petition to the Crown from John Bennett, lord of manor, et al., saying that there had been a market on Tuesday for corn & other things, & 2 annual fairs, and that it would be an advantage to have a weekly beast market.

Reproduced: Cal.S.P.Dom. 1703-4, 376

1703, 3 April (2 Anne)

Application from John Bennett for a weekly market on Tuesday, and two annual three-day fairs on Monday before Feast of Pentecost (Whit Sunday), & Sept.14th (if any of days is a Sunday, then on Monday instead), for cattle, sheep & goods.

Summarised in: Appendix, Final Report, Roval Commission on Market Rights and Tolls, 1890/1, p.134 (originals in P.R.O. [TNA] ‘Writs and Inquisitions ad quod Damnum’ according to this report).

1703, 30 May (2 Anne)

Report of the inquest of 9 April; it had been decided that it was acceptable to grant markets and fairs as requested above.

Reproduced: Cal.S.P.Dom. 1703-4, 452

1703, 25 June (Anne)

Grant of market on Tuesdays (till 4 pm.) & 2 annual fairs ‘in manor of Newland’ for buying and selling all goods & chattels [in Latin – probably means cattle too]. Two fairs as in the application above. To John Bennett (lord of manor). An Inquisition had been held at the Blue Boar in Maldon.

[The market grant  is probably still valid today; the fairs were abolished in 1891].

Original: E.R.O. D/DDc T81 (includes the original grant); P.R.O.  [TNA] C 66/3440, no.16

Summarised in: Appendix, Final Report, Royal Commission on Market Rights and Tolls, 1890/1, p.134


Item for sale on 9 December 2004 by Mullock and Madeley, The Old Shippon, Wall under Heywood, near Church Stretton, Shropshire, SY6 7DS.

Lot 460. “Rights to hold Markets in Witham, Essex Sussex/Essex historically important vellum indenture on a single large leaf dated January 29th 1724, being the sale of the Manor and Lordship of Witham Chipping and Newland in Witham, by John Bennett, master of the High Court of Chancery, detailing the estates of the Manor in both Essex and Sussex, and also the rights to hold Markets in Witham with all profits and tolls as well as the granting of ancient commons and fishing rights , together with Sedgwick Park in Sussex. One small hole in folds, one original hole in vellum at top not affecting text, otherwise in good legible condition throughout, signed and sealed by all parties to base Scarce. Documents of this nature rarely appear on the market, and the present document provides a wealth of information about the nature of the manor and its various rights and privileges” Estimate £50-70

 1773-8: Morant’s History of Essex

Market on Tuesdays. Fairs held on Monday before Whitsun and on September 14.

Probably 1788

The fair on June 4th and 5th was probably instituted at Chipping Hill, to celebrate the recovery of George III from madness; June 4th was the King’s birthday.

E.R.O. D/DBs E11 (dated c.1860s but refers to the origin of this fair)

1823-4 and 1839: Pigot’s directories

Market on Tuesday. Fairs on the Monday before Whitsun and on 14 September. In view of the previous paragraph, this information may have been out of date and perhaps came from a source such as Morant’s history.

1848 & 1863: White’s directories

‘A small market every Tuesday, for corn, cattle &c., and pleasure fairs on the Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week, and on June 4th and 5th. The latter is held at Chipping Hill’. [note that the entry in the 1863 directory may have been copied from the 1848 one without being updated].

Probably about 1860

A petition survives from 24 residents of Chipping Hill, headed by the vicar, John Bramston. This was addressed to the lord of the manor, Charles Du Cane, and read:

We … request you … to withhold your consent to having booths and stalls erected on the highway at Chipping Hill on the highway leading up to the Church, and on the little green in front of the Church, on any day in the week preceding or following the 4th of June. It is well known that Chipping Hill Fair is not a Statute fair but was commenced within the memory of persons now living to celebrate the recovery of King George the 3rd and was therefore first held on the 4th of June, his birthday. This fair is wholly unnecessary for any purpose whatever as the regular Fair for the Parish is held in Witham on the Friday in Whitsun week, within a fortnight of the 4th of June. Chipping Hill Fair has long been a nuisance to the respectable inhabitants, as interrupting their regular business, obstructing the highway and bringing together at night the worst characters of the neighbourhood, both male and female. Moreover the little green, where many of the stalls are pitched, is in every way ill adapted to the purpose in as much as the entrance to the Church yard is thereby completely blocked up.

Original: E.R.O. D/DBs Ell

1855, 1859, 1867: P.O./Kelly’s directories

A market is held on Tuesday evenings at the Angel inn, High Street [this was where nos.39/41 Newland Street now stand, on the S.W. corner of Newland Street and Maldon Road]. Pleasure fairs on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week.

Also in 1855 in the listing: Smith Robert, Angel commercial inn & market house, & brewer

1870: Kelly’s directory

The market is now discontinued. Pleasure fairs are held on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week.


A photo survives of the fair in Newland Street at about this time (see photo M231) (also in the Maurice Smith collection in Witham library).

A description of the fairs, probably describing the 1870s but written 60 years later, has also been preserved. It reads:

“Twice a year, the travelling fairs came to Witham ~ one at Whitsuntide to Newland Street, and in the summer time to the Hill leading to the Parish Church. These were really delightful occasions – there were Roundabouts and Horses and Carriages … and very wonderful to the children of those days – Swing boats, which one pretended to enjoy but which often made one feel very sick – stalls with their cakes (which I have never tasted since) – and Fair Gingerbread, made in the shape of cats with currants for eyes – peel for nose and mouth – China stalls, with figures of black and white cats and dogs – twin little red Cinderella slippers and later on guns, shooting stalls, and china sheep made with rough sides to represent wool. The greatest attraction was the Merry go round, worked by a horse, which walked sedately to the accompaniment of crude music.

Original: E.R.O. T/P 133/23

It was also recorded that the Whitsun fair was on the slope in the road between the Post Office [then at 82 Newland Street], and Guithavon Street; this slope had since been levelled to be part of the road.]

Original: E.R.O. T/P 133/23


1874, 1882, 1886, 1890: Kelly’s directories

There are fairs on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week and on June 4 at Chipping Hill.

1890: Kelly’s directory

There were fairs on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun, & June 4, at Chipping Hill.

Article in Braintree and Witham Times, 21 February 1935, page 6, about the retirement of William W Oxbrow from Witham Post Office. He started work at the Post Office in about 1889. He recalled ‘the days when Witham’s annual fair was held in the High Street, the attractions invariably included a menagerie. The menagerie usually stood outside the Post Office building, and whilst on night duty as a telegraphist, it was not unusual for him to have a free, but nevertheless unwelcome, entertainment – the roar of the lions, and a hundred and one other unfamiliar sounds which came from the animal inmates of the show”.

Essex County Chronicle, 26 December 1890

“WITHAM AND CHIPPING HILL FAIRS. PRESENTMENT BY THE LOCAL BOARD. The Witham Local Board sent a letter requesting the bench to ask the Home Secretary to take the necessary steps for the abolition of the fairs at Witham and Chipping Hill. The magistrates acceded to the request, the Chairman remarking upon the dangerous nature of the fairs and the accidents caused by the frightening of the horses at the noise”.


The Witham fairs were abolished by order of the Home Secretary, under the provisions of the Fairs Act, 1871, as a result of a request by the justices of the Witham Division, who in turn had been asked by the Witham Local Board of Health to make the application. The lord of the manor (Charles H.C. Du Cane) gave his consent; it was said that for some years he had taken no tolls. These were the ‘Witham’ fair (in Newland Street) on Friday and Saturday in Whitsun week, and the Chipping Hill fair on 4 & 5 June

The Board reported that: Witham Fair has been accustomed to be held in the High Street, but for the past year or two a portion of it has been held on private property thus leaving the High Street to be occupied principally by Swings and Cocoanut Shies. Chipping Hill Fair is held on and adjacent to the path to the Parish Church and when Divine Service is held on Fair days the Fair is necessarily a cause of complaint.

The town crier, George Wood, had posted copies of the relevant notice at 20 shops, pubs and public establishments in the town. A letter from Charles Cranfield (National School headmaster), in his role as secretary of the Witham Ratepayers’ Association, recorded that the Association ‘heartily supports’ abolition. The Police Superintendent, G.Allen, was consulted, and wrote that:

“During the last five years no cases of disorder or immorality have been discovered or brought to the knowledge of the Police, neither has any person been proceeded against before the Bench … In my opinion, the reasonable enjoyment of any class of people would not in the slightest way be interfered with by their abolition … I believe it is the unanimous feeling of all persons that the Fairs should be discontinued.

The most objectionable results attending these Fairs in the Streets are the obstructions caused by shooting galleries, swinging boats, and cocoa nut shies, all of which are very dangerous, and they are generally attended by gipsies. The inhabitants have frequently complained of the nuisance they cause.

The respectable part of the Fairs is always held in private grounds: it is only the low element who stand in the streets.”

Original: P.R.O. [TNA] HO 45/9835/B10169 (Victoria)

1895, 1899, 1902: Kelly’s directories

Fortnightly privately-run sale of fat and store stock in a field adjoining the railway near Chipping Hill [i.e. where the Labour Hall now stands]. Fairs not mentioned.

UDC Road Committee, 19 September 1911, page 43

‘As to Stalls in Streets’, a charge of 1 shilling per day to be made ‘for any stalls erected in the streets’.

Braintree and Witham Times, 5 November 1931, page 5, cols 4 and 5

Old photo of a fair in Witham High Street. The well-known one, quite good quality (see Photo M321). Says it is in about 1870. On the right, Cheek’s printing office, in the building now occupied by Clark. London House to the left. The Old Public Hall with the clock and bell turret. Then after, it was the Conservative Club. The Post Office at this time was on opposite side of road where now is King’s jewellers. “In the forefront of the picture can be seen a shooting gallery. the iron work tube used as a safety measure must have extended across the High Street end of Guithavon Street. To the right of this, but not shewn in the picture – in fact, exactly where the present telephone box stands – stood a greasy pole, which afforded much amusement for the youths of the day. The outside of a boxing booth shews up on the left of the picture. It is interesting to note that the telegraph pole carried but six insulators, also at that period only one message per wire was possible at the same moment.

The successor to the telegraph pole of our picture now carries 92 insulators, while a number of messages can be transmitted simultaneously over one wire. The caravan race of people who attended Witham and similar fairs are now becoming extinct. … At the time our picture was taken there was in business in Witham a Mr Priddy, wine and spirit merchant. On the occasion of the annual fair he used to place barrels half-full of water, with apples floating on top, outside his shop. Schoolboys and youths created much fun in their efforts to extract the apples with their hands tied behind them. The local Council might consider obtaining the original of our picture, having an enlargement made, and hanging the picture in their Council Chamber. It is a link in the history of Witham.

At night the booths were illuminated by naphtha flares. Cakes and gingerbread found ready purchasers. Itinerant pedlars disposed of their wares. As the evening wore on the public houses became full. Ribald jests and rough horseplay were the order of the day. The boxing booth proprietor had no need to put his own staff on the platform. there were plenty of aspirants to put on the gloves with each other. The then inhabitants of Witham were probably not sorry when fairs disappeared from the High Street.”

UDC Estates Committee, 20 July 1932

page 22. Recreation Ground, Maldon Road to be closed from 2 p.m. on 20 August for Carnival. Permission for some lengths of railings to be removed to admit vehicles as before. Also ‘permission be given for the piece of ground immediately adjoining Mr Mondy’s garden to be used for amusements and a Fair, if any’. [the garden behind 63 Newland Street]

UDC Public Health Committee, 25 May 1936

page 401. Medical Officer of Health and Sanitary Inspector inspected ‘the Fair ground adjoining the peculiar Peoples Chapel’ during a recent fair. No evidence of nuisance. [the chapel near the corner of Guithavon Valley and Guithavon Road]

UDC Public Health Committee, 15 September 1936

page 501. ‘Moveable dwellings and camping grounds’. Clerk report on occasional fairs who ‘encamp’ on ground next to Peculiars’ chapel  [the chapel near the corner of Guithavon Valley and Guithavon Road] . Residents have complained ‘particularly owing to the noise of their steam organs and because of the untidy state in which they leave the ground’. Ask Essex County Council if any bye laws. ECC says there is one against ‘steam organ or any other musical instrument worked by mechanical means’ annoying residents, on land adjoining or in highway. Clerk asks instructions. Suggest that land too small and in wrong place. Recommend to Estates Committee that they be offered space at Rickstones Recreation Ground.

UDC Estates Committee, 15 October 1936

page 553. Can’t recommend fairs being allowed on Rickstones Recreation ground.

1937: Kelly’s directory

Gives the lord of manor of Witham and Newland as Charles Henry Copley Du Cane esquire (the Du Canes were previously at Braxted Park, but they were not there in the 1937 directory; though there were some Miss Du Canes at Great Totham and Wickham Bishops)


References & abbreviations:

R.H.Britnell, ‘Essex Markets Before 1350’ Essex Archaeology and History, pp.15-16.

R.H.Britnell, ‘The Making of Witham’, History Studies, i. [not referred to above, but is relevant]

Cal.Chart. = Calendars of Charter Rolls, H.M.S.O.

Cal.S.P.Dom. = Calendars of State Papers Domestic, H.M.S.O.

E.R.O. = Essex Record Office

M.Gervers (ed.), The Cartulary of the Knights of Jerusalem in England., Secunda Camera: Essex, O.U.P. for British Academy, 1982.

Kelly’s directories

B.A.Lees (ed.), Records of the Templars in England in the twelfth century, O.U.P., 1935.

P.Morant, The History and Antiquities of the County of Essex, ii, 1763-8.

Pigot’s directories

P.R.O. [TNA] = The National Archives [formerly Public Record Office]

Rec.Com. = Record Commissioners publications.

Appendix, Final Report, Royal Commission on Market Rights and Tolls, 1890/1.

Walker, W. Essex Markets and Fairs, E.R.O., 1981
[N.B. The schedule of medieval charters in this booklet (p.35) omits the Witham charters of c.1153-4, 1155, 1189 & 1199-1200, and only begins with those of 1212 and 1227].

White’s directories



Bridge Home, Historic Building Assessment, 2003






Historic Building


(copy of a report provided to Janet Gyford by Robert Kinchin Smith)


Prepared by:

RPS Planning Transport & Environment, Oxford

August 2003
RPS Planning Transport & Environment
Mallams Court
8D Milton Park
OX14 4RP


Tel       01235 821888
Fax      01235 820351


See also  “The Union Workhouse, later Bridge Home” et al.





















1      Introduction                                                                      

2      The Proposals                                                                    

 3      Aims of the Study                                                               

 4      Methodology                                                                       

 5      The Poor Law Background                                                

 6      Historical Development      

7       Description (I) – Introduction and Southern Ranges (Blocks T to U)  

8      Description (II) – The Central Ranges (Blocks H to R & V)

9      Description (III) – The Northern Ranges (Blocks A to G)

8      Discussion                                                                          

9      Sources                                                                                  


1      Essex County Council Archaeological Advisory Services Brief

2     Essex SMR Summary Sheet

3.    List Description

4.   The New Poor Law Workhouses of George Gilbert Scott and William Bonython Moffatt; K.A. Morrison, 1997

5.   Brief Description of Buildings on the Witham Union Workhouse Site






Fig 1   Site Plan

Fig 2   Witham Tithe Map (1839)

Fig 3   Witham Town Plan (n.d. 1840-1860)

Fig 4   1st ed. 25” OS Map (1874)

Fig 5   2nd ed. 25” OS Map (1897)

Fig 6   Tracing of Block Plan (3rd July 1901)

Fig 7   Block Plan (6th Sept 1901)

Fig 8   3rd ed. 25” OS Map (1922)

Fig 9   Tracing of Block Plan (1923)

Fig 10 Tracing of Block Plan (Aug 1937)

Fig 11 Block Plan showing land to be purchased (May 1938)

Fig 12 1:2500 OS Map (1953)

Fig 13 1:2500 OS Map (1966)

Fig 14 1:2500 OS Map (1971 and 1974)

Fig 15 1:2500 OS Map (1982 and 1984)

Fig 16 Entrance Range (Block T) – Ground Floor Plan (Phased)

Fig 17 Main and Central Ranges (Blocks H to R and V) – Ground Floor Plan (Phased)

Fig 18 Main and Central Ranges (Blocks H to R and V) – 1st Floor Plan

Fig 19 Main and Central Ranges (Blocks H to R and V) – 2nd and 3rd Floor Plans

Fig 20 Northern Ranges (Blocks A to E) – Ground Floor Plan (Phased)

Fig 21 Northern Ranges (Blocks A to E) –1st Floor Plan (Phased)

Fig 22 Block E, ‘As Existing’ Survey, Jan 1933

Fig 23 Block E, ‘As Existing’ Survey, Jan 1933

Fig 24 Block E, South and East Elevations, Jan 1933 and 2003



Plate 1   Post-card showing the Entrance Range (Block T) c.1900-23

Plate 2   Photo of former single-storey west range (precursor of Block I) 1914-18

Plate 3   Entrance Block (Block T) – South Elevation

Plate 4   Entrance Block – West Range (T1, T2 and T3) – Exterior Views

Plate 5   Entrance Block – West Range (T2 and T3) – Interior Views

Plate 6   Entrance Block – East Range (T5) – Exterior Views

Plate 7   Entrance Block – East Range (T5 and T6) – Exterior and Interior Views

Plate 8   Entrance Block – East Range (T5 and T6) – Interior Views

Plate 9   Blocks S and U – General Views

Plate 10 Main Range (Block O) – South Elevation

Plate 11 Main Range (Block O) – North Elevation

Plate 12 Main Range (Block O) – Windows and Doors

Plate 13 Master’s Lodgings (Block O3) – Interior Views (Basement)

Plate 14 Master’s Lodgings (Block O3) – Interior Views (Ground Floor)

Plate 15 Master’s Lodgings (Block O3) – Interior Views (1st and 2nd Floors)

Plate 16 Master’s Lodgings (Block O3) – Interior Views (2nd and 3rd Floors)

Plate 17 Main Range – East and West Ranges (Block O2 and O4) – Stairs and Landings

Plate 18 Main Range – East and West Ranges (Block O2 and O4) – Interior Views

Plate 19 Western Terminal Cross-Range (Block O1) – General Views

Plate 20 Eastern Terminal Cross-Range (Block O5) – General Views

Plate 21 Extensions to Western Terminal Cross-Range (Blocks J and R) – General Views

Plate 22 Extensions to Eastern Terminal Cross-Range (Blocks P, Q and V) – Gen. Views

Plate 23 Western Ranges (Block H) – General Views

Plate 24 Western Ranges (Block I) – General Views

Plate 25 Kitchen Ranges (Block K) – General Views

Plate 26 Kitchen Ranges (Blocks K2, K3 and K4) – General Views

Plate 27 Eastern Ranges (Block N) – Exterior Views

Plate 28 Eastern Ranges (Block N) – Interior Views

Plate 29 Eastern Ranges (Block L) – General Views

Plate 30 Eastern Ranges (Blocks L and M) – General Views

Plate 31 Central Infirmary Block (Block F1) – Exterior Views

Plate 32 Central Infirmary Block (Block F1) – Interior Views

Plate 33 Western Infirmary Block (Block F2) – Exterior Views

Plate 34 Western Infirmary Block (Block F2) – Interior Views

Plate 35 Eastern Infirmary Block (Block F3) – General Views

Plate 36 ‘Boys’ School Room’ (Block A1) – Exterior Views

Plate 37 ‘Boys’ School Room’ (Block A1) – Exterior and Interior Views

Plate 38 ‘Girls’ School Room’ and ‘Mattress Shop’ (Blocks D1 and D2) – General Views

Plate 39 ‘Auxiliary Boiler House’ and NHS Boiler House (Blocks B and G) – General Views

Plate 40 ‘Boiler House’ (Blocks C, C1 and C2) – General Views

Plate 41 ‘Washing Room’ and ‘Ironing Room’ (Blocks E4 and E1) – General Views

Plate 42 ‘Airing Room’ (Block E2) – General Views

Plate 43 ‘Drying Room’ (Block E3) – General Views












East Anglian Contractors are in the process (August 2003) of submitting a planning application proposing to renovate and convert to residential use the former buildings of Bridge Hospital, Witham. The Heritage and Advice Promotion Team (HAMP) of Essex County Council, the advisors to the planning authority, has asked that the impact of the proposals on the architectural value of the buildings on the site should be assessed prior to their decision. RPS Consultants have been instructed by East Anglian Contractors to prepare the preliminary impact assessment, to a brief provided by Essex County Council’s Heritage and Advice Promotion Team (Appendix 1). The study was carried out in late July to early August 2003. The block numbers relate to those shown in Figure 1.Witham Union Workhouse (c.1838-1880) – (See Figs 2 to 4)

2  Witham’s original parish workhouse, which still stands close to the parish church, was built in 1714. The Poor Law amendment Act of 1834 sought to reduce the burden of poor relief on individual parishes and sought to group parishes into Poor Law Unions. A considerable building programme ensued, over 300 being completed by 1840, many to standard plans published in 1835. Witham Poor Law union was established on 15th December 1835, with a Board of Guardians of 23 elected members representing 17 constituent parishes (Great Coggeshall, Fairstead, Faulkbourn, Feering, Great Baxted, Hatfield Peverill, Inworth, Kelvedon, Little Braxted, Little Coggeshall, Mark’s Hall, Messing, Rivenhall, Terling, Ulting, Wickham Bishop, Witham (Higginbotham). Initially the new Union continued to use the old parish workhouses at Coggeshall and Witham, but on 6th March 1837, the Witham Union Guardians resolved to construct a new Union workhouse, to house 300 inmates (ERO, G/W M1).

3.  The appointed contractor for the new Witham Union workhouse was Messrs Steggles & Sons and work on site commenced in August 1837. It is not exactly clear when the works were completed, although it was sometime between December 1838 and February 1839 (pers. com. Gyford, cit. ERO, G/W M1). The designs for the new workhouse were prepared by a young George Gilbert Scott. Scott had set up his own practice in 1836 and, with his assistant William Bonython Moffatt, he was responsible for the design of some fourty-four workhouses, mostly in southern England. About a quarter of these still survive today. Scott and Moffatt developed a standard workhouse plan, which was applied, with minior variations to almost all of their workhouses. This plan was applied to the four built by the partnership in Essex (Witham, Billericay, Dunmow and Tendring). Of these four, Witham displays the greatest number of the essential features of the Scott / Moffatt plan in a recognisable form today (Figs 2 and 3)

3.  The appointed contractor for the new Witham Union workhouse was Messrs Steggles & Sons and work on site commenced in August 1837. It is not exactly clear when the works were completed, although it was sometime between December 1838 and February 1839 (pers. com. Gyford, cit. ERO, G/W M1). The designs for the new workhouse were prepared by a young George Gilbert Scott. Scott had set up his own practice in 1836 and, with his assistant William Bonython Moffatt, he was responsible for the design of some fourty-four workhouses, mostly in southern England. About a quarter of these still survive today. Scott and Moffatt developed a standard workhouse plan, which was applied, with minior variations to almost all of their workhouses. This plan was applied to the four built by the partnership in Essex (Witham, Billericay, Dunmow and Tendring). Of these four, Witham displays the greatest number of the essential features of the Scott / Moffatt plan in a recognisable form today (Figs 2 and 3).

4.   The typical Scott and Moffatt design comprised a single storey entrance block (Block T) having a central entrance archway (T4) flanking a Chapel (T2), Porter’s Rooms / Pauper’s Waiting Room / Board Room / Board Clerk’s Office (T5) and single-storey Probationer’s lean-tos behind (T3/T6). Behind this rose the four-storey octagonal tower (03) housing the Lodgings (living quarters) of the workhouse Master and Matron, flanked on two sides by three-storey wings containing the ‘undeserving poor’, segregated into boys’, girls’, men’s and women’s Dormitories and male and female Day Rooms (02 and 04). The ends of the three-storey wings were usually terminated by cross-wings (O1 and O5) containing Dormitories for the ‘deserving poor’, namely aged men and women, with further Day Rooms for each. A Kitchen block (corresponding to K1) projected from the rear of the Master’s Lodgings, with Back Kitchen and Bakehouse to the rear of this. A separate range of 2-storey buildings to the rear (F1/F2/F3) usually housed an Infirmary, flanked by two single-storey workroom ranges housing Washrooms and Laundry on the women’s side (precursors of Block E) and workrooms on the men’s side (demolished). These ranges and other walls created a number of exercise courtyards, allowing each to be exclusively used by infirm men, infirm women, able-bodied men, able bodied women, boys, girls and mothers with infants. There was also a kitchen garden to the east, separated from the workhouse quadrangle by a courtyard containing greenhouses, pig-styes and further single-storey ancillary buildings (demolished). Separate provision was always made for ‘Casual Wards’ for vagrants. These may also have been housed in some of the buildings in this courtyard.

5.   The architectural styles adopted by different Unions differed widely, Witham and Tendring being built in the, totally un-adorned but perfectly proportioned, industrial vernacular typical of Scott / Moffatt’s pre-1838 workhouses, with subtle classical saved only for the entrance block and Master & Matron’s lodgings. By contrast, Billericay to a degree and Dunmow in particular, were built in a richly-ornamented Tudor-gothic, described as ‘Old English’, which Scott in particular favoured in his later designs. The choice of style appears to have been at least in part a financial one, as Steggles tender for Witham Union workhouse (pop 300) was for c.£5,295 (pers. com. Gyford, cit. ERO, G/W M1), whilst Dunmow (pop 350) and Billericay cost c.£8,000 and £11,000 respectively (Higginbotham).

6.   The original layout of the workhouse is shown on the 1839 Tithe Award Map (Fig 2) and on the undated Witham Town Plan of c.1840-60 (Fig 3). The only significant difference between the two plans is that the later plan shows the Kitchen block (K1) to the rear of the Master & Matron’s Lodgings at the centre of the main block, whilst the earlier plan does not. It should be noted that the Tithe Map was being surveyed while the workhouse was under construction and that such maps should also never be relied on for accuracy. The Kitchen here was an integral element in the Scott / Moffatt plan and there is no reason to suspect that a Kitchen was not part of the original scheme. All of these buildings survive today, with the exception of an eastern courtyard (possibly housing ‘Casual Wards’ for vagrants) and the single-storey workroom range to the west of the Infirmary. Remains of the corresponding eastern workroom range are limited to fragments incorporated into the Laundry block of 1933 (E1/E2/E4).

7.   The original T-plan of the main range in Scott and Moffatt’s original scheme soon proved inadequate and further 1- to 2-storey wings (L, M and precursors to Blocks H and I) were soon added, creating an E-shaped plan almost completely enclosing the rear courtyards. Other minor modifications included eastern and northern extensions to the Kitchen (Store (K2) and what may have been a Back Kitchen (scullery?) or Bakehouse (precursor to K3) and small single-storey sheds at each end of the main range (R and precursor of Q). The extent of most of the works carried out by the Witham Union are shown on the 25” OS map, surveyed in 1874-6 (Fig 4).

South Metropolitan District School Board (1882-1900) – (See Figs 5 to 6)

8   According to Higginbotham, Witham Poor Law Union was dissolved in 1883, although the Union workhouse was sold to the South Metropolitan District School Board for use as a residential Poor Law school in 1882 (pers. com. Gyford, cit. LMA SMDS 79). The decision to abolish the Union appears to have been precipitated at least in part by a number of accusations against the Master (pers. com. Gyford, cit. ERO, G/W M1). Its member parishes distributed between the adjacent Braintree and Maldon Poor Law Unions (Higginbotham). The SMDSB was an amalgamation of a number of London Unions, founded by order of the Poor Law Board in 1849. The Witham buildings were used by the SMDSB to establish a school for ‘orphan and deserted children’ from the Board’s area, Camberwell, Greenwich, Woolwich, Stepney etc (pers. com. Gyford, cit. LMA SMDS 79). The SMDSB rapidly demolished many of the exercise yard walls, although the wall separating the male and female sides was retained. They also purchased further lands to the north and west of the site and erected Boys and Girls Schoolrooms (Blocks A1 and D1) and Drying Rooms (Block E3) between 1892-3 and a richly-ornamented ‘New Infirmary’ (recently-demolished H-shaped block to west of the site) in 1897-8. According to the cartographic evidence, they also appear to have been responsible for the extension of the workhouse Toilets / Bath House (Block M). The Witham school was certified to accommodate 200 children, but eventually opinion moved against such large and remote schools and the children were moved away in November 1900 (pers. com. Gyford, cit. LMA SMDS 79). The extent of the works carried out by the SMDSB are generally shown on the 25” OS map, surveyed in 1897 (Fig 5), although this map just missed the construction of the H-plan ‘New Infirmary’ built to the immediate west of the old Union workhouse in 1897-8

9   Metropolitan Asylums Board (1900-1923) – (See Figs 6 to In 1900 the SMDSB sold two of their schools (Witham and the Downs, Sutton, Surrey) to the Metropolitan Asylums Board, an organisation whose institutions have been dubbed as ‘England’s first state hospitals’ (Ayres, 1971). The two institutions were initially used from February 1901 as schools for a maximum of 400 children suffering from the infectious condition of ringworm (RCHME, 1993). By 1906, advances in the treatment of ringworm reduced the need for such establishments and the MAB changed the use of the buildings to an ‘Industrial Home for Feeble Minded Boys’ variously known as the Bridge Industrial School / Bridge Training School / Bridge Training Home (pers. com. Gyford, cit. various local Directories). Part of the site (probably the ‘New Infirmary’ only (Plate 2)) was used by the Red Cross as an orthodox hospital for wounded soldiers and for influenza cases during the 1918 epidemic. The MAB invested in new drains and sanitary facilities in 1901 and this work has provided us with the earliest detailed block plans of the site (Figs 6 & 7). Otherwise few, if any, major building works were carried out by them, although it is just possible that they built Block I. This contradicts the cartographic evidence, which implies that this building was not constructed until during, or after, the Second War, which is most unlikely. This possible cartographic inaccuracy aside, the extent of the buildings, as sold by the MAB are shown on the 25” OS map, surveyed in 1922 (Fig 8).

Royal Eastern Counties Institution (1923-1948) – (See Figs 9 to 11)
10   The Bridge Industrial Home closed in 1922 and the site was sold in 1923 to the Royal Eastern Counties Hospital / Institution, owners of a number of other hospitals including Severalls Hospital in Colchester (pers. com. Gyford, cit. LMA MAB 2272). Under the RECI the site was known as the Bridge Home, apparently serving as a specialised home for the disabled and significant sums were expended by the RECI in the 1930s and 40s in building a Mortuary (Block U), a Medical Superintendent’s house and staff cottages to the south of Hatfield Road and in extending the hospital to the west with two ‘Pavillions for Cripples’, built as late as 1947. Their work may also have included the construction of Block I (see above). Their works certainly included the new boiler houses (B and C1), the modification and extension of the Laundry (Blocks E1-E4) in 1933, a new Scullery (block K3) in 1934, and various small extensions (e.g. D2, J, M, P, Q and T1) (ERO, D/F 8/196, D/F 8/341, D/F 8/353, D/F 8/716 and D/F 8/731). The Essex Record Office holds detailed building plans of the RECI’s Laundry, Scullery, Pavillions, and houses. These documents retain some useful block plans of 1923, 1937 and 1938 (Figs 9, 10 and 11).National Health Service (1948-2002) – (See Figs 12 to 15)

    1. The Royal Eastern Counties Institution became a part of the National Health Service upon the creation of a Welfare State following the post-war Labour landslide. Under the NHS the site was referred to as the Bridge Hospital. The NHS built many new wards and other buildings to the north and west on land purchased by the RECI in 1938 (ERO, D/F 8/716) (Figs 11 and 12 to 15). New works to the old workhouse area were minor, being restricted to the small block S and new Boiler House G. The hospital finally closed in 2002 and all of the buildings outside of the historic core have recently been demolished. The remainder (which is the subject of this assessment) currently stands empty, awaiting renovation and conversion for residential use.
    1. The site has thus had a somewhat unusual history, having passed from the control of the local Poor Law Guardians as early as c.1880, as public concerns were leading to a greater emphasis on the maintenance and care of the unemployed and dispossessed within the community. Whilst it thus ceased to function as a local workhouse, the buildings remained within the Poor Law system, acting as a home for orphans and sick and disabled children from the inner London boroughs for the next 43 years. Rather tellingly, the austere workhouse buildings were so well suited to the remote, institutionalised child-care regime of the period that they remained almost unaltered throughout this period, albeit supplemented by School Rooms and a New Infirmary. The buildings passed back into the local Poor Law system in 1923, still as a children’s home. Again, very few alterations to the workhouse buildings, other than the new Laundry and Scullery, were deemed to be necessary and it was not until immediately after the Second War that purpose-built, single-storey buildings were erected for mobility-impaired children.
    1. Following the creation of the welfare state and National Health Service in 1948, the hospital was greatly enlarged on land acquired in 1938. This ability to construct purpose-built facilities on a greatly-enlarged site spared the workhouse buildings from major alteration, although latterly the large workhouse ‘wards’ or dormitories were partitioned and the building’s décor was made considerably less austere. It would thus seem fair to say that the long-term use of the former workhouse as a residential children’s home has spared it from many of the pressures that have significantly altered many other former Poor Law institutions that passed into more medical uses.
    2. Because of its history, the former workhouse complex has survived as one of the least altered of the Scott / Moffatt workhouses nationally and arguably the least altered within Essex. Because of this, and because of Scott’s later reputation as one of the finest architects in Victorian England, the entrance block (Block T) and main range (Block O) are Listed Grade II. Subsequent to this Listing, the site has been studied as part of a thematic survey of former Poor Law buildings in Essex (Garratt, 1998). This report concluded that Scott / Moffatt’s more architecturally-distinguished Billericay and Dunmow Union workhouses should be considered as being amongst four Essex workhouses of national significance, on account of their architectural distinction and relative completeness. The Garratt report identified Scott/ Moffatt’s less elaborate Union workhouses at Tendring and Witham as being two of eight former workhouses in Essex of regional significance. Of these two, Witham is the better preserved. It is of particular interest as a very early Scott building and as one of his most functional (compared, for example, with the Midland Hotel of St Pancras station). The Garratt report specifically mentions the importance of the 1897-8 Boys School Room (Block A1) and the original Infirmary (Block F), and recommended their treatment as important curtilage buildings.
    1. The buildings are currently proposed for conversion………..
    1. Detailed proposals are not yet to hand…….
    1. The study was carried out by Rob Kinchin-Smith M.Soc.Sc, and the author would like to acknowledge the assistance of Janet Gyford (‘the historian of Witham’), Vanessa Clarke at the Heritage and Advice Promotion Team (HAMP) of Essex County Council and Kathryn Morrison at the Royal Commission for Historic Monuments of England. Readers are referred specifically to Kathryn Morrison’s research, appended to this Volume (Appendix 4).




    1. The proposal are currently not available follows:




    1. The primary aim of the study is to provide preliminary information to inform the planning authorities in their consideration of an application for planning permission for the conversion of the former workhouse……
    1. The second aim of the study is to understand the evolution of the plan-form of the site, assess the survival of features and structures, in particular the methods of construction, materials, original internal and external fixtures and fittings, phasing, room functions, decor, dimensions, status and any other aspect pertaining to its use.
    1. The third aim of the study is to enable the significance of the buildings to be assessed in the light of their survival in comparison with other buildings of the same type in Essex and nationally.





4.1     The methods employed in the study were documentary searches, site visit and photographic recording.


4.2     A brief survey of the available literature has been undertaken, including a search of the documents in the Essex County Public Records Office, the National Monuments Records and plans held by the client. Archives relating to South Metropolitan District School Board (1882-1900) and the Metropolitan Asylums Board (1900-1923) at the London Metropolitan Archives (LMA SMDS and LMA MAB respectively) were not consulted as salient information from these has already been gathered by Janet Gyford and no plans or building plans appear to have survived. Two microfilm jackets of hospital records (1930-1962) relating to Royal Eastern Counties Institution on the Welcome Trust Hospital Records Database at the Public Record Office (PRO, DT 35/134) were not consulted as they are not yet on public access. Kathryn Morrison of the RCHME was also consulted during the writing of this report and her paper on Scott and Moffatt’s workhouses is appended to this report (Appendix 4). A full list of documents consulted is given in the bibliography.


    1. The brief requires the description of the structures to be related to their architectural and historical importance. For most buildings on the site only a summary discussion is attempted, based on internal and external examination. Detailed internal inspection was made of all of the buildings of the early workhouse and all of its associated structures, excepting Block D (1892-3 SMDSB Girls’ School Room and 1930s RECI Mattress Shop). It was not possible to gain entry to parts of Block C (1920s-30s RECI Boiler House), part of Block M (late-C19th SMDSB Bath House), Block T1 (1930-40s RECI toilets), Block U (1930s-40s RECI Mortuary) and part of Block S (early-post-war NHS asbestos roofed building). All buildings were subjected to detailed external study however. Apart from the RECI Mortuary, there were no spaces that could not either be entered or viewed through windows.4.4      A full set of detailed plans and elevations produced by the prospective developer formed the basis of the fabric survey. They were marked up and annotated on site, noting building materials, evidence of former uses, alteration (structural breaks, blocked windows, changes of build, replacement of doors windows etc) and any other items of interest indicative of different building phases and former use. The results of the fabric survey were supplemented through the study of readily-available documentary and archive sources, notably those mentioned in the brief or held by Essex Record Office. The fieldwork and reporting were carried out to IFA Standards and Guidance for the archaeological investigation and recording of standing buildings and structures (IFA 2001).




5.1     From the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, the relief of the poor had been the responsibility of each parish by a system of outdoor relief i.e. the payment of money or goods in kind to the poor. Poor harvests in 1596-97 were amongst the worst of the period and contributed to economic depression. There had been an increasing population since the 1520’s and food supplies and employment did not keep pace with this growth. These economic and demographic factors, together with a fall in the real value of wages, led to Parliament passing the Act for Relief of the Poor in 1598. This legislation was substantially repeated in 1601 and became the foundation of the subsequent Poor Law system. The central principle of the 1601 Act was ‘outdoor relief’, raised by levying a poor rate in each parish.


5.2     The provision of outdoor relief became the responsibility of the churchwardens and of the overseers of the poor in each parish with local Justices of the Peace having a supervisory role. This system remained substantially unchanged until the late 18th century.


5.3     The Gilbert Act of 1782 was the first general reform of the Poor Law system. It gave several options to local Poor Law authorities but only if they adopted this legislation. The Act stipulated that they should leave the “impotent” in workhouses, but that the able-bodied poor were to be found employment outside and were to be supported from the poor rate if their wages were inadequate or if employment could not be found. These features were already established practice in many localities by this time.


5.4     Another provision of the Act was that parishes could form themselves into larger groupings to assist in supporting the expense of building and maintaining a workhouse. Before this Act, if parishes wanted to build a parish workhouse, they had to obtain a private Act of Parliament, a lengthy, cumbersome and costly exercise.


5.5     By the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the essentially Elizabethan Poor Law system was coming under increasing pressure from the radical and substantial economic and social changes which came about as the consequence of the agrarian and industrial revolutions of the period. The process produced periods of mass unemployment and increased social and economic dislocation with a consequent increase in general levels of poverty. Local attempts to stem this pressure, such as the “Speenhamland” system introduced in 1795, had little effect.


5.6     The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 was a radical piece of legislation and swept away the old Poor Law system. The new Act created a central body called the Poor Law Commission for England, Wales and Scotland with three Commissioners (including the reformer Edwin Chadwick) who were responsible for forming Unions of parishes for the purposes of poor relief. Fifteen Assistant Commissioners, who liased with the local authorities, assisted the three Commissioners.


5.7     Groups of parishes were amalgamated into Unions with each Union in turn being administered by a local Board of Guardians. Each Guardian was elected by an open ballot of ratepayers and property owners in each parish. Each voter nominally had to occupy property with an annual rateable value of £40. Justices of the Peace became ex-officio guardians. The activities of the local Boards of Guardians were subject to the supervision of the Poor Law Commission. In practice, the local Boards had considerable autonomy. At Witham the Board of Guardians consisted of 23 elected members representing 17 constituent parishes (Great Coggeshall, Fairstead, Faulkbourn, Feering, Great Baxted, Hatfield Peverill, Inworth, Kelvedon, Little Braxted, Little Coggeshall, Mark’s Hall, Messing, Rivenhall, Terling, Ulting, Wickham Bishop, Witham).


5.8     One of the first tasks of the Boards of Guardians was to provide workhouse accommodation for the reception of those requiring poor relief. In some areas it was possible to take over and adapt one or more of the workhouses which were inherited from the old poor law system. In most areas, as at Witham, it was necessary for the new Unions to build new workhouses


5.9     In southern England, the forming of Unions and the building of workhouses took place between 1835-1840 and proceeded with only sporadic opposition. By contrast, in northern England there was much greater and widespread opposition to this process and in some areas workhouses were not actually constructed until the 1850’s to 1860’s.


    1. The provisions of the 1834 Act which related to the nature of relief to be provided to the poor was set out in a more diluted form in the recommendations of the Poor Law Report which preceded the Act but was also published in 1834. This report was produced by the radical reformer Edwin Chadwick, greatly influenced by the Benthamite philosophy of Utilitarianism whose underlying principle was to bring “the greatest good to the greatest number”. 5.11   To bring about this ideal the provision of poor relief was to be concentrated in large workhouses. Conditions for the workhouse inmates should be worse than that of the lowliest and poorest paid labourer. Only the very destitute would wish to seek admission and thus the “idle poor” would be deterred. The harshness of the workhouse would aim to encourage and exploit the industry and enterprise of the able-bodied poor. Improvidence would be replaced by self-help. The moral climate of society as a whole would be reinforced together with a substantial reduction in the Poor Rates, a motive that undoubtedly was the main incentive for the introduction of this new system.
    1. Conditions in the new workhouses were intended to be harsh. The new and punitive approach to poor relief inaugurated by the 1834 Act was reflected in the layout, organisation, diet, discipline and daily routine of workhouse inmates. It was originally intended, and the authors of the Poor Law Report had recommended, that existing workhouses with separate buildings should be used for different categories of paupers. The practical difficulties for this were too great, so general purpose mixed workhouses became the norm, each built to serve one Union.
    2. From the late 18th century onwards a number of urban parishes had been grouped into “Incorporations” with the purpose of holding all of their poor under one roof and sometimes segregating these people into different classes. This principle was now extended throughout England and Wales. The poor were subject to a process of classification into the ‘deserving’ and ‘un-deserving poor’. The ‘deserving’ or ‘first-class’ poor were people who could not work through no fault of their own and were subdivided into infirm men, infirm women and mothers with infants. The ‘undeserving poor’ were the able-bodied, subdivided into able-bodied men, able bodied women, boys, girls. The buildings were divided into different wings for each type of pauper. Consequently wives and husbands, parents and children became separated.5.14   At Witham there were at least 9 separate courtyards and the original main block (Block O) housed at least 12 separate open ‘wards’ on three storeys, with the four ‘wards’ on the ground floor being ‘Day Rooms’, leaving eight dormitories. The ranges closest to the Master / Matron’s Lodgings were usually set aside for the ‘undeserving’ poor, with the terminal cross-ranges at the extremities being for the ‘deserving’ poor. Elsewhere (Epping) documentation of the sort of difference this might make is reflected in the 13 sick second class paupers assigned to a room whose first class equivalent held only 9. Internal layouts and the arrangement of the yards also reflected such class differences.5.15   In order to deter the ‘idle poor’, the Union workhouse regime was intended to be harsh, but not cruel. There were instances of abuse but workhouses were highly regulated institutions and complaints by inmates were rare, although the difficulties and consequences of complaining in a strict authoritarian regime should be taken into account when assessing the recorded levels of discontent. In many places, however, the workhouse regime was operated with some degree of kindness and compassion. This was particularly the case for the old, the sick and children. 5.16   The education of children in particular was often of a higher standard than comparable outside education and a school master and mistress were employed at Witham from the outset (pers. Com. Gyford, cit. ERP G/W M1). The diet and physical conditions were also often generally of a higher standard than those stipulated by statute and the surviving original Kitchen at Witham (Block K1) is modern for the period, lofty and well-ventilated. Despite these considerations, there was a carefully calculated regime of harshness, monotony, rigid discipline, deprivation and degradation that became the most representative features of the workhouse system. The inmates generally lost their dignity and also the right to vote. This right was not restored until 1918, long after Witham Union workhouse had ceased to house adults.5.17   There were gradual changes in the nature in the poor law system throughout the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. In 1847, following complaints of unaccountability, control of the system passed to a Poor Law Board. The Assistant Commissioners became Poor Law Inspectors. The composition of the workhouse population altered. Initially the intention had been that all outdoor relief to the able-bodied should end, except for those requiring temporary relief for medical reasons. The increased provision of outdoor relief to able-bodied adults meant that they constituted a smaller percentage of the workhouse population from the mid-19th century onwards, and consequently the emphasis on work and the facilities for carrying on work in the workhouse gradually lessened.5.18   After 1850, workhouse inmates tended to be the old, the sick, the handicapped, children and unmarried mothers. There was also an increased shifting population of vagrants and casual workers who were usually kept separate from the other inmates. Conditions in which the inmates lived also gradually changed with increasing differentiation given to different categories of inmate. Unmarried women, for example, tended to be isolated from the other inmates as much as possible. Their poverty was often deemed to be a result of their moral failings rather than attributable to adverse economic circumstances. This may have been reflected at Witham with the provision of two further wings on the women’s side (Blocks N/L). There was also some slight relaxation in the regime for the old and a greater concern was shown for the handicapped. Towards the end of the 19th century, it became increasingly common practice for children to be removed from the workhouse altogether and placed in foster homes or in separate Poor Law or ‘Industrial Schools’, something Witham had become as early as 1882. 5.19   It was in the treatment of the sick that the most significant changes took place. The development of the medical and nursing professions meant that expectations and health standards were rising. Conditions in workhouse wards attracted increasing criticism. Contemporary medical journals such as The Lancet exposed the appalling conditions in the London workhouse infirmaries in the 1860’s and campaigned for improvements. In some Unions, sick wards were amalgamated and reorganised, while in others new infirmaries were built. This appears to be reflected at Witham by the changes to its Infirmary, notably the rapid heightening of its wings into 2-storey buildings very early on, providing considerable further accommodation for sick inmates. A ‘New Infirmary’ was built to the west of the workhouse at Witham in 1896, although this was after the buildings had been taken over by the South Metropolitan District Schools Board for use as a Poor Law school.5.20   In 1871, the Local Government Board took control of the Poor Law system. The Inspectorate was increased in size and education and child welfare became increasingly important concerns of the Boards of Guardians. In urban areas the Unions were controlled by these Boards. In rural areas local magistrates had the right to sit on the boards. By 1894 the only necessary qualification to sit on a Board was 12 months residence. 5.21   The workload and responsibilities of the Boards of Guardians gradually increased such that the local aristocracy and businessmen became reluctant to serve as Guardians. Their functions were enhanced as the country became more urbanised and more organised. Originally responsible for property assessment, the appointment of Registrars and the regulation and distribution of outdoor relief, their burden was later extended to include the enforcement of vaccination and nuisance removal, provision for children and coping with the increasing problems of vagrancy. Until 1894, when the District Councils were established, the Guardians increasingly controlled local affairs.5.22   By 1900, there were strong pressures for change in the administration of workhouses and in the Poor Law system as a whole. The work of individual Victorian philanthropists and various charitable organisations such as the Workhouse Visiting Society had for some time been creating a greater public awareness of the conditions in the workhouses. They campaigned strongly for changes and improvements especially in the treatment of the more vulnerable groups of inmates.
    1. By the end of the century also there were differing social attitudes to understanding the causes of poverty. The work of individuals such as Charles Booth, Seebotham Rowntree and others brought recognition that poverty may not necessarily be the result of the moral shortcomings of the pauper. The extension of the franchise in 1867 and 1884 at national level facilitated the election of members of Parliament who were either sympathetic to, or were drawn from, the working classes. 5.24   At a local level the composition of the Boards of Guardians also changed. The franchise for the election to the Boards was made the same as for parliamentary elections in 1894 and the property qualification (which had been reduced to £5 per year in 1892) was abolished. Working class men and women could now be elected as Guardians. The meetings of the Boards of Guardians were reported in the local press, which had a rapidly growing readership. The provision of elementary education by an Act passed in 1871 had helped to make the Guardians actions known to a wider reading public.5.25   In 1905, the Conservative Government of Arthur Balfour set up a Royal Commission on the Poor Law and the Unemployed. Its members were eventually unable to agree on unified recommendations so in 1909 two reports appeared. The Majority Report recommended thorough reform of the existing poor law system. The Minority Report (whose contributors included early socialists such as Beatrice and Sidney Webb and George Lansbury, later leader of the Labour Party) recommended complete abolition of the Poor Law. No immediate action was taken on either report. 5.26   The introduction by the Liberal Government of old age pensions in 1908, and the state sickness and unemployment insurance schemes in 1911, provided the first basis for an alternative approach to the poor and laid the foundations of the Welfare State. In 1913, it was decreed that workhouses should henceforth be termed “poor law institutions”. In name, the union workhouse had ceased to exist, although its functions continued for a further 35 years.5.27   Before the First World war the Board of Guardians of Poplar in east London (of which George Lansbury had been a member since 1892) had begun to provide outdoor relief to the able bodied poor on a more generous scale than that which was laid down officially. With the onset of mass unemployment from 1921 onwards, the demands on the Poor Law authorities nationally increased rapidly and several Boards of Guardians adopted what came to be known as “Poplarism”, the provision of higher levels of outdoor relief to the unemployed. 5.28   The Government relaxed the pressures on the Boards of Guardians in view of the economic circumstances so that they were able to borrow funds to meet current expenditure. The Poplar Guardians took advantage of this situation to further increase their rates of outdoor relief to the unemployed.   Several of the Poplar Guardians were eventually jailed because they failed to meet their contribution to the common fund for the relief of the poor in London as a whole (specifically the police precepts) because of their concern to increase expenditure to meet local needs.5.29   In 1926 Neville Chamberlain, the then Minister of Health in the Conservative Government of Stanley Baldwin, secured passage through Parliament of the Board of Guardian’s (Default) Act. The Act allowed him to assume direct control of the administration of poor relief in Unions where it was considered that the Guardians were defaulting on their duties by distributing too much relief to the unemployed.5.30   The administrative structure of the Victorian Poor Law was finally dismantled by the Local Government Act of 1929. The Boards of Guardians were dissolved from March 1930 onwards and their responsibilities were transferred to Public Assistance Committees of the county and county borough councils. The poor law institutions became known as “Public Assistance Institutions”. Some former workhouses were converted into more specialised purposes, but most remained in place with essentially the same functions and the same groups of inmates until after the Second World War.5.31   The last Poor Law (Amendment) Act was passed in 1938. The Poor Law was finally brought to an end by the National Assistance Act of 1948 that helped to inaugurate the modern welfare state. Since that time, many former workhouse buildings have been demolished, others have been allowed to fall into dereliction, while still more have been converted to serve other purposes such as hospitals and asylums.




Note: The workhouse is aligned roughly northeast – southwest. For ease of description, a site north is used throughout this document, where the site entrance is south and the old Infirmary (Block F) is north.



6.1       A principal source of information for Witham and other Essex workhouses is Tina Garratt’s Essex Poor Law Buildings : Comparative Survey of Modern/Industrial Sites and Monuments, carried out for Essex County Council Archaeological Advisory Group in 1997 and published in 1998. Kathryn Morrison, author of The Workhouse (English Heritage 1999) of the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments of England has been consulted. Other sources were documents held at the Essex Record Office (ERO) and modern plans provided by the client.


Witham Union Workhouse (c.1837-1880) – (See Figs 2 to 4)

    1. The modern hospital grew from the Witham Union Workhouse, which was the construction of which was commenced in August 1837, only three years after the passing of the Poor Law Amendment Act. A very noticeable feature of site chosen for the Witham Union workhouse is its proximity to the town it served, the site lying on the main Hatfield Road (old A12) only just beyond the then extent of the urban edge. This is in marked contrast to the ‘twin’ workhouse at Tendring, located on Tendring Heath, some 2km from the village of Tendring. The plot originally purchased was barely big enough for the workhouse, exercise yards and a modest walled kitchen garden. The constricted nature of the site meant that there was little land available for a workhouse farm, although there was a small plot set aside for cultivation the east of the workhouse (Fig 3). The entrance block was set back from the Hatfield Road by a mere 15 metres and no attempt was made to screen it from the road, there originally being only a low wall surmounted by ornamental railings and few ornamental trees (Plate 1). This openness is in distinct contrast to many other workhouses, Tendring included, where the location appears to have been intended to isolate the building from its human environment.6.3    The architects Scott and Moffatt were commissioned to design the building, which was based on a variant of Kempthorne’s cruciform plan, one of 4 model plans published by the Poor Law Commissioners in their first Annual Report. Scott and Moffatt designed other Essex workhouses at Billericay, Dunmow and Tendring, and who were assiduous designers of workhouses around the country. Kathryn Morrison lists 44 in her recent paper on their poor law institution work (Morrison 1997, included here as Appendix 4), and elements of the Witham layout can be elucidated with reference to some of their other workhouses, although surviving historic plans are now extremely rare. Morrison illustrates three examples in her article (Williton (1836) and Launceston I & II (1838)). These plans are considered by Morrison to be reasonable models for the layouts adopted by Scott and Moffatt in their earlier designs.6.4     Scott and Moffatt’s standard design was a variation on Kempthorne’s model ‘cruciform-within-a-square’ plan. Kempthorne’s design shows a three-storey cross-shaped building with a central hexagonal tower, with single storey buildings enclosing the 4 yards. The outer walls of the single-storey buildings are blind, producing a forbidding outlook and a containing effect. The central tower enabled the Master and Matron to observe all the yards from the windows of their quarters (the panopticon effect) and to control all the rooms radiating out from this hub. The design also effectively segregated the sexes, with males on one side and females on the other, both indoors and out. The usual functions of the rooms surrounding the yards reflected this separation of the genders, with sewing, laundry and other “female” pursuits accommodated on one side, with “male” pursuits (E.G. oakum / rag picking or stone breaking) on the other. There was no communication between the two sides except internally through the Master & Matron’s quarters or externally through doors at the base of the tower. The entrance block was more elaborate than the deliberately austere inmates’ quarters and, as at Witham, usually housed the Guardians’ Boardroom.
    1. In their standard layout, Scott and Moffatt rejected a number of the features of the Kempthorne cruciform-in-a-square model, in particular its rigorously-radial layout and complete lack of any outward-facing fenestration. Their schemes, as illustrated by Witham workhouse, instead usually consisted of: 1) a long entrance block (Block T), with functional, corridor-like, single storey lean-tos to the rear (T3 and T6) (said by Kathryn Morrison to have usually temporarily housed newly-arrived inmates or ‘Probationers’). 2) A parallel main workhouse accommodation range (Block O) with a central octagonal tower housing the Master & Matron’s Lodgings (Block O3) with male and female accommodation ranges (Blocks O2 and O4 and terminal cross ranges O1 and O5) and a projecting Kitchen block (K1) to the rear. 3) Walled exercise yards (all walls now lost). 4) An Infirmary (Block F), with projecting single-storey Laundry and Workshop ranges (the demolished west range and much-rebuilt E1/E2/E4). All of these features appear to have been part of the original build at Witham.
    2. The earliest plans of the Witham Union workhouse appears to be the small-scale depiction on the 1839 Tithe Award Map (Fig 2), which was being surveyed as the workhouse was approaching completion, and the Witham Town Plan (Fig 3), which shows the building immediately following its completion. The only significant detail difference between these plans is that the Tithe Map (which was surveyed during the construction of the workhouse) omits to show the projecting Kitchen block. This is clearly shown on the slightly later Witham town plan however, and it seems certain that the surviving Kitchen (K1) was in fact also a part of the original Scott / Moffatt plan. Such early small-scale maps as these should not be taken as accurate and detailed representations of building plans plan, but the original layout may be tentatively deduced from them, the 1874 OS map and other Scott and Moffatt workhouse plans. These sources appear to show that Witham Union workhouse conformed exactly to Scott and Moffatt’s general plan, with the entrance range (Block T) reflecting aspects of both Williton and Launceston (1836 and 1838, reversed), the central ranges also reflecting Williton (but without the extensions to both ends of the terminal cross ranges). The northern ranges also closely reflecting the arrangement carried out at Williton (See Appendix 4). Today, Witham displays better all of the essential features of the Scott / Moffat plan than any of their other surviving Essex workhouses.
    3. As in Scott / Moffatt’s workhouse at Williton and Launceston, there is no spoke from the central tower to the entrance block. Instead walls channelled the incoming visitor to the entrances to the Master & Matron’s residence (Block O3) and the male and female wards to either side (Blocks O2 and O4), isolating them from the two exercise yards (possibly for the aged men and women) that lay between the main- and entrance ranges. Two very small further yards were also attached to the inner ends of the probationer’s lean-tos. To the north of the main block, and separated by the single-storey kitchen (Block K1), were two further exercise yards (male and female), each further sub-divided in two by walls, thus segregating adults from children. A seventh walled yard, connecting the Kitchen to the Infirmary, lay between the male and female sides. This, and two yards to the rear of the Infirmary (Block F1-F3), may have provided exercise space for the male and female sick (and possibly also the mothers with infants). To the east lay a walled garden / service courtyard (which probably also housed the segregated ‘Casual Wards’ for vagrants), with a further small plot further east to serve as a kitchen garden. These are shown clearly on both maps.
    4. The 1874 OS map (Fig 4), which may be relied on with significantly greater confidence, shows a number of changes from both the classic Scott / Moffatt plan as well as from the layout shown on the earlier maps. Most noticeably, the T-shaped layout of the main and Kitchen ranges has been supplemented with further east and west ranges, creating an E-shaped plan in place of the original T-plan. The eastern of these ranges survives (Blocks L / N) today, whilst a photograph has survived showing the western range (precursors of Block H / I) (Plate 2). These blocks are/were single- and two-storey ranges, but it is noticeable that, whilst the symmetry of the original Scott / Moffat plan-form has been retained, the perfect symmetry of the building heights and elevational layouts shown in the initial grand design has started to break down somewhat. Thus, the western range appears to have been a single-storey building (Plate 2), whilst the eastern range had (and still has) has a large two-storey element (Block N) housing two further wards / dormitories. The single storey element (Block L) appears to have been for female toilets / baths.
    5. The other new feature shown is the addition of two small single-storey sheds (Block R and precursor of Q), located at either end of the main range and partially enclosing the east and west ends of the exercise yards located between the main- and entrance ranges. These may have been ‘Sanitary Annexes’, containing washing facilities / toilets. Again the plan-form achieved here is entirely symmetrical, although we now have no certain evidence to show that elevational treatments were identical, although they probably were.
    6. All of these changes were carried through with local red-red-brown stock brickwork and all other constructional details closely mirrored those of the original Scott / Moffatt ranges, implying a nearly contemporary date. Detailed study of the built fabric reveals also that the east and west Infirmary wings (Blocks F2 / F3) were built as single-storey structures and that these were raised to two storeys, apparently during construction or shortly thereafter. The exact reasons and dates for these extensions should be contained within the Witham Guardian’s minutes, but it is clear that they will reflect the changing requirements and pressures on the services of the workhouse, notably increasing concerns about the care of the sick and elderly. It is of note that, even though the new east and west ranges formed the boundary of the workhouse site, they have / had windows on both sides, a marked contrast from Kempthorne’s model workhouse plans, that were entirely un-fenestrated on their external walls. This also appears to have been a feature of parts of the original Scott / Moffat designs for the Witham Union, notably the eastern and western terminal cross-ranges at the ends of the main range (Blocks O1 and O5).
    7. Apart from the loss of the northern, single-storey, workshop range that lay to the west of the infirmary and the exercise yard walls, most of the buildings of the Scott / Moffatt original design have survived, at least in part. The remains of the corresponding Laundry range (E1/E2/E4) to the east of the Infirmary are now somewhat fragmentary however, following the reconstruction of the Laundry in 1933. Aspects of their original form may be deduced from surviving survey drawings of the Laundry made at this time (Figs 22 to 24), whilst the height and roof profile of the lost western range may still be discerned from a scar on the western end of Block F2 (Plates 33b & 33d). The remainder of the Scott / Moffatt buildings currently survive in a remarkably un-altered state, most notably the main- and entrance blocks (T and O – Plates 3-7 & 10-20), although the western of the single-storey, Probationer’s lean-to ranges (T3) has suffered some unfortunate re-walling and re-fenestration (Plate 4f). The surviving slightly-later workhouse buildings (Blocks N, L and R – Plates 27-30 & 21e-f) are also still recognisable although the small Block R (the possible Sanitary annex) and has suffered modern re-fenestration.
    8. The functions of the rooms in the original institution can be deduced from other Scott and Moffatt schemes where documentary evidence for them exist, notably Williton (1836) and Launceston (1838) (See Appendix 4). The entrance was thus through the pedimented arch, flanked to east and west by the Boardroom / Clerk’s Office / Waiting Room / Registry (T5) and a Porter’s Lodge and Chapel (T2). The lean-tos to the rear (T3 / T6) would have been for housing new inmates awaiting classification (the ‘Probationers’ rooms), with toilets at the outer ends. The main block would have housed the Master & Matron’s Lodgings in the central octagon/tower, with the adjoining east and west wings to either side housing the ‘undeserving (i.e able-bodied) poor’ and the terminal cross-ranges at either end housing the ‘first-class’ or ‘deserving’ poor (the aged and infirm). The upper two storeys would have housed the large, open dormitories for each category and the ground floor (which has larger windows) would have housed the day rooms, where the inmates would have been expected to work and eat.
    9. The northern block (Block F) clearly housed the Infirmary, originally flanked by long, single-storey ranges to its east and west housing men’s and women’s workrooms. These flanking ranges have been largely demolished, although one room of the men’s workrooms appaers to have survived at the south end of the ground floor of Block F2. Some fragments of the women’s workrooms have survived, incorporated into the later Laundry (Blocks E1 / E2 / E4 – Figs 20-24 & Plate 42). A separate area again (possibly within a separate eastern courtyard (now lost) may have housed the ‘Casual Wards’ for vagrants. Part of the Infirmary may have housed ‘Refractory Wards’ (for uncontrollable inmates), although later re-fenestration of the ground floor has removed the usual evidence (e.g. small windows with bars). The maps consistently show the division of the yards, maintaining the separation of the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor, sub-divided by age and gender, an essential part of the workhouse regime. It is noticeable that the position of some of these walls changes over time for functional reasons (e.g. restricting access to the Kitchens or Laundry), but the number of yards remain constant to 1874. Further detail on the precise evolution and uses of the site’s buildings during its time as a classic workhouse would have to be gleaned from the detailed study of the eleven volumes of Guardian’s minutes housed at the Essex Record Office.  South Metropolitan District School Board (1882-1900) – (See Figs 5 to 7)
    12. The OS map of 1897 (Fig 5) and two block plans of 1901 (Figs 6 and 7) show most of the alterations brought about by the change of use of the buildings by the South Metropolitan District School Board between 1882 and 1900, although they do not show the H-plan ‘New Infirmary of 1897-8. The strict segregation of boys and girls is still apparent, but most of the other exercise yard walls have been swept away. The SMDSB carried out few alterations to the original workhouse buildings but the OS plan clearly shows the documented SMDSB additions of 1892-3 (Boys & Girls School Rooms (A1 / D1) and the new Drying Room (E3)). It also shows a SMDSB extension to the Toilet / Bath House block (Block M). It is worth noting that this is on the girls’ side of the establishment. These buildings are all executed in red brick, in contrast to the browner brick of the Union workhouse phase. Apart from the recently-demolished ‘New Infirmary’ of 1897-8, all of these buildings survive in a recognisable state, the Boys’ School Room (Block A1 – Plate 37) and the Girls’ Toilet / Bath House extension block (M – Plate 30d-g) surviving almost un-altered. The Drying Room (E2 – Plate 43) and the Girls’ School Room (Block D1 – Plate 38a-d) have suffered subsequent re-roofing with unattractive flat roof however. The uses of some spaces by the SMDSB may be inferred from two Metropolitan Asylums Board Plans of 1901 (Figs 6 and 7), but further detail would have to be gleaned from detailed study of minutes and other SMDSB/MAB written documents in the London Metropolitan Archives.
    13. Metropolitan Asylums Board (1900-1923) – (See Figs 6 to 9)
    14. Detailed study of historic maps (Figs 6, 7 and 8) and the fabric of the extant buildings reveals that very few changes were carried out by the Metropolitan Asylums Board during their tenure of the site. Apart from showing the SMDSB’s ‘New Infirmary’, the only visible additions shown between 1897 and 1922 are a small extension to Block L (northern bay) and a Swimming Pool added to the west of the present Block I. This may provide a clue to the origin of Block I itself. This building first appears on the OS map of 1953 (Fig 12), although, stylistically such a late date would appear to be most unlikely. Whilst it clearly post-dates the First War (Plate 2), this building appears to belongs to the period 1900 to late-1920s (Plate 23). Its architectural style is somewhat different to the RECI ‘industrial’ style of the 1930s (e.g. the reconstituted Laundry of 1933 (Block E) or the Scullery of 1934 (Block K3)) and to the slightly showier style of the more formal RECI buildings of the 1940s (e.g. the Mortuary – Block U). It is thus possible that this single building was the principal architectural contribution of the MAB, although this currently seems unlikely. The only useful information on building uses under the MAB is contained in the block plans of 1901 and 1923 (Figs 7 and 9). These shows that by the later date the former Board Room etc in the eastern block of the entrance range (Block T5) had become ‘House’. Further detail would have to be garnered from the MAB minutes and sundry other papers housed at the London Metropolitan Archives.
    15. Royal Eastern Counties Institution (1923-1948) – (See Figs 8 to 11)
    16. In 1923 the site was purchased by the Royal Eastern Counties Institution, a large hospital Institution that had grown from the late 19th– and 20th-century changes in Poor Law provision and owners of a number of other hospitals including Severalls Hospital in Colchester (pers. com. Gyford). The Bridge Home appears to have been a specialised home for boys and significant sums were expended by the RECI in the 1930s and 40s in constructing new buildings outside of the former workhouse site. These included a Mortuary (Block U – Plate 9f-g)), a Medical Superintendent’s house and staff cottages to the south of Hatfield Road and in extending the hospital to the west with two purpose-built ‘Pavillions for Cripples’, built as late as 1947. The RECI also carried out a number of alterations within the former workhouse site. Their work may have included the construction of Block I (see above) and it certainly included the new boiler houses (B and C1 – Plates 39a-d & 40), the modification and extension of the Laundry (Blocks E1-E4 – Plate 41) in 1933, a new Scullery (Block K3 – Plate 26d-g) in 1934, and various small extensions (e.g. D2, J, M, P, Q and T1) (ERO, D/F 8/196, D/F 8/341, D/F 8/353, D/F 8/716 and D/F 8/731). 6.17  The hospital passed to the NHS upon its formation in 1948. The NHS massively extended the hospital to the north, on lands purchased by the RECI in 1938 (Figs 11 and 12 to 15). New works to the old workhouse area were very limited however, being largely restricted to the small Block S (plate 9a-d) and new Boiler House G (Plate 39e-f). The old buildings in the historic core were left almost unaltered, apart from redecoration, the insertion of partitions / suspended ceilings and the replacement of doors to conform with fire regulations. The hospital finally closed in 2002 and most of its site has recently been cleared. The historic core of the site, including the Grade II Listed former workhouse and entrance block, currently stands empty, awaiting refurbishment and conversion for residential use.
    17. National Health Service (1948-2002) – (See Figs 12 to 15)
    18. The records of the RECI and HNS are generally not on public access. The uses of the various buildings have been adequately ascertained from building plans at the Essex Record Office, although further detail would be gained from a survey and report published in 1930 by the Essex Public Assistance Committee. This report includes a medical officer’s report and an architect’s report for most of the Poor Law institutions in the County. The architect’s report will be accompanied by a block plan with the functions of each block identified, whilst the medical officer reported on the medical facilities available at each institution. The Committee also visited every Poor Law Institution in Essex and recorded their observations in the Minute Books.



7      DESCRIPTION (I) – Introduction & Southern Ranges (Blocks T, S and U)

       (See Fig. 16 and Plates 3 to 9)


Note:   The workhouse is aligned roughly northeast – southwest. For ease of description, a site north is used throughout this document, where the site entrance is south and the old Infirmary (Block F) is north.


General Introduction

    1. This section describes all of the extant structures on site. All of the structures were accessed externally and of those few that could not be accessed internally (Blocks C1 (part), D1/D2, G, T1 and U), only two 1940s buildings (Blocks T1 and U) could not be viewed through windows. The site is currently unused, and some buildings have recently suffered the theft of slates and ridge tiles. As yet there is very little evidence of vandalism internally. The site is currently protected by security fences, padlocked gates, blocked window openings and doors and screwed down window fastenings. Vegetation has not yet become a problem and all of the buildings remain in a structurally sound condition. The old workhouse Infirmary shows considerable evidence of an aborted refurbishment, apparently following a long period of decline and disuse. This work was clearly carried out in a manner cognisant of its historical interest, although it may be considered to have been somewhat heavy-handed in its execution. The entrance block and main range are Listed Grade II, although the Garratt report of Essex County Council makes the recommendation that both the Boys School Room (Block A1) and the Infirmary (Block F) should be treated as curtilage buildings.
    2. The following description is divided into three sections. It starts with the street frontage, main workhouse entrance range (Block T) and two later southern blocks, Blocks S and U. The second section will deal with the main workhouse range (Block O) and its various extensions and connected ranges. The third section will deal with the northern blocks, including the old workhouse Infirmary. Only summary descriptions are given of later buildings. The interiors are described as far as it was possible to access them.Introduction – Southern Ranges
    4. The southern ranges are centred on the original and little-altered Scott / Moffatt 1837-9 entrance range (Block T – Plates 3-8). This is an attractive single-storey range with a central archway, designed with classical motifs in the manner of a polite estate building. By comparison to known Scot / Moffat plans, the two sides of the entrance range originally housed Porter’s Room / Registry / Guardian’s Board Room / Clerk’s Office and Waiting Room / Porter’s Room and Chapel. To the rear are more functional, single-storey lean-tos, said to have housed new inmates awaiting assessment (Probationers) (Blocks T3 and T6 – Plates 4d-h & 7a-c). Apart from some minor additions, this block is relatively complete. The other southern blocks are considerably later. One is an attractively-built Mortuary (Block U – Plate 9f-g), constructed in a pre-NHS vernacular, apparently dating to the late 1930s or 1940s. The other is a corrugated asbestos roofed building (Block S – Plate 9a-d). This building is constructed in manner that suggests that it was never intended as permanent building. It is thought to be an early NHS structure.

Street Frontage and Approach

    1. The building was originally approached by a short drive, c.15m long, whose plan is still partially preserved by the modern tarmac. The street frontage originally consisted of a low wall surmounted by railings (Plate 1) but today there is only a later, low brick wall, the original wall and railings probably having been removed during the wartime scrap drive (Plate 3a-c). The original planting would appear to have been sparse and the randomly-placed conifers shown on the 1874 OS map (Fig 4) have been lost. There remain some very good mature specimens of horse-chestnut towards the eastern and western ends of the street frontage however. Entrance Block (Block T1 to T6)                                                            (See Fig 16 & Plates 3-9)
    2. General Description
    5. The entrance block consists of a double-height entrance archway (T4), flanked by single storey blocks to east and west (T2 and T5). It is built of local red-red-brown stock brick, with pillaster treatment and projecting bays on the street elevation. The whole is Listed Grade II. Each wing is of 2:2:1 window range with original arch-headed, small-pane, double-hung sashes to all forward facing windows and windows. These are set within plain reveals with semi-circular brick arched heads. There is an interrupted stone string-course at impost level, which continues across former doorways and between pilasters. The primary doorways under round heads retain cast-iron fanlights (plate 6c & 8e). To the rear there are original, single-storey scribed-rendered lean-tos (T3 and T6 – Plates 4f-h & 7a-c) and two small late-19th-/early-20th-century brick Toilet extensions (Plates 4e & 6f). A mid-20th-century extension (T1), laterly used as Toilets, completes the west end of the west range (Plates 4a-c). This latter is carefully executed, in an attempt to match the remainder of the entrance block.
    6. Block T4 – Entrance Gateway                                                                    (See Fig 16 & Plate 3)
    7. The double-height entrance gateway (T4) is centrally placed in the 1837-9 front. It is built of red-brown brick under a slate roof, with an Italianate pediment. This is rather grandly expressed with deep stone cornices to the street elevation but has a more modest brick cornices on the internal (workhouse) side. The pediment was formerly inscribed ‘Bridge Industrial Home’ (Plate 1). Unlike Tendring, this entrance archway remains open, beneath a round-headed archway with alternate large voussoirs and a large keystone gate facing outwards towards the street. On the inner (workhouse) side there is a correspondingly simpler round-headed brick arch. The gateway retains its original wrought-iron gates and lock. Within the entrance arch are two doorways, which originally accessed a Porter’s Room (east) and a Porter’s Room / Visitor’s Waiting Room (west) (both ‘Porter’s Lodge in 1901 and both ‘Offices’ in 1937). Both entrances retain their original doors and doorcases. The simple door surround to the eastern Porter’s Room (Plate 3d) and the elaborate surround to the western Porter’s Room / Waiting Room (Plate 3f) appear to be original. The floor of the entrance arch is laid with square brick paviors, which may be original. Concrete has been used to patch this floor.
    8. Block T1/T2/T3 – Entrance Block, West Range                                       (See Fig 16 & Plates 4-5)
    9. The western range (T2) originally housed the workhouse Chapel (still ‘Chapel’ in 1923 and ‘3rd Class’(room) in 1937) and the western Porter’s Room / Waiting Room. Also associated are the supposed Probationers lean-to (T3) and c.1900 Toilet additions to the rear and the mid-20th-century Toilet extension (T1) to the west. The mid-20th-century Toilet extension (T1) (Plates 4a-c) has been relatively carefully designed so as to match the brickwork of the original entrance, although it of a slightly redder brick, with a soldier lintel and single-pane double-hung sashes. It is uncertain when it was constructed, although it does not appear on any maps prior to 1953 (Fig 12). This may be a cartographic error. The lintels imply a building later than the known pre-war RECI structures which have rubbed brick lintels (e.g. Block Q), but it seems improbable that the NHS would have bothered with timber double-hung sashes in the years of post-war austerity. It retains no features of interest internally. It is worth noting that one of the doors at the west end is a later insertion however (plate 4b). The former Chapel (T2) would originally have been partitioned into male and female sides by a 6-foot high partition, with a central pulpit. The partition and pulpt have been removed but the room remains undivided, although it has suffered conversion to a hospital social club. This involved inserting a suspended ceiling (Plate 5a-e) and the cutting of a large hole through the north wall to accommodate the bar counter. It still retains a number of original features. These include an elaborate timber and iron roof still visible above the modern suspended ceiling above the projecting bay facing the street (Plate 5d), probably the location of the pulpit and any altar. It also retains original deep, moulded skirtings and window/door surrounds (Plate 5b) throughout. The plasterwork also appears to be original, with moulded arrisses (Plate 5c). The projecting bay facing the street was formerly divided from the remainder of the Chapel by some kind of timber and glass screen. This has been removed below modern ceiling level, but remains in-situ above (Plate 5e). This feature may be an addition of the later 19th Century, although this is currently unclear.
    10. The Western Porter’s Room / Waiting Room retains original plasterwork with reeded arrisses and original window surrounds. The fireplace has been lost and it is uncertain whether the plain skirtings are original. The fuse cupboard and internal lobby are modern. The Western Probationer’s lean-to (T3) (Plate 4f-h) retains its original roof and lath and plaster ceilings throughout (Plate 5f), although the walls of its eastern half are clearly post-war replacements. The walls of the western half of the building appear to be primary, with (probably later) scribed-rendered walls, one original small-pane, double-hung sash window and one original, planked 2-leaf ‘stable’-door with original, hand-forged T-hinges (Plate 4h). The scribed render recurs in the former Laundry in parts that date to the tenure of the SMDSB (1880-1900), notably Block E3. It is thought that it is an SMDSB feature. Internally the western half of the building retains cross walls and partitions that appear primary, whilst a small room between the beer cellar and the meat safe retains a horizontally-boarded lining that may also be primary. The westernmost room of the lean-to, now a cold store, housed WCs in 1901 (Fig 6) and almost certainly did originally. The small projecting Toilet adjacent tio the entrance gateway (Plate 4e), is not shown on any plan before 1937, although the legend ‘WC’ is marked here on a drainage plan of 1901 (Fig 6) and it does appear to be of about this date. The toilet retains no original sanitary ware, but the double-hung sash window, door and architraves appear to be the originals of c.1900. It is thought to be a Metropolitan Asylums Board structure.Block T5/T6 – Entrance Block, East Range                                                   (See Fig 16 & Plates 6-8)
    11. The eastern range formerly housed a Porter’s Room (mentioned above) as well as the Guardian’s Board Room, Registry, Clerk’s Office / Strong Room and two separate lobbies for the Boaord and for new inmates (‘Board Room’ in 1901, ‘House’ in 1923 and ‘Head Nurse’s House’ in 1937) (Figs 7, 9 and 10). The Registry was where new inmates were classified prior to entering the workhouse proper. As with the western range, the lean-to at the rear (Block T6 – Plates 7a-c & 8f-h) is thought to have originally been used to house new inmates awaiting assessment (‘probationers’).   The main block (T5) retains all of its its original internal walls and door-cases, dividing the various spaces of Porter’s Room, Registry, Board Room, Clerk’s Office / Strong Room and inmates and Board lobbies. The probationer’s lean-to is slightly more altered, but much better preserved than the western lean-to (above).
    12. The southernmost room in the East Range, leading off the entrance gateway, is thought to have been the Porter’s Room. It retains original deep, moulded skirtings, door, cupboards/dresser (Plate 7d) and an original round-headed, small-pane, double-hung sash window with original surround. The tall sash window to the rear is inserted, dating to c.1900, whilst the fireplace has been lost. A recently-blocked door leads to an internal lobby (New Inmates Entrance ?). This connecting doorway does not have the deep, late-Georgian / early-Victorian type of door-case found elsewhere, but instead has plain chamfered architrave, of a type only found elsewhere in the Laundry (Block E), which was much rebuilt in 1933. This doorway is presumed to be inserted. The lobby retains plain skirtings (possibly secondary) and an original door (with cast-iron fanlight) to the exterior. This lobby connects both to the Board Room as well as to a small room that is thought to have been the Registry (plain skirtings -possibly original, lost fireplace, blocked door through to Probationers lean-to (T6)).
    13. The Board Room (plates 7e-g) itself retains deep, moulded skirtings (probably original), original plasterwork with reeded arrisses, original window surrounds and door-cases and two original 4-panel doors. A drain plan of 1901 (Fig 6) shows a ‘Lavy’ in the south-eastern corner of the projecting bay of the Board Room, although there is now no trace of any former partitioning visible today. One of the two surviving 4-panel doors leading off the Board Room connects to a Toilet (apparently originally the Board Entrance Lobby), which retains a late-19th / early 20th-century toilet partition and what was originally an external door with cast-iron fanlight, latterly adapted to a window (plates 8d-e). The other 4-panel door leading off the Board Room (Plate 7g) accesses what appears to have been the Clerk’s Office (Plates 8a-c). This retains a boarded wainscott (possibly original but more likely late-19th-century), an original but blocked fireplace, wrought-iron panelled doors to the Strong Room (Plate 8c) set into the probationer’s lean-to and original plasterwork with reeded arrisses. The eastern doorway leading to the exterior is inserted into an original window opening.
    14. The Eastern Probationer’s lean-to (T6) to the rear of the East Range (Plate 7a-c) retains its original roof and lath and plaster ceilings throughout (Plates 8f-h). The walls appear to be primary, excepting the part-glazed west end, that appears to date to the early years of the 20th Century (Plate 7a). The walls are again scribed-rendered externally and internally, concealing most evidence of any early interventions. As discussed in the section on the western Probationer’s lean-to (above), the scribed render is thought that it is an SMDSB feature. The four-panel external door connecting to the Board Room appears to have been inserted in the early 20th Century. There is one original exterior planked door with hand-forged hinges (Plate 7b) and two small original window openings, one with its original 9-pane window (Plate 7c). Towards the eastern end there are cracks in the render beneath an inserted window revealing the presence of a blocked door. This would have accessed a small toilet (partition now lost) where 4 WCs are shown in the drainage plan of 1901 (Fig 6). At the extreme western end of the north wall there is a shallow pier (Plate 7a) that was formerly the end of an exercise yard wall that connected to the easternmost of the two piers adjacent to the central door of the main workhouse range (Block O – Plate 10e).
    15. Internally the lean-to retains a boarded ceiling, scribed-rendered walls and the thick walls of the Strong Room (plates 8f-h). The shelves and the cross-wall at the western end appear to be early-20th-century. The small projecting Toilet to the rear (Plate 6f), adjacent to the entrance gateway is not shown on any plan before 1937, although it appears to be roughly contemporary with that to the west (i.e. c.1900). This toilet retains no original sanitary wear, but the double-hung sash window, door and architraves appear to be the originals of c.1900. It is thought to be a Metropolitan Asylums Board structure.

Other Southern Blocks                                                           (See Fig 16 & Plate 9)

    1. Block S. Asbestos-roofed, single-story range, located between the Entrance Range (Block T) and the Main Workhouse Range (Block O). Probably built shortly after the Second War, it is first shown on the OS map of 1953 (Fig 12). Unlike a number of other, probably earlier structures that first appear on the 1953 map, this building is a very credible early NHS structure. Internally it is very little altered, retaining original partitions, doors, windows, skirtings, architraves etc. Of little significance but of some interest as a probable early NHS structure. Not mentioned in List description.7.14  Block U. To the east of the entrance range lies a large, single-storey, red brick building, with a panelled, round-headed arch to each gable and small, high windows to its side walls. The building, which is first shown on the 1953 OS map (Fig 12) is in a distinctive style that is identical to a number of the RECI 1930s and 1940s Wykeham Chancellor (architect) buildings, specifically the now-demolished Pavilions for Criples and the Medical Superintendant’s House and Staff Cottages (ERO D/F 8/353, 716 and 731). It is shown as ‘Mortuary’ on the 1953 map, and it would appear to have always been used as such. It was not accessed internally, but the exterior appears to be entirely in ‘as-built’. Not mentioned in List description.



  • DESCRIPTION (II) – The Central Ranges         (Blocks O, H, I, J, K, L, M, P, Q, R and V)

(See Figs 17-19 and Plates 10-30)



Note: The workhouse is aligned roughly northeast – southwest. For ease of description, a site north is used throughout this document, where the site entrance is south and the old Infirmary (Block F) is north.


Introduction – Central Ranges

8.1    The central ranges are centred on, and connected to, the original Scott / Moffatt workhouse main range, Master & Matron’s Lodgings and terminal cross-ranges (Block O) and the original Scott / Moffatt Kitchen range (Block K1). This main range clearly proved inadequate and eastern and western ranges were soon added. The eastern of these survives today (Blocks L and N), abutted by a late-19th-century girls’ Bath House added by the South Metropolitan District Schools Board (Block M).   The corresponding western range has been lost and its site is now occupied by a fine, 2-storey building, thought to have been erected by the Royal Eastern Counties Institution in the 1920s or 1930s (Block I) and a prosaic and functional flat-roofed single-storey building thought to have been built in the 1970s (Block H). Similarly, the Kitchen block was also added to over time, with extensions of the later 19th-century, 1934 and c.1980s. None of these buildings have suffered much in the way of removal of historic fabric although, like the original Scott / Moffatt Kitchen, the main Scott / Moffatt workhouse range (Block O) has had a number of small extensions added to it over time, mostly in the 1930s-40s.




Main Range and Master / Matron’s Lodgings (Block O1 to O5)                         (See Figs 17-19 & Plates 10-20)

General Description

    1. The main workhouse block (Block O) stands back from the entrance range (Block T). It is also of red-brown stock brick, with slate roofs. It is also Listed Grade II. It has a central 4-storey octagonal tower (Master & Matron’s Lodgings) (Block O3), surmounted with a slate roof and cupola, with alternate sides breaking forward under stone or stucco pediments and a stone/stucco band between the 3rd and 4th floors. To either side of the (possibly original) glazed 4-panel front door (Plate 12a) there are projecting piers (with in-situ wrought-iron lock striker-plates) that are the last remaining intelligible vestige of the walls that formerly divided the various segregated workhouse exercise yards (Plate 10e). The Master & Matron’s Lodgings has original small-pane, double-hung sashes (Plate 12g) throughout (sometimes now with altered glazing bars) and is surmounted with its original bell-cupola. The Master & Matron’s Lodgings are considerably better preserved than that at Tendring, where a flat roof had replaced the original pediments, roof and cupola.
    2. To either side of the central octagon (Master & Matron’s Lodgings) are the main, 3-storey east and west workhouse ranges (O2 and O4), each with a stairwell at either end, accessed by external doors to both principal elevations. There is also evidence of a former external doorway, blocked at an early date, on the ground floor north elevation of Block O4 (Plate 11d). The floors of the main east and west ranges were accessed from the stairwells closest to the Master & Matron’s Lodgings. On the ground floor these two stairwells exited to the exercise yards to north and south via four doorways that retain glazed 4-panel doors that are apparently 19th-century, although it is unclear whether they are original (Plates 12b-c). These main ranges are terminated by 3-storey cross-wings (O1 and O5), accessed via two further stairwells located within the extreme ends of the main ranges. These two stairwells also accessed the exercise yards via four doorways, although these have modern doors set in original doorframes (plate 12d).
    3. Both the main ranges and the cross-ranges are of matching red-brown brick, with original small-pane, centre-pivoting windows to the upper storeys (Plate 12 f) and deeper small-pane, centre-pivoting windows with toplights on the ground floor (Plate 12e). Apart from where abutted by later buildings, the main ranges and cross-ranges appear to be almost completely original and intact, although late-19th– / early-20th-century cast-iron rainwater downpipes and soil pipes somewhat clutter the elevations. Some chimney pots survive, but it is noted that the chimney-breasts serving the two main ranges are early, but secondary, additions (Plate 11f). This is in contrast to the Master & Matron’s Lodgings and the terminal cross-ranges, both of which have integral, original chimney-breasts. In the following description the central hub (Block O3) will be considered first, followed by the wings (O2 and O4) and then the cross wings (O1 and O5). Descriptions of the later minor additions (Blocks J, R, P, Q and V) follow, prior to proceeding onto the Kitchen and other ranges to the rear (Blocks H, I, K, N, L and M).
    4.          Block O3 – Master & Matron’s Lodgings (for exterior, see above)                          (See Figs 17-19 & Plates 10-16)
    5. The octagonal central hub (Master & Matron’s Lodgings – Block O3) is a version of the hexagonal plan recommended in workhouse literature to achieve the panopticon observation effect. It varies from the Kempthorne pattern in that the two projecting wings are set back between projecting angles, a variant developed by Scot and Moffatt at Guildford and used widely by them on their earlier designs (e.g. Louth, Spillsby, Horncastle, Burton on Trent (dem), Williton, Bideford, Gloucester (dem), Liskeard, Tavistock, Tiverton, Bedminster, Witham and Tendring), although it is noted that a number of these are now much altered, including Tendring that has lost its original pediments and roof. This arrangement allowed a much greater flexibility of observation in that the windows in the reverse angles enable occupants of more of the rooms in the hub to see more of the surrounding yards. This would not be an option in workhouses with four projecting wings, which would obstruct such diagonal views into opposite yards, so the architects have taken advantage of the extra sightlines offered by the lack of east and west wings radiating from the hub.
    6. The hub would originally have been occupied by the Master & Matron and his immediate staff. Following the standard Scot / Moffatt plan, the ground floor at Witham was divided into four by corridors linking the side wings in one direction and the original main kitchen (Block K1) and the front yards in the other, although the corridor to the kitchen is now blocked at the crossing. The ground floor rooms were usually Master’s Office, Matron’s Parlour, Household Stores and Pantry/Larder and good evidence of all of these uses is preserved, including cupboards and a surviving alcove for a kitchen range in the Pantry / Larder (Plate14g-h). It is probable that this room served only the Master and Matron (and their families) only. This ‘cross’ plan was repeated on the upper floors, although the exact division of the Master and Matron’s accommodation is currently a little unclear. It is known that, whilst a married couple was preferred, the rooms in the tower were so arranged that the Master and Matron may have ‘perfectly distinct residences, that they still each have a view of all of the yards and have equal facilities for visiting and superintending every department’. There is also a basement (Plates 13-16).
    7. The floors within the Master’s Lodgings are linked by internal timber staircases of primary origin, with turned newels, stick ballusters and swan-neck banisters (plate 14b-c). Between the second and third floors this staircase has a matchboard wainscott (Plate 16a) and an inserted later-19th-century toilet. Most of the rooms within the Master & Matron’s Lodgings survive remarkably ‘as-built’, all with original taurus or plain skirtings (depending on status or use) and deep Georgian / early-Victorian doorcases (Plates 13-16). Generally the plasterwork also appears to be original, higher status rooms retaining reeded arrisses. Whilst most doors retain their original doorcases, primary doors only survive to the cellar (Plate 13) and on the third floor, much of which now houses a water tank (Plate16c-g). Some modern partitions have been inserted, but the original configuration of the rooms may be deduced by following the original picture rails and skirting boards through these later inserted walls.
    8.          Blocks O2 and O4 – Main Range – East and West Ranges (for exterior, see above) (See Figs 17-19 & Plates 17-18)
    9. The main east and west main accommodation ranges comprise large ‘wards’ with stairwells at either end accessing the three storeys of pauper’s accommodation in the main- and terminal cross-ranges. In 1937 the ground floor of Block O2 was ‘4th Class Room’, whilst the ground floor of Block O4 was ‘1st Class Room’. The upper floors are presumed to have been dormitories at this time. According to the standard Scott / Moffatt plan, the ground floor rooms would originally been male and female Day Rooms for the ‘undeserving’ (i.e able-bodied) poor, male to the west and female to the east, with mens’/women’s and boys’/girls’ dormitories above. The stairwells at each end of each block rise right through the building, those closest to the Master & Matron’s Lodgings connecting both to it and the ‘wards’ or dormitories in the main ranges (O2 and O4). The day rooms on the ground floor may have originally each been divided by a cross-partition, although no evidence of any such partitioning survives today.
    10. The stairwells at the opposite ends of the main range connect to both the main range and the cross-ranges. In view of the strict segregation that was a hallmark of workhouses, it is presumed that the stairwells closest to the Master & Matron’s Lodgings were used to access the main ranges, while those at the opposite ends were principally intended to access the terminal cross-ranges (O1 and O5). Unlike the stairs within the Master & Matron’s Lodgings, all four of the staircases located in the main ranges (O2 and O4) have stone treads, mast newels (often) and square, wrought-iron balusters (Plates 17a-d). Unlike at Tendring, all four of these stone staircases are entirely complete and intact, albeit with modern fire doors, partitions and hardboard panelling hiding the iron balusters (Plate 17b).
    11. Four of the eight external (or formerly external) glazed 4-panel doors leading off the four ground-floor landings of the stairwells appear to re historic, although it is unclear whether they are original (Plates 12b-c). Six of the door-frames are clearly primary. All of the internal doorways leading off the stairwells (both to the Master & Matron’s Lodgings and to the inmates day rooms and dormitories in the main- and cross-ranges) retain their original door-cases with toplights (Plate17g). Whilst all of these internal doorways have had modern doors inserted, some of the glazed opening lights above appear to be historic. It is possible that glass toplights were originally provided over the doors connecting to the Master & Matron’s Lodgings, whilst the lights over the doors accessing the day rooms and dormitories in the main- and cross-ranges may originally been provided with hinged, wooden shutters, as were found at Tendring.
    12. The stone staircases occupy the southern half of each stairwell, the northern half of the first- and second-floor landings accommodating a small room. These rooms also remain intact generally intact, although a several have had their doors connecting to the landings repositioned. These small rooms are generally very functional (two retain plain painted brick walls – Plate 17f), although on the second floor one of these small rooms is accessed from the Master & Matron’s accommodation rather than the landing, possibly serving as a dressing room connected to the principal bedroom. Unlike virtually every other window in the workhouse accommodation ranges, this room has a small-pane, double-hung sash window (and it is also furnished with historic skirting boards). There is some evidence that the ground-floor landings were also partitioned, probably to prevent inmates exiting to the wrong exercise yard. Thus the fragmentary remains of an original timber-clad stud partition survive incorporated into the side of a later cupboard on the ground-floor landing of the stairwell to the immediate east of the Master & Matron’s Lodgings (Plate 17e).
    13. The original day rooms on the ground floor and the dormitories above are generally very similar to one another, although it is worth noting that the ground-floor day rooms have deeper windows with toplights (Plate 12e), those in Block O4 also having flat window cills (as Block O1, O5 and H) and moulded stepped surrounds (as Block O5 and H) (Plate18d-e). All of dormitories were probably completely undivided originally, although all were eventually subdivided to a lesser or greater extent under the NHS. All now have modern suspended ceilings also (Plate 18a). It seems probable that the supposed male and female Day Rooms on the ground floors and the Dormitories on the two upper storeys have always been plastered throughout, although it would be necessary to remove some plaster to establish this conclusively. There is thus a likelihood that the later paint schemes overlie those of the workhouse period with painted moral and religious tracts extolling Victorian virtues possibly lying concealed beneath. The suspended ceilings in the second floor Dormitories hide painted roof trusses and plaster ceilings with old (but not original) paintwork (Plate 18b).
    14. On the upper two floors (the Dormitories), the window surrounds are simply plastered, with sloping plastered cills (Plate 18f), as is to be found on the ground floor of Block O2 (Plate 18c) and throughout Blocks O1, O2, O4, O5, J and H. There is no evidence of there ever having been skirtings, architraves etc in any of the main spaces on the upper two floors. The only evidence of any relief from this complete austerity are a chamfered dado running round the supposed Male Dining Hall on the ground floor of Block O2 (which is otherwise also unrelieved) and the stepped moulded window surrounds and flat timber cills as also noted on the ground floor of Blocks O5 and H. It is uncertain whether these features are primary but it is probable that, with the deeper windows, they preserve evidence of the former use of the ground-floor rooms of the main range as male and female Day Rooms.
    15.          Blocks O1 and O5 – Main Range – East and West Terminal Cross-Ranges (for exterior, see above) (See Figs 17-19 & Plates 19-20)
    16. At the end of the wings are terminal blocks (O1 and O5). As with the main ranges (O2 and O4, above), these are of red-brown brick, with three storeys. As stated above, it would appear that the two stairwells in the main range closest to the cross-ranges were used to maintain segregated access to the cross-ranges only. As with the main range, the cross-ranges originally had deep, small-pane, centre-pivot widows with toplights on the ground floor and small-pane, centre-pivot windows on the upper two storeys. Whilst almost all of the upper windows have survived unaltered, only one unaltered example of the original ground-floor windows have survived in each cross-range. In both cases, it is worth noting that these have flat timber cills, as in Block O4 and H, but not in Block O2. Unlike the ‘wards’ within the main range, the terminal cross-ranges still retain evidence of original room dividers and integral chimney-breasts at their northern ends (Plate 19h), probably indicative of their use for the ‘first-class’ or ‘deserving’ poor (the aged and infirm). There is also an early, but secondary, chimney-breast attached to the east elevation of the eastern terminal cross-range (Block O5).
    17. These terminal cross-ranges were built with 3-storey, projecting bays, both of which have been extended with consequent loss of original fenestration. The projecting bay of the western range (O1) is abutted by a short RECI 1930s-1940s three-storey extension (Block J – Plate 21a-d), exactly matching the original work, excepting the later work has soldier lintels. The eastern range (Block O5) was similarly extended by the RECI or NHS, with a flat roofed, single-storey range of Toilets (Block V – Plate 20v). The original external elevations of the eastern cross-range are further obscured by single-storey 1930s RECI ranges P and Q (Plate 22) and the early (but secondary) two-storey workhouse East Range (Block N – Plate 27-28). These ranges will be discussed below.
    18. The interior spaces of the terminal cross-ranges retain some features of interest. Summaries are as follows:
    19. Block O1 (Interior): Ground Floor: A large, undivided space, with a chimney-breast to the north (Plate 19h). There is a narrow, partitioned-off space in the west projecting bay where a WC is shown on the 1901 drainage plan (Fig 6). Possibly originally for ‘first class’ male paupers, this room may have been divided into two with a partition but it was being uses as one large ‘Dormitory’ in 1937 (Fig 10). It retains one original deep window with toplight and flat cill as well as doorways with original frames to the small room in the projecting bay and to the stairwell. The dado, doors and other partitions appear to be modern. Block O1, First Floor: Probably originally a large, undivided space with chimney-breast to north. Original windows and doorcase to stairwell. Partitions appear modern. Modern doors. Block O1, Second Floor: as above.
    20. Block O5 (Interior): Ground Floor: Apparently originally two large rooms, divided by the present north wall, with a narrow, partitioned-off room in the east projecting bay. The original north wall of the northern room (originally with chimney-breast to north, as still seen on the second floor) was removed shortly after completion, when range N was built. Possibly for ‘first class’ female paupers originally, this room served as a Billiard Room in 1937 (Fig 10). It retains one original deep window with toplight, flat cill and stepped window surrounds matching those on the ground floor of Block O4 (above) and Block N (below). All doorways, most of which are inserted, have 1930s frames with modern doors. First Floor: Apparently originally two large rooms, divided by the surviving, unusual ‘panelled’ wall (Plate 20e, left). The original north wall of the northern room (originally with chimney-breast to north) was removed shortly after completion, when Block N was built. There is still evidence of a narrow, partitioned-off room in the eastern projecting bay. What remains of this ‘room’ retains an original cupboard (Plate 20e). Original windows and doorcases to stairwell and through panelled wall. Otherwise modern partitions and doors. Second Floor: Probably originally a large, undivided space (Plate 20d), retaining original chimney-breast to north. Original windows and doorcase to stairwell. Modern partitions and doors.Extensions to Western Terminal Cross-Range (Blocks J and R) (See Figs 17-19 & Plate 21)
    21. Block J. A 3-storey toilet extension, built at the west end of Block O. Apart from the use of a slightly redder brick and soldier lintels (Plate 21d), it is designed to carefully match the rest of Block O, right down to having matching small-pane, centre-pivotting windows with sloping plastered cills internally. As is the case with a number of other smaller buildings and extensions, this block is not shown on the 1937 or 1938 Block Plans (Figs 10 and 11) and it first appears on the OS map of 1953 (Fig 12). This may be a cartographic error however. Whilst this extension lacks the carefully rubbed brick lintels of known pre-war RECI extensions (e.g Block Q), the work seems to be too carefully executed to be the work of the early post-war NHS. All partitions and the toilets on the ground and first floors appear to be modern. The windows may have been repositioned from Block O1 and possibly also from other buildings that were being remodelled in the 1930s (e.g. Block E). No other features of interest were noted. This extension is not specifically mentioned in the List description.
    22. Block R.   Secondary, workhouse-period, pitched-roofed, red-brown brick, single storey shed (Plate 21o-f). The building has been altered through the insertion of modern widows to the east and west, in altered / new openings with soldier lintels. It also appears to have had a chimney in its gable. First shown on the OS map of 1877 (Fig 5), this building originally had a matching counterpart on the site now occupied by Block Q. The original use of these two ‘sheds’ is not currently clear, although they may have been ‘Sanitary Annexes’ housing washing facilities. In modern times this building was in use as a Scullery. Modern, tiled interior, with no internal features of interest. Not specifically mentioned in List description.        Extensions to Eastern Terminal Cross-Range (P, Q and V)           (See Figs 17-18 & Plate 22)
    23. Block P. Single-pitched-roofed, single-story, red brick RECI lean-to, with rubbed brick lintel on south elevation (Plate 22a). First shown on a Block Plan of 1937 (Fig 10), it is thought that this building was constructed by the RECI in the 1920s or 30s. In 1937 it was being used as Scullery to a Men’s Mess Room and Lounge (Block Q below). Original 2-pane, double-hung sashes and casements, modern infill and door to northern half of west elevation. The wall to its northern half is later. No other features of interest. Not mentioned in List description.
    24. Block Q. Flat-roofed, two-story and single-storey, red brick RECI extension, with rubbed brick lintels (Plate 22b-h). Built in two closely contemporary phases (Plate 22d), 1922-1937, both first shown on a Block Plan of 1937 (Fig 10). Used in 1937 (and probably when built) as Men’s Mess Room and Lounge, with additional dormitory accommodation on upper floor. Original small-pane, double-hung sashes, skirtings, window surrounds, architraves, two chimney-breasts and moulded beams (Plates 22f-h). No other features of interest. Not mentioned in List description.
    25. Block V. Flat roofed, single-storey, red brick, mid-20th-century Toilet block (Plate 20b). Similar in detailing to RECI Block Q (1922-1937), albeit with soldier lintels rather that the well-executed rubbed-brick lintels of Blocks P and Q. As with a number of other buildings with similar lintels (e.g. Blocks T1 and J) this building is not shown on any map prior to 1953. This may be a cartographic error, or it may imply that this is an early-post-war RECI extension. Original windows, door frames and possibly cubicle partitions. No other features of interest. Not mentioned in List description.         Western Ranges (Blocks H and I)                                                                          (See Figs 17-18 & Plates 23-24)
    26. Block I. An attractive, pitched-roofed, two-storey, red brick building with small-pane ‘Crittal’ windows throughout (Plate 23b) and exposed steel roof trusses on upper storey (Plate 23e). This building is of a very high quality of build, with a circular occulus in its northern gable and very well executed rubbed-brick, straight-headed lintels. This building was constructed on the site of the secondary (but pre-1874) single-story west range of the workhouse (see Plate 2). It appears to have been constructed to compliment the pre-1874, two-storey workhouse range opposite (Block H). Until the late-1970s / early-1980s, the resemblance in plan would have been more marked, as it had an external staircase on its north wall, with a toilet beneath. This toilet block survives, incorporated into Block H (below) (Plate 24c & e).
    27. This building is something of an enigma as it does not appear on any plan prior to 1953 (Fig 12). This must be a cartographic error, as the detailing of the building implies one constructed between the end of the First War and c.1930. The detailing of this building is not matched by any other building on the site and there is a slight possibility that it was constructed, along with the former swimming pool to its west, by the Metropolitan Asylums Board (1900-1923). If so, it is the only major surviving large MAB building on the site. It seems more likely that it is in fact an early RECI building, probably constructed not long after 1923. If this is the case, in 1937 it was ‘5th Class Room’ (Fig 10). The upper floor presumably housed a further dormitory. Apart from modern suspended ceilings and doors, this building is unaltered from its original state, retaining all original dados, door frames, skirtings etc. The toilet that lay beneath its former external staircase is also preserved within the south-western corner of Block H (Plate 24c & e). Not mentioned in List description.
    28. Block H. Flat roofed, single-storey, red brick, mid-20th-century block, with soldier lintels and single-pane Crittal windows (Plate 24). This block is not shown any map before that of 1982-4 OS Map (Fig 15). Its only features of interest is the toilet in its south western corner, which used to lie beneath the original external staircase that ran down the northern elevation of Block (Plate 24c & e). This section still retains its original rubbed-brick lintel, small-pane Crittal window and a decorative cast-iron gothic rainwater hopper on the exterior. The building’s interior is modern and retains nothing of significance or interest. Not mentioned in List description.        Kitchen Ranges (Block K1 to K4)                                                     (See Fig 17 & Plates 25-26)
    29.          General Description
    30. In the standard Scott / Moffat plan, the workhouse kitchen was a wing attached to the rear of the Master & Matron’s Lodgings, with an attached Bakehouse and Back Kitchen. No such wing is shown on the 1839 Tithe map (Fig 2), but a range corresponding to the present Block K1 is shown on the Witham Town Plan surveyed shortly after (Fig 3). Given that the workhouse was still under construction when the Tithe map was being surveyed, there is no reason not to think that Block K1 (Plate 25) is part of the original build, although the attached Bakehouse / Back Kitchen appears to have been demolished when the current Pantry was built in 1934. Between 1874 and 1892 the small Bakehouse / Back Kitchen was extended slightly northward, a small Shelter was added to the west of the Kitchen and a Store (the present Block K2 – Plate 26a-c) was added to the Kitchen’s east. It seems probable that these were constructed during the lifetime of the Witham Union (pre-c.1880), although they could have been constructed by the Metropolitan Asylums Board (1881-1900). In 1934 the old Bakehouse / Back Kitchen, probably the serving as a Scullery, was demolished by the RECI and a large new Scullery (the present Block K3 – Plate 26d-f) built in its place. This was followed shortly after by a small new western store and yard (both also K3 – Plate 26g). This store / yard were subsumed into a new Scullery (Block K4 – Plate 26h) during the NHS period. Despite the historic significance of the original workhouse Kitchen, no parts of this range are mentioned in the List description.
    31.          Block K1 – The Workhouse Kitchen (Block K1)                                (See Fig 17 & Plate 25)
    32. As described above, the original workhouse kitchen remains almost completely intact, albeit surrounded by later buildings and only its hipped, slate roof with a large timber and glass lantern is visible from the exterior. There is a modern suspended ceiling and the walls are fully lined internally. Whilst it was not possible to inspect beneath the wall-cladding, it is possible to see the original fine timber, queen-post roof and lantern through missing ceiling panels (Plate 25b-c). Apart from original door frames in the east and west walls, no other significant features are currently visible internally, but the original, fixed wooden windows in what was its east elevation are still visible from within Block K2 (Plates 25 e-f).

         Block K2 – 1874-1897 Workhouse or MAB Kitchen Store                       (See Fig 17 & Plate 26a-c)

    1. To the east of the original kitchen lies an extension (variously referred to in later plans latterly as ‘Store’ and ‘Bread Store’). Most of this building is accessed from the original kitchen, although its southern end is accessed solely from the Master & Matron’s Pantry / Larder in the central octagon (Master & Matron’s Lodgings) of the main workhouse range (Plate 26c). This building is dated from map evidence to sometime between 1874 and 1892. Judging by its appearance, the building would appear to have bee constructed during the lifetime of the Witham Union and its building date would be closer to the earlier date therefore (i.e. 1874-c.1880). It is built of red-brown brick, with its original, slated, timber-trussed roof with lantern (Plate 26a) and the whole closely resembles the original 1839 Kitchen range (Block K1). Internal, modern wall-cladding currently make assessment difficult, but it is noted that the western door and door frame are original (Plate 26b), as is the casement window to the south. Internally one may still see the original, fixed wooden windows of the original workhouse Kitchen (Block K1) (Plate 25e-f).
    2.          Block K3 – 1934 RECI Scullery (See Fig 17 & Plate 26d-g)
    3. Block K3 was constructed by the RECI in 1934, on the site of an earlier workhouse-period Scullery. It is a single-story, red brick, structure, with an exposed, steel-trussed roof, concrete lintels and original timber windows. As with many of the RECI buildings, it was designed by Wykeham Chancellor, architects, and a full set of drawings survives in the Essex Record Office (ERO, D/F 8/196). Apart from internal modernisation and suspended ceiling, the building is remarkably unaltered, although one window to the east was blocked (Plate 26d) and two windows to the west removed when the NHS Scullery (Block K4) was added in the later 20th Century. The remains of a nearly-contemporary Kitchen Store with small-pane Crittal window (Plate 26g) and a small, walled yard survive to the west of the workhouse Kitchen (Block K1). These are surrounded by the NHS Scullery Block (Block K4).
    4.          Block K4 – Later-20th-century NHS Scullery (See Fig 17 & Plate 26h)
    5. Block K4 was constructed by the NHS in the late 1970s or early 1980s to serve their greatly expanded hospital site. It is flat-roofed, red-brick, single-storey building of very little interest. Not mentioned in List description.

         Eastern Ranges (Blocks L, M and N)                                               (See Figs 17-18 & Plates 27-30)

         Block N – Secondary Workhouse East Range (See Figs 17-18 & Plates 27-28)

    1. Block N is a two-storey, northern extension to the main workhouse terminal cross-range (Block O5). It is built of matching red-brown brick and in all materials and most details it is identical to main workhouse ranges (Block O above), albeit of only two storeys rather than three. The building does not conform to the standard Scott / Moffat plan and it is not shown on the Witham Tithe map (Fig 2), nor the undated Witham Town Plan (Fig 3). It is shown on the 1874 OS map however (Fig 4), and it would appear from the nearly-identical nature of the materials and detailing to have been constructed not long after the Scott / Moffat workhouse had been completed. The building is effectively a northern extension of the former ground- and first-floor north rooms of the original eastern terminal cross-range of the original workhouse (Block O5), whose original north walls were removed during its construction. The two rooms within Block N continue into the original terminal cross-range therefore, the position of the original north wall being marked by piers and beams on both storeys. Thus, whilst the building is two window bays long externally, it is three and a half bays long internally.
    2. The ground floor of the west elevation (Plate 27a) has three windows and a door, the openings of which all appear to be original. One of the ground floor windows appears to be late-19th-century, whilst the door is modern. The most significant difference to the original main- and terminal cross-ranges (Blocks O1/O2/O4/O5) is that the windows are all small-pane, double-hung sashes, under segmental heads (Plate 27e-f), all bar one of which (with larger panes) appear to be original. As with the main range, the ground floor windows are deeper, with toplights (Plate 27e).
    3. Internally the ground floor and first floor retain features consistent with those in the main- and terminal cross-ranges of Block O, although the ground floor remains undivided (Plate 28a). Thus the ground floor windows all retain flat timber cills and moulded, stepped surrounds (Plate 28d), whereas the windows on the upper storey all have plastered, sloping cills. The ground floor also retains a large, primary cupboard, divided internally (Plate 28b). There is an original chimney breast at the north end (Plate 28c), whist the west and north doors are in original openings, with original frames. The south door and opening appear to be modern. There is little of interest on the first floor. The partitions and fitments are modern. The windows have sloping cills. There is a chimney breast to the north wall. The north and south doors are in original frames and openings. These rooms have probably always been plastered and historic paintwork may survive beneath the modern layers. The original uses of these two rooms is unclear, although their position leading off of the terminal cross range of the main workhouse block (Block O5) implies that it was an extension to the accommodation there. It is thus likely to have housed more ‘deserving’ females, indicative of the workhouses increasing use by the aged and infirm. The ground floor, with its deep windows is likely to have been another female day room and the upper floor appears to have been another female dormitory. Despite the early date of this range, it is not specifically mentioned in the List description.

         Block L – Secondary Workhouse Female Bath House, Toilets etc (See Figs 17-18 & Plates 29-30c)

    1. Block N is a single-storey, northern extension to Block N. It is built of matching red-brown brick and, excepting some parts of its northern bay, in all materials and most details it is identical to it and to the main workhouse ranges (Block O above), albeit of only one storey. Again, this building does not conform to the standard Scott / Moffat plan and it is not shown on the Witham Tithe map (Fig 2), nor the undated Witham Town Plan (Fig 3). Most of it appears to be shown on the 1874 OS map however (Fig 4), and it would appear that most of it was constructed not long after the Scott / Moffat workhouse had been completed. It appears to have originally contained the women’s / girls’ washing facilities and toilets. There were 4 WCs here in 1901 (Fig 6). Despite the early date of most of this range, it is not specifically mentioned in the List description.
    2. This building is of three unequal bays, of differing heights. The southernmost bay, which projects slightly into the courtyard consists of a glazed staircase accessing the upper storey of Block N (Plate 28f & 29a-b). The stone-tread staircase (with wrought iron balusters and banister), slate roof and glazing appear to be original, but the projecting door and the brickwork surround, above and to the south appear to date to the 1930s or later.
    3. The middle bay has a window and door facing into the courtyard and a low, sloping slate roof. All of this work (except the door itself) appears to be original, as do the door openings, door frames and a surviving cupboard door leading to a space under the stair (29d-e). The corner cubicle (not accessed internally) appears to be modern, as do the two northern doorways leading into the northern block (below).
    4. The northern bay has suffered more alteration, apparently dating to the tenure of the MAB (1900-1923). Its eastern half (with water tank on its roof) is of workhouse-period red-brown brick (Plate 30b) and it is here that the 1901 plans show a header tank (Fig 7) and 4 WCs (Fig 6). This eastern portion was extended out into the courtyard in redder brick sometime prior to the 1922 OS map (Fig 9), although the parapet and flat roof on this section are later still, apparently post-war NHS work. Once extended, this building would appear to have been accessed via a blocked door in its projecting south elevation (Plate 29f). Thus, only the eastern end of this building retains any fabric from the workhouse period, the remainder apparently dating to between 1901 and 1922. The west and north walls nevertheless retain relocated, workhouse-period small-pane, centre-pivoting windows, with iron bars internally, whilst there is also a further, inserted window in the older portion of the north elevation (Plate 29b). This more historic part of the north elevation retains two original, projecting piers (Plate 30a-b), corresponding to a pair on the south wall of Block E. Internally this building retains glazed tiling to about 2 metres, with glazed ceramic edging (Plate 30c). The toilets and partitions are modern.
    5.          Block M – Early-20th-century SMDSB Girls’ Bath House extension (See Figs 1718 & Plate 30d-g)
    6. Adjoining the eastern side of Block M is a large, square, single-storey, red brick extension, with a hipped slate roof and large high-level windows. This building first appears on the 1897 OS map (Fig 5) and it was built by the SMDSB as an extension to Block M as a girls bath house. It is a building of little architectural merit although it is indicative of increasing contemporary concern over hygiene. Whilst this building is little altered externally, it retains no features of interest internally. This building is not specifically mentioned in the List description.


  • DESCRIPTION (III) – The Northern Ranges     (Blocks A, B, C, D, E, F and G)

(See Figs 20-24 & Plates 31-43)


Note:     The workhouse is aligned roughly northeast – southwest. For ease of description, a site north is used throughout this document, where the site entrance is south and the old Infirmary (Block F) is north.


Introduction – Northern Ranges

    1. The northern ranges originated in Scott / Moffatt’s U-shaped single- and two-storey Infirmary (Block F) and two narrow east-west single-storey flanking ranges housing men’s workrooms (west) and women’s workrooms / laundry (east). Whilst the offices / chapel of Scott / Moffatt’s entrance range and the large open wards of the original main block have adapted very well to the changing priorities and needs of the workhouse / children’s homes / hospital, the northern, ‘ancillary’ part of the site has proved less adaptable to these changes of use. For a variety of reasons, they have nevertheless survived in a more complete condition than at the vast majority of sites. The buildings have thus undergone a series of structural alterations however, and very detailed documentary research and fabric analysis would be required in order to understand quite how some of the earlier buildings appeared when built, or at any other given point in time.
    2. The first major change appears to have an early expansion of the Infirmary, increasing it to two storeys throughout. This appears to be coupled with the addition of stair towers and sundry early additions to the women’s workrooms / laundry where this abutted the Infirmary. These changes were followed by the erection of a new Drying Room (Block E3) and two School Rooms (Blocks A1 and D1) by the South Metropolitan District School Board in 1892-3. The Royal Eastern Counties Institution then erected two Boiler Houses (Block B and C1), shortly followed by a substantial rebuild and enlargement of the original women’s workrooms / Laundry in 1933 and the building of a Mattress Shop abutting the (former) girls’ School Room (Block D2). Later work by the NHS consisted of the demolition of the original Scott / Moffatt western, single-storey former men’s work room range and the construction of a large new Boiler House (Block G), both in the late 1970s/early 1980s.
    3. Whilst the RECI Laundry of 1933 remains substantially as reconstructed, the original Scott / Moffat Infirmary has had a number of interventions over time. The most recent (and invasive) of these has been a recent, but aborted, refurbishment which, whilst clearly carried out using a ‘conservation’ approach, has been particularly heavy-handed in its execution. Whilst none of these buildings are specifically mentioned in the List description, both the former Boys’ School Room (Block A1) and the Infirmary (Block F) are identified in Essex County Council’s thematic workhouse study (Garratt 1998) as being important curtilage buildings.

Workhouse Infirmary (Block F)                                                             (See Figs 20-21 & Plates 31-35)

General Description

    1. The original Scott / Moffatt Infirmary consists of a two-storey central range with projecting southern bay (Block F1) and two, two-storey flanking ranges (Blocks F2 (west) and F3 (east)), each with a small attached toilet / stair tower. The spaces between the projecting southern bay and the flanking ranges are infilled with small glazed timber, single-storey lean-tos (Plate 31a) and there is a similar small lean-to to the north. With a minor exceptions, all of the windows are small-pane, double-hung sashes, in contrast to those of the main workhouse range (Block O), in which small-pane, centre-pivoting windows predominate. The upper storey retains a large number of its original, small-pane, double-hung sash windows (c.23 of 32). The lower storey, in contrast, has been almost entirely re-fenestrated (Plate 31d-e) and only eight original lower window openings have survived, of which only seven retain their original windows. Apart from the glazed lean-tos, this block and its wings and stair / toilet towers are constructed of red-brown brick throughout, generally with hipped, slated roofs. Whilst the former Infirmary block still retains sufficient original fabric so as to be able to appreciate roughly how it appeared when built, as stated above, only very detailed documentary research and fabric analysis could elucidate fully how it appeared when built, or at any other given point in time.
    2. Block F1 – Central Infirmary Block                                                             (See Figs 20-21 & Plates 31-32)  
    3. The north and south elevations of the central Infirmary block are of 6 window bays each, the projecting bay dividing the south elevation dividing 2 : 2 : 2. All of the windows are small-pane, double-hung sashes. All of the original small-pane upper windows have survived. Those on the ground floor have been subject to considerable alteration and only four original windows and four original door openings survive within the south elevation or within the sides of the projecting bay. Within the north elevation only one original window has survived, the remainder of the ground floor windows having been replaced with much larger ranges of single- and 2-pane double-hung sashes, probably in the late 19th– or early 20th Centuries. There is no evidence that the east and west elevations were fenestrated prior to the heightening of the flanking blocks F2 and F3 and the doorways connecting with the flanking Blocks F2 and F3 are, or appear to be, inserted, on both storeys.
    4. On either side of the projecting bay on the south elevation there are the single-storey, glazed lean-tos. The western of these is an un-finished L-shaped modern replica structure (Plate 31a), whilst the eastern lean-to is historic (Plate 32a). It is uncertain whether these lean-tos are an original feature, although the Tithe map and 1874 OS editions (Figs 2 to 4) imply that they were, at least in part. The first map to confirm this in detail and the first to show the western lean-to as an L-shaped structure is that of 1897 (Fig 5) however. There is a matching lean-to to the north (Plate 31d). This is also an un-finished modern structure, designed to match those on the south elevation. It is not shown on any maps or plans and it would seem to be a modern invention.
    5. The interior of this block has suffered considerably from its aborted recent refurbishment, particularly the mechanical removal of wall finishes, the infilling of doorways and the removal of joinery. The ground floor is divided by two primary brick cross-walls, both with evidence of a tall original doorway, high enough for a door plus toplight (as Plate 34b), as found in the main workhouse range (Block O). A plan of 1933 in the Essex Record Office (ERO D/F 8/341) shows that the present central room was divided by a further partition at this time, although a pipe trench and other interventions have removed almost any evidence of this, excepting repairs to the floor joists above. These much repaired joists also preserve evidence of a trimmer that betrays the position of an original staircase to the upper storey. A further wall, also now lost, partially separated the projecting bay. There are primary chimney-breasts (with blocked fireplaces) to the eastern and western rooms and within the projecting bay. The central room(s) and the projecting bay are thus likely to have contained a staircase and small rooms for a nurse and for the surgeon who would have visited once-weekly, whilst the rooms to either side would have contained small five-bed wards. It is uncertain whether there was a padded cell (or Refractory Ward) as the refenestaration has removed the only likely evidence. The 1933 plan contains the only documentary evidence of room-uses found to date. It shows the four rooms on the ground floor (from west to east) Tailor’s Shop, Jam Making Room, Mattress Store and Needle Room.
    6. The upper floor is undivided and it appears to have been built as such (Plate 32e). It is possible that it was originally partitioned however, and the 1933 plan shows three small partitioned rooms in the north-western corner. The upper floor retains little evidence of former use, although the brickwork still retains historic paintwork, implying that the walls were never plastered. There is also some surviving deep, chamfered skirting along the north wall and many of the floorboards are original, albeit repositioned / reused in many instances. It is likely that the projecting bay was originally partitioned off from the remainder, although modern interventions have obscured this point.   The chimney-breasts in the east and west end walls are original although there is evidence of fireplaces on the lower storey only. There was also formerly a chimney-breast within the projecting bay, although this was removed on the first floor in the late-19th / early 20th Century (Plate 32f). No doors or door-frames survive on the upper floor. The roof structure is the repaired original, hipped at both ends and over the projecting bay, with queen-post trusses matching those within the main workhouse range (Block O). The painted brick walls and the lack of fireplaces on the upper floor is of interest, indicating that the workhouse Infirmary was not a particularly comfortable place, even in the 1930s, when it was serving as a boys’ dormitory. Block F2 – Western Infirmary Block                                                         (See Figs 20-21 & Plates 33-34)
    7. The western Infirmary block (Block F2) is very similar to the central block (F1) and its lower storey is contemporary with it. This is abutted by a stair tower to the west, which is in turn abutted by a toilet tower (Plate 32e). The hipped roof structure and primary windows are identical with those of the central block and it is constructed throughout in the same red-brown brick. Unlike the central block, the outer walls corbel inwards on the exterior between the ground and first floors however, and there is a clear structural joint where the upper storey abuts the central block (Block F1). These features show that the upper storey is a secondary feature, albeit one certainly constructed during the workhouse period, probably relatively shortly after the completion of the initial 1837-9 phase. It is presumed that the original roof may have been dismantled and raised when the upper floor was added. Importantly, discolouration on the western elevation clearly indicates the height and pitch of the roof of the demolished single-storey men’s workroom block that formerly lay to the west (Plates 33b-d).
    8. As with the central block (F1), most of the surviving windows on the upper storey are original small-pane, double-hung sashes, although significant interventions are visible. Thus, while the west elevation retains three original windows (Plate 33a) and the north elevation retains two full-width and one narrow window (all apparently original) (Plate 31d left), the south elevation now has two, deep, early-20th-century casement windows under original lintels (Plate 33b). A survey of 1933 (ERO D/F 8/341) also shows a third, smaller window between these. Only one (of four) original window survives in the upper storey of the western elevation. The other three windows were clearly blocked at an early date however. Two of the blockings are associated with the heightening of the western stair tower (see below), which, rather surprisingly, was carried out after the completion of the upper storey. The third blocked window is cut across by the discolouration that indicates the former roof-line of the lost single-storey men’s work room range (Plate 33d), apparently indicating that the second storey was added prior to the completion of the workroom range, which is shown on the Tithe map of 1839. These changes may indicate that design changes that were being made during the initial construction of the Infirmary in 1837-9.
    9. The ground floor has also suffered much alteration and refenestration. The lower storey of the southern half of the building has modern white painted pebbledash render on its west, south and east elevations. This part of the building also has a large inserted garage door on the west elevation and ugly large-pane Crittal windows to the ground floor of the south and east elevations. These changes may date to the time of the demolition of the former men’s work room range in the late 1970s / early 1980s. Any primary ground floor windows that may have existed in the northern half of the building have been replaced with much larger ranges of single- and 2-pane, double-hung sashes, probably in the late 19th– or early 20th Centuries (Plate 33c).
    10. Internally there is little of interest remaining, apart from the wooden floor, roof and two brick cross-walls forming a cross-passage that divides the ground floor into two rooms. The northern of these two rooms (that with the ranges of late 19th– or early 20th-century single- and 2-pane, double-hung sashes) served as a Shoemaker’s Shop in 1933 (ERO D/F 8/341) (Plate 34a) and it retains a blocked primary fireplace (Plate 34e). This room may have been a further five-bed ward, whilst the southern room is likely to have been part of the men’s workroom range. The upper storey appears to have always been undivided (Plate 34d), but in contrast to the central block (F1), two of the three chimney-breasts on the upper floor have evidence of fireplaces (Plate 34e). There is also no evidence of paint on the walls of the upper storey, implying that the walls here were plastered from the outset. The two cross-walls on the ground floor are both primary or early and one has evidence of blocked primary doorway, once again tall enough for a toplight (Plate 34b). The opposite cross wall has a central chimney-breast with a blocked fireplace which, strangely, appears to have serviced only the cross-passage. The opposite cross-wall may be a slightly later insertion therefore. This chimney dog-legs very awkwardly to gain the east wall on the upper storey, again implying that the upper storey is secondary. The southern ground-floor room could not be accessed, but could be viewed through the windows. It did not appear to contain anything of interest, except two chimney-breasts.
    11. The small stair tower on the western side of this block is largely a single-phase structure. It is visible on the Tithe map of 1839 and it is again built of red-brown brick. It retains a 19th-century 4-panel external door and small-pane, double-hung sash window, both of which appear to be primary. It is structurally separate from both the ground and first floors of Block F2, and clearly post-dates both. Internally it retains its original stone staircase, with wrought-iron balusters and banister and painted brick walls (Plate 34c). Attached to the western side of the stair tower is a two-storey toilet tower (Plate 33e). This is of two phases (ground and first floors) and it post-dates the stair tower. It first appears on the block plan of 1901 (Fig 6) and it has later-19th-century 2-pane, double-hung sashes, although it is noted that the ground-floor window appears to be inserted into an earlier (and formerly wider) opening. It retains no internal features of interest.
    12. Block F3 – Eastern Infirmary Block                                                           (See Figs 20-21 & Plate 35)
    13. Like the western block (above), the eastern Infirmary block (Block F3) is very similar to the central block (F1) and, once again, its lower storey is contemporary with it. There is a variation in plan however, as the southern end of the block appears to have been truncated at a later date, certainly by the time of the 1933 survey. It is noted that this end of the building has a gable with an external skin of later brick, rather than being hipped as elsewhere and it seems clear that the building has been cut short at an original cross-wall. This observation is confirmed by the 1933 survey that shows an eastern toilet tower and a western stair tower extending well beyond this gable. Part of the former western stair tower survives, cut back to the gable in 1933 and converted to a toilet tower (Plate 35c). Apart from the gable, the roof structure is identical to the other two blocks (F1 and F2). This block’s primary windows on both floors are also identical with those of the central and western blocks and, apart from the outer skin of the southern gable, it is constructed throughout in the same red-brown brick. Unlike the western block (F2), the outer walls do not corbel inwards on the exterior between the ground and first floors, but there is a clear structural joint where the upper storey abuts the central block (Block F1) (Plate 35a). As with the western block, this again indicates that the upper storey is a secondary feature, albeit one certainly built during the workhouse period, probably relatively shortly after the completion of the initial 1837-9 phase. Again, the original roof may have simply dismantled been and raised when the upper floor was added.
    14. As with the central block (F1), most of the surviving windows on the upper storey are original small-pane, double-hung sashes (4 of) and three more survive on the lower storey. A further two primary window openings on the lower storey are blocked with modern work, whilst another former window opening on the upper storey was converted into a fire exit in 1933. On the upper storey there is an area of newer brickwork at the south end of the eastern wall where there was once a door to the now-lost eastern tower (Toilets in 1933), corresponding to the in the western stair tower of the western block (Block F2). There is a corresponding area of blocking on the ground floor (Plate 35g). The first floor window in the southern gable is an early-20th-century casement window matching the pair in the southern wall of the western block (Block F2) (Plate 35d). This is inserted into a former door opening, showing that the building once continued further south on both its first and second floors. There is a corresponding doorway on the ground floor (with a concrete lintel) that was blocked in 1933 (Plate 33h).
    15. Internally there is little of interest remaining, apart from the wooden floor, roof and a primary brick cross-wall on the ground floor, dividing it into two rooms. The northern of these two rooms served as a Work Room in 1933 (Plate 35f), whilst the southern room was a Sorting Room for the adjacent Laundry (ERO D/F 8/341). Each has a chimney-breast with blocked fireplace and both are likely to have been small five-bed wards originally. The upper storey appears to have originally been divided by what is now the southern gable-end wall and it is now a single space. It retains two chimney-breasts, both with blocked fireplaces. Unlike the western block, but like the central block, the walls are painted brick (Plate 35e). The cross-wall on the ground floor appears to be primary and it retains a primary doorway, once again apparently tall enough for a toplight. Unlike the ground floor rooms in the central and western blocks, both ground-floor rooms retain what appear to be primary floorboards. The remainder of the building has concrete floors laid with parquet flooring, excepting the glazed lean-tos, which have stone flags.
    16. The small toilet tower on the western side of this block (Plate 35c) is a two-phase structure. It started life as a stair tower and it is first shown on the OS map of 1874. It seems that it was built to replace the earlier stair tower on the eastern side, when this was converted to a toilet tower. Until 1933, this tower extended much further south, but it was cut back flush with the south gable and converted to a toilet tower when the Laundry (Block E) was being rebuilt in 1933. The southern wall dates to this time, as does most of the western wall. The present windows, floor and roof date to this rebuilding, although the small-pane, double-hung sashes are reused from elsewhere. It retains no internal features of interest.Blocks A and D – Former Boys’ and Girls’ School Rooms           (See Fig 20 & Plates 36-38)
    17.           Introduction
    18. At the north of the site are two large red-brick buildings with rubbed-brick lintels. These were School Rooms built by the South Metropolitan District School Board in 1892-3. The western of these (Block A1) was formerly the Boys’ School Room, whilst the eastern (Block D) was the Girls’ School Room. The former Boys’ School Room (Plate 36-7) is much the better preserved and, whilst it is not specifically mentioned in the List description, it is specifically mentioned as an important curtilage building in the Essex County Council study (Garratt 1998). In contrast to the former Boys’ School Room, the former Girls’ School Room (Plate 38a-d)is much rebuilt, having lost its original roof, windows and entrance porch. Whilst these buildings were constructed after the dissolution of the Witham Union, they are nevertheless representative of the use of the former workhouse as a Poor Law school, and thus very much a part of the Poor Law story. Both buildings were latterly reused for other purposes, Block A1 being an Amusement Room and Block D1 being ‘M.I. Room’ in 1937 (Fig 10). A further block (Block D2 – Plate 38e-g) was added to the north of D1 I the 1930s, serving then as a Mattress Shop. Block A1 latterly became a physiotherapy gymnasium and had a toilet block added to its eastern end in the late 1970s / early 1980s
    19. Block A1 – Former Boys’ School Room                                                     (See Fig 20 & Plates 36-37)
    20. As stated above, this building is much the better preserved of the two former school rooms. Features of particular note are the fine timber and iron roof (Plate 37d-e), the eight surviving double-hung sash windows (Plate 36d), the corbelled external chimney-breasts (Plate 36a), chimneys and original glazed porch and entrance doors in the south elevation (Plates 36a-c). This building has suffered some alterations however, many of them relatively recent. These alterations largely relate to the stopping-up of all of the windows on its east and west gable ends, one of which, on the west elevation, appears to have been deepened into a doorway some time prior to its blocking (Plate 36f). The northern entrance (Plate 37c&g) also appears to be a modern insertion, although if this is the case, some care has been taken to mimic the blue brick jambs and rubbed brick lintels found elsewhere on this building. The doorway to Block A2 is also a modern insertion. Internally the building retains little of interest, the gymnasium wall-bars and inserted office being modern.
    21. Block A2 – Modern Toilets
    22. Block A2 is a flat-roofed, single storey toilet block, constructed under the NHS sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s. It has re brick walls and large-pane Crital windows under soldier lintels. It is of little or no interestat
    23. Block D1 – Former Girls’ School Room                                                     (See Fig 20 & Plate 38a-d)
    24. As stated above, the former Girls’ School Room is considerably more altered than the former Boys’ School Room. At some time in the mid 20th Century it was shorn of its original roof and given a flat roof with parapet. Probably at the same time its windows were replaced with large 4-pane hinged windows (Plate 38c) and it was shorn of its chimneys. These works may have coincided with the addition of Block D2 (Plate 38e-g) to its north, work that involved the blocking of a window and the cutting through of a connecting door. This event is dated to pre-1937, as a block plan of this date (Fig 10) shows this later building, labelled ‘Mattress Shop’. The former school room is shown as ‘M.I. Room’. Externally, the only features of interest are the window openings (but not windows or cills), the former entrance (but not the infilling joinery) and the projecting corbelled chimney-breasts. It was not possible to access the interior of this building, but its interior was visible through a window (Plate 38g). The internal partitions appear to be modern and no other features of note were visible.
    25. Block D2 – ‘Mattress Shop’                                                                             (See Fig 20 & Plate 38e-g)
    26. Block D2 is a low, red-brick, pitched-roofed, single-story building. It is well illuminated, with ranges of windows to its north, east and west. It was not accessed internally. It is a relatively industrial-looking building and it was built by the Royal Eastern Counties Institution as a ‘Mattress Shop’. Whether this was simply for the repair of the mattresses used in the Bridge Home, or a workshop for mattress-making is currently unclear. It survives in a generally ‘as –built’ state, but it would appear to be of lesser significance. Inspection through the windows (Plate 38g) and modern survey drawings appear to show that it will retain little of interest internally.Block B – ‘Auxiliary Boiler House’                                                   (See Fig 20 & Plate 39a-d)
    27. Block B is a small, prosaic, red-brown brick building, with a hipped slate roof and a large external chimney. It retains its original small-pane Crittal windows and its original planked doors. It dates to between 1922 and 1937 and it is shown on the 1937 plan as ‘Aux Boiler House’. This plan also shows the main Boiler House (Block C10) which appears considerably more modern, so its likely date of construction is likely to be closer to 1922 than 1937. This building and Block I may be the earliest RECI buildings on site. Excepting the recent theft of slates from its roof, this building is almost completely ‘as-built’ externally, although it has lost its boilers and any other original internal features that it may have possessed (Plate 39d0. It is currently divided internally with a modern concrete block wall. The building is of some limited interest as an adjunct to the large RECI Laundry (Block E) and its construction may also have heralded the introduction of central heating to the former workhouse. The chronology of this event seems to be backed-up by the large number of cast-iron radiators still in-situ around the buildings. These must have been a welcome addition to the draughty former workhouse buildings, hitherto un-heated altogether or heated by meagre stoves at best. Block G – NHS Boiler House                                                          (See Fig 20 & Plate 39e-f) 
    28. Blocks C, C1 and C2 – ‘Boiler House’                                                   (See Fig 20 & Plate 40)
    29. 9.24    Block B is a large, red brick boiler house with a mono-pitch roof and trall, metal-clad chimney. It was built in the late 1970s or early 1980s. It is of little or no interest.
    1. Block C is a larger, T-shaped, single-storey, red brick building with a steel-trussed, hipped roof to the main range and a flat roof, with parapet and lantern, to the smaller range. Both buildings are first shown on a block plan of 1937 (Fig 10). The main range originally contained Boilers, whilst the smaller, flat roofed range, which is basemented, contains pumps. These buildings appear to post-date Block B, which also contained boilers. They are probably associated with the major reconstruction of the Laundry (Block E), that took place in 1933.
    2. Apart from the timber lantern over the smaller range and some wooden dormers in the main roof, the building is fenestrated with Crittal windows with horizontal glazing bars. Most of the window openings have had their original concrete lintels replaced with soldier lintels in more recent times. The western end, which originally consisted of a whole wall of sliding doors, has been closed in with brickwork and matching Crittal windows (Plate 40d), implying that the existing windows are secondary additions. The roof and parapet of the smaller southern range are also secondary features (Plate 40a-b). Apart from the pumps, that may be original, the building has been stripped of all internal features of interest and converted into a plumber’s workshops and store (Plate 40e-f). This has involved the removal of the boilers and the insertion of concrete bock partitions.
    3. Blocks C2 and C3 are small modern, concrete block, lean-to structures. Block C2 has louvred doors to two sides, whilst Block C3 has a door of steel bars. Both appear to have been used for storing gas bottles. These are of no interest as they relate to the use of the building as a plumber’s shop.Introduction
    4. Block E – ‘Laundry’                                                                                   (See Fig 20-21 & Plates 41- 43)
    5. Block E is a series of larger, single-storey industrial structures that formerly comprised the workhouse / home / hospital Laundry. The new Laundry was a substantial reconstruction of the old workhouse Washroom / Laundry that appears to have filled the whole of the eastern (women’s) range of single-storey workhouse workrooms. At first glance, with their large ranges of small-pane, timber windows and large, steel-trussed roofs, the buildings appear to be a largely single-phase, 1930s building. They do nevertheless incorporate some substantial fragments of earlier buildings. These include the last surviving fragments of the long, single-storey ranges of workrooms that formerly lay to the east and west of the workhouse Infirmary (Block F). They also contain the last remaining fragments of any of the former walls that enclosed the workhouse and divided the various exercise yards and a Drying Room constructed by the South Metropolitan District School Board in 1892-3.
    6. The complex comprises four main buildings or elements. The principal of these are Blocks E1 and E4, two large steel-trussed roofed Laundry buildings, designed by Wykeham Chancellor (architects) for the Royal Eastern Counties Institution in 1933. While these incorporate fragmentary remains of earlier workhouse-period structures, Wykeham Chancellor retained and incorporated two earlier structures almost in their entirety. These are an Airing Room (Block E2) that had previously been inserted into the eastern end of the former workroom range and a Drying Room erected by the South Metropolitan District School Board in 1892-3 (Block E3). The latter building had itself incorporated parts of the original workhouse boundary wall.
    7. This group survives very much as completed in 1933-4 and its interpretation is greatly assisted by the survival of a very large roll of original architect’s drawings, containing both a detailed survey of the buildings as then existing (including Figs 22 to 24) and of the new buildings proposed (ERO D/F 8/341). As mid-20th-century ancillary structures, these buildings are of secondary significance. They are of some interest however, both on account of the fragments of earlier fabric they incorporate and as a well-preserved example of a medium-sized 1930s institutional laundry.
    8. Block E1 – Ironing Room                                                                     (See Figs 20-24 & Plate 41e-i)
    9. Block E1 is a large, well illuminated, open space, with a large, steel-trussed roof, lantern and ranges of pivoting timber windows to north and south. The building is almost entirely unaltered from its state as rebuilt in 1933, but, as stated above, it incorporates significant fabric from earlier structures. Thus, whilst its north wall is entirely a creation of the 1933 rebuilding, the west wall retains fabric from the former eastern wall of the lost portion of the east range of the original workhouse Infirmary (Block F3 – above). The east wall incorporates much historic fabric, much of it from the pre-1933 Folding and Drying Rooms of the old Laundry (Plate 42a-b). From their fabric, these appear to date largely to the tenure of the South Metropolitan District School Board, but some parts, principally those retaining buttressing on the exterior, appear to be the last fragmentary remains of the old workhouse boundary wall (see Blocks E2 and E3, below) (Plate 42b).
    10. The south wall also incorporates much historic fabric, in this instance the south wall of the original eastern range of single-storey women’s workrooms, dating from 1837-9. This wall was heightened and completely re-fenestrated in 1933, but its eastern end (the south wall of Block E2) remains very little altered, retaining two piers and two blocked windows (Plate 42c). This better-preserved section is clearly of the workhouse phase, although apparently not of the 1837-9 build, as the workrooms originally had projecting bays at their extremities (Fig 2-3). Comparison of the pre-reconstruction (1933) and contemporary east and south elevations of the current buildings well illustrates the fragmentary survival of pre-1933 fabric (see Fig 24).
    11. Internally and externally this block remains virtually unaltered from its condition as reconstructed in 1933 and it remains largely undivided, excepting a modern, ephemeral hardboard-clad stud partition. There are two large concrete plinths that correspond to the positions of a gas engine and machinery shown (and detailed) in the roll of 1933 drawings. The western wall retains an in-situ bearing box for the power-transmission line-shafting shown in the 1933 drawings (Plate 41h).Block E2 – Airing Room                                                                       (See Figs 20-24 & Plate 42)
    12. Block E2 was the Airing Room of the laundry, both before and after the reconstruction of 1933. It is the only two-storey part of the Laundry block and the upper floor is still approached by the 19th-centuy timber staircase shown on the pre-reconstruction surrey of 1933 (Plate 42d-f). These survey drawings show that this building, which formerly terminated the eastern range of workhouse workrooms, formerly had a hipped roof and an external chimney stack on its eastern elevation (Fig 24).
    13. Whilst the hipped roof shown on the 1933 survey drawings was lost when the building was brought under the overall steel-trussed roof of Block E1, the walls were not greatly disturbed. Thus the workhouse-period north and west walls still retain their scribed render wall finishes, which are ascribed to the tenure of the SMDSB (1882-1900) as they occur in the Drying Room (Block E3, below), which is known to have been built by the in 1892-3. The exterior of the eastern wall was heightened and shorn of its chimney stack in 1933, but it retains original workhouse-period buttressing and an in-situ cast-iron framed window and another that was re-sited when the gable-end wall was heightened in 1933 (Plate 42a-b). There was formerly a third of these cast-iron windows, which illuminated the Drying Room (Block E3) (see Figs 23 and 24). Because the Drying Room is known to have been built by the SMDSB (LMA SMDS 79), these windows are likely date to the same period of build (1892-3). The thicker sections of walling, which retain external buttressing, appear to be the fragmentary remains of the original end east wall of the original workhouse-period women’s workroom range, probably dating to 1837-9.
    14. The southern elevation is almost unaltered from its pre-1933 state. It was heightened by a few courses only, but it retains two piers / buttresses and two workhouse-period windows / doors with early brick blocking (Plate 42c right). The render on the lower part of the wall pre-dates the 1933 reconstruction. Whilst of workhouse-period origin, this section of wall would not appear to date to the primary 1837-9 phase, as the workrooms had a projecting bay at this location (see Figs 2 and 3).
    15. Internally this block appears to retain a 19th-century first floor and the planked door leading to it (Plate 42g) also is very early, with a wooden-cased lock and a frame with reeded arrisses. The pre-1933 door to the lower storey was situated beneath the staircase, but this was blocked in 1933 and moved further north.
    16. Block E3 – Drying Room (See Figs 20-24 & Plate 43)                                
    17. Block E2 is a small rectangular, red brick building, with a flat roof. It was constructed by the SMDSB in 1892-2 as a Drying Room (LMA SMDS 79), a provenance apparently confirmed by a corbelled external chimney-breast (revealing the former presence of a heating stove) on its northern elevation (Plate 43c). This external chimney-breast is very similar to those on the SMDSB School Rooms (Blocks A1 and D1). It would appear that the SMDSB Drying Room also incorporated parts of the original workhouse boundary wall, notably the thicker sections with buttresses on the exterior (Plate 43b).
    18. The ‘as existing’ 1933 survey shows this block almost exactly as it is today, excepting two inserted windows in its northern wall and an inserted door in its east wall, replacing a cast-iron window. These were all added in 1933. Detailed study nevertheless shows that its upper walls, the flat roof and the small window in the eastern elevation are not primary and it is thought that this building may originally have had a pitched roof. Internally there is nothing of interest, excepting the scribed render that covers all area excepting the uppermost parts of the walls and around later insertions (Plate 43f). The scribed render matches that found elsewhere, notably within other parts of the eastern end of the Laundry and externally and internally in the Probationer’s lean-tos behind the entrance range (see Blocks T3 and T6). This presence of this render here would appear to show that the scribed render elsewhere may be a SMDSB feature.
    19. Block E4 – Washing Room
      (See Figs 20-24 & Plate 41a-d)
    20. Block E4 was constructed, together with Block E1, in 1933. It has the same type of steel-trussed roof and its south wall has the same fenestration and detailing as that of Block E1. It also remains very little altered from its state as completed in 1933, retaining its original small-pane timber windows and external doors. Study of the original architect’s plans shows that this room housed large industrial washing machines and the various fixings and cast-iron grilled floor gullies are exactly as laid out when the building was constructed.
    21. The remains of earlier buildings are particularly fragmentary within this structure, although the west wall and half of the north wall pertain to the east range of the former workhouse Infirmary (Block F3). The walls are heavily painted and partially rendered internally and little of note is currently visible within the east wall. There is a blocked door (with chamfered concrete lintel) in the north wall. This had already been blocked at the time of the 1933 survey. The south wall retains historic fabric in its lower, thicker section only (Plate 41d).


The Union Workhouse, later The Bridge Home



by Janet Gyford, updated August 2003

See also  “Bridge Home architects’ report 2003, (without assessment)” et al.


 Built under the ‘Poor Law Amendment Act’ of 1834, which required the amalgamation of parishes into Unions for the purposes of poor relief, and that the Unions should build workhouses. At first the new Guardians continued to use the old Coggeshall and Witham workhouses. They didn’t decide to have a new one till 6 March 1837 (and then only on the casting vote of the chairman, Lord Rayleigh). The following information is mostly from the first two volumes of Guardians’ minutes (ERO G/WM 1 and 2)

New building:

Plans: decided on 3 April to advertise for plans, and on 8 May accepted the ones sent in by Scott and Moffatt. On 12 June Mr Moffatt attended and received instructions and again on 21 August with the builder. It took at least two requests in Sept to get Mr M to come again and sign the contract. After completion, in May 1839, the Guardians instructed their clerk ‘to write to Messrs Scott and Moffatt to inform them unless they came to inspect the works at the Union House within a fortnight, the Guardians would appoint someone else to do the same’. ON 6 January 1840 they decided to write to Scott and Moffatt saying that ‘the Board objected to their Bill’.

Land: various sites were looked at, and the Guardians at first chose a piece of land between Witham and Rivenhall but the tenant declined to vacate it, so in June 1837 they agreed to buy the present site in Hatfield Road from Colonel Strutt.

Builder: Tenders sought June 1837, and in August accepted Messrs Steggles and Sons at £5,295, subject to some alteration (not a local firm, perhaps Suffolk?). Decided to begin work at end of August.. Was given £1,000 on account in Nov 1837. In July 1838, Board declined to give him another £,1000 until more progress made.

Completion and opening: It’s not entirely clear when the new Workhouse was opened but it must have been either at the end of December 1838 or during January 1839. On 14 December 1838 the Guardians were still advertising for tenders for goods to be delivered to the old workhouses. But adverts for the new chaplain, schoolmaster, schoolmistress, porter and nurse say that they were to take up their duties according on 25 December 1838. And certainly by 1 February 1829 tenders were sought for delivery of goods the ‘Union House’. (Chelmsford Chronicle, 23 Nov 1838, 14 Dec 1838, 1 Feb 1839).

I haven’t looked at minutes after March 1840.

Censuses show number of inmates as follows,

1841          131

1851          219

1861          156

1871          209

Dissolution of Witham Union

In c.1880 the Witham Union was disbanded and the Witham workhouse closed. The Union was amalgamated with Braintree and the residents from Witham sent there.

I think that a problem with the Master of the workhouse at Witham precipitated this change. I haven’t researched it properly but I have a note from the Guardians’ minutes of 31 March 1879 about charges of drunkenness against the Matron and of ‘Falsehood’ against the Master (Mr Crockett). Also, a committee reported back that had been appointed to investigate charges preferred by the Nurse against the Master. These were considered proved. There is reference to Mr C being absent from the workhouse for his own pleasure, collusion with the porter, waste in cooking the meat, the mode of administering, and overbearing conduct to officers of the House especially the nurse.

The Local Government Board were asked to act. Then on 14 April there was a proposal to dissolve the Union, but Braintree preferred amalgamation. I seem to have stopped there in looking at the Guardians’ minutes (ERO G/WM)

Maybe the newspapers might shed more light if they were allowed to report such things.


The South Metropolitan School District bought the building for a Poor Law School in 1882. The SMSD was a combination of various London Poor Law Unions, founded by order of the Poor Law Board in 1849; they had various other schools. Witham was for ‘orphan and deserted children’ – boys and girls – from the District’s area, i.e. Camberwell, Greenwich, Woolwich, Stepney etc.

According to a booklet about the District (LMA SMSD 79)

‘The Witham School … was purchased in 1882, and great alterations made. Additional land was bought in 1884 and 1898, while Schoolrooms and a Drying-room were erected in 1892-1893 and an Infirmary in 1897-98’ (the latter was for 24 beds according to Witham UDC building plan number 85, ERO D/UWi Pb 1/1). Certified to accommodate 200 in 1897 (there were 194 ‘scholars’ here for the 1891 census). Eventually opinion turned against such large schools. The children were moved elsewhere in November 1900.

Records at London Metropolitan Archives with reference SMSD are:

(1) specific to Witham: admission and discharge registers 1882-1900 (194-198), creed register 1882-1900 (199), death register 1883-1899 (200) (I have ms notes on these).

(2) about the district in general but possibly relevant: booklet about the SMD and its Dissolution (79, see above). Also minutes, accounts, statistics, loose papers, letters from Poor Law Board, which I haven’t looked at.


The MAB bought it in 1900.

1900 – 1906: school for children with ringworm (1901 census (135 patients); 1902 and 1906 directories)

1906 – 1922 ‘Industrial Home for Feeble Minded Boys’. (1908, 1910, 1912, 1914, 1917, 1922 directories)

What most people remember are the ‘Bridge Home boys’ who were often very capable and had an excellent brass band. There must be books about Industrial Homes. I think they may have been intended, at least in part, for boys who were troublesome.

During the First World War, there was a Red Cross Hospital for wounded soldiers in the separate Hospital / Infirmary Wing, which is shown here on this Ordnance Survey Map of 1922 (scale of original 1:2500). (see also photos M612 and M630)


The whole place was sold in 1923, under the following description:

‘Bridge Training Home … comprising blocks of buildings in red brickwork, containing the following extensive accommodation: Lodge, Offices, Committee Rooms, Strongroom, Recreation and School Rooms, Bedrooms, Store Rooms, Cloak Rooms and Lavatories. Stone and other Staircases, Cellars, Kitchen and Washhouses, Laundry, Workshops, Chapel, Two Gymnasia and an Open Air Swimming Bath, also a detached Infirmary of two floors, divided into Wards, with two stone staircases, Lavatories and Kitchens, and central heating. Paved Yards, Lawns, Orchard and Kitchen Garden with Greenhouses, Storeshed, Fowls houses, Pig Styes and Fruit Store … about 7 acres … suitable for occupation as a School, Home, Institution or similar purpose, or could be readily adapted for factory purposes’. Fixtures, fitting and plant to be included in the sale. (LMA MAB 2272).

Papers include (LMA MAB 2272):

(1) First proof of printed sale catalogue from which the above quotation is taken. London Auction Mart 21 Feb 1923

(2) Schedule of deeds, including bundle of old abstracts and deeds.

(3) Typed conditions of sale, and handwritten version.

(4) Very large poster for sale

(5) Letter from Ministry of Health, 3 March 1923, allowing sale for £9,500.

(6) Indenture 4 April 1923 conveying property from MAP to Eastern Counties Institution (1 typed page)

(7) Material re title.

Records at London Metropolitan Archives with reference MAB are:

(1) specific to Witham: admission and discharge registers 1911-1922 (2269-2269), death register 1905-1922 (2270), chaplain’s report book 1901-1906 (2271), papers re sale in 1923, including printed particulars (2272, see above).

(2) about the Board in general: minutes (in history library), which I haven’t looked at)


The RECI bought it in 1923. They were the people who ran Severalls hospital etc. at Colchester.



Exchange of emails with Peter Higginbotham who runs

From: “Peter Higginbotham” <>
To: “Janet Gyford” <>
Subject: Re: witham, essex
Date: Mon, 8 Nov 2004 17:41:32 -0000
Hi Janet,
thanks very much indeed for passing all this on. Some very interesting stuff which I’ll try and add to my Witham page (with an appropriate credit to you, of course) when I get the chance. My impression is that S&M spread themselves very thin – chasing round the country for new contracts and not really spending enough time on their existing ones. All best wishes and many thanks again, Peter

—– Original Message —–
From: “Janet Gyford” <>
To: “Peter Higginbotham”
Sent: Monday, November 08, 2004 8:54 AM
Subject: Re: witham, essex
> Hello Peter
> Attached is a summary I did re the Bridge Home (Union Workhouse) for an architect who was recently working on the refurbishment for flats. He sent me a very long report of a survey he did of the place, I’d better not send it you without his consent but he might well send you one too is you ask him and explain your interest. He is Rob Kinchin-Smith, email Also I’m sending notes on something from PRO and on the first two volumes of minutes of the Guardians. I always find it amusing that they got so fed up with Messrs Scott and Moffatt. When the Witham local worthies were planning a new church in 1841 Messrs S and M submitted a plan and came to a meeting but were rejected – it doesn’t say anywhere why this was, but I suspect that their reputation as slow workers at the workhouse didn’t help. ALso rejected was William Tite who became famous for the Royal Exchange. INstead they chose a John Brown from Norwich – his ceilings started falling down not long after the church was finished and I wouldn’t really say the building is very distinguished.

There is also some stuff in Essex Record Office about the old parish workhouse, ERO D/P 30/18/1, 2, 7, and 30/12/26, but I don’t seem to have anything from that in a conveniently sendable form.
All the best Janet

At 20:50 07/11/04 +0000, you wrote:
>Hi Janet, thanks very much for your kind words. I think I had perfect picture-taking conditions when I was at Witham. Thank you, yes I’d be very interested in any additional information you have on the place.

> >All best wishes, Peter

—– Original Message —–
> >From: “Janet Gyford” <>

To: <>
> >Sent: Saturday, November 06, 2004 10:11 AM
>Subject: witham, essex
> > Hello Peter I’ve been admiring your pics of Witham Union Workhouse (the Bridge) on the web site – I tried often to get the archway with the tower behind but always got it wrong ! I have some more info, from PRO etc, if you are interested ? Janet Gyford


Subject: RE: bridge home, witham -> [Scanned]
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2004 11:09:02 +0100
Thread-Topic: bridge home, witham -> [Scanned]
thread-index: AcStfxY1DJ9GQm7hTXy/OxhlF96Q2AB+KTeg
From: “Rob Kinchin-Smith” <>
To: “Janet Gyford” <>
Hi Janet
I’d say that, given the date, a wall cavity would be most unusual, so estimating on solid walls would be an educated guess / assumption.
Many thanks for all your help in guiding me round the archives and for the very useful information you supplied.
If its any help to you, please find attached a copy of the report with details of the (then) proposed development and the assessment thereof removed.
I gather that the prospective developers sold the property on, so I have no idea now what has become of the building, but hopefully whatever happens to it, it will be / has been sympathetic in character.
Very best regards and thanks again for your help

—–Original Message—–
From: Janet Gyford []
Sent: 08 October 2004 22:38
To: Rob Kinchin-Smith
Subject: bridge home, witham -> [Scanned]
Hello Rob
I sent you some info about the history Bridge Home at Witham a while back.

I might have mentioned then that I was interested in trying to make a rough estimate of how many bricks there were in the original build – I’m trying to picture them all coming by horse and cart ! I’ve returned to the question now and wonder whether you would be able to tell me whether the external walls are cavity walls or not? I.e. now I have estimated the size of them, should I double it ? The internal walls will remain a mystery but if I just get an idea about the outside it’ll be something.
All the best
Janet Gyford

Subject: RE: bridge home, witham -> [Scanned] -> [Scanned]
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2004 12:59:08 +0100
Thread-Topic: bridge home, witham -> [Scanned] -> [Scanned]
thread-index: AcSvgW74QCUnbA7VTYOD8kYQr/R0IwAB8iVg
From: “Rob Kinchin-Smith” <>
To: “Janet Gyford” <>

Thanks Janet
My report listed all original fabric and advocated its retention. The HAMP team at Essex County Council (who oversee all Listed Building applications in the County) seemed quite on the case. Hopefully the conversion will thus leave most of the historic fabric intact.


Fred Gaymer, Grasmere, Spinks Lane, December 1988 said:

Brushes used to be made at the Bridge Home. The man trained at Braintree. The Bridge Home ‘boys’ had all the equipment

my documents/oral history/conversations unrecorded/gaymer, fred, about bridge home and brushes, december 1988.doc