Social History...

The Workhouse

Wicklewood Institute



By Act of Parliament in 1776 all the twenty-four parishes except Honingham (In St. Faith's Union) were incorporated for maintenance of the poor. This resulted in the erection of a House of Industry at Wicklewood at a cost of 11,000. The money was borrowed at 5% interest, on a tontine system of 110 shares. Originally built to accommodate 450 paupers, the number in residence seldom exceeded 200. Average expenditure for the support of the House of Industry chargeable to the twenty-three parishes, was for many years 4,300. per annum. For year ending 1863 the charge had written to 8,555. The board of directors and acting guardians are still governed by their own Local Act of Parliament, though they're under control of the local government board. Sir Armine Wodehouse planned and directed the erection of the Union House. From the records we are able to gather much information as to the function of this House of Industry. Whole families were admitted, and these in turn were hired out to local farmers for employment. The farmers made payment directly to the Union for these services, whilst the inmates received certain weekly payments in cash. For education of the children a school was provided; a school master and mistress being employed. A garden within the union grounds, worked by the inmates, provided most of the vegetables consumed on the premises. The reasons given for admission in the "Admissions and Discharge" book are varied and include 'Want of work'. 'Infirm'. 'Deserted'. The occupations of those admitted give us some idea of the general employment of the people of Wicklewood. The following details are again taken from the 'Admissions and Discharge' book of 1785

Occupations;-
Labourer; Shoemaker, Weaver; Cooper; Tailor.

A meeting of directors was held weekly to discuss matters connected with the Union House. These meetings are usually held at the "King's Head" public house at Wymondham and the problems discussed were many and varied.
From the minute book of 1781 we note that it was agreed to pay a sum of 1.10s to Mrs. J. Calthorpe for the support of herself and children, the payment to cover 15 weeks.
This money allowance was supplementary, the lady's husband being a volunteer in the West Norfolk Militia. Many other small allowances were authorized as 'out-relief' for the needy of the parish.

Matters affecting discipline that the House were also dealt with as shown by the following entries in the Minute book of 1852

"That Isaac Hayes having been at disobedient to the schoolmaster, be compelled to pick oakum for three days"

And also

That William Raynar, having refused to pick oakum for four days, and having used threats and blasphemous language to the master, be taken before the Justice of the Peace"

We find that the said William Raynar was, for his sins, committed to Norwich Castle.

Matches concerning staff salaries are shown in the minute book of the same year. The Master of the House received 14.2.6d, the Matron 5, school master and mistress 11.12.3d, porter and wife 6.2.9d, Chaplain 10 and the doctor 10. These payments were authorised quarterly.
References is also made to the lack of arithmetical knowledge displayed by the school master, and there is a suggestion that his spelling was also not quite what it should have been. Earlier in 1836 the Union House had been added to; in 1906 the staff numbered forty.
Following upon the passing of the National Health Act, the Union in July 1948, came under the control of the Ministry of Health