A brief history
(According to Rob)
To start workhouses were small, local institutions where those out of
work would temporarily be housed until they found some. However in 1834
an amendment to the Poor Law Act turned these into institutions that segregated
families, destroying lives and what pride these individuals had.
John Beard in "My Shropshire days on Common Ways" recalls an
account of a couple that had fallen on hard times and describes the fear
that these people were going through at the thought that they might end
up in the Workhouse. He also has the following:
“Marshall in The English Poor in the Eighteenth Century,
says that “a chief cause of the failure of the workhouses to pay
their way is to be found in the corrupt administration which prevailed
in many of them, due to the fact that in the majority of cases the chief
executive power, when not vested in a contractor, was in the hands of
the churchwardens and overseers of the poor.
In many places trustees grew careless of their duties, so that real control
slipped into the hands of the parish officers, and afforded them an excellent
opportunity of indulging in jobbery, for the benefit of themselves and
their friends. This was the case in Parishes where the workhouse was managed
by vestries composed of local tradesmen, each of whom was apt to please
his own private interests before that of an economical administration.”
Such was the position when big families were looked upon as a menace to
the rates, when marriages were discouraged and illegitimacy rife, and
to prevent the provision of living accommodation, cottages were pulled
down, with people actually bribed to go to another parish - to prevent
which, each parish watched its neighbours with suspicion.
But not all pauperism was due to a lack of work, so much as to the system
which had spread widely of paying labourers a small sum of money, or in
kind, by the parish and then hiring them out at lower rates to the farmers,
the parish making up the difference. It was due to this system that many
paupers were made.
That a workhouse was not popular with the well-to-do in High Ercall parish
may be presumed from the geographical position of the buildings which
still exist. These were pushed into a corner as near to the border as
was physically possible, and some three miles away from the parts where
the “better-offs” lived.
That it was near the small parish of Waters Upton would not matter, especially
as differences sometimes occurred between these parishes.”
By the 1881 census the Workhouse in Rowton was being lived in by
the Tudor family and was being called the Old Workhouse.