Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 13, 2016
Webpage updated: May 12, 2020

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The Stoke Damerel Parish Poor House was replaced in 1777 by a Workhouse in Duke Street that also included the Town Hall and a Gaol.

In 1812 "The Picture of Plymouth" described it as: '(The) Workhouse is an extensive building in Duke-street, occupying above an acre of ground, and capable of containing three hundred persons.  The only employment of these people is picking oakum for the dock-yard.  It is under the immediate direction of a governor and matron, who are appointed by, and subject to, the control of Commissioners, under the Act for paving and lighting the town, and other purposes.  It contains a good infirmary, a council-room for the magistrates, a gaol, and some other buildings for the accommodation of women and children.'

A slightly later description, written by Samuel Rowe and published in 1821 states: 'This is a large building in Duke-street, which although capable of containing a great number of paupers, has not been found sufficiently capacious on particular emergencies, to receive the numerous applicants, whom want of employment and inclement seasons, have compelled to solicit parochial relief.  This workhouse is under the immediate superintendence of a governor, and matron, who have apartments within the walls.  It also contains an excellent infirmary, with separate wards for males and females, and the conveniences usually found in similar institutions.  A surgeon is appointed to attend the patients; and the devotional service of the paupers, is under the direction of the Reverend T M Hitchins, who attends occasionally for the purposes of religious exhortation.  Schools are established for the instruction of children of both sexes, under the care of a master and mistress, who receive an annual  salary from the parochial funds.  Mr Lancaster, Governor.  Mr Kent, Permanent Overseer.  The overseers of the poor are elected annually, but in addition to these, a permanent overseer has been appointed, who receives a yearly salary.  The weekly stipend allotted to the paupers, is paid by these officers, with the assistance of some of the commissioners.  Provisions for the consumption of the workhouse, are supplied by contract.  The whole establishment is subject to the inspection of the commissioners; and is conducted with becoming attention to the relief of the necessitous, and to the economical application of the large sums collected for the purpose.  It has been observed, that the Town hall forms part of the buildings of this institution; the gaol is immediately below, and contains four cells, sometimes occupied by offenders,  whose crimes are punished by confinement in this prison, and at others by those who are detained here, previously to their being committed to the county gaol.

It was recorded in 1850 that the building had been extended several times but was still too small for the number of paupers in the parish and was about to be replaced by the new Devonport Workhouse on the road to Saltash.  The poor cost the parish 10,358 in 1838 and 9,841 ten years later.  Mr James Lancaster was the governor and his wife was the matron.  Their son, James Lancaster junior, was the relieving clerk, and Miss A C Bone was the treasurer.  It was said that: 'many of the inhabitants have recently petitioned to have the parish placed under the provisions of the New Poor Law.'

In 1858 a Doctor Rowe impeached the manor authorities for allowing the abandoned Workhouse to be colonised by 227 persons.  It was subsequently demolished and replaced with dwelling houses.