The Workhouse

By Steve Myall

Photo:The Church Hill Workhouse

The Church Hill Workhouse

as illustrated in Erredge's 'History of Brighthelstone' 1862

This first poor-house, in the town centre, is said to have been erected by the Prior of St. Pancras, Lewes, and dedicated to St. Bartholomew, hence the ‘Bartholomews’ area in the town today. It is thought that this Priory of St. Bartolomew was probably destroyed during a French raid on the town. The Directors and Guardians of the Poor then bought land on Church Hill and built a new Workhouse in 1821. The cost is variously described as nearly £5,000, or as high as £10,000. As can be seen from various maps, its location was on the northern edge of St. Nicholas’s northern graveyard, in that part of Dyke Road opposite where the turnings to Clifton Terrace and Powis Grove are now placed, with the foundation stone being laid by the vicar, the Rev. Dr. Carr. The Workhouse grounds are now covered by Buckingham Road, Alexandra Villas and Albert Road. When the Workhouse was first built on Church Hill the inmates from the original one in the town did not want to be moved, as Erredge wrote, 'out of the world - - - and into the howling wilderness of Church Hill'. Besides the church, Shelley’s cottage, Mr. Vine’s small estate and Kemp’s Temple home, there were few other buildings on Church Hill in 1820, when the Workhouse was commenced. As can be seen in the following illustration, the land was used for vegetables and grazing for sheep.

When the Church Hill establishment became too small, new Workhouse was built in Elm Grove, becoming functional in 1867, and well before that date the Workhouse children had already been moved from Church Hill, up over Race Hill to the newly built Warren Farm Industrial School. On August 14th 1862 77 boys and 65 girls marched in procession, under the supervision of Mr. & Mrs. Hales the first superintendents, from the Church Hill Workhouse to Warren Farm.  When its closure finally came, a report of the auction of the Church Hill Workhouse buildings and grounds was reported in The Builder magazine of March 1868. One of the largest plots, from the 38 on offer in the auction, was on the southern corner of Buckingham Road and Dyke Road. George Attree, an auctioneer of North Street, was the successful bidder, at £800. The total realised for the Workhouse buildings, which would have included the separate Infirmary, all of which needed demolishing, together with the many acres of land, was £31,524.

Photo:'View of Brighton from Hudson's Mill'   Published Jan. 1st 1846 by W.Lane, 3 Market Street

'View of Brighton from Hudson's Mill' Published Jan. 1st 1846 by W.Lane, 3 Market Street

A very rare lithograph by C. Childs after a sketch by R.H. Nibbs

This print shows the complete extent of the Workhouse land, on which Buckingham Road, St. Nicholas Road, Albert and Alfred Roads were later built. Taking the long low wall that runs in a diagonal line on the left, all the land extending to the right of that wall belonged to the Workhouse, up to within a few yards of St. Nicholas’ Church, with the flag flying from its tower, seen on the far right of the picture. Also depicted is a line of roofs descending away from the church in the right-hand middle distance, which is Kew Street running into North Gardens. Exactly twenty years later that view of Kew Street would be obscured by St. Nicholas Road.

On the far left, middle distance, is Brighton Station beyond which St. Peter’s Church can just be seen. In the left hand foreground, the diagonal footpath with the low wall runs across where Albert Road is today, and it seems to join up near the top of Guildford Road, the houses of which can be seen leading down the hill to the station.


This page was added on 15/04/2011.

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