The Barnes family were no strangers to the workhouse - as inmates, with some of them finding temporary
accommodation at least in the Hartley Wintney Union Workhouse. The Union
Workhouse at Hartley Wintney was established on the 8th April 1835 and
its operation was overseen by a Board of Guardians elected from the
constituent parishes that contributed to its running. These parishes
were, Bramshill, Crondall, Dogmersfield, Elvetham, Eversley, Grewell,
Hartley Wintney, Heckfield, Mattingley with Hazely, Odiham, Rotherwick,
South Warnborough and Winchfield. The Union was later extended to
include Cove, Farnborough, , Hawley with Minley , Long Sutton and
Yateley in 1869 and Crookham and Fleet in 1894.
The Hartley Wintney Union Workhouse::
At first the old workhouse building at Hartley Wintney was used and
enlarged in 1836, but in 1871 a new workhouse was built at Winchfield at
a cost of £11,739 and designed to accommodate up to 120 inmates. The
site of the earlier workhouse is now part of a golf course but the 1871
buildings exist to this day.
In 1851, John Barnes, his wife Amelia and children Eliza (16), Elizabeth
(12), George (9), Katherine (7), Henry (4), William (2) and Anne (1)
were workhouse inmates. John and Amelia's eldest son John, aged 18 is
not in the workhouse, the census records him as being employed as an
agricultural labourer and living in Mattingley. The family's stay in the
workhouse must have been short - Eliza marries James Parrant in 1853 and
in the 1861 census the Barnes family are living in Mattingley with John
in work as a farm labourer. John and Amelia's son Henry went on to
marry Annie Bye in 1872 and they have three children before Henry dies
in 1892. The youngest son William marries a Sarah Donovan in 1878
and they have children Edith (1880), Annie (1881), Amelia (1883), Mary
(1888) and William (1892). The family appear on the 1891 and 1901 census
as living in Odiham with William employed as a farm labourer. Of George
there is no trace after 1851 - he doesn't appear on the 1861 census - it
may be that being 19 he was now living away from home but there are two
possible entries in the index of deaths that could be George - as I have
not found George on any subsequent census he most likely died in either
1858 or 1859.
Rebecca Barnes, born 1810 found herself in the new Hartley Wintney Union
workhouse in 1881. Rebecca was baptised in St. Michael's Church,
Heckfield on the 11th March 1810, the daughter of John and Mary Barnes.
In 1833, Rebecca gives birth to a daughter; Mary Ann - she is unmarried.
In 1841 Rebecca and her daughter are living in a cottage near the brick
kiln in Heckfield. (In 1871 another part of the Barnes family is living
at Brick Kiln Farm - adjacent to Brick Kiln Copse). In the 1851 and 1861
census Rebecca is a housekeeper at the Heckfield Turnpike / Toll Gates
and may also be working there in 1871 - the census for that year doesn't
record Rebecca's occupation or actual address, although Rebecca is shown
as being in Mattingley - an appropriate location for working at the Toll
Gates on the Heckfield / Mattingley road. In the 1881 census Rebecca is
in the workhouse now aged 71 and described as a former housemaid.
Rebecca died in 1889 and was buried in Heckfield on the 12th October.
Her grave has not been found.
There is no sign of Rebecca's daughter Mary Ann after the 1841 census,
but this could just mean that Mary Ann, who would have been 18 in 1851
may have married - however it is quite likely from looking at the index
of deaths that she died between 1842
The Holborn Union Workhouse::
The children of Elizabeth and George Holloway found themselves
in the Holborn Union workhouse after their mother died in
1876 (there is no sign of the whereabouts of the father). As orphans,
Charlotte, born 7th January 1868 and George, born 1870 and living in
Little Greys Inn Road would have been put into the nearby Holborn
workhouse in the Grey's Inn Road. Their older sister Elizabeth, born
31st October 1865 and was raised
by a "Mrs Wilson" - an aunt. If the year of her parents deaths is correct as 1876,
then Elizabeth would have been 11 years old and perhaps old enough to
earn a living. In the 1881 census, the two younger children Charlotte
and George are listed as inmates of the Holborn Union Industrial School
in Mitcham, Surrey. After 1857 the term "Industrial School" was used to
house vagrant, destitute and disorderly children - orphaned when aged 8
and 6 respectively Charlotte and George certainly qualified as
The industrial school buildings were erected in 1856 by St George's
Parish in the grounds of Eagle House on the west side of the high street
in Upper Mitcham. In 1870 it was sold to the Holborn Union. A workhouse
was later built on the same site in 1885. Although most of the
industrial school buildings are gone, Eagle House survives to this day.
In one of life's strange coincidences I used to drive past Eagle House
when visiting family in Streatham. The road system has changed slightly with the
introduction of a one-way system that has split the London Road - on
which Eagle House sits in two. The road that links the two parts is
named "Holborn Way".
Charlotte never married and died in 1934. Her older sister Elizabeth
married Charles John Barnes in 1894 - they are my great grandparents.
Elizabeth died in 1953 and Charles in 1956. I do not know what happened
to Charlotte's and Elizabeth's younger brother George.
There has always been the poor and there has it seems always been some
form of welfare system in place to alleviate the plight of the poor and
various "Poor Laws" have been passed over the years. Initially, the poor
were seen as being unfortunate and in poverty through no fault of their
own and helping them as a Christian duty. As today, there were some that
would try to obtain the "parish relief" under false pretences and
legislation was passed to ensure that the able-bodied were put to work.
Some of this legislation restricted movement around the country,
labourers would look for areas where labour was scarce and wages high so
permission was required before a labourer could travel to another
parish. Punishments for the idle but able-bodied were harsh; a "sturdy
beggar" could be put in the stocks, branded or made a slave of two years
- or even life. The cost of providing relief for the poor was
provided by the "Poor Rate". Introduced in 1601, this was essentially a
local tax but over time evolved into the rating system - a tax based on
the value of property. The Poor Rate was dispensed to the needy as
'out-relief' and took the form of bread, clothing, fuel and rent.
Almshouses - not workhouses were provided for the old and infirm.
Hannah Barnes, born in Heckfield and baptised in the church of St.
Michael on the 24th April 1831 lived in Almshouse number 2 in Church
Road, Heckfield for a while. Hannah was born before her parents John and
Amelia were married and appears on the 1841 census with the rest of her
family. When John and Amelia enter the Hartley Wintney Union workhouse
it is without Hannah - she is 20 by this time and probably in employment
elsewhere. I have not found Hannah on the 1851, 1861, 1871 or 1881
census, but she reappears in 1891 living in one of almshouses in
Heckfield. Perhaps she was ill as she was only 59 in 1891, too young to
qualify as 'elderly'. In the 1901 census, Hannah has left the almshouse
and is now living in Broad Oak (near Odiham) and is described as "living
on her own means". This does not mean that Hannah has some form of
private income, just that she is not in employment. She is 69 years old and never marries.
As the parish was responsible for raising the Poor Rate, the local
ratepayers were keen to ensure that the parish rate was spent only on
maintaining people born in the parish. This is understandable and
various "Acts of Settlement" were passed to force beggars and other
vagrants back to their own parish. As the parish also had a duty to
provide for the children of unmarried women the overseers of the parish
relief made every effort to discover the father of the child and either
make him support the child or at least get an undertaking from the
father that he would reimburse the parish at some future date.
In 1662, the Settlement Act allowed for persons likely to require
financial assistance from the parish poor rate to be relocated to their
"place of settlement". A child took its place of settlement from the
father and when marrying, women took on the place of settlement of their
husband. If there was a pregnant unmarried woman in the parish the
parish overseers would try to get rid of her to another parish before
the baby was born or in some cases even pay a man in another parish to
marry her. The baby would then be the responsible of that parish.
In the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, there was a change in the way the
poor were viewed. Before 1834 the poor were seen as being victims of
their circumstances, after 1834 however the view was that their
situation was largely of their own making which they could change if
they wanted to. The children of unmarried women were now regarded as the
responsibility of the mother until the child was 16 - if a mother was
unable to support herself and the child, then they would have to go into
the workhouse. This was intended to make pregnancy outside of marriage
an unattractive prospect ! This clause was later overturned in 1844 by
legislation that allowed a women to apply for maintenance from the
The workhouse was not always a pleasant place to be. Many were badly run,
conditions in some were appalling and the inmates diet was miserable. The
inmates would be given a uniform to wear; husbands, wives and children
were separated when they entered the workhouse and could be punished if
they tried to speak to each other. Unmarried pregnant women were
identified either by a badge or by clothing of a certain colour, however this
practise was discontinued from 1839. Life inside the workhouse was to a
strict regime and punishments were meted out for being noisy or swearing
- these 'crimes' would result in a bread and water diet for 24 hours.
More serious offences - refusing to work for example could result in
prison sentences. As time went on the workhouse regime became more
relaxed and living conditions became better than those in the poorer
housing of the time. The brutal treatment as reported in the press was
the exception rather than the rule.
Entry into the workhouse was voluntary and an inmate could leave by
giving notice, perhaps as little as three hours. Unlike John Barnes and
his family, many were to be long term inmates - these were mostly the
elderly, chronically sick and the mentally ill. Some family members have
died in the workhouse, however others have been born in the workhouse,
so it may be that the workhouse provided medical care regardless of
circumstance. The workhouse was
officially abolished in 1930 and former workhouses became Public
Assistance Institutions and continued to care for the sick and elderly.
A far more comprehensive history of the Poor Laws can be found at Peter Higginbotham's history of the
workhouse - an excellent resource for those researching the Poor Laws
and the workhouses at