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Houghton-le-Spring, William Street, Union Workhouse
Health and Welfare
A workhouse of sorts existed in 1775 when the master was George Watson. In 1824 a larger building was built on the east side of Sunderland Street to accommodate 203 people. There were no children above two years of age. Henry Fairbairns was the Governor of the Poor Law Union in 1855. In 1861 344 paupers were charged to the Common Fund at Houghton Workhouse (328 in 1862, 483 in 1863, 546 in 1864). The Workhouse was replaced in either 1864 or 1877 by a new building on William Street at a cost of £11,000. Architect Matthew Thompson. It could accommodate 200 destitute wives, children and the elderly and had a corridor-plan T-shaped main block with male accomodation to the west and female to the east. Rooms for the elderly were placed at the front of the building, children and the able-bodied at the rear. The master's quarters were at the far western end of the building next to the main entrance. The kitchen and dining hall were in the rear wing of the main block. In 1891 a new boardroom and offices were built. The old boardroom was converted into 'short period' lunatic wards with a padded room. The workhouse staff in 1891 were Edward Forster (master), Margaret Ann Forster (matron), William Hardie (pastor), Mary Hardie (mistress), Isabella Purdy (nurse) and Elizabeth Ann Barrass (nurse). In 1891 the census says the workhouse was only half full. Edward Forster died in 1903. In 1910 the master was Robert Harrison, matron was Annie J Harrison, medical officer was David Scott Park. A death certificate of 1935 names the workhouse as 'Heath House'. In 1968 the last residents of Heath House were transferred to Kentmere House near Grasswell. Heath House became a refuge for women and children. Heath House was still standing in 1973 but was demolished at some point after that. The site is now occupied by Heath Grange housing estate. Many of the inmates of the workhouse and the staff are buried in Hillside Cemetery.
1st edition Ordnance Survey map; Houghton Heritage Trail leaflet, Books of the North, 2004; Paul Lanagan, 2012, Houghton-le-Spring Workhouse, latterly known as Heath House, www.houghtonlespring.org.uk