The Workhouse

Up to 1834

A small poorhouse called Stone Dene existed on North Street in Wetherby. Another operated at the south of Kirk Deighton, just to the north of Wetherby.

Map showing where stone Dene is on North Road
1888 map

After 1834

The formation of new Poor Law Unions in West Yorkshire was severely hindered by the existence of four Gilbert Unions (Barwick in Elemet, Carlton, Great Ouseburn and Great Preston) whose constitution had made them exempt from the provisions of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. The scattered distribution of these Gilbert Unions cut across the neat pattern of Poor Law Unions proposed by the Poor Law Commissioners as shown on the map below.

Plan of Four Gilberts Unions
Yorkshire Gilberts Unions Map 1838

It was not until 1850s that the Commissioners’ scheme began to take place with the formation of the new Unions of Ripon (1852), Knaresborough (1854), Whafedale (1861) and Tadcaster (1862)

The new Wetherby Union formally came into existence on 15th February 1861. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 21 in number, representing its 19 constituent parishes and townships as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):

Angram, Bardsey with Rigton, Bickerton, Cowthorp, North Deighton, Healaugh, Kearby with Netherby, East Keswick, Kirkby Overblow, Linton, Little Ribston, Rigton, Scarcroft, Sicklinghall, Spofforth with Stockeld (2), Weardley, Wetherby (2), Wighill, Wothersome.

Later Editions

(from 1869): Bilton, Bramham cum Oglethorpe, Bramhope, Clifford, Collingham, Dunkeswick, Harewood, Hutton Wandesley, Kirk Deighton, Long Marston, Micklethwaite, Pool, Shadwell, Swinden, Thorner, Thorp Arch, Tockwith, Walton, Weeton, Wigton, Wilstrop, and Wyke. Boston Spa joined the union in 1896.

The population falling within the original union at the 1851 census had been 6,497 with parishes and townships ranging in size from Wothersome (population 21) to Wetherby itself (1,494). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1858-60 had been £1,742 or 5s.4d. per head of the population.

Map showing the place of the union workhouse
1983 map

A Wetherby Union workhouse was built in 1862-3 on Linton Road in Wetherby and was designed by JB and W Atkinson. The site location and layout are shown on the 1893 map.

1863 picture of the workhouse
The Wetherby Union workhouse was designed by J.B. and W. Atkinson and opened in 1863 on Linton Road in Wetherby, West Yorkshire. The site later became Wharfe Grange Hospital.

The original building had a T-shaped main block facing south into Linton Road. The Master’s quarters were at the centre, with male accommodation to the north and female to the south, with a kitchen at the rear. Small casuals’ blocks were located to side of the front of the main block, with the one for males at the north being extended in 1896. The male casual ward included sheds for wood sawing and wood chopping. In January 1907, a 20-bed single storey infirmary was opened at the west of the workhouse at a cost of £2,000.

layout of the workhouse

The county architect’s report in 1930 found the buildings to be old-fashioned and unsatisfactory and recommended that the institution be closed. However, a new role was found for it and it was used to provide care for elderly women and for the mentally handicapped. After the creation of the National Health Service, it became known as Wharfe Grange Hospital, finally closing in January 1993. The site has now been redeveloped for residential use.

This information was found at The Workhouses.org.uk