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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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Tiverton Union Workhouse

©Richard Brine

Tiverton Union Workhouse - rear view 2004


In the 17th and 18th centuries, each parish was left to provide for the needs of its poor people out of its own resources. The 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act created a system of Poor Law Unions across the whole of England and Wales and for the purposes of more effective administration, groups of parishes were created around a central point. To civil servants and local politicians, this may have have made good sense but to many poor, old or handicapped people, this presented the additional hardship of permanent removal to a place many miles from their birthplace, relatives or friends.

The prevailing attitude of the times was that if you needed to turn to a Workhouse for support, then you must have brought it upon yourself through irresponsible or sinful behaviour - an idea which prevailed well into the 20th century. There are many people still alive who were brought up to consider having to turn to the Workhouse as a terrible social stigma; the reason you can still find echoes of these old attitudes is that the Poor Law Unions survived intact until 1930 when the system was brought under the control of local councils. A world war put a stop to any further talk of change and even in 1948, when control passed  to the government through nationalisation and a separate benefits system was set up, the ancient buildings, with all their connotations and drawbacks, were kept in use by most of the new local health services.



The Tiverton Union comprised 29 parishes plus Highley St. Mary (a place which may once have had a chapel but is not a true parish) - some, like Calverleigh, were very small - others, like Tiverton, had comparatively large populations. A new Union Workhouse to accommodate 300 paupers was built in 1837-8 on the site of the old parish workhouse on the south side of Belmont Road in Tiverton. A Master and a Mistress were responsible to an elected Board of Guardians for the day to day running of the establishment.


Bampton Huntsham
Bickleigh Kentisbeare
Blackborough Loxbear
Bradninch Morebath
Butterleigh Oakford
Cadbury Sampford Peverell
Cadeleigh Silverton
Calverleigh Stoodleigh
Clayhanger Templeton
Cruwys Morchard Thorverton
Cullompton Tiverton
Halberton Uffculme
Highley St. Mary Uplowman
Hockworthy Washfield
Holcombe Rogus Willand


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