Newton Abbot Workhouse & Almshouses


    A Workhouse was a place where people who were unable to support themselves could go to live and work.
    On 20th June 1836 the Newton Abbot Poor Law Union was formed and a Workhouse was built in 1837 in East Street.  It was proposed to accomodate 350 inmates from 39 constituent parishes which surrounded Newton Abbot.

    The workhouse was designed by both George Gilbert Scott and William Bonython Moffatt.  They had also worked on other Devon workhouses at Bideford, Tavistock, and Tiverton.  The Poor Law Commissioners authorised the sum of £6,260 on its construction.

    The Workhouse comprised of an entrance lodge and workshop buildings which stood to the west of the entrance block, facing onto East Street, was a single-storey front block with a central entrance archway.  At the rear there was the main accommodation block, this has now mostly been demolished. However
    the single storey dining room from the centre rear of the workhouse still exists, along with two storey blocks from which could have been the original infirmary.

    In 1871, at a cost of £1,600 the Workhouse was extended. 
    In 1897, a new infirmary, kitchen, dining hall, laundry, bakehouse, workshops etc. and officers' quarters were added at a cost of £19,000. The extensions were designed by Samuel Segar of Newton Abbot and built by FA Stacey. 
    1901 saw a new board room built at the east of the entrance block adjoining the clerk's offices. The old board-room was then converted into receiving wards and an extra storey added at a cost of about £5,000.

    It was extended again in 1911 at a further cost of £3,700 nd by 1914, a nurses' home and nursery had also been added.

    The workhouse later became Newton Abbot Public Assistance Institution. The buildings then went on to form the Old Newton Abbot Hospital.

    Almshouses were generally founded to provide shelter for needy persons by the charity of their more wealthy fellows. Prior to their dissolution, many homeless families and individuals found refuge in the monatries which were scattered across the country.
    There are several sets of almshouses in Newton Abbot, but those with the longest history are Gilbert`s Almshouses in Exeter Road. They were endowed in 1538 by John Gilbert, the Great-uncle of Sir Humphrey of Compton Castle, to provide a refuge for lepers. The original establishment consisted of four houses and a chapel. The chapel later was converted into a fifth house. All the houses were said to have sloping floors in order that they could be more easily washed out, presumably to protect the people of Newton Abbot from the unclean occupents of the lazar houses.
    In 1576 Robert Hayman endowed properties in East Strreet `for the better maintenaance and releif of poor people. These properties included almshouseswere rebuilt in 1845 and survive today as the terrace of four limestonecottages opposite Newtonabbot Hospital in East Street. In Torquay Road, on the corner of Church Road, stand four almshouses known as the Lady Lucy Reynell Clergy Widows houses. These were endowsed by Lady Lucy Reynell, wife of Sir Richard Reynell of Forde House. The original houses were built in 1640 but rebuilt in 1790 and refurbished in 1846. Lady Lucy intended them to accommodate four widows, the relicts of preaching ministers, left poor, without a house of their own.The houses bore the following inscription.

    Is`t strange a prophets widow poore sovld be?
    Y`f strange, then is the scripture strange to thee.
    Mackrell`s Almshouses in Totnes Road are undoubtedly the most noticeable of all Newton Abbot`s almshouses.
    You can see these houses on the north side of the Totnes Road, just before Baker`s Park. A long terrace with its porches and chimneys and gables solidly built in grey Devonian limestone.
    Theses almshouses were endowed by Thomas Mackrell who was born in Newton Abbot.
    He made his fortune as a chemist in Barnstaple and decided to purchase the land, near were he use to play as a child to erect some almshouses.
    The original terrace was built in 1874 and over the entrance in the middle block is the following inscription.
    By the Grace of God
    The Mackrell Almshouses
    Erected and Endowed
    In the year of our Lord 1874
    Thomas later died and left his fortune to his sister Miss Sophia. When she inturn died in 1894 the money reverted to the trustees for the purpose of erecting more almshouses.
    A further block was built in exactly the same style and adjoins the existing terrace.
    A second inscription records this extension to Mackrell`s Almshouses.  


    1. Jay's Grave - Dartmoor

      It is said that in the late eighteenth century, 1790 some say,  an orphaned baby was taken into the Poor House at Newton Abbot. The little girl was named, as was the custom, with a surname beginning with whatever letter the...