Old Narberth workhouse, Allensbank
Within the Allensbank Holiday Park stands one of the best-preserved workhouses in Wales. Poor people lived there but had to work for their upkeep. If you’d like to see the building and aren’t staying at the park, please contact the owners (see website link below).
Each parish had its arrangements for helping paupers until the law changed in 1834 and parishes grouped together in “Unions”. Narberth workhouse was built by a union of 50 parishes, including some in Carmarthenshire. A mob tried to set it on fire in 1839, before it was completed.
Four years later, during the Rebecca Riots in south-west Wales, hundreds of people made their way to the workhouse, intent on attack. They were stopped by soldiers summoned from Castlemartin. In February 1843 the workhouse had received three written threats of attack unless the inmates received better food. Accounts for 1843 include a payment of almost £12 for special constables “in consequence of the workhouse being threatened to be destroyed”.
The building was in three connected parallel rows (see the aerial view below), copying Haverfordwest’s new workhouse. Facilities included an infirmary, a cell for wrongdoers, and separate wards for males, females, diseased people and vagrants.
The workhouse was probably too large for this rural area. Often around two-thirds of the capacity was unoccupied. The workhouse guardians discussed taking in paupers from overcrowded workhouses in 1902, and in 1917 they welcomed plans to move 40 to 50 “mental deficients” to the workhouse.
In 1864 former workhouse inmate Mary Prout, 22, was sentenced to death for dropping her six-week-old daughter down a mine shaft. Her father and stepmother had sent unmarried Mary to the workhouse to give birth. You can read more of her story on our page about St Elidyr’s Church, Amroth, where she’s buried.
Many women came to the workhouse, often with children, after their husbands neglected them. They included the wife and four young children of haulier James John of Whitland, who was jailed for three months in 1903 after giving his family tiny amounts of money to live on. He owned a horse and cart, which sometimes stood outside pubs while he drank. Once he’d eaten ham and eggs at home while refusing any morsels for his starving children, who had no boots to wear.
In 1873 William Mason of Martletwy was ordered to pay two shillings a week while his wife lived in Narberth workhouse. He said she’d walked out on him and he preferred to pay workhouse fees than have her back.
The workhouse was later a hospital and a home for the elderly. It closed in 1972 and was refurbished for its new role as holiday accommodation.
Postcode: SA67 8RF View Location Map