Old Bala workhouse

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Workhouses were usually built on the outskirts of towns, but in Bala the workhouse entrance was in the High Street. The main block was further back – you can see its rear wall in Plassey Street.

Local parishes helped their paupers until the New Poor Law in 1834. Parishes then grouped together in “Unions” and built workhouses where paupers lived, while working for their upkeep.

The Bala Union invited builders to tender for its new workhouse in 1838. In 1840 the area it covered had a population of 6,654, of which 13% were receiving poor relief, but it appears that the workhouse was bigger than needed. The social reformer Joseph Rowntree visited many workhouses around the UK, and he never found one which had no inmates until he came to Bala in 1864.

He said the rooms were spacious but had damp floors, unplastered walls and a “great want of warmth and heat”. He was also unimpressed with the clothing for inmates and the quality of the “gruel and broth”.

In 1867-68 it was decided the workhouse building would be sold to become a store room, muster room and barracks for the County Militia. A new workhouse was completed in 1877 in a less prominent part of the town (the site now occupied by the medical centre in Mount Lane).

At various times, the original workhouse accommodated a bottling works for mineral water, a Welsh oatcakes factory and a pyjamas factory. It is now private accommodation and a guesthouse.

Postcode: LL23 7SW    View Location Map

Website of The Old Workhouse B&B

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