Workhouses and charity homes

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Before the welfare state was established, it fell to benefactors, charities and Poor Law Unions to help society’s most disadvantaged people, including neglected or abused children.

Use the list below to discover the stories of Welsh workhouses – where paupers lived but had to work for their upkeep – and of some of the individuals connected with workhouses. You can also access these stories on the spot by scanning our QR codes with your smartphone or tablet.

We also list below the almshouses and former charity homes where you can find our QR codes.

 

Workhouses

Holyhead - in 1900 a parish clerk was allowed to choose a wife from the workhouse in Valley
Bangor - all of the workhouse’s staff were dismissed in 1890 for arguing
Bala - town’s first workhouse was unusually central, and empty when Joseph Rowntree visited
Conwy - a man and woman who’d met at the workhouse were both tried for bigamy in 1884
Llanrwst - married medical officer Dr Parry paid an Irish barmaid £300 for breach of promise in 1905
Corwen - managers reprimanded in 1865 for hiring carriage instead of using train to take an inmate to asylum
Machynlleth - the workhouse became a Red Cross hospital soon after closing in 1914
Crickhowell - a woman gave birth at the roadside while walking c.10km to deliver at the workhouse
Narberth - special constables deployed in 1843 after threats of workhouse destruction
Neath - Lletty Nedd workhouse was criticised for its cramped site between road and canal
Abergavenny - workhouse conditions improved after Ellen Fielder became Wales’ first ‘lady guardian’
Pontypool - five children admitted to workhouse after desertion by their dad, who had ‘painter’s colic’


Workhouse people

Beddgelert - the poet ‘Glaslyn’ moved to Penrhyndeudraeth workhouse after his wife’s death
Conwy - grave of Conwy workhouse’s first master and matron, Mary & William Thomas
Conwy - Dr Garrett and his wife were Manchester guardians before creating a kids’ home in Conwy
Llandudno - Edith Champneys, later a suffragist and police officer, became a guardian of the poor in 1903
St Asaph - sculpture tells story of explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who was raised at the workhouse
Crickhowell - clerk fled to Canada with workhouse funds in 1912 but was tracked down by detectives
Amroth - Mary Prout, sent to the workhouse for falling pregnant, murdered her baby daughter
 

Almshouses

Llanrwst - wealthy families argued in the courts in the 17thC over who had funded the 1610 almshouses
St Asaph - Barrow Almshouses named after bishop who donated £12 for their construction c.1680
Neath - the Llewellyn Almshouses were funded by a wealthy widow whose father had owned slaves
 

Charity homes

Conwy - Dr Garrett’s home, founded by a GP, was run by Manchester City Council 1939-1989
Llandudno Junction - Plas Blodwel opened 1926 as a new home for workhouse children