Poor Law Amendment Act (New Poor Law) 1834
Introduced in response to the rising cost of provision and concerns that people would rather claim relief than work. Relief was only to be provided in workhouses, where men, women and children were to be separated. Workhouses were designed to discourage applicants for assistance. Many unions needed to build new workhouses to cater for the provisions of the Act – the Chesterfield Union of 34 parishes from North-Eastern Derbyshire built the workhouse on Newbold Road in 1837-9.
The main hospital building was the original workhouse. In November 1837, the land for the building of a workhouse (opposite Trinity Church) was purchased for £700 from Joseph Gratton. The architects appointed were the prolific partnership of George Gilbert Scott and William Bonython Moffatt. The builders, Wilson and Knight of Radford, had contracted to carry out the construction work for the sum of £6,245. However, their tender presumably underestimated the cost of the work and they went bankrupt in the process (the final cost of building and fitting out the workhouse was around £10,000). The workhouse received its first inmates on December 9th 1839. The work performed in the workhouse included limestone breaking, oakum picking and bone grinding. Chesterfield was typical of Scott and Moffatt’s workhouse designs. At the north, a single storey entrance block with a central entrance archway faced onto Newbold Road. This block contained the porter’s lodge, the Guardians’ board room, clerk’s office, receiving wards and so on. The western side of the entrance block contained two large rooms, one of which was a school room and may also have served as a chapel. To the rear of the entrance block stood the three storey main accommodation block, the area in between being divided into boys’ and girls’ walled playgrounds either side of a central thoroughfare. The main block would have contained the master and matron’s quarters at its centre, with men’s accommodation to the east and women’s to the west. A U-shaped infirmary stood at the rear of the site, flanked by various single storey buildings at each side, with a laundry on the women’s side, and workshops on the men’s. A number of other buildings were added over the years, including several infirmary blocks, a nurses’ home, and casual wards at the south-east of the site. The workhouse later became Chesterfield’s Scarsdale Hospital – the site was redeveloped in 2001 and all the buildings demolished except for the main block. (information from http://users.ox.ac.uk)
Image courtesy of A Seaman and www.picturethepast.org.uk