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Stroud Workhouse in 1937

The County Council became the Public Assistance Authority in 1930  and  replaced the Poor Law Unions. The continued to run the same workhouses as had previously existed except they were now laughably called "Public Assistance Institutions".  In 1937 they undertook a major report into the future need for Institutional accommodation. This appears to have been precipitated by proposals to replace the Stroud Institution in 1935 including the establishment of a new public assistance hospital for the area. This includes a description of each of the workhouses they had inherited, below we set out their comments on the Stroud Workhouse.

Report of County Public Assistance officer as to Institutional Accommodation in the county of Gloucester  1937  Gloucestershire County Archives TBR/E55

Classified Return of persons in  Stroud Institution on 1 September 1937 (using 10 national classifacations)


Able Bodied 68N/A
Old People2312N/A
Deformed or Crippled1-N/A
Acute Sick211
Chronic Sick20263
Certified (Lunacy)34N/A
Other Mental Patients15221
(Derived from Inforamtion in Appendix III to report)

Stroud Institution


The Stroud Insititution is built on a hill site situated on the outskirts of the town of Stroud and on the Stroud/Bisley road. The site of the property covers approximately 10 acres, 7 of which are under cultivation and supplies the vegetables, with the exception of some potatoes, required for the Institution. A portion of the ground consists of made-up land on disused quarries, and it is extremely doubtful whether it would be suitable as a building site. In the grounds there are piggeries with accommodation for 40 pigs.


The Institution is built in the form of a double cross, and was erected about 100 years ago. It is a stone building, roofed with stone tiles. It has a dreary external appearance, and the roof in many places is in a bad condition. There are eight main yards, all of which are in a poor state of repair, and most of them contain large open drains.


General Description of Interior


The interior planning of the Institution is obsolete. All the wards are low pitched and narrow, and in most cases entirely lack cross-ventilation. In fact, the general appearance of the interior gives an impression of a survival of workhouse accommodation of a century ago. The general lay-out of the rooms and wards, approached by a maze of narrow corridors and extremely awkward staircases, makes modern and efficient administration impossible.


House Wards

On the male side there are three dormitories and two dayrooms for ordinary cases, and one dormitory and one dayroom for mental cases.


Similar accommodation is provided on the female side. The official accommodation for house cases is given as 160, but if this number of cases was accommodated there would be considerable over-crowding. The wards are cheerless, badly equipped and obsolete.




Sick Wards


There are 50 beds in the Sick Wards on the male side and 50 beds on the female side. On each side most of the beds are contained in three wards. There are separate Isolation Wards for both male and female cases, and on the female side one ward has been set apart as a Maternity Unit.


The observations which have already been made as to the general description of the interior of the Institution applies to the Sick Wards. They are narrow, low-pitched, dingy, overcrowded, and practically the whole equipment is obsolete. There is no separate ward for sick children who have to be nursed with adult cases. The room used as aMaternity Ward is totally unsuitable for the purpose; the only entrance to this ward is from one of the general chronic Sick Wards. It contains two beds and two labour beds. There is no separate labour room, sluice or lavatory accommodation, and any requirements of the Maternity Ward have to pass through the adjoining ward. The Maternity Ward would seem to be unhygienic and completely obsolete.


Owing to the totally inadequate and almost non-existent hot water supply to the Sick Wards, water has to be heated in two gas boilers fitted in the duty rooms. Such an arrangement is not only undesirable but is a serious handicap to the Nursing Staff.


The bathing of the sick patients is carried out under very great difficulties, as it is frequently found that the steam supply is inadequate to heat the water required for baths, with the result that hot water has to be carried from the tow small gas boilers already mentioned.


On both the male and female sides the bathroom have been made by partitioning off a portion of the wards. In order to secure cross-ventilation in the bathrooms, it has been necessary to leave spaces between the ceilings and the partitions, causing considerable condensation in these particular wards in which patients can only be accommodated in emergency.


The floors of the whole Institution consist of scrubbed deal boards, most of which shew signs of age and hard wear.




A room is set apart on the ground floor for use as a Nursery. It is badly equipped and quite unsuitable for the purpose.


Receiving Wards


The Receiving Wards are situated near the entrance of the Institution and are small, dark, dingy and undecorated. The equipment in each of these Wards, including the baths is appalling. There are two wards for men and two for women; the larger ward on each side having an old stone floor. No person chargeable to the Public Assistance Committee should be required to sleep in such conditions or surroundings.


Officers Quarters


The accommodation provided for Officers is very poor. In many instances it is of a makeshift character and does not provide for the normal decencies and privacies of life. For example, there is one bathroom for the use of the whole of the female staff of the Institution, and in a number of instances this bathroom is situated considerable distances from the Officers’ quarters and is only approached by



passing through the Sick Wards and descending to a floor below. No bathroom is provided for the the use of the male officers who have to use the inmates’ bathroom. The Officers’ quarters generally are very badly furnished and decorated, and it is surprising that there is not greater difficulty in retaining staff.


The Master and Matron are provided with a flat consisting of a dining room, lounge, three bedrooms and a kitchen. One of the bedrooms is used by the Master as his office. A bathroom and lavatory is provided on the floor below, and hot water for baths in the Masters’ quarters has to be carried from the Institution scullery.


Dining Rooms


The Dining Rooms, both on the male and female sides, are low pitched, poorly equipped, badly decorated and depressing.




There is a large room set apart in the Institution for use as a Chapel, and this probably the best part of the Institution.


Administrative Block


Reference has already been made to the fact that the Master has had to convert one of his bedrooms into an Office. He has a general Office on the ground floor where two clerks are employed.




The stores are not centralised and are scattered around in odd rooms.


Casual Wards

The Casual Wards are well built, but have been closed for twenty years. These wards are now used as stores for inmates property.




The Mortuary consists of a small low pitched room in an unsatisfactory position adjoining the meat stores.


Its equipment consists of four wooden tables and one old coffin shell. It is quite obsolete.


General Services




The institution is inadequately lighted by gas and many of the fittings are obsolete.

Owing to the Institution being very draughty the Master has found it necessary to use open burners instead of incandescent mantles, with the result that the lighting, particularly in the Sick Wards, is very unsatisfactory.




There is no system of central heating at the Institution which is heated by means of stoves and open fires. In each of the Sick Wards there is one fireplace and one Tortoise stove. It will be realises that the heating is not only very unsatisfactory and expensive, but totally inadequate. The majority of the fireplaces are of obsolete




pattern and, owing to the construction of the chimneys, great difficulties are encountered in the wards by smoke nuisance. Domestic hot water is supposed to be supplied by means of a horizontal Cornish boiler which was installed in the basement of the Institution in 1906. The boiler is obsolete, has no reserve steam, and is quite unable to meet the needs of the Institution. There is a reserve boiler in the basement but this is over 50 years old and in a worse condition than the boiler at present in use.


Water Supply


The Institution is serviced by the main Stroud water supply.




A Report has already been received by the Committee as to the unsatisfactory nature of the sanitary arrangements and drainage.



There is a good sized kitchen and it has an uneven flag-stoned floor; is badly ventilated; inadequately lighted; both by natural and artificial lighting; and is lacking in proper equipment.


The scullery is in a very bad condition. It is dark, badly decorated and equipped. Owing to the inefficiency of the boiler serving the Laundry and the domestic hot water supply, it is necessary to supply hot water for cleaning purposes from a tank in the Scullery. The water has to be carried in buckets around the Institution.




At the present time there are 180 inmates in the Stroud Institution, and over 20 officers. The whole of the laundry work has to be done by hand, there being n machinery installed. The laundry consists of a washing room, a drying room, an ironingroom and a separate room for foul washing, all of which are badly equipped. The washing room is particularly unsatisfactory as it is low pitched and badly ventilated,  with the result that women are working in a constant haze of steam. The absence of laundry machinery makes it necessary for the sheets to be rough dried and mangled only, and the general standard of the laundry work is anything but satisfactory.


Fire Escapes

There are four external fire escapes,. But there would be great danger to the patients in the event of an outbreak of fire.



There are various workshops. It is essential that the Engineer should have a workshop close to the boiler house, and for many years he has used a basement which has no natural lighting and is lighted by two small gas burners.


General Observations


From the points of view of the structure, the layout and internal conditions of the building, and practically the whole of the essential services, the Stroud Institution is quite obsolete, and is not suitable, in any way, for modernisation.


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