Friends of High Haven

 

"Our revels now are ended.    We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.  Bear with my weakness; my old brain is troubled; be not disturb`d with my infirmity . "

 

                                                                                                       The Tempest by Wm Shakespeare


 

     

 

 

300 YEARS OF CARING
The Poor House to High Haven



St Mark`s Gospel chapter 14 verse 7 in the King James version has " For ye have the poor with you always , and whensoever ye will ye may do them good . "

For as long as the church of St Edmund has stood on the hill in Downham Market , there will have been a poor house alongside , maintained by the church and for the benefit of the poorest people of Downham .

 

 

 

#1

 

 

Over the centuries the poor house and its pauper inmates had been maintained and cared for by monies left in legacies in wills of local people and from the Poor Rate levied on tradesmen and farmers who in a good year made a little money and paid a proportion of it to the church for the Overseers of the Poor to distribute.

One such benefactor was the Rev Thomas Batchcroft who was born in Bexwell in 1572 , educated at Ely School and who became a priest . He was appointed Master of Caius College Cambridge in 1626 but was expelled during the Civil war in 1649 and replaced by William Dell an extreme Puritan . With the Restoration in 1660 Batchcroft was reinstated but died a very short time later . Apart from his great gift to Downham , he also left substantial bequests to Methwold and various Suffolk parishes .

His 100 bequest to Downham is recorded on a wooden board in the vestry of St Edmund`s church . It says " March 1660 . The Reverend Thomas Batchcroft DD who by his will gave and bequeathed as follows : that is to say , I give one hundred pounds to purchase five pounds per annum in land for ever , for the use of the poor of Downham Market to be distributed amongst them to buy victuals to nourish them , clothes to cover them and firing to warm them and one of these to be done yearly for ever for better performance of which gift he requested the minister of the town and two of the chiefest inhabitants thereof , to perform that office year after year for the use and benefit of the poor thereof for ever . The land purchased with the above money consists of the two following pieces of land in Downham Market , that is to say five acres , two roods and three perches of pasture land abutting upon the turnpike road leading to Wisbeach toward the north , and upon Saint John`s Eau towards the west and one acre three roods and thirteen perches of pasture land abutting the Ouse river bank towards the west and Saint John`s Eau towards the east and upon the public house and garden belonging to the Bridge Reeves of Downham Market toward the north ."

Henry Saffery in his will dated 1721 proved 1721/2 " I give and devise unto my said son Thomas Saffery 30 and forty shillings to be distributed to the poor of Downham Market by the churchwardens and Overseers at their discretion ." Forty shillings or 2 would be worth about 170 today and a useful amount for the Overseers to distribute . An earlier John Saffrey in his will dated 1687 also left the sum of forty shillings to be distributed on St John`s day to forty poor widows .

 


 

#2

 

 

The Account books of the poor house were found when High Haven was completed in 1969 and given to the local library these date from 1823 and make very interesting reading .

The first Master mentioned in these accounts is Robert Simson and he was paid 45/- a week to provide for 15 inmates with " sufficient meat, drink, washing, lodging, cloathing , employment and all other things necessary for their keeping and maintenance " He had a further allowance of 3/6d per week if he overspent .

This small poor house now believed to be the late Police Station and local jail then Breckland house , received two payments amongst others in 1825 and 1827 from the Poor Rate for burying a drowned man and a drowned boy . In 1832 the workhouse paid out 13/- for a coffin for Wortley`s daughter and in July a huge sum of 1.7s.7d to women laying out William Francis of Salters Lode who died of the cholera . "

Throughout 1833 Raper`s wife seems to have had an insatiable appetite for mutton , one shilling and fourpence worth is given to her at regular fortnightly intervals . In 1834 " Raper`s wife still ill , mutton 2/4d " .

In May and October 1833 four weight pounds of mutton is given to Robert Haylett and two pounds to his wife . However the next entry for the next day in October shows that 4/- was paid for women to lay out Haylett`s wife and 4/- for carriers .

In 1834 cholera was about again and an adult coffin cost one guinea and a child`s coffin cost 10/6 . But in among all the gloom and illness and death , a midwife was paid 5/- to attend Anne Buttersin in the workhouse and a further 1/8d was paid for a pint of gin for her . It is not clear if the gin was for Anne Buttersin or the midwife , but perhaps they shared it .

In 1836 the average rateable value of Downham Market parish was 1,066 and the poor rate was one eighth of that being 133 per annum . The Union created in 1835 by the Poor Law Amendment Act brought 34 parishes into the Downham Union and the workhouse proposed was to be for 250 persons . The Board spent many an anxious meeting at the Castle Inn in 1836 and 1837 valuing each parish in the union and trying to estimate how much income they would have to support the paupers of 34 parishes which could be as many as 250 people. In addition there were also disbursements for out-relief . That is those people whose condition was not so serious that it warranted them being removed to the workhouse .

At an October meeting in 1836 , Downham district needed 7.19s 9d in money , 3.10s in kind, a total of 11.9s 9d for the week. These amounts were distributed by the Relieving Officer of the district in agreement with the parish Overseers of the poor .

The poor house was usually close to the church and was usually owned by the parish . The Poor Law compelled parishes to look after their own people those born in the parish or belonging to the parish by legal settlement . Those who were successful in moving to a different parish got a Settlement certificate from their new parish a copy of which was sent to their original parish . It was crucial that if people wanted to live in another parish , that they were fit and well and working , if not the parish would not accept them and they would be removed back to their parish of origin . These people got a Removal order and it was enforceable taking them back to their parish of origin . No small rural parish could afford more than its own poor .

 

 

 

 

#3

Unsurprisingly this new Government initiative , the Poor Law Amendment Act created opportunities for the great and the good of the district to become the power brokers . Some were dull , good and honest but some also took advantage of their new powers to advance friends and family in new positions and jobs .

At the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815 , the army and the navy were demobbed and discharged back into their parishes with or without tiny pensions . Here in West Norfolk by 1816 there were riots resulting in hangings at Norwich castle , riots whose slogan was BREAD OR BLOOD . Add to that a series of terrible harvests over the next 20 years and you have the makings of a real national crisis. The old simple ways were inadequate and a new Government , anxious to avoid revolution , came up with a new Poor Law Amendment Act in 1835 .

On Wednesday 24th August 1836 at the Castle Inn, at 10 in the forenoon, the nominated Guardians of the Poor met , the names are familiar , William Bagge, Edward Roger Pratt, John Dering , and James Bradfield among others ..

Immediately the Guardians chose Mr Charles Berners Plestow of Watlington Hall as their Chairman . Watlington Hall , which is long gone, had been designed in part by a young architect called W J Donthorn , who will play a large part in the workhouse development .

The next matters on the agenda of that first meeting were that Messrs Gurney bankers should be appointed Treasurers to the Union , and that the Medical Officer for Downham District should be paid 110 per annum , and that the salary shall include accommodation for attendance, medicine , assistance in such cases as midwifery , as the Board of Guardians may require , the performance of surgical operations , the provision of medical instruments ( trusses excepted ) and any other matter used in the treatment of Disease or accident for all poor persons .

Then it was moved and seconded that it was expedient to erect a workhouse for the Union ; that the workhouse be provided for not exceeding 250 persons . It was moved further that a Committee be appointed to report to the Board as to a suitable site for the erection of the workhouse . And further that advertisements be inserted in the Bury Post, the Cambridge Chronicle and both the Norwich papers for Plans for a workhouse for 250 paupers classified according to the regulations of the Poor Law Commissioners to be accompanied by an estimate of the probable expense of erection .

In September 1836 Thomas Garneys Wales was appointed Medical Officer for the Downham District . But most of that week`s meeting was taken up by the discussion as to where the workhouse should be built . The committee viewed two sites . The workhouse piece adjoining the lane leading to the Howdale containing one acre and the north piece of the Cambridge ground in Wimbotsham containing about five acres . " From its proximity to Downham your committee are of opinion that the workhouse piece is the most eligible for the Union house . The situation is dry and airy " The Board duly elected the Downham site as being the best one by 23 votes to 10 for Wimbotsham .

Still in September , the Board examined several plans for the Workhouse and finally settled on the Plans of Mr Donthorn as the most eligible for the workhouse , noting that Mr Donthorn`s square plan return at a cost of 2,000 and this proposal was carried unanimously by the Board Full of their own importance, the Board now added a rider that they and the Building Committee should be given powers to alter Mr Donthorn`s plans " to an extent not exceeding 120 . This was going to cause a lot of problems all round in the next eighteen months . The Board then moved that advertisements for the building of the workhouse be put in the Norfolk papers and that Mr Peckover of Wisbech be accepted as security for Mr Gurney the Treasurer and that they enter a joint bond for the sum of 2,000.

Like other public building works under committee control , the initial estimate of cost was going to be woefully inadequate .

A diversion of interest came in Oct 1836 when the Treaurer of Thorpe Lunatic Asylum asked the Board for payment of several sums of money for pauper lunatics presumably belonging to Downham and the Union parishes .

A note at the 12th Oct 1836 meeting instructs that Mr Donthorn and the Clerk of Works must be clear that no building works are carried out in the frost . Work however has begun and the Contractor , Mr Briggs , is " to commence forthwith . " and immediately the Building committee start altering Mr Donthorn`s plans by insisting that the staircases and windows should be of stone not wood ; the fence in front of the Boys and Girls yard should be of iron not wood ; that the water spouting conducting pipes round the house should be installed and two reservoirs for the water built . Although each of these items cost less than 120 the cut off point for Board amendments to the plans, collectively they cost over 200.

As building continued so did the Building Committee`s involvement .

#4

 

At this lengthy meeting of 12th Oct , the Board also discuss how the "slope " which they think can be used to advantage for cellars or other uses and that windows be inserted in the buildings for that purpose . It seems also that to build such a large building extra depth of foundations may be needed and must be paid for at " per rod " .

A Christmassy note comes to the attention of the Board on 16th Nov 1836 . The Institute for the Indigent Blind in Norwich writes to say that a pauper named William Chapman belonging to Fordham parish wishes to leave the Asylum , and that he was intending to marry a blind girl . The Board instruct the Clerk to write to the Institute that Chapman may come back but he will have to maintain himself or be confined to the workhouse .

The first small disagreement between the Board and the Contractor Mr Briggs comes in the last meeting of 1836 when Mr Briggs asks for a variation in his contract as to payments , but the Board are firm and write that no alteration can be made .

In the new year of 1837 , contracts are entered into with Mr Tilyard of Norwich for one dozen pairs of mens shoes, one dozen boys, one dozen girls and one dozen womens , of various sizes . More importantly the Board having already set a date for the completion of the building of the workhouse are now reluctantly agreeing to an extension of this date to 14th Sept 1837 . And still mindful of the public unrest , the Board agree that the Contractor be excepted for riots .

The new year message from the Board of Guardians to HM`s Principal Secretary of State at the Home Department says " The poor have this last winter been generally extensively employed instead of spending their time in Beer Houses and other places of unprofitable resort ."

1837 starts with some very busy meetings , and the shortcomings of Mr Donthorn as an architect are being exposed . Apart from the lowest tender for the building from Mr Briggs of 3,532 almost double the original estimate of 2,000 , additional costs are being allowed for the " depth of brickwork caused by the uneven-ness of the ground " surely Mr Donthorn noticed this when drawing up his plans . The garden of High Haven today is noticeably sloping . The new depth of brickwork adds 263 to the costs , and now the plans must be adjusted to lower the kitchen , scullery , pantry and larder and all workhouse floors to meet the ground . This with other suggestions made by Dr Kay of the Poor Law Commissioners had added a further 672 to the overall costs . In the original cost no entrance gates , boundary wall, and making a roadway up to the entrance of the workhouse have been taken into account and a further 295 is added to the cost..

At this point the Board of Guardians makes an application to the Poor Law Commissioners to borrow 5,000. Time is ticking by and the Board order that " the walls of the Union Workhouse be immediately carried up level and that the works stopped be immediately proceeded with Ordered that 600 be paid to Mr Briggs . "

Now with the building itself proceeding , the Board of Guardians appoint another committee , this time to " ascertain the best method of fitting up the Union House ". And to help them the Board order Mr Brown , master of the current poor house , to attend the next meeting on Thursday . In addition the clerk to the Board is instructed to write to Mr Briggs the Contractor that it is reported to the Board by Mr Darley that the workhouse will not be completed at the apppointed time and that a request must be made to Mr Briggs to proceed more rapidly .

As the summer of 1837 moves on advertisements are put in the Norfolk papers and the Bury and Cambridge Chronicle plus two London papers for a Master and Matron for the workhouse to be elected this day 5 weeks , offering a salary of 80 per annum for the Master and 20 for the Matron. In addition the Porter will be paid 25 per annum and the Chaplain to the Union paid 40 per annum . The Board request Dr Kay to look for a suitable schoolmaster on his next trip to Scotland at a salary of 35 per annum .

But as August ends Mr Darley is still reporting to the Board " that the Union House was going on very unsatisfactorily . The Board resolved to proceed to view the House" .

This viewing took place on 7th September 1837 just one week before the due date of completion and all that can be reported is that the house is " now proceeding properly". Realising that the paupers cannot occupy a house without furnishings , the Board now spend money with urgency and order quantities of all the necessaries of life , knives, lamps , tin mugs, soup cans, . Messrs Coleman get the contract for bedsteads , iron, at 14/- each in various sizes ; Messrs Johnson get the contract for sedge mats for the beds , Mr Harman gets the contract for blankets , Mr Ryley for Scotch Forfar sheeting , and towelling . Mr Baker gets the contract for cotton rugs, Mr Harman again for flannel and shirting , and Mr Johnson for serge ......ever practical Mr Hawes gets the contract for shrouds , and Mr Palmer gets the contract for huge number and variety of shoes including expensive men`s Highlows at 8/6d a pair . Mr Hawes is to provide stockings and hats .

The beds are to have a pair of blankets each and one and a half sheets ; and that they be filled with long straw .

And the paupers may be without clothes so the Board now orders yards of grograin for petticoats, stout twist , whole suits of mens clothes , stays are very expensive at 1.2.4d a dozen .

 

#5



The spending spree is halted for a while by a Mr Bell, solicitor of Downham , appearing before the Board to claim compensation for damage done to Mrs Poll`s mill on the Howdale during the building of the workhouse . Inevitably a sub committee is formed to see what damage has been done to Mrs Poll`s mill.

Further and far too late , an advert is inserted in the Norfolk papers for tenders for the building of a seven foot wall on the north and east side of the Union Workhouse land . Whoever got this tender and built this wall would be gratified to know his wall still stands without any maintenance 175 years later .

In October 1837 progress is still continuing , the Clerk is to order deal tables and benches and fixtures . The Building committee reports that the house would not be completed for some time and that the Clerk give notice to the Contractor that the penalty for not having the house completed according to contract would be inflicted . And the fitting out committee now want a boiler and oven in the kitchen instead of the present one on order .

Food is now the main consideration , and Mr Scott of Downham gets the contract for the supply to the Union of Dorset cheese , brown soap, salt , soda , loaf sugar , bastard sugar , rice , treacle , starch , mustard , black tea, green tea, vinegar , oats, bacon, . Mr Bolton gets the contract for the supply of " good steer beef at 7/- per stone , steer suet at 7/- per stone , mutton at 7/- per stone and pork at 7/6d per stone . Messrs Bennett and Goose get the contract to " supply and fit up the fixtures of the Union Workhouse . "

At last the candidates for the position of Master and Matron are interviewed, Mr and Mrs Dakins, Mr and Mrs Pyle, Mr and Mrs Gostling, Mr and Mrs Harrison, Mr and Mrs Muskett , Mr and Mrs Wright , Mr and Mrs Harvey, Mr and Mrs Chamberlain , and Mr and Mrs Fisher . After due consideraton, 18 votes were given to Mr and Mrs Pyle who were appointed Master and Matron at a salary of 80 and 20 a piece per annum .

And " Roe " is appointed Porter at 25 per annum being allowed to maintain his wife , " she making herself useful in the house " .

The sub committee looking into the damage to Mrs Poll`s mill , report back that damage has been done and recommend that 100 is offered as compensation.

By the meeting of 19th October 1837, the Board of Guardians are of the opinion that the workhouse is very nearly completed and in " many instances that the defects may be remedied without any hindrance to the house being occupied and that in the opinion of the committee the house although not finished may be accepted as soon as the necessaries and furniture can be got in . "

The committee also say they are " extremely dissatisfied with the inattention of the architect Mr Donthorn ...and he be requested to attend the Union House on 26th October. That the Committee will meet him on that day and that the house be thoroughly examined at 10 o`clock precisely . Mr Donthorn and Mr Briggs , present , agreed that the building should be forthwith completed and Mr Donthorn further stated that he did not consider any blame was attached to him as he had frequently given orders to Mr Briggs but" he could not get him to attend to them . "

The meeting of 26th October at the Workhouse was understandably busy and fraught . The Board are " extremely surprised " at the inattention of Mr Briggs . There is a long list of essential building works to be completed the pipes to the washing places are incomplete , the water spouts are not put up , the urinals ordered by Mr Donthorn are not done , the hand rails to the stairs are not done , the windows are not embedded or complete, the floors are in an unfinished state and very importantly , the water closet to be fitted for the Guardians has not been done and the current fireplace in the Board room is inadequate " not of a proper size or quality ".

A further blow comes in the form of a letter to the Board of Guardians from the Royal Exchange that they have " declined advancing any further sums to the Union ". The Treasury now has to step in to close the financial gap and guarantee the full finished sum of 4,250.

By 9th November 1837 a further letter is received from Mr Briggs the contractor undertaking that the Board should now take possession of the Union Workhouse without prejudice to the contract . But nothing is that simple and now the Board have the workhouse , they must decide what to do with those " indigent poor " who are not in the workhouse . " Outdoor relief is to be continued in the following classes 1) the aged , 2) the infirm , 3) indigent widows with families of children too young to work , 4) indigent widows in the first 3 months of their widowhood , 5) cases of accident, sickness and urgent need , 6) that relief for paupers who are resident beyond the limits of the Union be discontinued except for the aged , infirm and sick ."

The meeting of 23rd November 1837 was held in the Board room of the Union Workhouse . Mr Donthorn states " that the mass is completed but there are several little points to be done ; overflow pipes, buckets in the well are too heavy , the dining hall casements must be made to fit , gutters over the infirmary , the stove in the Board room , chimney in the committee room , some brick floors need relaying , the ventilation to the ward over the laundry , all still need to be finished ". The committee also recommend that iron bars are fitted in the windows next to the public road and that the wall alongside be raised to 7ft .

But on the 28th December 1837 finally , Garneys Wales, surgeon , having examined the workhouse , states " all the rooms are fit for the reception of the paupers with the exception of the north infirmary and room below . "


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From 1st January 1838 the workhouse is in full use and rules and regulations must be adhered to . No pauper can receive visitors except between 10 - 12 and 2 - 4 . Cold diet is recommended for paupers who are disorderly and those who are of sound mind but refractory must be placed in the refractory cells on cold diet until they are no longer a problem .

Meetings now in 1838 are very much calmer affairs . In June the Board of Guardians buy the piece of land in front of the workhouse for the sum of 100 . Elizabeth Clarke and her 5 children are admitted to the workhouse as is Elijah Dammet . In May 1838 Mr Pyle the Master reports to the Board that H Fendike employed as a cook in the Union Workhouse has feloniously taken away some meat and sugar out of the workhouse . The Board order that she is discharged, her wages paid, and that she is to be prosecuted for felony . But worse is to come . The Scottish educated schoolmaster Mr Ross , and the schoolmistress Miss Chamberlain are found in a compromising situation and after both sides of the case are heard by the Board , it is resolved to discharge both . Mr Pyle the Master blots his copybook too by writing direct to the Poor Law Commissioners about the case, a step which the Board take very unkindly , and Mr Pyle is reprimanded by the Chairman .

Also early in 1838 and despite the purchase of Bibles and Testaments for the Union Workhouse, the Rev Mr Bellamy asks to have the names of the 25 children who have never heard the Name of Christ . The Chaplain , the Rev Mr Musgrave duly gives the list of names of children some as young as 4 , George Goodrum of Stow Bardolph, and three siblings from Holbeach who are awaiting their removal back to their home town of Holbeach .

In March 1838 the new Guardians from each of the parishes of the Union are appointed , Downham being represented by John Dixon and James Horton..

In the summer the Board grant permission for Elizabeth Butler , an aged and infirm person to be allowed to visit Mrs Brown the Matron of the Old Downham Workhouse " tomorrow after dinner and return by past 7 ".

Elizabeth Salter is to be allowed to go into service with Mr Page of Stow Fen and to have 5/- of wages and clothes . William Linstead is to be allowed to go into service with Mr Smith of the White Hart, as ostler and to have what he can make . Mr Pyle the Master reports that four of the boys viz J Cann, J Tufts, James Eggett and John Ollett had run away but that they had been returned except J Cann.

5a

 

THE FALL OF MASTER PYLE .

13th Dec 1838 ( C/GP/5/2)

" Moved an application to be made to the Poor Law Commissioners for an authority to apprentice out to shoemakers or tailors the following persons :- William Wellam aged 19 ( an orphan and a dwarf) belonging to the parish of Denver . Henry Tingay , aged 13 ( father dead mother dying of consumption ) belonging to the parish of Stoke Ferry and Samuel Page , aged 13 subject to fits , (father dead) belonging to the parish of Watlington".

" Moved by Mr Press for permission to take into the workhouse for 3 months , two of the children of Robert Bushel of West Dereham a pauper at 12/- per week and at home family consists of himself , his wife, and 6 children oldest 9 years of age the wife expecting to be confined any day . Mr Press stated that he believed the family were starving and that they would not be able to get anyone to assist them in her confinement for want of means . ( aged 76) "

" Resolved that the Poor in the workhouse have roast beef and plumb pudding on Christmas day ."

31st Jan 1839

" Resolved that the Board are very surprised that Mr Johnson has entered in his Medical book the family of Leator (Leates ? ) Of Stow Bardolph cured of the Itch when they appears to be still very bad . "

7th Feb 1839

" Resolved unanimously that for the future the rules and regulations of this Board made 10 Jan 1838 to disorderly and refractory persons be strictly adhered to and that the Master receive no further authority . "

" Moved by Mr Reed that Mr Pyle for the future keeps a journal of all punishment conduct and transactions of this house so far as the paupers are concerned . "

" A letter dated 5th Feb 1839 from the Rev Henshaw presents to the Board that Henry Merry who died at Southery on 1st last was discharged from this workhouse and furnished with the sum of 1/- toward proceeding on a journey to Ditton in Cambridgeshire the poor man being otherwise destitute feeble and an invalid and that he reached Southery at the end of three days in a state of great exhaustion . "

" Mr Pyle and several paupers having appeared before the Board stated most distinctly that the pauper was not discharged but went out of his own account and further that Mr Pyle only a fortnight before he went persuaded him not to go out for the present and that in their opinion the pauper was able to leave the house ."

25th March 1839

" Board of Guardians elected

Barton Bendish James Blomfield, Bexwell Alfred Muskett, Boughton Wm Steward, Crimplesham John Negus, Denver Capt Geo Wood, 
Downham West James Ollett, Downham Market John Dixon, Robert Steel Wright, Fincham Wm Hebgin, Hilgay John Lansdale Milne, 
Holme next Runcton Rev F Edwards, Marham Wm Lang, Runcton South Wm Cambridge, Ryston Thomas Brown, Shouldham David Brown, Shouldham Thorpe John Brackenbury

Southery -

Stoke Ferry Robert Flatt, Stow Bardolph John Harrison, Stradsett Edward Newman, Tottenhill William Allflatt, Wallington with Thorpland Thomas Butters

Watlington Robert Porter

Wereham Edmund Crowe

Wimbotsham Richard Garahan

Wormegay Thomas Curtis

Wretton Henry Townley

Wiggenhall St Germans James Patrick junr

Wiggenhall St Mary Mag John Whisler

Wiggenhall St Mary George Moncton

Wiggenhall St Peter John Hall

Welney , Norf Rev Townley

Welney , Cambs John James

Magistrates Guardians ex officio

Edward Roger Pratt, esq ; William Bagge, esq ; James Bradfield , esq; Charles B Plestow , esq ; William Lawton Jones , esq ; The Rev Arthur Loftus ; Henry Villebois .

April 1839

"Ordered that if George Adderson does not take his children out of the Union workhouse he be apprehended and sent to Swaffham ."

April 1839

" Ordered that tenders be advertised for the laying of a tunnel from the Cess Pool on the south western corner of this house to the highway . "

May 1839

" The Porter for the future not to sell the swill and bones and that Mr Pyle sell the same and hands the amount over to the hand of the Treasurer . "

May 1839

" It having been reported that Maria Johnson an inmate of the House had charged Mr Pyle with improper criminal conduct . A charge having been preferred by Susan Addison of improper conduct to her by the Master Mr Pyle . A further charge was also brought against Mr Pyle that Elizabeth Fretwell was in the family way by the master . Charges were partly investigated and ordered to be taken into further consideration by the Board ."

May 1839

" The Guardians investigated the charges brought by Maria Johnson and Susan Addison and also investigated the truth of the statement by Elizabeth Fretwell as to her being in the family way by Mr Pyle After the examination of witnesses the Guardians came to the unanimous opinion that the charges against Mr Pyle had fallen to the ground but that he had been extremely lax in the discipline of the house . "

May 1839

" Ordered that Elizabeth Fretwell take her child Rebecca Fretwell belonging to West Dereham out of the house and if she refused to do so have an order made for the house . "

" Mr Milnes having read a letter from Mr Clive Auditor stating that he intended to investigate the charges against Mr Pyle ."

" Resolved that it is the opinion of this Board that the charges having once been investigated by the Board and of which investigation Mr Clive had notice , it is most extraordinary that a further investigation be attempted by Mr Clive in the absence of Guardians and Mr Clive have notice that the Guardians object ."

June 1839

" Resolved that Application may be made to the Poor Law Commissioners that Mr Pyle and Mrs Pyle be continued in Office until the end of the next quarter ending Sept next ."

June 1839

"Resolved that the Clerk take the necessary steps for pulling down the Old Workhouses in front of the Union Workhouse and selling the material . Tenders for 14 accepted Juler and Flatman .."

June 1839

"Read a letter from the Poor Law Commissioners stating that from the laxity of the discipline of the house under Mr Pyle the Commissioners think it is entirely inconsistent wit their duty to permit Mr Pyle to continue any longer as Master of the workhouse and that they therefore request that he may be called upon to resign his office at the Close of the present quarter and that if he should refuse to do so the Commissioners would then have no alternative left but to issue an order for his dismissal . "

July 1839

"Ordered that the boy Hill of Wereham go to Norwich for the purpose of having a wooden leg at a sum not exceeding 30/- . "

July 1839

"Letter to the Poor Law Commissioners ` the Guardians respectfully but earnestly hope that the Poor Law Commissioners will reconsider the case of the Master of the Downham Union Workhouse . The Board of Guardians having acquitted the Master of all charges brought against him are of opinion that alone the charge of laxity of discipline could not be sufficient - and grant Mr Pyle a further trial of six months . "

3 July 1839

" Letter received from the Poor Law Commissioners , Somerset House. To say they will agree to keep Mr Pyle on to the end of the current quarter ( they deem the period long ) to allow the board to find a successor . " " Mr Pyle appeared and ordered to resign. "

August 1839

" Letter received from the Poor Law Commissioners to say they would not alter their opinion as to Mr Pyle`s resignation and could not permit him to resume the same ."

September 1839

" Candidates for the Office of Master and Mistress : Mr and Mrs King, Mr and Mrs Swann, Mr and Mrs Rose , Mr and Mrs Chamberlain . For Mr and Mrs Rose , 18 ( votes) , for Mr and Mrs Chamberlain , 4, Mr and Mrs King, 1 . Further resolved that Mr and Mrs Rose should have 2 children with them but to pay 2/6d a week for one of them . Salary Master, 80, Mistress , 20 . Resolved that the Clerk advertise for a Relieving Officer . "

October 1839

" The Poor Law Commissioners approve the appointment of Mr and Mrs Rose at salary of 80 and 25 ( as written) ."

" Ordered that the ceiling of the cooking copper be covered with wood, zinc or copper and that a tender for same be sent in . "

October 1839

" Ordered that a piece of wood be put on the top of the Cess Pool in the front of the workhouse ,

" Ordered that a man be employed to clean out the privvies ."

October 1839

" A check for coffins and funerals to Mr Pyle , 3.10.0 . A check for wine for the paupers to Mr Pyle , 5 7.8d . A check to Mr Pyle for labour mending clothes, 22 1.0. A check to Mr Wake for lunatics , 24 10.0 . A check to Mr Pyle for labour 10.10.0 ."

THE FALL OF MASTER PYLE .

13th Dec 1838 ( C/GP/5/2)

" Moved an application to be made to the Poor Law Commissioners for an authority to apprentice out to shoemakers or tailors the following persons :- William Wellam aged 19 ( an orphan and a dwarf) belonging to the parish of Denver . Henry Tingay , aged 13 ( father dead mother dying of consumption ) belonging to the parish of Stoke Ferry and Samuel Page , aged 13 subject to fits , (father dead) belonging to the parish of Watlington".

" Moved by Mr Press for permission to take into the workhouse for 3 months , two of the children of Robert Bushel of West Dereham a pauper at 12/- per week and at home family consists of himself , his wife, and 6 children oldest 9 years of age the wife expecting to be confined any day . Mr Press stated that he believed the family were starving and that they would not be able to get anyone to assist them in her confinement for want of means . ( aged 76) "

" Resolved that the Poor in the workhouse have roast beef and plumb pudding on Christmas day ."

31st Jan 1839

" Resolved that the Board are very surprised that Mr Johnson has entered in his Medical book the family of Leator (Leates ? ) Of Stow Bardolph cured of the Itch when they appears to be still very bad . "

7th Feb 1839

" Resolved unanimously that for the future the rules and regulations of this Board made 10 Jan 1838 to disorderly and refractory persons be strictly adhered to and that the Master receive no further authority . "

" Moved by Mr Reed that Mr Pyle for the future keeps a journal of all punishment conduct and transactions of this house so far as the paupers are concerned . "

" A letter dated 5th Feb 1839 from the Rev Henshaw presents to the Board that Henry Merry who died at Southery on 1st last was discharged from this workhouse and furnished with the sum of 1/- toward proceeding on a journey to Ditton in Cambridgeshire the poor man being otherwise destitute feeble and an invalid and that he reached Southery at the end of three days in a state of great exhaustion . "

" Mr Pyle and several paupers having appeared before the Board stated most distinctly that the pauper was not discharged but went out of his own account and further that Mr Pyle only a fortnight before he went persuaded him not to go out for the present and that in their opinion the pauper was able to leave the house ."

25th March 1839

" Board of Guardians elected

Barton Bendish James Blomfield

Bexwell Alfred Muskett

Boughton Wm Steward

Crimplesham John Negus

Denver Capt Geo Wood

Downham West James Ollett

Downham Market John Dixon, Robert Steel Wright

Fincham Wm Hebgin

Hilgay John Lansdale Milne

Holme next Runcton Rev F Edwards

Marham Wm Lang

Runcton South Wm Cambridge

Ryston Thomas Brown

Shouldham David Brown

Shouldham Thorpe John Brackenbury

Southery -

Stoke Ferry Robert Flatt

Stow Bardolph John Harrison

Stradsett Edward Newman

Tottenhill William Allflatt

Wallington with Thorpland Thomas Butters

Watlington Robert Porter

Wereham Edmund Crowe

Wimbotsham Richard Garahan

Wormegay Thomas Curtis

Wretton Henry Townley

Wiggenhall St Germans James Patrick junr

Wiggenhall St Mary Mag John Whisler

Wiggenhall St Mary George Moncton

Wiggenhall St Peter John Hall

Welney , Norf Rev Townley

Welney , Cambs John James

Magistrates Guardians ex officio

Edward Roger Pratt, esq ; William Bagge, esq ; James Bradfield , esq; Charles B Plestow , esq ; William Lawton Jones , esq ; The Rev Arthur Loftus ; Henry Villebois .

April 1839

"Ordered that if George Adderson does not take his children out of the Union workhouse he be apprehended and sent to Swaffham ."

April 1839

" Ordered that tenders be advertised for the laying of a tunnel from the Cess Pool on the south western corner of this house to the highway . "

May 1839

" The Porter for the future not to sell the swill and bones and that Mr Pyle sell the same and hands the amount over to the hand of the Treasurer . "

May 1839

" It having been reported that Maria Johnson an inmate of the House had charged Mr Pyle with improper criminal conduct . A charge having been preferred by Susan Addison of improper conduct to her by the Master Mr Pyle . A further charge was also brought against Mr Pyle that Elizabeth Fretwell was in the family way by the master . Charges were partly investigated and ordered to be taken into further consideration by the Board ."

May 1839

" The Guardians investigated the charges brought by Maria Johnson and Susan Addison and also investigated the truth of the statement by Elizabeth Fretwell as to her being in the family way by Mr Pyle After the examination of witnesses the Guardians came to the unanimous opinion that the charges against Mr Pyle had fallen to the ground but that he had been extremely lax in the discipline of the house . "

May 1839

" Ordered that Elizabeth Fretwell take her child Rebecca Fretwell belonging to West Dereham out of the house and if she refused to do so have an order made for the house . "

" Mr Milnes having read a letter from Mr Clive Auditor stating that he intended to investigate the charges against Mr Pyle ."

" Resolved that it is the opinion of this Board that the charges having once been investigated by the Board and of which investigation Mr Clive had notice , it is most extraordinary that a further investigation be attempted by Mr Clive in the absence of Guardians and Mr Clive have notice that the Guardians object ."

June 1839

" Resolved that Application may be made to the Poor Law Commissioners that Mr Pyle and Mrs Pyle be continued in Office until the end of the next quarter ending Sept next ."

June 1839

"Resolved that the Clerk take the necessary steps for pulling down the Old Workhouses in front of the Union Workhouse and selling the material . Tenders for 14 accepted Juler and Flatman .."

June 1839

"Read a letter from the Poor Law Commissioners stating that from the laxity of the discipline of the house under Mr Pyle the Commissioners think it is entirely inconsistent wit their duty to permit Mr Pyle to continue any longer as Master of the workhouse and that they therefore request that he may be called upon to resign his office at the Close of the present quarter and that if he should refuse to do so the Commissioners would then have no alternative left but to issue an order for his dismissal . "

July 1839

"Ordered that the boy Hill of Wereham go to Norwich for the purpose of having a wooden leg at a sum not exceeding 30/- . "

July 1839

"Letter to the Poor Law Commissioners ` the Guardians respectfully but earnestly hope that the Poor Law Commissioners will reconsider the case of the Master of the Downham Union Workhouse . The Board of Guardians having acquitted the Master of all charges brought against him are of opinion that alone the charge of laxity of discipline could not be sufficient - and grant Mr Pyle a further trial of six months . "

3 July 1839

" Letter received from the Poor Law Commissioners , Somerset House. To say they will agree to keep Mr Pyle on to the end of the current quarter ( they deem the period long ) to allow the board to find a successor . " " Mr Pyle appeared and ordered to resign. "

August 1839

" Letter received from the Poor Law Commissioners to say they would not alter their opinion as to Mr Pyle`s resignation and could not permit him to resume the same ."

September 1839

" Candidates for the Office of Master and Mistress : Mr and Mrs King, Mr and Mrs Swann, Mr and Mrs Rose , Mr and Mrs Chamberlain . For Mr and Mrs Rose , 18 ( votes) , for Mr and Mrs Chamberlain , 4, Mr and Mrs King, 1 . Further resolved that Mr and Mrs Rose should have 2 children with them but to pay 2/6d a week for one of them . Salary Master, 80, Mistress , 20 . Resolved that the Clerk advertise for a Relieving Officer . "

October 1839

" The Poor Law Commissioners approve the appointment of Mr and Mrs Rose at salary of 80 and 25 ( as written) ."

" Ordered that the ceiling of the cooking copper be covered with wood, zinc or copper and that a tender for same be sent in . "

October 1839

" Ordered that a piece of wood be put on the top of the Cess Pool in the front of the workhouse ,

" Ordered that a man be employed to clean out the privvies ."

October 1839

" A check for coffins and funerals to Mr Pyle , 3.10.0 . A check for wine for the paupers to Mr Pyle , 5 7.8d . A check to Mr Pyle for labour mending clothes, 22 1.0. A check to Mr Wake for lunatics , 24 10.0 . A check to Mr Pyle for labour 10.10.0 ."

By 1841, scandal again engulfs the home when the Rev Mr Howman of Bexwell , is reprimanded for attending the medical officer Mr Ward, in his operation to " cure " Mary Ann Leedale of venereal disease . This hits the newspapers from the Bury and Norwich Post and East Anglian to the Bristol Mercury .. The Rev Mr Howman puts up a spirited defence of his actions by saying he has always been interested in medical matters and when ever possible has attended his parishioners in their times of trouble , and that he would have attended the operation regardless of the sex of the patient . The Poor Law Commissioners anxious not to spread the news of his eccentricity , do not penalise Mr Howman but do add a rider to their letter to the Board that never again is a non- medical person to attend any operations in the Union Workhouse .

Also by 1841 , the census for the workhouse shows that there are 115 inmates of which 64 are children. And that Thomas Negus Rose is the Master , not Mr Pyle . Sometime between the summer of 1838 and the spring of 1841 Mr Pyle must have fallen foul of the Board again .


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In 1894 the British Medical journal commissioned an investigation into the conditions of workhouses . They find that the Downham Union workhouse is very much underused , and that at the time of the inspection there were only 70 people housed there. But the most harsh words are reserved for the building itself although it was then only 57 years old , it is " very old and quite unsuited for its work . " They found the steep worn stone steps a serious barrier to the infirm and " dangerous even to the active ". The water closets are found to be " littered and dirty , as is so frequently the case for it is difficult to teach paupers cleanly habits . " Provision for the insane would be in separate receiving wards and special inmates would be set as watchers .

The food portioned out by the Master is accepted as well mixed, well strained and boiled and consisted mainly of suet in one form or another , suet pudding and vegetables, currant pudding, or meat and vegetables , or broth . The inspectors note that the inmates grow their own vegetables . In fact at this time the land now occupied by Howdale Rise and Prince Henry Place were both workhouse vegetable growing areas and the male inmates spent time working on this land each day . The final word from the inspectors of the British Medical Journal on the Union Workhouse is that it is " an unmanageable structure . "

Mr and Mrs South , Master and Matron of the Union Workhouse retired in 1898 and a fulsome article in St Edmund`s parish magazine describes their tireless hard work over 23 years of running the Workhouse and suggests that very few people could understand how difficult the work is with " the unfortunate ones ." Mr and Mrs Clark from Lynn Workhouse took over .

In 1930/31 the Poor Law Commissioners gave way to Norfolk County Council which now became the defacto owner of the workhouse . The Council architects produced plans to modernise and make some use of the great building , although it is clear from the surviving plans that only the north and east wings were suitable for modernising . . At this point the workhouse was renamed the Howdale Home , though that did little to alter its reputation .

Luckily there are witnesses to the Howdale Home still with us and willing to talk about the past . Doug Argent for one gives vivid details of work in the laundry where the " boiler " was coal fired and flat irons were heated on the oven for ironing and the sheets were spun in a sort of colander a large spinning drum with holes in it . He goes on to describe the men sitting for their meals at one side of the room and the women at the other , the tables being deal trestle tables . He goes on " the arrangements for vagrants were very good each person ( had ) a separate sleeping room and being confined in a wooden cage until the allotted portion of work was completed . " " In the 1930s the ground floor and part of the top floor of the Howdale Home were used as a hospital unit . The patients admitted were almost all aged, chronically ill , mentally handicapped or had infectious diseases . A further unit ( was used) as a nursery and for orphaned and abandoned children ; a place for unmarried women having children with no home ." Mike Newell remembers in the 1930s " My father had a butcher's shop in Railway road and would at times supply the workhouse with meat but they always bought at the lower end of the market ." As a young boy he delivered small parcels of meat to the kitchens on the south side of the building and sometimes to the Master and Matron , Mr. and Mrs. Cooper ( Coupe) which meant he had to go up the steps, through the front door and into a room on the left .

Mike also remembers Billy Crab an inmate of the home who was " allowed out " to work in the vegetable garden and for private families such as Mike's parents . His uncle Horrice Taylor was a pig farmer and dealer and he would collect the food waste from the Howdale home daily to boil up and mix with bran for the pigs .

For every two children who remember the Howdale home as being somewhat intimidating and not a place they liked to stay for long there is another child who has very happy memories of it .

Mrs Stevens the daughter of the redoubtable Mrs. Burbeck, remembers the Howdale home with affection " Christmas day was made special by the Board of Guardians - the GP carved , various wives dealt with the trimmings , by age 8 , I was allowed to pour the gravy ......in the evening some of the town's residents put on a concert a very jolly show of old songs , jokes, light and funny verse and a town resident Joe Carrington always sang "And they call me Buttercup Joe " - always applauded loudly . I cannot ever remember feeling intimidated or awkward among the inmates - they were so grateful for our efforts . My childhood friend was Peggy Henson and her parents were Master and Matron at the time , I often went to play with her . They lived in the North wing and Matron's maid used to bring us a sandwich etc for tea - that seemed grand to me . "

In 1959 the Council built a " new wing " on the footprint of the east wing of the Howdale home which involved the demolition of that entire wing with the exception of the small area below the level of the ground , this would appear to be the last remnant visible of the original workhouse . The major demolition of the home took place in April 1968. There is a picture in the Lynn News of workmen starting on the demolition of the roof of the north wing from which was to emerge some 18 months later tbe building we now know as High Haven . The 1968 picture is very interesting and shows the 7 foot wall going down Howdale road to the school and the neat rows of vegetables in the garden between the school and the home .



In September 1969 Mr Grazier , known as Dowmar the Lynn News correspondent for Downham , writes with enthusiasm about the opening of the new modern home High Haven . His article is entitled " High Haven - a real haven of rest for old folk ."

" Mr R J Lee in charge of the home , showed me around and he is justly proud of the magnificent arrangements and the wonderful home from home for the elderly where they can live out their lives in peace and comfort with every care attention. ....the remaining part of the former Howdale Home will then disappear for ever . Even so there will be many who will bemoan the demolition of the front of the old building which is rather a remarkable example of carrstone architecture of the period " . The new building has a " variety " of 93 rooms which include five sitting rooms , a lift with a chair in it for the use of those who have difficulty standing . There are televisions , hand basins, built in wardrobes, central heating and the four bed units are being partitioned off in the 1959 wing to make all the accommodations single or double rooms . The 7ft wall along Howdale road has also gone and Dowmar considers this a great improvement to both the road users and the residents who can now see passers by and traffic . Mr and Mrs Lee have organised an open evening on October 15th for visitors to enjoy a coffee and a tour of the building . As the demolition began in April 1968 Dowmar notes " the staff have been successful in their efforts to make the place a home from home for the elderly (who are ) cared for by people who look on their work as a vocation ." There is no plan to change the numbers of staff when High Haven opens which remain 12 attendants , 6 domestics , a cook and assistant , a gardener handyman and a general assistant .

Today High Haven is still part of Norfolk County Council`s group of residential homes for the elderly and continues to provide for the needs of the local community . It is still very much a care home .

 

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