BEFORE the Reformation one third of all Church Tithes were used for the upkeep and maintenance of the poor but after the dissolution of the monasteries successive Tudor Governments tampered with what remained of the system from time to time to such an extent that by the end of the 16th century the Poor Laws were in a chaotic state and were badly in need of reform.
By the 1601 Act of Parliament, it was decided that in each parish it's churchwardens and up to four householders of substantial means were to be appointed by nomination each year to be overseers of the poor. They were responsible for the levying of a 'poor rate' on all parishioners order to raise the necessary funds. The new system was rigorously enforced and any discrepancies were investigated by the overseers and representatives of the parish.
This system remained intact until The Workhouse Act of 1722 from which time it is possible to relate national legislation to Thorne with the first workhouse in the Parish.
The Thorne overseers book shows that in the Workhouse and General Act for 1722 a list of disbursements as follows: £25.0s 0d paupers, £4.1s.7¼d and 4s 3d overcharged. We find that William Williams and Benjamin Binns are out of pocket £5.0.0. (five pounds) and that their successors John Box and Thomas Steads had to pay them the same. In 1743 Jane Brewerton did acknowledge to have received of Joseph Howard and Peter Taffinder and William Stear the sum of £7 4s. but to pay later the rest owed £1 11s 8d. Signatures of eight men followed Jane Brewerton's X-mark, for the purchase of the Town house, then in the Church Yard.
On 30th April 1746 an Agreement with James Briggs for the care of the poor for one year for £50.0.0.
In November 1779 at a monthly meeting it was agreed by the names that are underwritten the whole house and barn, stable etc. the estate of Robert Winder deceased shall with all convenient speed be pulled down and with the old material a house be built from the John Box house end of the church yard and the rest of the ground converted into the church yard seven signatures, (the overseers).
The new Town House became the Town `Lock Up' or Gaol after the building started for the new workhouse in Poor House Road, later renamed Union Road.
It was extended more and more as time went by to fit the size of The Thorne Union. (A Police Station Lock up was built in Silver Street to replace the church yard premises circa 1860.)
In the church boundary wall, at the Coulman Road and Church Street exit, along the Church Balk side of the road, signs of the old town houses can be seen. The remains of two windows and a door have been bricked up, they were from Nos 1 and 2.
2nd July 1770 a true and perfected inventory of the goods and chattles for the house of maintenance in the parish of Thorne delivered unto Mr Jacob Lenard. The above said is to make a true return of the same when he gives up the said house. The list is long - but it shows the efficient way the overseers worked.
pages of The Overseers Book alter to give new names yearly, also the activities of the town, the administration and care for all the Parishioners and the poor.
The running of the House of Maintenance was really a big task. Those in charge had to provide for and maintain all and every person and persons who shall ask, demand or stand in need of any relief. Shall be provided for with a burial suite, fees and coffin (all workhouse coffins at the time were painted black). The house should also provide sufficient wholesome meat, drink, washing and lodging and apparel fitting for each person who has a legal settlement in the parish of Thorne. The house was visited and inspected by the two current overseers and two visitors monthly.
The said Mr Jacobs to remove all such person or persons as have no legal settlement in the parish of Thorne, i.e. 17century circa rule - all able bodied beggars were moved from tithe to tithe (Parish to Parish). The house was saying move on, we have got as many as we can care for of our own.
One way of help to some younger people was the apprenticeship, done with no doubt good, intentions, boy or girl.
29th September 1725 - William Hall maintained by the town shall go immediately as town apprentice to Jacob Lenard of Readholme. Agreed by vote witness 12 signatures one of many to be fostered out in service as apprentice or maid.
The Local Government Act 1894, a letter to the W.R.C.C. with a petition to prevent the split up of the Thorne Unions (5) five parishes and eight more in the Isle of Axholme Lincs.The removal of the Lincs part would throw the burden on the Thorne
Workhouse and Yorkshire parish only – To return the Union as intact to the Tidal and Navigable River Trent as the County boundary. In the present century the Workhouse system began to break down but the dreaded Means Test was still in the order of things and very bad for the poor and unemployed. Lots of young men left home and joined the army to help their unemployed parents. The older generation will remember this time.
MOVED TO PENISTONE
The mid 1920's saw a change of Thorne Workhouse. Most of the old and infirm were moved to Penistone in West Yorkshire but a few casuals and destitutes were still resident in the 1930's until a few years before the Second World War. In 1940 the workhouse became military billeting until 1944 then the local unit of the Sea Cadets had the front part of the house. The part used by the Sea Cadets now was the Social Club for C F Taylors (Wool spinners) based at Shipley, Yorkshire. A mill at the top of Brook Street was the Thorne branch - now closed. The club eventually closed and the Sea Cadets took it over.
The main part of the Workhouse was demolished. The Infirmary part, now a residential home was used for some time as a factory for Chilproof knitwear.
Until the 1960's a small brick built mortuary with a massive stone slab stood at the back of the infirmary. Most of the dead who had laid on it were burned in unmarked graves. The bell that was tolled to bring the residents back in at night no longer peels.
The tailor in Bridge Street, Mr Chapman, supplied the union apparel for the house - with the Union marked brass buttons is gone as is most of Thorne traders who supplied the goods and food stuff.
Thorne does have a long a worthy history of caring for the poor. There are still elderly people in Thorne who remember the Workhouse but if the truth be told it was seen as a place were Society's failures and outcasts went. However well intentioned the work of those responsible for carrying out the Poor Law system, the threat of the Workhouse and the social stigma it carried was a thought too painful to bear for most people who could manage somehow without the workhouse.
Acknowledgements to the Thorne Library and staff.
'Courtiers of the Corporation of Doncaster' (Vol IV) shows that in the records for Doncaster as early as 1585 that foreign beggars were moved on (not of the parish). That John Poopley to be begle to see good order among the poor people of the town and likewise. To let (hinder) foreign beggars coming into the town but such as are lawfully authorised by two justices of the peace. He to have 20s (twenty shillings) per year and a levery of the town whereby he may be known.
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