Skip to main content area


Cookie settings
Left Navigation
Main Content Area

Abbey Dore Workhouse

Workhouse site, Riverdale

Historic Environment Record reference no. 4430, Ordnance Survey grid reference: SO 3489 3239

Dore Poor Law Union was founded on 27 March 1837. The workhouse was overseen by a Board of 33 Guardians representing 29 parishes within the Dore Union. At the time of the 1831 Census the population of this Union was 9,203.

The workhouse was built in 1837-38, on an area of land to the north of Abbey Dore. The project was paid for with a loan of £2,000 from the Exchequer. The architect in charge of the building was Jon Plowman, who had also designed the workhouses at Ross and Hereford. It was built by the builders Johnson and Pearsons, who had put in the best tender of £1,498, although £30 was later added to this amount when it was decided to add a cellar.

Dore Workhouse was a relatively small one, built to house 80-100 people. The first meeting of the Board of Guardians was on 11 April 1837. They met at the Red Lion, which is now the site of Abbey Dore Court. The MP Edward Bolton Clive was chosen as chairman, but due to his parliamentary duties two men were chosen to deputise for him.

Mr Adams, who lived in Kentchurch parish, was paid £55 per annum to act as clerk for the workhouse, and one of his first tasks was to advertise in the Hereford Times and Hereford Journal for three Relieving Officers. A committee of six men was chosen to find a suitable site upon which to build the workhouse. The Abbey Dore area was considered the most appropriate place as it was roughly in the middle of the 29 parishes that made up this Union.

The main building of the workhouse was built around two yard areas, one for males and one for females; these yards had further divisions to separate adults and children. The entrance wing was to the west and the dividing block across the centre held the dining room and kitchen. A separate hospital block was later erected to the east of the main workhouse.

The first Master and Matron of Dore Workhouse were Mr. and Mrs. Hughes from Herefordshire, who took up their duties on 18 February 1839. At the first meeting of the Guardians at the workhouse two resolutions were decided upon: that female inmates should be used to do the cleaning, and that two clergymen should draw up a form of prayer for two daily services, one at 8am and one at 8pm, which all inmates must attend. The Board of Guardians then continued to meet at the workhouse twice weekly to discuss matters.

The rules and regulations of Dore Workhouse were the same as those used in Hereford Workhouse. Those that were punishable included: failure to get up in the morning; disobeying the rules of segregation; swearing; pretence of sickness; wastage of tools or provisions; and disobeying the master or mistress.

The rules were hung up within the workhouse and were read to the inmates four times a year so that even those who could not read were made aware of the regulations.

The basic diet at Dore Workhouse consisted of seven ounces of bread for men and six for women and a pint and a half of gruel every day for breakfast. On Sundays and Thursdays dinner was five ounces of meat and a pound of potatoes; on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays it was a pint and a half of soup with half a pound of potatoes; and on Tuesdays and Fridays it was nothing but suet or rice pudding. Supper was broth with potatoes three times a week, and bread and cheese the other four evenings. This was the diet prescribed nationally to the workhouses, although the elderly would often receive tea, butter and sugar and the children may have their diet prescribed at the master's discretion.

An inspection committee made up of three or four of the Guardians would "call in" at the workhouse and make sure inmates were being fairly treated. Most complaints were usually dealt with. The staff of the workhouse would sometimes be called to see the Board, sometimes for disciplining and sometimes for praise. Occasionally inmates with complaints were seen and on one occasion gruel, which was said to be of inferior quality, was brought before the Board to be tried.

Dore Workhouse had quite a few children through its doors. Some stayed only temporarily, whilst others appear to have been brought up there. The number of children often led to a problem with standards of schooling. At first the children were taught by a local lady but later inspectors recommended a resident teacher. A married couple were appointed and land was also made available for industrial training. Teachers came and went and in 1854 the Board agreed to send some of the boys to a school in Bacton at a cost of 3d a week. The following year a group of boys was sent to Hereford Workhouse for schooling at a cost of 3 shillings per week.

Disabled children were well looked after at Dore and fares were regularly paid so that relatives could take them to medical consultations. In 1887, an offer was made to the Guardians of Dore that would have allowed the children of the workhouse to ride on the Golden Valley Railway as part of Queen Victoria's Jubilee celebrations, but the offer was turned down. The Dore Guardians were also opposed to national policy at the end of Victoria's reign that said all workhouse children should be sent to children's homes. There was no children's home in the Dore Union area and children appear to have been treated well enough in the workhouse.

All workhouses were required to have a chaplain and the first one at Dore Workhouse was the Reverend Trumper, who took a service at the workhouse each Sunday. He was also in charge of overseeing the education arrangements. Reverend Trumper refused to bury all the dead in Abbey Dore Churchyard unless they were natives of the parish, the rest were to be returned to their own parishes for burial. The subsequent chaplain was paid £30 per annum and the minutes of the meetings of the Board show that in later years they were dissatisfied with his care of the inmates, believing him to be neglecting his duties.

A later chaplain, the Reverend Collinson, stayed with the workhouse for many years and in 1860 even managed to persuade the Board to spend £1 on a small library for the inmates.

The highest paid staff in Dore Workhouse were the doctors and medical officers. Each of the three districts that made up Dore Union had a Medical Officer, and one of these would have been the doctor to the workhouse. The salary of the workhouse doctor was £60 per annum, and the first doctor was Dr. Jenkins from London. If special services were required of the doctor, such as assisting during childbirth or surgery, then he could be paid extra but often this depended on whether it was a successful operation or not. He was often consulted on diet, and in 1851 he recommended more tea and sugar per week for the elderly and infirm.

Where possible all provisions for the workhouse were bought locally. Groceries came from a store in Widemarsh Street in Hereford, flour from Berrows, meat from Constables and clothing from Oakleys, all in Hereford. Coffins were made by a local carpenter in Ewyas Harold. By 1890, the railways had helped to develop trade in Ewyas Harold and most goods then came from there. The workhouse kept its own pigs, which would have provided some meat, but appear to have been more a source of income.

Dore Workhouse was originally built for 80-100 people but it later underwent alterations, most noticeably in the 1860s and 1870s. From the records it appears that very few able-bodied men were sent to Dore Workhouse. Most were labourers or servants, and many were aged and infirm.

After the abolition of the workhouse system in 1930 Dore Workhouse became a council-run Public Assistance Institution. During World War II part of the building was used as a tractor factory. The buildings were later sold and turned into cottages which are now called Riverdale.

[Original author: Miranda Greene, 2003]