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Riseley Parish Workhouse

Before the creation of large centralised workhouses by the Poor Law Amendment Act 1834 most parishes had their own cottage for accommodation of the poor and destitute. It would be leased top a master or mistress who would feed the poor and provide for their needs in return for profiting from their work. Riseley was no exception. The workhouse was in Rotten Row. A lease of 1802 [P50/18] states that it was leased from T and R Gell and was a farmhouse called Lord's Farm. The inclosure map tells us that Thomas Gell had the land immediately north of Rotten Row and it is possible that one or more of the surviving buildings there, such as Number 14 and 16 was the workhouse.

In 1751 the Easter Vestry agreed as follows [note the original spelling]: "Agreed with Thomas Rootham Junior To Provide The Poor With all Necesarys of Eating and Drinking For Which The Parish agreed to pay To Thomas Rootham one Shilling and Two Pence Per Week for Every Person Comited to Their Cair from Their being Sent To him and over and Above For Rent Three Pounds and Ten Shillings for The Cleaning of Them and Thomas Rootham hath a Greed To find Them Washing and To Keep Them Clean and The Said Thomas Rootham Is to Have The Profit of Their Labour and To Employ Them In a resonable manner as he Think Fit" [P50/8/4].

An inventory of the things in the workhouse was made on 17th November 1796 and was as follows [note original spelling and punctuation]: An Inventry of the Household firniture as at the Workhouse when Mr Hart took the Poors Book below stares – one 8 Gallon Brass kettle – two small Tinn ditto one Iron hoop and pail – too milk pans form one Table – three stools – one Linen Wheel in the Dwelling House – one Large Table – Eight Chairs too jirsy Wheels – one jirsy Reel – one fire shovle – one pare of tongs – one pare of Bellows too pothooks Six Cups & Sasers – one Teapot – one frieing pan one small Table foure shelves – the southend Room – foure shelvs seven porringers three small Bakenig Dishes – Tenn Earthen plates 2 Trencers one Ladle – too Basons – one kindle stick one out ward door Lock – one inside Do – Above Stares – the south End Chamber – one Straw Bed & Bolster & too Blankets Next Room – one Bedsted – one Flock Bed one Blanket one quilt five sheets – the next Room one Bedsted one straw Bed – one Blanket one coverlid one bolster three Sheets – the north End Room – too Bedsteds – two straw Beds – one Flock Do – one Feather Bolster two straw Do – foure sheets too half Do – one odd Bedsted – foure Chamberpots – too Lace pillers – one sweeping Brush – so far the Workhouse Ann Peacock one straw bed one Bolster one Blanket one small Rug too half sheets Mrs Colson – one Flock Bed too Blankets and one coverlid" [P50/12/2].

On 12th January 1802 a report of visit to Riseley Workhouse by Samuel Whitbread was made: "I Samuel Whitbread, one of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace for the county of Bedford do certify that [blank] October 1801 I visited the workhouse of the Parish of Riseley in the said County, that I found the poor in the said Workhouse healthy & when compared with those of some other Parishes tolerably decent in their appearance. The workhouse itself was in a very dirty condition without the proper means of ventilation, out of repair & in many respects unfit for human habitation, the yard before the house in a wretched filthy and unwholesome state. The poor in the said workhouse were under the management of & let to farm to a person of the name of George Porter, which George Porter was arraigned at the General Quarter Sessions of Midsummer 1798 upon an indictment found at the Easter Sessions 1798 together with William Burbidge, now one of the parish Officers of the Parish of Riseley, for that he the said George Porter, acting under the authority of the said William Burbidge, did in an unlawful and inhuman manner convey from the said Parish of Riseley a pauper by the name of John Hunt, then labouring under the smallpox & did desert the said John Hunt and leave him in the field by the wayside in the Parish of Cardington, totally destitute and unable from disease to assist himself, whereby the life of the said John Hunt was greatly endangered, to which indictment the said William Burbidge and George Porter pleaded guilty and threw themselves on the mercy of the Court".

"Given under my hand and seal in pursuance of the direction contained in the statute 30 Geo III c.49" [W1/765]".

In May 1854 several cottages in Rotten Row were conveyed by the Guardians of the Poor to Lord Saint John. The deed expressly states that they had been used as workhouses [SJ1911].