Rishton's workhouse was situated in Blackburn, and was subscribed to by the council for an annual fee. The workhouse was situated on Haslingden Road, which is now the site of the Royal Blackburn Hospital, formally Queens Park Hospital.
In 1777, a parliamentary report showed that a workhouse was in operation in Blackburn for up to 30 inmates. A new Blackburn workhouse was erected in 1791 on Merchant Street (later Workhouse Lane, now Hutchinson Street), in Grimshaw Park.
The Blackburn Poor Law Union formally came into being on 17th January 1837. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 29 in number, representing its 24 constituent parishes and townships as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians if more than one):
County of Lancaster: Balderstone, Billington, Blackburn (5), Church, Clayton-le-Dale, Clayton-le-Moors, Lower Darwen, Over Darwen (2), Dinkley, Eccleshill, Great Harwood, Little Harwood, Livesay, Mellor, Osbaldeston, Oswaldtwistle, Pleasington, Ramsgrave, Rishton, Salisbury, Tockholes, Wilpshire, Wilton, Yate and Pickup Bank.
The population falling within this Union at the time of the 1831 census had been 60,594 with parishes and townships ranging in size from from Dinkley (population 223) to Blackburn itself (27,091).
Initially, Blackburn continued using the existing Merchant Street building as the union's workhouse accommodation. In 1847, the Poor Law Commissioners recorded the union as operating a single workhouse with a capacity of up to 650 inmates, although an 1854 directory suggests that the average number of inmates was around 320.
Blackburn Union eventually erected a new purpose-built workhouse on an elevated thirty-acre site on Haslingden Road to the south-east of Blackburn at a cost of £30,000 and able to accommodate between 700 and 1,000 inmates. Its prominent location was said to have been chosen deliberately as a constant reminder of its presence to the local population of the consequences of failing to work hard. The foundation stone was laid on 20th April 1861 and it was ready for occupation on the 16th February, 1864. The buildings were designed by JE and JD Oates. Opened on the 2nd April 1864, it was renamed under the newly formed National Health Service in July 1948, as Queens Park Hospital.
Two years after its opening, the new workhouse was visited by Poor Law Inspector, R. B. Cane, who found conditions far from perfect.
A nurse, under whose sole care the inmates are placed, has lately been
appointed. She is assisted by pauper inmates, who act under her direction. There are
about 80 sick cases in the infirmary, a much larger number than one nurse can personally
attend to ; she is, therefore, obliged to trust the giving of medicines to the pauper
nurses in some cases, in others she depends upon the patients helping themselves. How
this can be done with accuracy and regularity I cannot understand, for the medical
officer leaves only verbal directions regarding the medicines, &c., for each patient.
No written labels or directions are attached to the bottles. Not a bottle or pill box (I
examined them all) was marked even with the name of the person for whom it was
Most of the beds in these wards are too close together ; some of them touch each other.
There is no" night nursing" unless the nurse is called up, and no other attendance is given at night beyond such as the pauper nurses may be willing to afford. Ventilation is exceedingly imperfect throughout the whole infirmary. There is no effectual classification of cases. Cases which in themselves are highly disagreeable are not separated from others; for example, in one ward is a poor woman suffering from cancer ; she is reduced to a most distressing condition. Her disorder is so offensive that I could not remain near her; yet several other patients occupy this ward with her. The discomfort they experience must be extreme. All this is permitted to continue, although there are large and excellent wards in the workhouse which are unused. There is no proper supply of water in the waterclosets, and these closets are so constructed that the foul air arising in them is drawn into the wards.
There are large wards near the entrance lodge which contain cases of "venereal disease," and "bad legs." The porter and his wife are supposed to look after these cases, but they appear for the most part to be left to themselves.
In the male ward were eight or ten men walking about almost naked. I was told "they were getting their dinners." The condition of the inmates of this ward was most distressing and painful to witness.
The accommodation for the sick is much too limited, and the nursing quite insufficient. The sick wards are being made somewhat larger, however, than they are at present.
The lunatic wards, and especially the men's day room, is too small and too confined.
Better kind of beds are requisite for certain cases. In the women's lunatic ward I found one of the beds mildewed and decayed owing to neglect.
Some of the able-bodied men sleep together two in each bed — a most objectionable custom.
There are great dissensions amongst the officers of this workhouse, and the management is therefore lax and disorganised. Almost all the male officers have brought charges against each other, chiefly of absence from duty, and drunkenness.
The master especially is charged with intoxication; an entry to that effect was made in the porter's book on the 19th instant. Although the master knew I was in the workhouse he did not appear. I sent repeatedly for him, and the reply was in each instance, that he could not be found. Under such circumstances I cannot but suspect that he was not sober enough to come before me. Of course this matter will be investigated, unless the immediate resignation of the master should render that course unnecessary as regards himself.
Not surprisingly, the master was removed from his office shortly after this report was made.
In 1881, large lunacy wards were erected at the east of the workhouse at a cost of £16,000. In 1888, a porter's lodge and weighbridge were built at a cost of £368, followed in 1889 by new stores costing £1,500. Later additions included a mortuary and a steam laundry.
In 1903, a further new hospital wing was added at a cost of more than £12,000. In 1920, the innovation of a patients' cinema was installed. A wooden hospital was erected in 1925, with accommodation for 135 children and cost £2,400. The following year, a nurses' home for 80 nurses was opened costing £23,000. In 1926, a 74-bed annexe was added to the infirmary costing £11,700. In 1933, a bowling green was created for the use of patients.
After 1929, the establishment came under the control of the County Borough of Blackburn and became known as the Queen's Park Institution. By then it was providing accommodation for 1,275 inmates, 100 casuals and 100 nurses.
The former workhouse site was then named Queens Park Hospital.
Queen's Road Cottage Homes
As well as the workhouse, from about 1892, the Union operated children's Cottage Homes on Queen's Road to the north of the workhouse. Modern housing now occupies the site.
- Masters/Governors: William Hillidge (1870),
- Richard Sowerbutts (1870-81),
- John Wilkinson (1903),
- F Lambert (1912),
- Charles H Roberts (1915),
- George A Poole (1939)
- Matrons: Ann Sowerbutts (1870),
- E E Poole (1939).
Commissioner in Lunacy
BLACKBURN UNION WORKHOUSE.
REPORT MADE BY W. TRERE. VISITING COMMISSIONER, IN LUNACY. OF HIS VISIT TO THE ABOVE UNION ON THE TWENTY EIGHTH DAY OF FEBRUARY 1889.
In the workhouse, containing 218 patients classed as of unsound mind, there is only one paid officer by day and one at night in each division. 3 pauper inmates assist the male officer by day and the female officer has 5 to help her. One of each sex assist the night attendates, there are 35 male and 30 female epileptics, it is quite that the work of supervision, attending the sick and bedridden( of whom there were 8 on the male and 14 on the female side) taking the patients out for walks and superintending the bathing, must be beyond the powers of the paid officers, and a second attendant on each side seems to be absolutely needed.
During my visit I noticed as requiring in my opinion asylum care, William Dawson, Pat Ryan, John Tayor, Emily Aspin, Annie Deakin and Mary J Riding, I doubt the insanity of James Holland who seems to me to be a idle lazy fellow. I detect no unsoundness of mind in William Rushton, who I think was temporarily affected by drink. F. J Connor's case seems to me hard, and I would ask the guardians if they can see their way to petition the secretary of state to restore him is pension, he was a sergeant in the army and retired on a pension.
He was tried for fowl stealing, he was undoubtedly guilty and sentenced for the felony to 6 months hard labour, thereby forfeiting his pension. He is quite recently liberated, and judging by his state at the present,
there can be hardly any doubt that he was insane when he committed the theft, but his insanity was not recognised.
One of the matters which I wish to urge upon the committee, is the desirability of collecting together in one room all those in each division requiring constant supervision by night and this be easily done. The tell tale blocks are so placed that the night watch man on the male side need not enter the dormitories at all, and the female side need only enter but not pass through. Means of escape by staircase from the extreme ends of either building is required. The fire buckets were not as they should have been in the male side they should have been filled with water. And the screens in the female bathroom have not yet been provided.
A fair proportion of patients are usefully employed, about 40 men work out of doors, and about 25 in the wards, and dormitories etc, from 40 to 50 women are engaged at the laundry, kitchen and domestic duties, or knitting and needlework. Nearly 100 of both sexes attend Church, and 20 at the Roman Catholic Chapel.
The men's shirts were as a rule dirty, and I think every patient ought to have 2 clean shirts a week, or at any rate every working patient. At the present the privilege of having more than one shirt a week is confined to the dirty destructive, and demented patients. If another day attendant were appointed in each division and the epileptics all brought together to sleep under continuous supervision by night and an exit made to render the patient safe in the event of fire, I could then report that I considered accommodation in the workhouse very good, and that all reasonable steps had been taken to promote the care, comfort and safety of the imbecile poor at the Blackburn Union.
The Lancashire Asylums Board was established in 1891, by the county council and all fifteen of the county boroughs. Ten years later the Lancashire Inebriates Acts Board was established, but the County Borough of Oldham did not participate. The Inebriates Acts Board built a reformatory at Brockhall (in the Ribble Valley, but its function gradually changed and by 1920 it was a certified institution for mental defectives. 1925 saw the dissolution of the Inebriates Acts Board and the Asylums Board became the Lancashire Mental Hospitals Board.
Mental Handicap Hospitals in Lancashire
Mitton Road, Whalley, Clitheroe, BB7 9PE.
Opened 1915: by Lancashire Asylums Board, but used during world war one as Queen Mary's Military Hospital
1921 Calderstones Certified Institution for Mental Defectives
Or Whalley Asylum (Mental Defectives)
Calderstones Hospital (by 1929 - 1993) In 1971 it had an average of 1,710 beds available and 1,631 resident patients.
home page - Calderstones NHS Trust (http://www.cstone-tr.nwest.nhs.uk/) No longer available.
was approximately two miles from Calderstones Hospital in the Ribble Valley. It opened as The Lancashire Inebriate Reformatory in 1904. It became Brockhall Hospital for Mental Defectives in 1915, Brockhall Hospital for the Mentally Subnormal in 1959, and Brockhall Hospital for Mentally Handicapped People in 1974. In 1971 it had an average of 1,844 beds available and 1,800 resident patients. Steve Wright worked there as a nurse from 1981 until 1985. During that time there where still children at Brockhall and approximately 1000 people lived there in total. It became Brockhall Hospital for People with Learning Disabilities in 1991, but closed in 1992. The land was bought by Gerald Shimon Hitman of Newcastle upon Tyne who erected a stone in the patients' cemetery as a memorial.
http://www.institutions.org.uk/workhouses/england/lancs/Blackburn_Union.htm - No longer available.
http://www.mdx.ac.uk/www/study/4_13_TA.htm#Cheshire%20and%20Lancashire (No longer available)