Built in 1844 at Locks Bottom (or Locksbottom), the Bromley Union Workhouse was designed by James Savage and SO Foden. The original building was situated at the west of the site and faced to the north-west. The front block had a corridor plan and was connected by a central spine to a further accommodation block to its rear. A third parallel block was probably the original infirmary.

As the 19th century wore on, workhouses increasingly became refuges for the elderly, infirm and sick rather than the able-bodied poor, and in 1929 legislation was passed to allow local authorities to take over workhouse infirmaries as municipal hospitals.  Thus like many others, the workhouse at Farnborough evolved into a general hospital. 

The former workhouse site is now the location for the Princess Royal University Hospital. www.pruh.kch.nhs.uk  which opened in 2003. Modern housing blocks occupy the front of the original workhouse site facing the main A21 road (Farnborough Common), with the modern hospital to the rear.

With acknowledgements to www.workhouses.org.uk/Bromley/  © Peter Higginbotham.

Workhouse Site Map and Photos

Below are a Workhouse site map and view from the west c 1908.  The chapel can be seen on the map alongside the road to the left.

click images to enlarge


A small lodge lay at the entrance to the site and a chapel was erected at the south-west of the workhouse.

The site later expanded considerably to the north and east.

All but the chapel have now been demolished, to be replaced by the modern hospital and new housing.



About Workhouses

After the end of the Napoleonic wars in 1815, the introduction of new technology to replace agricultural workers in particular, and a series of bad harvests, meant that by the early 1830s the established system of poor relief was proving to be unsustainable.

The New Poor Law of 1834 attempted to reverse the economic trend by discouraging the provision of relief to anyone who refused to enter a workhouse. Some Poor Law authorities hoped to run workhouses at a profit by utilising the free labour of their inmates, who generally lacked the skills or motivation to compete in the open market.

Most were employed on tasks such as breaking stones, crushing bones to produce fertiliser, or picking oakumusing a large metal nail known as a spike, perhaps the origin of the workhouse's nickname.

Life in a workhouse was intended to be harsh, to deter the able-bodied poor and to ensure that only the truly destitute would apply. 

It was not until the National Assistance Act of 1948 that the last vestiges of the Poor Law disappeared, and with them the workhouses.

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