workhouse (1 & 2)

workhouse (1 & 2)

Vicarage Street and Lower Middle Street


A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded a parish workhouse in operation in Yeovil for up to 60 inmates. E Watts' 1806 map of Yeovil, below, shows 'Old Workhouse' and grounds in Vicarage Street close to the site now occupied by the Methodist church and the Quedam's Ivel Square.

However in 1799 land had been purchased for a new workhouse to be build off Middle Street. It was set at right angles to Middle Street and set back slightly within a plot of land approximately where Wilkinson’s store is today and had another plot, called the Workhouse Garden, behind it.

The workhouse was run by a man and wife Governor and Governess (see advertisement below) who took on the complete management of the institution. The Governor also acted as the Overseer of the parish.

It was named on Watt’s map of 1831 and appears in the 1841 census as the ‘Old Workhouse, Townsend’ with nine people living there as by this time the new workhouse in Preston Road was in operation. The buildings appear on Bidder’s map of 1843, although not named, and were later used as a wool store by glove manufacturer and wool dealer Elias Whitby Snr.

The 1854 to 1864 Burgess Roll and Valuation List showed that James Hooper Whitby was the owner of the Old Workhouse and garden.



E Watts' map of 1806 shows the 'Old Workhouse' in Vicarage Street (on the site currently occupied by the Methodist church which opened in 1870) towards top left. Middle Street runs from centre left to top right and Starrs Lane is bottom right. At centre right Parcel 677 is the 'new' Workhouse with the Workhouse Garden below and to the right. Parcel 678, running alongside the conjoined Milford Brook and the Rackle Brook, was called the Withy Bed.


Watts' map of 1831 by which time the 'old workhouse' is not named as such whereas the 'new' workhouse and its garden are.




An advertisement placed in the 29 June 1801 edition of the Salisbury and Winchester Journal seeking a Governor and Governess for the 'new' workhouse.


This notice requesting tenders for the erection of the new Workhouse that would be erected in Preston Road was placed in newspapers across the country during February 1837.


Children in the care of the parish were invariably forced into an apprenticeship; usually domestic service for girls and animal husbandry or agriculture for boys. The child received no payment which, if any, went to the parish for their keep. Apprenticeships were not popular and runaways, as this notice in the 15 September 1800 edition of the Sherborne Mercury, were common.