Writtle History

Writtle Workhouse

In 1717 it was noted in the vestry minutes that there was an agreement that the barnyard and tanyard owned by Abraham Boose and his wife Constance next to the River Wid in Bridge Street (later called Workhouse Lane) ... be destroyed by, pulling down, and a capital messuage to be built for habitation, entertainment and abode of such poor of the parish as stand in relief from Writtle wherein they may be employed and set to work. There were also gardens and an orchard...Iying before a messuage called Skyggs... now known as Skeggs Farm.

The workhouse was run by the church wardens and Overseers of the Poor and conditions were very bad. In 1815 an inventory of the workhouse shows 31 adults, 3 infants, I sick, 2 away, 2 getting earth, 9 spinners making mats and socks, I drudge and an attending cook. Adults were put to work turning hemp wheels, spinning flax and hemp, labouring and doing household work. Meals consisted mostly of bread and cheese washed down with beer, but boiled beef and suet pudding with vegetables was on the menu for Sunday dinner.

About 1840 the Chelmsford Union Work House was built in Wood Street (now St. John's Hospital) and all the residents from Writtle workhouse were transferred there. A house still stands on the site today. In 1844 an auction was held at the Cock and Bell Public House in Writtle, and Joseph Hardcastle of Writtle brewery bought the workhouse buildings which four became part of his expanding brewery.