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A parliamentary report of 1777 recorded local workhouses in operation in Old Hutton (for up to 10 inmates), Kirkby Lonsdale (15), and Lambrigg (6), although no mention was made of the Kendal workhouse. Kirkby Lonsdale former Gilbert Union workhouse, 2004. Milnthorpe (or Milnthorp) with its close neighbour Heversham also formed a Gilbert Union in conjunction with fifteen other townships (in Westmorland: Beetham, Burton, Crook, Natland, Hincaster, Levens, Sedgewick, Stainton, Scalthwaite-Rigg with Hay, Underbarrow with Bradley-Field, and Witherslack with Ulpha; in Lancashire: Dalton and Yealand-Redmayne). Kendal Poor Law Union formally came into being on 15th July 1836.
Eden, in his 1797 survey of the poor in England, reported of Kendal that: The insides of cottages near the town exhibit every appearance of misery. In 1813, the union erected a workhouse at a cost of £4,990 and designed by Francis Webster of Kendal. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 67 in number, representing its 57 constituent parishes and townships as listed below (figures in brackets indicate numbers of Guardians where not one): Westmorland: Ambleside (2), Applethwaite, Barbon, Beetham, Burton, Casterton, Crook, Crosthwaite and Lyth, Dilicar, Docker, Farleton, Fawcett Forrest, Firbank, Grasmere, Grayrigg, Haverbrack, Helsington, Hincaster, Holme, Hugill, Hutton Roof, Kendal (7), Kentmere, Killington, Kirkby Lonsdale (2), Kirkland (2), Langdales, Lambrigg, Levens, Longsuddale, Lupton, Mansergh, Meethop and Ulpha, Middleton, Milnthorpe and Heversham (2), Natland, Nether Graveship, New Hutton, Old Hutton and Holmescales, Patton, Preston Patrick, Preston Richard, Rydal and Loughrigg, Scalthwaitrigg-Hay and Hutton'ith Hay, Sedgwick, Skelsmergh, Stainton, Nether Staveley, Over Staveley, Strickland Kettle, Strickland Roger, Troutbeck, Underbarrow and Bradley-field, Undermillbeck, Whinfell, Whitwell and Selside, Witherslack.
The old Kirkby Lonsdale workhouse is still shown as a workhouse on the 1859 OS map.
It is thought to have operated mainly as a casual ward. The Stricklandgate workhouse was built on a sloping site and had a somewhat irregular layout, the main part forming a U-shape open to the road at the south.
The west wing included accommodation for the able-bodied and for "imbeciles" including a padded room. Huge stones were brought by cart and they sat there winter and summer. The Kendal workhouse later became Windermere Road Institution and after 1948 was known as Kendal Green Hospital.
Additional small blocks to the north of the east wing probably included a vagrants' ward. In 1970, following the closure of the hospital, some demolition took place.
The Poor are either relieved at home or maintained in a Workhouse, which is a commodious building, in an airy situation, and kept with great neatness and propriety. Each township subscribed towards the building according to the average amount of their poor rates during the previous three years. The population falling within the union at the 1831 census had been 26,906 with parishes and townships ranging in size from Fawcett Forrest (population 61) to Kendal itself (10,015).
The cross wing contained the Master's quarters and office. Local people remember in the early 1900s groups of paupers sitting on Kendal Green breaking stones from the quarries.
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The surviving buildings have now been converted to housing known as Strickland Court.
As noted above, the former Gilbert Union workhouse at Milnthorpe was retained by the Kendal Union for accommodating the aged and infirm, infants, able-bodied women, and unmarried mothers. The site included a block at the south with a semi-hub at its centre — a relatively unusual feature in workhouses of this period but found at a few other places such as Caistor. In 1918, the site became Milnthorpe Hospital for the Mentally Subnormal, later Milnthorpe Hospital.