Changed life of the workhouse in Hornby from the 1870s

Wray historian David Kenyon charts the history of Lunesdale Union Workhouse, becoming a children’s home, council offices and housing

By David Kenyon
Friday, 4th March 2022, 3:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 8th March 2022, 9:57 am

In 1870 the Lunesdale Union Workhouse Guardians purchased around three acres of land from Mr Foster of Hornby Castle at a cost of £150 per acre.The land was part of the Curwen Hill estate and is situated midway between the Hornby-Roeburndale crossroad and the junction where the B5680 meets the A683 road leading to Kirkby Lonsdale.The Lancaster Guardian reported that at noon on Wednesday May 8 1872 the foundation of the new workhouse was laid by Mr Garnett of Quernmore Park. Work on the stone building was completed in 1874 at a cost of £6,000, including the initial purchase of the land.Replacing the previous workhouse situated in Caton, the new workhouse was capable of holding 69 people, excluding vagrants.Lunesdale Workhouse seems never to have been completely full. Indeed, when John Mattinson and his wife were master and matron in 1881, the number of inmates was just thirty-five.Reporting on workhouse affairs around this time, in 1895 the Lancaster Observer and Morecambe Chronicle stated that the master of Lunesdale Workhouse had received various gifts for the inmates from local gentlemen.A case of fever was also reported at the workhouse but the patient was recuperating well and there had been no further outbreaks.In 1897, it was reported that there had been very few vagrants in the workhouse around this time.Alec Kenyon, a relative of mine, was overseer at Lunesdale in the years prior its closure in 1935. Alec had met his future wife Diana at the workhouse where she worked as a matron.Before its closure, the workhouse had changed its name to Hornby Institution. On 1 April 1930, upon the abolition of the Board of Guardians, it became vested in Lancashire County Council, pursuant to the Local Government Act 1929.In 1938 the council sold the property to Lunesdale Rural District Council (LRDC) for the sum of £500, but to meet wartime conditions it was brought into use as a hostel for evacuated children.This continued throughout the war when the building was leased by Lancashire County Council as a children’s hostel. It was used for this purpose until 1953.Life at Hornby Hostel for evacuated children: These youngsters, some only three or four years old, were brought from London, Liverpool, Manchester and Salford to avoid the German bombings.Many of the children had lost parents in the war and stayed in Hornby for the duration.The children, some sixty in number, walked to Wray Methodist chapel every Sabbath for the Sunday morning service, a distance of nearly one and a half miles. The children would have attended the local village school in Hornby, whose headmaster at the time was Fred Parkinson.After the war ended, Burton-in-Lonsdale Secondary Modern School reopened after being closed for the duration of the conflict. The hostel at Hornby was still open with any remaining children being sent to Burton school when they reached the age of 11. From children’s home to Lunesdale Rural District Council offices: With the closing of the children’s home a few years after the end of the Second World War, the next phase in the life of the former workhouse saw it put to use as offices and workshops for LRDC.When the council came into being in 1895 the offices were located in a building in Hornby that is now in use as a post office.Although inadequate, these buildings sufficed until 1932 when the council acquired Hornby Hall. This was purchased, converted and furnished at a total cost of £2,050.Hornby Hall proved eminently suitable, but during the early hours of Friday 25 January 1946 fire broke out in the offices with the result that most of the interior was gutted.LRDC then moved into a wing of the former workhouse which was still being used as a children’s home.With the closure of the children’s home in 1953, all LRDC staff now worked from the same building.The council chamber and offices were opened by William Allerton in October 1955. The west wing was converted into a three-bedroom house for a resident caretaker while the east wing was used for stores and workshops for the waterworks department.Following the conversion, all council services were housed and administered from a single site. Workers were needed for a range of roles, including office staff, refuse collectors and joiners.Others were required to maintain the waterworks. The council also needed gardeners and one man employed as such was Ted Phillipson from Wray. Remarkably, Ted only had one arm, having lost the other whilst working in the timber business. Nevertheless, he cycled from Wray to Hornby each day where he kept the council office grounds in immaculate condition.On August 8, 1967, the day of the great flood in Wray, inhabitants of the village and the surrounding area were thankful that they had the council offices and workshops only a few miles away.The council and its employees did sterling work organising the recovery programme. Indeed, when a national flood appeal was established, the administration was chaired by John Hallsworth, clerk of LRDC. By the time the appeal closed over £29,000 had been raised. Another lasting achievement of LRDC in its final years was the creation of the popular picnic area at Bull Beck, just outside Caton.Friday, March 29, 1974, saw the last meeting of LRDC before Lancaster District Council assumed control of the Lune Valley. After its closure as council offices in 1974, the former workhouse and children’s hostel was eventually sold for housing and divided into separate homes, with the name being changed to Lunesdale Court.

Former workhouse near Hornby, now converted into private housing. The workhouse was built in 1874 at a cost of £6,000 and closed in 1935.
Former workhouse near Hornby, now converted into private housing. The workhouse was built in 1874 at a cost of £6,000 and closed in 1935.
Lunesdale workhouse feature. United Free Church, Main Street, Wray. In 1935-6, after just under 70 years, the congregation of the United Free Church joined with the Methodist chapel, situated to the west of the village on Hornby Road. The United Free Church was then used as a Sunday school for the children of this newly converged joint Methodist chapel. This was the Sunday school that the hostel children attended during the war years. The building was quite small and often crowded with children.
The laundry girls at the Hornby Institution, formerly Lunesdale Workshouse, c.1934. From left: Agnes Townson, Alec Kenyon (overseer), Miss Jenkinson.
Methodist Chapel, Hornby Road, Wray, c. 1945. This chapel, built around 1848, was attended by evacuees from Hornby Hostel all through World War Two.
Council Chamber and offices for Lunesdale Rural District Council. Area, population and rateable value of the Lunesdale Rural District,
A notice of the official opening of the Council Chamber and offices in Hornby in 1955.
Three long serving officials of Lunesdale Rural District Council being presented with gifts marking their retirement from local government following the council's last meeting at Hornby on Friday, March 29, 1974. On the left, making the presentations is Captain R Heathcote, chairman of the council. From the right are three officials: treasurer and deputy clerk John McClements, clerk assistant Sybil Johnston, clerk of the council John Hallsworth and vice-chairman councillor Ruth Whittam. Photograph from the Lancaster Guardian.