(src-1) - H.C. 1803-04 (175) "Abstract of the answers and returns made pursuant to an act, passed in the 43d year of His Majesty King George III. Instituted,''an act for procuring returns relative to the expense and maintenance of the poor in England.''

(src-2) - (31 October 1776 - 6 June 1777) Report from the Committee appointed to inspect and consider the Returns made by the Overseers of the Poor, in pursuance of Act of last Session.

(src-3) - H.C. 1835 (444) "Poor rate returns. An account of the money expended for the maintenance and relief of the poor in every parish, township or other place in England and Wales."

(src-4) - H.C. 1845 (122) " Poor Law (Rochdale Union). Copies of memorials from the Board of Guardians, and the rate-payers of Rochdale, to the Secretary of State, against the introduction of the new Poor Law into that district; with answers thereto."

(src-5) - H.C. 1842 (89) " Rochdale poor. A copy or extract of any report made by Mr. Tufnell, or other assistant commissioner, to the Poor Law Commissioners, in October 1841, as to the state of the poor in the borough of Rochdale." p6.


More about the Old Poor Law


This dates back to Elizabethan legislation and the subsequent Settlement Act of 1662 and remained in place until the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 became in force. Each individual parish or township was responsible for the maintenance of its own poor. To become entitled to poor relief in a particular place individuals had to possess "settlement" in that parish, acquired by birth, marriage or specific length of residence. If they migrated it was theoretically possible for them to obtain a certificate from their home parish promising to reimburse other parishes or townships should they become a burden there for whatever reason. Aid could be dispensed either as "out relief"(out of house) in the form of cash or in kind or, especially for the old, very young or ill, as “indoor relief” (in house) in a parish workhouse or poorhouse. The system was organised and entirely financed at local level and the individual responsible for administering this and for deciding when to levy rates and whom to relieve, was the parish overseer. It was also possible that the overseer paid relief to the “out-poor” of his parish who might be resident elsewhere. Newcomers to a parish without a right of settlement in that parish and thought likely to be a financial burden could be forcibly removed to their parish of origin. The cost of maintaining the parish poor and the burden carried by the rate payers was a constant source of concern to them and also to successive governments who,in an attempt to determine the true costs, passed a number of Acts designed to “procure returns relative to the expense and maintenance of the poor in England."


More about the closure


Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser - Saturday 29 December 1860

At the ordinary meeting the guardians of this union yesterday, the condition of tbe workhouses again matter of consideration. Mr. Thomas Heap presided. A long letter was read from Poor-law Board, in which they pointed out that arrangement proposed by the guardian for altering the Calf Hey Workhouse were very defective :—There is no classification provided beyond the separation of the sexes; there are no receiving wards; no sick wards ward ;no wash-house; no laundry; general dining room; refractory cell; no accommodation for a porter; and no dead house .Further the entrance to the premises opens directly Into the men’s yard, so that tradespeople and others coming to the house would have to cross the yard, occupied by the male inmates before arriving at the master's room; and female inmates would have to cross the same yard, both on admission to tbe house, and on leaving it.


Extract from the will of Thomas Hill 1907


I also direct that all monies coming into the hands of my executors from my estate after all the before mentioned legacies have been paid the same shall be invested in the General Post Office Savings Bank or where there is equally good security the interest of which shall be distributed to the poor residing in the village of Wardle and that along with my executors a representative from the Wardle Wesleyan Chapel Trustees and a representative from the Watergrove United Methodist Free Church Trustees and the Vicar of the Established Church at Wardle as a committee of distribution


Wardle Poor


Old Poor Law


Statistics of the actual numbers of paupers be they, able-bodied unemployed or the ‘impotent’ poor: the aged, infirm or orphaned, are hard to obtain save for a few years only. The abstract of returns of 1803(src-1) is the earliest report which gives any kind of substantial detail of the number of paupers and the costs of maintaining them. The returns do not show separate figures for Wardle but it is possible to make comparisons between Wuerdle & Wardle and other townships within Rochdale parish.

So far no evidence has come to light about when and where Wuerdle and Wardle established its first workhouse. An early government return of 1777(src-2) gives no indication that Wardle had its own workhouse at that time.

In the early 19th century Calf Hey was taken on by the overseers of the Wardle poor.

The Poor of Rochdale Parish in 1801
DistrictID District WorkhousePoor OutdoorPoor TotalPoor Total 1801 Population %ofPoor
1803_01 Blatchinworth 7 69 76 1647 4.60
1803_02 Butterworth 30 669 699 3930 17.86
1803_03 Castleton 14 266 280 5460 5.10
1803_04 Spotland 37 824 861 9031 9.50
1803_05 Todmorden & Walsden 10 82 92 2515 3.70
1803_06 Wardleworth 0 187 187 3289 5.70
1803_07 Wuerdle & Wardle 10 214 224 3220 7.00
1803_08 Totals for Rochdale parish 108 2311 2419 29092 8.30
1803_09 Totals for Hundersfield 27 552 579 10671 5.40

New Poor Law

Under the control and administration of the parish the costs of maintaining the poor fell nationally after 1820.

For Wuerdle and Wardle Township the cost per head,taken from the Poor Rate Returns of 1835.(src-3) was 3s.0d compared with 3s.7d in 1803. However, this did not dispel concerns about costs and administration and key changes to policy and administration were introduced after a major Royal Commission into the Poor Laws between 1832-34.

The report of the Commissioners resulted in the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 which introduced some compulsory key changes:

  • Parishes and Townships grouped together in "unions" administered by elected Boards of Guardians.
  • Relieving Officers appointed by the Guardians not the parish.
  • The parish lost the power to decide who should receive relief but still had to foot the costs.
  • All outdoor relief to able bodied adults capable of work was to end.
  • Only indoor relief was to be given in newly constructed workhouses.

Not all parishes and townships readily accepted these changes. Rochdale Union in particular was vociferously opposed and the Board of Guardians and rate-payers of the parish made strong representations to the Poor Law Commission in London to try and get exemption but without success. The full details of the reasons given for claiming exemption and the Commission's reply can be seen in a copy of the written exchanges printed by the House of Commons in 1845.(src-4)


Distressed Poor of Wardle

The Assistant Commissioner E.C.Tufnell reported to The Poor Law Commissioners in 1841, on distress in Rochdale parish, and that " the greatest distress existed in the township of Wuerdle and Wardle"

Extract from Assistant Commissioners report on extreme distress.(src-5)

wardle poor
On examining the other returns, it appeared that the greatest distress existed in the township of Wuerdle and Wardle.
  • A man named Charles Holt, a miner, four in family, was inserted as earning 3s.6d. weekly, and the same statement was given to me by his wife at his cottage.
  • James Mathew was put down as earning 10s.6d. weekly, the family consisting of seven persons, and the same amount of wages was returned to my personal inquiry.
  • John Wild, a hand-loom weaver, four in family, was put down as earning 8s.0d weekly, and this account was confirmed to me on my visit.
  • Another James Mathew, who is entered as earning 8s.0d, now gets £1 weekly, but he stated that he only got 8s.0d three months back.
  • Robert Mann, whose family comprised six persons, and who appeared to have earned 8s.4d. three months back, now only obtained 7s.9d. according to the statement of the family to me.
  • Charles Barrett, put down as earning 2s.0d, now earns 7s.0d.

The list of paupers relieved in the last parochial year amounted to 187 in number. The population of this township was 6,754 in 1831, and 6,875 in 1841. Distress was mainly owing to the transference of the business of weaving from the hand- looms in the cottages to steam-looms in the factories; and a single factory, lately built, was (pointed out to me, whose erection at once threw some hundred families out of employ, as the proprietors, having been before accustomed to give out work to the weavers in their cottages, at once transferred all this employment to their factory, where much fewer hands were required to do the same amount of work, and these hands were mostly of a different and younger class of persons.

Calf Hey Workhouse

calf hey

On the 5 August 1811, for the sum of £235, the leasehold property known as Calf Hey in Wardle was assigned from James Stott, carpenter of the Bank, to Robert Healey of Smallbridge, Edmund Grindrod of Hurstid Nook and John Tweedale of near Small bridge, all acting as overseers of the poor and churchwardens for the hamlets of Wuerdle and Wardle. It is thought that Calf Hey started its life as the workhouse for Wuerdle and Wardle at this time and served as such until the Board of Guardians decided to close it about1860.More

  • The 1841 census recorded that there were 17 paupers in residence including two children.
  • The 1851 census recorded that the number of paupers had increased to 26, among them were two children.

We know very little about the inmates and their life inside the workhouse but occasionally we are given a rare glimpse when events became newsworthy.

1859-Jane Sharrocks-Assault

Jane Sharrocks, for having assaulted an inmate of Calf-Hey workhouse was committed to prison for two months, in default of paying a fine of 5s.
Rochdale Observer, 26 march

1844-Reuben Butterworth-Pauper felon

A Pauper Felon.—At the Wednesday’s sessions Reuben Butterworth, an inmate of the workhouse at Wuerdle and Wardle, was committed to Salford sessions for trial, for stealing a shirt from the poor house.
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 20 jan

1855-Susan Holt-Dangerous Lunatic

BOARD OF GUARDIANS. — The ordinary fortnightly meeting of the board was held in the Wardleworth workhouse yesterday. Mr. John Grandridge in the chair. A letter was read from the poor-law board requesting to be informed why a person named Susan Holt, in the Calf Hey workhouse, was kept there as she was described as being a dangerous lunatic In reply the clerk read a letter from the surgeon, Mr. Collingwood stating that she was not dangerous.
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 10 february

1847-Sarah Mills-Refractory Pauper

Refractory Pauper. — At the petty sessions on Monday, Sarah Mills, a middle-aged female, was committed for fourteen days, for refractory conduct in the workhouse at Calf Hey.
Manchester Times, 21 may

1849-Guardians-Xmas Day Fare

It was agreed that the inmates of the poor houses should be treated on Christmas day with roast beef and plum pudding.—Mr. James Sharp, moved that intoxicating drinks be prohibited: he did it because many persons who paid rates could not get a good dinner, to say nothing about drink.-Mr William Procter seconded the motion.—An amendment was proposed by Mr. Charles Bamford, inn keeper and seconded by Mr. Wild, that a quart of ale be allowed to each inmate as usual.
Manchester Courier and Lancashire general Advertiser, 8 december

1859-Surgeon Collingwood-Neglect of inmates

BOARD OF GUARDIANS-At the last week’s meeting of the board it was reported that at the Calf Hey Work-house Mr.Collingwood, the surgeon, had nine or ten pauper patients on his medical relief book, some of whom he had not seen for a month and in some cases for three months, It was recommended that an inquiry should be instituted into this neglect.—A letter was read from a cotton manufacturer, complaining that Mr. Collingwood had neglected an outdoor pauper patient, and treated her improperly. The whole subject was referred to the workhouse committee, and it was agreed that a copy of the letter should be sent to Mr. Collingwood.
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 1 jan

1849-Samuel Houldsworth-Cost of keeping inmates

Samuel Houldsworth stated that he had been governor, and his wife matron, of Calf-Hey workhouse for two years; they had £20 per annum and rations; there were 30 inmates. He kept the accounts. They had a scale of diet, but not fixed as to amount; they gave the inmates as much as they could eat.—the assistant clerk of the board of guardians said the average cost of meat and clothing in the six workhouses is 2s. 9d. per head per week. — Samuel and Sarah Wild were governor and matron of Hollinworth, at a salary of £21 per annum, and rations; there were 58 inmates. The governor could read but he could not write, and his wife could neither read nor write.
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 5 may

1853-Rev George Walkem-Curate of Wardle resigns

The Curate of Wardle.—The following letter has been addressed to the curate of Wardle by the Rochdale Board of Guardians;— Rochdale, January 17, 1853. Reverend Sir,-I am requested by the Guardians of this union, as their chairman, to express to you their deep regret that you are about to leave the curacy of Wardle, and consequently to terminate your spiritual labours at the Calf Hey workhouse. They wish me also to thank you for the very able and zealous manner in which you have performed those labours, and for the kind and urbane attention you have paid to the Inmates and they feel their obligation to be the greater, in as much as you kindly took those duties upon yourself, and have performed them gratuitously.—I am, Reverend Sir, your obedient servant, THOMAS HEAP, Chairman of the Board of Guardians, Rochdale. To the Rev. George Walkem. Curate of Wardle.
Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 21 may

1853-Guardians-Infirm dirty inmates

A report of a committee appointed to inspect the condition of the Calf Hey workhouse was read, stating that many of the inmates were infirm persons some of whom had dirty habits, and the construction of the premises would not permit of better ventilation. Mr. Livsey expressed an opinion that it would be well for the workhouse committee to investigate the sanitary condition of the work-house, and see if the defect of the workhouse could not be remedied. Whatever people might say about bad smells at the workhouse, he was satisfied that if all the workhouses were united in one, it would be much worse in that respect.
Manchester Examiner and Times, 19 nov

1849-Betty Butterworth-Widow denied relief

Board of Guardians—The weekly meeting was held in Wardleworth Workhouse on Friday, Mr. Robert Tweedale in the chair. Mr. John Dania brought under the notice of the board the case of a widow at Weurdle and Wardle, named Betty Butterworth, aged 65 who was confined to her bed. She had a son and daughter living with her; she received 3s.6d. from a club, and 9s. 6d. from her children, out of which she paid Is. per week and maintenance to a woman for taking care of her. Mr. Whitehead, the relieving officer, said he had visited the case, but he considered it was not one requiring relief, and he had granted nothing except a dispensary certificate. Mr. Dania said he called at Mr. Whitehead’s house on Sunday evening, and left word that it was a case requiring relief. He understood that when the relieving officer did visit the woman, he used very impertinent language, and instead of giving her a dispensary certificate he ought to have sent the Union surgeon. It was resolved to exonerate the officer this time, but that he be told to act with more kindness in future. The other relieving officers were also summoned.
Manchester Courier and Lancashire general Advertiser, 10 march

1855-Inmates-Sumptious Xmas

Christmas in Rochdale. In compliance with annual custom, the clock had no sooner indicated the hour of twelve, and that the morning of Christmas Day dawned upon us. than bodies eager singers sallied forth chanting the usual Christmas hymns; In addition, several companies of instrumental musicians or waitts gave us the same tune with various degrees of merit. As the light of day dawned those bent on a more active kind of exercise betook themselves to the fields, some with footballs, some with sticks and nurs, and others with powder, shot, and gun To. wards ten o clock, a.m. rain began to descend, and effectually spoiled all outdoor sports. A morning service was held in the churches and in most of the dissenting chapels, At noon the whole of the inmates in the Marland, Spotland, Wardleworth, Hollingworth, Calf-Hey, and Vagrant House workhouses, were regaled with plum-pudding, ale, beef, and spiced bread.
Manchester Examiner and Times, 29 december

Cottage Homes

cottage homes

Children’s wards within workhouses were gradually displaced by Cottage Homes, in part because it was thought that the adults the children were housed with could have been bad influences upon them.
The idea of separating workhouse children from the adults was not new and had been suggested earlier by a workhouse committee of the Rochdale Union in 1850 when it had been proposed to house children in Calf Hey, female adults in Spotland and males in Hollingworth and Marland.
The Rochdale Union Cottage Homes, at Middlewood Wardle, were formally opened on 5 July 1900 for the permanent residence of children from the Dearnley Workhouse.

Some workhouse children could be with their parents, others had parents who were unable to support them and some were orphans or had been abandoned by their families.

The first 20c census taken in 1901 recorded that there were 116 children in the care of the Rochdale Union. Of these 92 where accommodated at Middlewood with the remainder housed in the nearby Dearnley workhouse.
It is not clear why the authorities retained some children in Dearnley when the cottage homes were designed to house 124 inmates and could have easily accommodated them all. Perhaps those children retained in Dearnley had adult relatives also housed there?

It was hoped that the children's life in the hamlet would more nearly approximate to that of children who were not deprived of the ordinary influences of the home, and family. The boys would be instructed in gardening, shoe making, tailoring, and plumbing among other things. The girls would receive an ordinary domestic training which would include knitting and sewing.

It was not intended that the children would wear a uniform but as can be seen from this class school photograph of children at Wardle C of E primary school, taken about 1938, the girls from Middlewood are all dressed in the same clothes.

school photo

It is known that around the time of WWII Middlewood housed evacuees, then became a remand home before finally closing sometime around 1949.

Thomal Hill Charity

thomas hill

Thomas Hill died 21 June 1907 at 471 Watergrove Cottages. His occupation recorded in the 1901 census was ' living on his own means' and at the time of writing his Will and Testament on 24 March 1907 he described himself as a 'retired gentleman'. Quite clearly he was a man of substance and some compassion since, in his will, he instructed his executors that monies should be distributed to the poor residing in Wardle.More

Full details about the charity (No 225513): its objectives: annual expenditure and the names of the current trustees can be found from the Charity Commission's website.
'The charitable objects are for the general benefit of the poor of the parish or such deserving and necessitous persons. Charity is dispensed by the issue of grocery vouchers to Wardle residents deemed to qualify'.

Today there are sparse opportunities in Wardle village for the purchase of groceries. This seemingly was not the case in 1911, when the charity cash book recorded reimbursement to local tradesmen presumably for goods that had been redeemed by those eligible for aid.

  • Joseph Howarth - Clogs
  • W. Allison - Groceries
  • E. Leach - Flannel
  • Schofield Law - Groceries

Payments to local shopkeepers recorded in 1967.

  • T. J. Tattersall - Groceries
  • I. Holt - Groceries
  • G.Schofield - Groceries