On the journey from Locksbottom to Farnborough Village you may notice on the left an old chapel, just after the entrance to the Princess Royal University Hospital and amongst the hospital staff flats. It is the last existing building from the Bromley Union Workhouse and is still in use today.   The Workhouse wasconstructed in 1844 in response to the 1834 Poor law Amendment Act. The story though goes back to Queen Elizabeth 1st , whose Parliament passed the 1601 Poor Law, which confirmed that it was the responsibility of the Parish Council to provide relief and support for the aged, poor, sick and orphan children of their respective Parish - a benevolent proposal, which inevitably was at a cost to the ratepayers of the Parish to provide.

Views of the Workhouse c 1908, click images to enlarge

This caused members of the Parish Council to become critical of who should or should not receive support. Therefore, following criticism of whether the receiver of aid actually came from the parish or were capable of paid employment, further Acts over the next 100 years were passed in an attempt to ensure that only the deserving of the Parish actually received aid. This led to the Workhouse Test Act of 1723 which promoted the construction of workhouses, where the poor, old and sick had to reside in order to receive aid, and those capable of work had to secure employment.  

In Bromley the Workhouse was constructed in 1731 along the main road to London, next to the former burial site of plague victims, almost opposite Farwig Lane. It is now long gone. Another, known as the Cudham Workhouse, now converted into a cottage, can be seen at Leaves Green as you approach the Kings Head from Bromley.

However, the growing demand and costs of running individual workhouses eventually led to the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act. This proposed the Workhouse Union, whereby, Parishes amalgamated to construct a single purpose-built Workhouse, where the people in need of assistance would have to live and often work in order to receive shelter, food and clothing that the new workhouses would provide. For children it would also include some elementary teaching.  

It had been proposed to construct a Workhouse at Bromley Common within the Enclosure Act of the Common in 1821. However, the intended enclosure took so long in planning and negotiations with interested parties that by the time agreement had been reached the need to establish a Workhouse within the said area had been overtaken by the Poor Law Act. . Consequently the Union Workhouse was constructed in 1844 at Locksbottom on the site of the present hospital. Included within the initial construction was the chapel to provide the spiritual support and guidance, as well as the other services of the church. However, as the Workhouse served the needs of 16  local parishes most funerals were directed to the deceased’s original parish to meet the cost of burials.  

The former workhouse site is now the location for the Princess Royal University Hospital. www.pruh.kch.nhs.uk  which opened in 2003. Modern housing blocks occupy the front of the site facing the main A21 road (Farnborough Common), with the hospital to the rear.

Bob Donovan

Workhouse Site Map

A small lodge lay at the entrance to the site and a chapel was erected at the south-west of the workhouse.  The site later expanded considerably to the north and east. 

All but the chapel have now been demolished, to be replaced by the modern hospital and new housing.

With acknowledgements to www.workhouses.org.uk/Bromley/  © Peter Higginbotham.


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