HeritageGateway - Home
Site Map
Text size: A A A
You are here: Home > > > > Devon & Dartmoor HER Result
Devon & Dartmoor HERPrintable version | About Devon & Dartmoor HER | Visit Devon & Dartmoor HER online...

See important guidance on the use of this record.

If you have any comments or new information about this record, please email us.

HER Number:MDV29502
Name:Newton Abbot Union Workhouse


Workhouse off East Street built between 1836 and 1839. One of four in Devon by Scott and Moffat, leading exponents in workhouse architecture in the early-mid 19th century. By the 1940s the workhouse had been incorporated into the hospital complex, and much of it was demolished in 1963, although some architectural elements remain.


Grid Reference:SX 861 710
Map Sheet:SX87SE
Admin AreaDevon
Civil ParishNewton Abbot
Ecclesiastical ParishNEWTON ABBOT

Protected Status

Other References/Statuses

  • Old DCC SMR Ref: SX87SE/216
  • Old Listed Building Ref (II)

Monument Type(s) and Dates

  • WORKHOUSE (Built, XIX - 1836 AD to 1839 AD (Between))

Full description

Passmore, A. J. + Jones, P., 05/2013, Former Newton Abbot Hospital, Devon, Results of Historic Building Recording (Report - Survey). SDV351393.

The Newton Abbot Union Workhouse was constructed in 1836-9 on land at the periphery of the built-up area of East Street. It was contained within grounds bounded by walls that largely survive today; their positions reflected the alignments of the earlier field boundaries. The central part of the workhouse was demolished in the 20th century with only the front range (building 1) and parts of the rear ranges (buildings A and B) retained. Their overall architectural treatment reflects the uses of the buildings and is typical of a 19th-century workhouse. The front range would have housed the entranceway, reception rooms, a chapel and boardroom. The latter, in typical Scott and Moffatt fashion, was situated at the eastern end of the range, and can be identified from its architectural treatment. Of particular interest is the arcade on its eastern elevation, the provision of which was enabled by the overall design whereby the side accommodation ranges did not connect to the north entrance range. This appears to be an unusual, extravagant feature, although may not be unique. At Bedminster, for example, there is a row of four gothic arches under a pitched roof (in the form of a cloister walk) attached to the end of the side range where it joins the front range. There is no architectural evidence for a chapel in the western side of the range, although this is not to say that such a room did not exist here.
The surviving rear ranges could have had several functions, and these uses would probably have been segregated by gender. They may have housed working areas, e.g. a laundry for women or craft rooms for men, or even have included parts of the male and female hospitals, which were often located at the rear of the workhouse. The upper floors could also have provided accommodation.
Extension of the workhouse
It is clear from the documentary research and the surviving buildings that during the 19th and early 20th centuries the workhouse was expanded to cope with more inmates, although to an extent these may have been sick and elderly people rather than paupers.
Within the surviving buildings there is evidence for alterations (possibly an addition to or rebuilding of building A), as well as the front range. In the 1870s a new register room was constructed (building 2); a demolished room behind this could have been a boardroom, replacing that in the front range. Possibly contemporary alterations in the front range include the provision of a first floor on its west side. The register office was enlarged in 1901 (building F) and included a new boardroom (the Ella Rowcroft Room).
In common with many other workhouses, in the late 19th century a new infirmary (buildings N and O) was provided. At Newton Abbot this was constructed in 1896-98. This appears to have been built as much as a town infirmary as a hospital for the workhouse since it incorporates a number ofarchitectural features typical of public hospitals of the Victorian and Edwardian era. In particular, the presence of balconies and verandas, allowing patients to sit outside, on the southern, sun-facing elevation, stand out. The separation of building O from building N also points to a specialist use, such as the care of patients with infectious diseases in an isolation block. At around the same time a new dining hall and kitchen are documented. These can be identified as buildings E and C respectively. The dining room represents a partial rebuild of the central hub of the workhouse, and it is possible that this area originally contained a kitchen (with food being taken within the accommodation blocks rather than a separate dining room).
During the early 20th century further enlargement of the complex took place. In 1911, the infirmary was enlarged (building M). In 1906 a nurses' home and a nursery had been constructed, and these have been previously interpreted as buildings P and H. Whilst building P (The Laurels) may have been designed as accommodation, the survey of building H has demonstrated that it was provided with a
south-facing veranda and it may therefore have been used as a hospital rather than a nursery. The design of its rear (north) elevation, with projecting wings is also very utilitarian (rather than domestic) and reminiscent of the earlier infirmary with its projecting sanitary wings.
In addition to the main workhouse and infirmary buildings, from the late 19th-century onwards, ancillary stores and workshops were constructed (buildings D, G and I), reflecting the growing needs to the institution. It is not clear whether services were provided by staff or inmates. However, there is some evidence from historical maps of walls or gates, which may imply segregation of inmates using these buildings along the lines of the separate courtyards within the workhouse (splitting male/female and children/adults), although they could simply have been erected for security.
During the demolition works a well was discovered. It is constructed of red sandstone laid onto the natural breccia. It is a minimum of 6.3 metres deep, down to waterlevel. The well is not marked on any historic maps, but is likely to be associated with the workhouse. It is situated close to the probable original kitchens (that would have been under building E) and may have been located within a small outbuilding to rear of the central hub.

Ordnance Survey, 1880-1899, First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map (Cartographic). SDV336179.

Newton Abbot Union Workhouse marked on 1880s-1890s 25 inch Ordnance Survey map.

Devon County Council, 1975, Newton Abbot Town Trails, 59 (Article in Monograph). SDV352459.

Department of Environment, 1983, Newton Abbot, 16 (List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest). SDV298253.

Building first built as the Union Workhouse. Architects Moffat and Scott. Dating 1836 - 1839. Three storey stone range with central pedimented feature with round-arched rusticated carriage entrance flanked by one storey plastered corridors to 2 pavilions, the west one probably raised a storey circa 1840, the east one its original one storey. These have hipped slate roofs and 2 round-headed arches with rusticated voussoirs.

Morrison, K. S., 1997, Untitled Source, 190-196 (Unknown). SDV336839.

Exeter Archaeology, 2006, Newton Abbot Hospital, Devon. Archaeological Assessment and Historic Buildings Appraisal (Report - Assessment). SDV347328.

The hospital occupies the site of the former 19th century workhouse, of which some elements remain. The workhouse was completd in 1839, with two massive canted bays projecting frontally from the front and rear elevation of a four-storeyed rectangular block ('hub'). The hub have been demolished, but building E appears to have been built within the footprint in circa 1897.
Although originally designed to deal with able-bodied paupers, the workhouse became more and more a hospital for the sick and infirm, and for the aged poor. The directories from 1873 onwards confirm that it was considerably enlarged in 1871. Further enlargements took place in 1897, including a new infirmary (building N) within the garden to the south. The 1906 Kelly's Directory states that a nurses' home and nursery had recently been built. This probably relates to The Laurels (building P) and the former maternity unit, building H. In 1911 the infirmary was enlarged (probably building M).
By the 1940s the workhouse had been incorporated into the hospital complex, and much of it was demolished in 1963, although some architectural elements remain.
The workhouse is one of four in Devon by Scott and Moffat, leading exponents in workhouse architecture in the early-mid 19th century. The surviving workhouse structures including the lodge and gateway, together with the hospital infirmary block are considered to be of high significance.
See report for full details.

Sources / Further Reading

SDV298253List of Blds of Arch or Historic Interest: Department of Environment. 1983. Newton Abbot. Historic Houses Register. A4 Spiral Bound. 16.
SDV336179Cartographic: Ordnance Survey. 1880-1899. First Edition Ordnance 25 inch map. First Edition Ordnance Survey 25 inch Map. Map (Digital).
SDV336839Unknown: Morrison, K. S.. 1997. The New Poor Law Workhouses of George Gilbert Scott and William Bonython Mo. Unknown. 190-196.
SDV347328Report - Assessment: Exeter Archaeology. 2006. Newton Abbot Hospital, Devon. Archaeological Assessment and Historic Buildings Appraisal. Exeter Archaeology Report. A4 Stapled + Digital.
SDV351393Report - Survey: Passmore, A. J. + Jones, P.. 05/2013. Former Newton Abbot Hospital, Devon, Results of Historic Building Recording. AC Archaeology. ACD441/3/0. Digital + A4.
SDV352459Article in Monograph: Devon County Council. 1975. Newton Abbot Town Trails. Devon Town Trails: European Architectural Heritage Year. Paperback Volume. 59.

Associated Monuments

MDV121356Parent of: Boundary Walls to the former Newton Abbot Workshouse (Monument)
MDV104262Parent of: Building associated with former Newton Abbot Hospital (Building)
MDV104264Parent of: Building associated with former Newton Abbot Hospital (Building)
MDV104259Parent of: Building associated with the former Newton Abbot Hospital (Building)
MDV91613Parent of: Central Entrance Block to former Newton Abbot Hospital, East Street (Building)
MDV120019Parent of: Porter's Lodge, East Street, Newton Abbot (Building)
MDV29510Parent of: Templer House, East Street, Newton Abbot (Building)
MDV106849Parent of: Work House Infirmary associated with the former Newton Abbot Hospital (Building)
MDV51276Related to: Hamblin's Bell Foundry and Gunsmith (Monument)
MDV52560Related to: Newton Abbot Hospital and Dispensary (Building)

Associated Finds: none recorded

Associated Events

  • EDV6155 - Historic Building Recording, Former Newton Abbot Hospital, Devon (Ref: ACD441/3/0)

Date Last Edited:Mar 16 2018 9:00AM