Bulletin of the Faculty of Letters, Nagoya University, vol.33 (Spring 1987): 1-96

The Workhouse Issue at Manchester:
 Selected Documents, 1729-1735
Part One

Kazuhiko  KONDO

                           A.  Parliamentary Proceedings
                           B.  Broadsides
                           C.  Lists
                           D.  Diaries of John Byrom
                           E.  Poems of John Byrom
                           F.  Various Correspondence
                           G.  Legal Documents

 All rights reserved.  
 Copyright 1987/2000: Kazuhiko Kondo (now Professor of British History, University of Tokyo, 113-0033 Japan).  

      P R E F A C E

      On Saturday, 23 January 1731, 'a petition of the several inhabitants, traders, and proprietors of land, within the town of Manchester' was presented to the House of Commons at Westminster, and read. It alleged that they 'have agreed to contribute and give two thousand pounds towards the erecting a publick workhouse, for better maintenance and employment of their poor.' And they asked 'that leave may be given to bring in a bill for the erecting a publick workhouse in the said town' 1).

      The petition was immediately referred to a committee headed by Sir Henry Hoghton, MP for Preston, to examine the case and report to the House. This is one of the commonest entries in the Journals of the House of Commons in the eighteenth century.  Apparently there
was nothing extraordinary about the petition, for after the Bristol Workhouse Act of 1696 2), and especially after Knatchbull's Act of 1723 3), a wave of workhouse construction had followed. A book of 118 pages, An Account of Several Work-houses for Employing and Maintaining the Poor (London, 1725) listed 127 establishments, most of which had been 'lately set up'. The second 'very much enlarged' edition (London, 1732) listed 109 4).

      In Manchester and its environs trade was thriving, the population growing.  William Stukeley, who visited Manchester in 1713, described the town as
      the largest, most rich, populous, and busy village in
      England. There are about 2400 familys.... Their trade
      which is incredibly large, consists much in fustians,
      girthwebb, tickings, tapes, &c. which is dispers'd all
      over the kingdom and to foreign parts 5).

Much impressed by 'one of the greatest, if not really the greatest meer village in England', Daniel Defoe wrote in 1726, that
      including the suburb...it is said to contain above fifty
      thousand people.... The Manchester trade we all know; and
      all that are concerned in it know that it is...very much
      encreased within these thirty or forty years beyond what
      it was before; and as the manufacture is encreased, the
      people must be encreased of course 6).

The people attracted to Manchester included not only tradesmen and itinerant writers, but also the poor.  The parliamentary petition of January 1731 above-mentioned said Manchester was 'very large and populous, and the poor thereof very numerous and burthensome'.
A broadside published in the same winter in relation to the bill for erecting a workhouse in Manchester complained of 'the rates to the poor which are increasing and burthensome' 7).
The workhouse was intended as a means to reduce the poor rates, either by keeping the poor industrious or keeping the idle and invalid out of the parish. Such neighbouring towns as Ashton-under-Line, Knutsford, Stockport, and Warrington saw the establishment of their
workhouses in 1729 and 1730 8).

      Therefore, the petitioners and the MPs who led the parliamentary committee would have been quite confident of the eventual success of the legislation and the incorporated workhouse.  Yet, in spite of the well-organized subscription of 2219 pounds and the nomination of twenty-four trustees since October 1729, and though a four-storeyed building meant for the workhouse had been half completed by the end of 1730 9),  the scheme was doomed to  failure.  High Churchmen in and around Manchester feared the alliance of Low Churchmen and
Dissenters which might dominate the incorporated trust. Disputes and petitions followed one after another, and thus the workhouse bill became a party issue both at Manchester and Westminster. The parliamentary proceedings reveal an ominous outlook. Additions
were twice made of the committee members form late January, and on 10 February the Commons ordered with some significance, but without any explanation, 'that all that come to the committee...have voices'. Finally on 7 April 1731, the Commons committee deferred further consideration of the matter for six weeks, which meant 'the end of all'. John Byrom, a High Churchman, poet, diarist, and stenographer, was one of the most vigorous against the scheme.
He was instrumental, together with tory lawyers, Thomas Pigot and George Kenyon, in defeating the whiggish scheme in Manchester and London.  Byrom's return to Manchester in the evening of 10 June (the Pretender's birthday) was greeted with the ringing of bells at the
Collegiate Church (now the Cathedral).

      Here I compile the scattered documents relating to the workhouse scheme. This will contribute not only to sort out the often misrepresented facts and chronology of the issue, but also to analyse the factious alignments among the Mancunians of the period.  I am more interested in the social alignments of the people, which were superimposed on
the political and religious allegiances, than in the identification of the site and building of the workhouse, or in the charity institutions themselves 10). The long-contested workhouse issue provides a fine occasion for exposing the otherwise hidden social conflicts in and around the town. The period was preceded by the Jacobite disturbances in 1715 11) and the lingering clerical quarrels within the Collegiate Church during the 1720s.

      The relevant documents are so dispersed and voluminous that, though I have tried to be selective, they must be divided into two parts: the first comprising various documents before 1732, the second those made during the lawsuits afterwards. The last piece of Part One
(G.1.) predicts what was to follow. A chronological table of events will be placed at the end of Part Two.

      Textual abbreviations are extended and punctuation marks added where necessary, but otherwise original spelling has been preserved often without adding sic. Italicized proper names in printed materials have been romanized. Dates in documents are in the Old Style, but
in my captions and notes the year is taken to begin on 1 January instead of 25 March. Square brackets [     ] are employed either for editorial additions or to indicate lacunae.
Brackets <     > indicate original insertions in the text. An ellipsis ... is used for an ommission.

      Notes are based on various local and printed sources, which include, to mention only a few,
Jeremiah Smith, The Admission Register of the Manchester School (1866-74);
Thomas Baker, Memorials of a Dissenting Chapel (1884);
F. R. Raines, The Fellows and Chaplains of the Collegiate Church (1891);
as well as the informative biographical index at the Local History Library, Manchester Central Library. They are too numerous to reiterate here. All have been introduced with comments in my 'Social history of eighteenth-century Manchester: How and where to look for sources', Shigaku Zasshi, vol. 91, no. 12 (Dec. 1982).  All references to the Members of Parliament
are based on the indispensable tool of English political history:
The History of Parliament Trust, The House of Commons 1660-1690, 3 vols. (1983);
The House of Commons 1715-1754, 2 vols.(1970);
The House of Commons 1754-1790, 3 vols.(1964).
And they are referred to without so specifying.

                                   A B B R E V I A T I O N S

Baskerville                 Stephen W. Baskerville, 'The management of the tory interest in
                                   Lancashire and Cheshire 1714-1747' (Oxford D.Phil.thesis, 1976)
BL                              The British Library
CaUL                          Cambridge University Library
Colley                         Linda Colley, In Defiance of Oligarchy: The Tory Party 1714-60
Commons Journals    The Journals of the House of Commons
LaRO                         Lancashire Record Office (Preston)
Lillywhite                  Bryant Lillywhite, London Coffee Houses (1963)
Lords Journals          The Journals of the House of Lords
MaCL                         Manchester Central Library
Palatine Note-book   The Palatine Note-book, for the Intercommunication of
                                   Antiquaries, Bibliophiles, and other Investigators....
Poems                        The Poems of John Byrom, edited by A. W. Ward, 3 vols., in 5 parts
PRO                          The Public Record Office (Chancery Lane, London)
Remains                    The Private Journal and Literary Remains of John Byrom,  edited
                                  by Richard Parkinson, 2 vols., in 4 parts (1855-57)
Rocque                      The A to Z of Georgian London, based upon John Rocque's Plan of
                                  the Cities of London and Westminster and Borough of Southwark, and
                                  its Alphabetical Index [1739-47], published by Harry Margary (1981)
VCH                          The Victoria History of the Counties of England
WaRO                       Warwick County Record Office (Warwick)

Back to the Top of PREFACE


 1)  Commons Journals, xxi: 594. See A.1. below.
 2)  7 & 8 William III, cap.32: An act for erecting hospitals and workhouses within the city of Bristol, for the better employing and maintaining the poor thereof.
 3)  9 George I, cap.7: An act for amending the laws relating to the settlement, imployment and relief of the poor.
 4)  [Anon.] An Account of Several Work-houses for Employing and Maintaining the Poor... As also of Several Charity-Schools for Promoting Work and Labour (1725); The second edition, very much enlarged (1732); The third edition (1786).
 5)  William Stukeley, Itinerarium Curiosum (1724), 55.  Internal evidence indicates that Stukeley was writing about the Manchester of 1713: St. Ann's Church, 'finish'd last year'.
 6)  Daniel Defoe, A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain, iii (1727), actually published in August 1726. New edition (1927), 670.
 7)  See B.1. below.
 8)  An Account of Several Work-houses, 2nd ed., 98, 143-44.
 9)  See D.2. below.
 10)  G.B. Hindle, Provision for the Relief of the Poor in Manchester 1754-1826 (1975), has been extremely informative, but its interest is more institutional and centred on charity provisions.
 11)  I have published an article '"The dreadful mob" at Manchester, 1715', in H. Hasegawa (ed.), Europe (Nagoya U.P., 1985).

Back to Documents on Web Index
Back to my English Publications

 All rights reserved.
 Copyright 1987/2000: Kazuhiko Kondo (now Professor of British History, University of Tokyo, 113-0033 Japan).