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St Pancras Workhouse and Poor Law Union

St Pancras Parish became a Union in 1867.

Institutions in the Union

St Pancras Workhouse, Kings Road, Camden erected as the Parish Workhouse in 1809.
North Infirmary, Dartmouth Park Hill, which later became Highgate Hospital.
South Infirmary, Coot's Terrace, which later became St Pancras Hospital.
Childrens Receiving Home, St Margaret's, Leighton Road

Mortuary House St. Pancras Workhouse 
The Guardians of the Parish of St. Pancras have erected a mortuary house, with post-mortem room, in the burial ground adjoining the workhouse. The structure has been built under the superintendence of Mr. Dent, architect, by Mr. Turner, of South Hornsey. 
Source:
St Pancras Infirmary - competition
The Guardians of the Poor of St. Pancras have purchased, for 4,200, four acres of land, situated at Highgate, between the Smallpox Hospital and the Cemetery, for the purpose of building an infirmary for the poor of the parish distinct from the workhouse, in accordance with the provisions of the Metropolis Poor Act of 1867.

The competition for designs for the building, we are told, is limited to a number of architects who have been accustomed to design buildings of a similar class. For the three best designs the Guardians offer premiums of 150, 100, and 50. The successful competitor, if required is to carry out the works for the payment of 900, less the amount of the premium; and this is to include all travelling expenses, and attendances and the supply of all plans, drawings etc, that may be required, but he is not to be entitled to any premium or payment unless a substantial contractor will undertake the work at a price not being more than 10 per cent above the estimate accompanying the design.

Every part of the building is to be of the plainest design consistent with the same being thoroughly substantial and suitable for the purpose required, and no money is to be spent in ornamental work of any kind. Accommodation is to be provided for 500 patients, and the buildings are to be so arranged as to be easily capable of extension at a future period.

The Guardians proposed that from 1,000 to 1,200 cubic feet of space should be allowed to each patient, but the Poor Law Board considered 850 as "quite sufficient." The building is to be rendered fireproof as far as possible, and facilities for the escape of inmates in the event of fire considered.
Source: The Builder 1868 Vol XXVI 22nd February 1868 p.139
Submitted by Alan Longbottom

St Pancras new Infirmary 
The Poor Law Board have given their sanction to the plans for the St. Pancras New Infirmary at Highgate, and have empowered the guardians to raise a loan of 40,000 for building the same.
Source: The Builder 1868 Vol XXVI 18th July 1868 p.538
Submitted by Alan Longbottom

St. Pancras - New Relief Offices & Dispensary
The new Relief Office and Dispensary, the first erected under the provisions of the New Act, and the first of a series of four intended to be erected in the parish of St. Pancras, are situated in the midst of a poor population in Compton Place, one of a series of courts enclosed by the houses in Compton Street, Hunter Street, and Leigh Street.. 

The rooms are all on the ground-floor. The site is in the form of a letter L, the long arm of which has a double series of rooms, and the short arm a single series, chiefly occupied by the porter's apartments. Immediately opposite the principal entrance and hall is the general waiting-room, the superficial area of which is upwards of 600 sq. ft. lit by continuous lantern skylights in the open roof. The glazed side panels of the lanterns are hung on pivots, and are made to simultaneously open and close for ventilation. It is heated by a large open fire-stove surrounded by warm-air chambers, through which the fresh air is made to pass. At the north end of the room are exit doors leading to separate mens' and womens' latrines, etc, and to the fuel store. On the east side are a series of doors admitting to the committee-room and to the doctors' consulting rooms. At the south end is the entrance to the dispensary, and relieving officer's room, bread room etc. Adjoining the dispensary, and entered only from it, is a drug-room, fitted with a small range, sink, and shelves. Adjoining the relief office, and entered only from it, is a store-room, constructed so as to answer the purposes of a strong-room also. Separate conveniences are provided for the officers and porters. The passage leading to the porters rooms forms an exit from the relief office without necessitating a return to the waiting room or entrance hall. All the rooms are very lofty, being open to the roof, and the underside of the rafters, ceiled. The side walls are 12 ft. in height from the floor. All the fireplaces are fitted with Welch's patent ventilating stoves, which admit fresh air from without, being passed through the warm air chamber at the back of each into the rooms through hit or miss ventilators over the chimneypieces.

The contract was taken by Messrs Scrivener & White at the sum of 1,341Mr E.C.Robins was the architect.
Source: The Builder 1868 Vol XXVI 15th August 1868 p.609
Submitted by Alan Longbottom

St. Pancras - New Relief Offices 
In the Builder of 15th August, were described the new Relief Offices and Dispensary for the parish of St. Pancras, situated in Compton Place, near Burton Crescent. The second of the series of four Relief Offices, designed for the parish in accordance with the provisions of the Poor Relief Act of 1867, has been completed this week.

It is situated in Leighton Road, Kentish Town, occupying the house and grounds hitherto known as Bower Cottage. It differs from that in Compton Place in having no dispensary attached, though provision is made for the addition when required; while the ample site, which comprises an area of nearly half an acre, has afforded space for the construction of extensive labour-yards, stone breaking sheds, and oakum picking rooms, for the employment of able-bodied paupers. The old cottage, which is attached to the rear of the chapel buildings has been retained, with only such modifications as were found necessary to connect it with the new buildings associated with it. It is two stories in height, and on the upper floor are the apartments of the resident superintendent. The committee room is on the ground floor, and with the store room adjoining, completes the accommodation provided by the old cottage. What was formerly a dining room is now divided longitudinally, forming separate pauper entrances and exit passages to and from Leighton Road and the new waiting room. Between the new waiting room and the committee room are situated the new relieving offices room and the board room. By the parallel passages or corridors, direct access is gained to the waiting room, returning past the relief office, bread room, and committee room, forming lobbies to the same in the order indicated. The waiting room has a lofty open roof, lighted by a large lantern sky-light. A portion of the ground is fenced in to admit of the enlargement of the waiting room as well as for the erection of surgeon's rooms and dispensary. The labour-yard is reached by a road on the west side of the chapel, and is an open quadrangular yard, which measures about 125 ft. by 70 ft. and has been paved with Penmaenmawr granite cubes by Messrs Sewell and Son. On three sides of the yard, stone-breaking sheds are ranged. These sheds are divided into double boxes by dwarf partitions, and afford space for 94 stone breakers. The sheds are tiled with corrugated red and white tiles, and present an effective appearance as they slope from the back boundary walls towards the yard, to which the boxes are open, cast-iron pillars supporting the eaves-bearers between each division. The superintendent's office and implement store-room are placed in the centre of the range of boxes on the north side of the yard, immediately opposite the entrance road. On either side of the Superintendent's offices are the entrance lobbies to the oakum picking and store-rooms, which are situated behind the boxes, the whole width of the northern side or 137 ft. in length by 14 ft. wide. Accommodation is provided for 100 oakum pickers in two long rooms fitted with tables and benches; between these rooms are the picked and unpicked oakum store rooms. All these rooms are lighted by skylights, and carefully ventilated by louvre and other wall ventilators, and are warmed by open fire stoves with warm-air chambers, through which the air from within is passed into the rooms and warmed in its passage. The architect is Mr E.C.Robins and Messrs Thomas & Son undertook the contract at the sum of 1,735.
Source: St. Pancras Infirmary - illus 
The Infirmary is now being erected at Highgate, on a site containing about 3.75 acres of land. On the highest or north 
side of the ground is placed the central or administrative block, extending from North to South. In the front portion are placed the porters' rooms, and immediately joining them are the male and female receiving-rooms, with water-closet and bath in each. Right and left of these are the dwellings of the resident surgeon, and assistant surgeon, and matron, with bed-rooms, etc in the 
floor above. On the other side are the Board and waiting rooms, with lavatory attached. The matron's linen-room, etc are on this side also. The centre is occupied, as will be seen on reference to the plan, by the store department, with steward's office overlooking. By the natural fall of the ground ample space 
is obtained for wine, beer, and other cellars beneath without excavation. The kitchen, scullery, and larders are adjoining, and occupy the centre of the entire range of buildings. On either side of the corridors are the steward and male servants' mess- rooms, and the matron's and female servants' mess-rooms. 
The steward has a separate and distinct house on the right of the main building, overlooking the entrance to the stores. The dispensary and operating-rooms are situated on the side of the intersecting corridor, between the male and female block; on the other side of the door dividing the cross-corridor is the 
boiler-house, with stairs to coal-store below. A patients' clothes-store is close at hand here, entered from the covered way outside the building, which leads to foul wards. The laundry is approached by steps necessitated by the fall of the ground these steps are divided in the middle from the male and female 
sides. Dry-houses for drying the clothes are provided for, and in addition a spacious drying ground adjoins the laundry. All these buildings are lofty, and ventilated by top draughts. Beyond this laundry, and entirely detached from the rest, is a wash-house for foul linen, with a fumigating-room, under which is a large tank for storage of rain water. W.C.'s and urinals in convenient positions 
are placed throughout the buildings. The patients' blocks are placed on either side of the main block,- the three blocks for females on the left, and the two for males on the right. Accommodation for 256 females is provided in two wards 
of three stories each, and one of two stories, with 32 beds in each ward. For male patients there is one block of three floors, and one of two, providing for 160 patients. The wards are 22 ft. wide and 13 ft.6 ins. clear height, and are lighted by windows on either side, reaching within a foot of the ceiling; the upper part of the window is made to fall open for ventilation. Open fireplaces 
are used for warming, the air before passing into the wards being heated by circulation round the stoves. Each ward has a staircase, with nurses' room overlooking ward and ward scullery, skink and lift from corridors below for linen, food etc. a linen-store and nurses' W.C. at the one end of it, and shutes and dust for foul linen. At the other, on one side are a bath-room and lavatory 
for patients, and W.C.'s in the other, thoroughly ventilated by through draughts. St the extreme end is a day-room for the use of convalescent patients, with easy access from the ward. The foul wards are entirely isolated, and contain accommodation for 54 patients of each sex, or 108 in all. They have lavatories, W.C.'s nurses' rooms and sculleries for each particular class. The dead-house is at the south-east corner of the ground, with the necessary post-mortem rooms etc., and removals can be made without the necessity of going near the main buildings. The staff of nurses will, we understand, be provided by the Nightingale Training Institution. This Infirmary is being erected for the St. Pancras Board of Guardians, of which Mr. W. H. Wyatt, is the chairman, from the designs of Messrs John Giles and Biven. The contractor is Mr. W. Henshaw, whose contract amounts to 36,000. The clerk of works is Mr. Culverhouse. 
p 028 Plans of the Establishment 
p 029 An engraving of the Establishment 
Source: The Builder 1869 Vol XXVII 9th January 1869 p.027
Submitted by Alan Longbottom. 

St Pancras Schools, Leavesden
At a recent meeting of the St. Pancras Board of Guardians, the School Committee presented a report stating that they had inspected the progress of the works in connexion with the erection of their schools, and found that the buildings are 
rapidly approaching completion; but that with respect to the progress of the drainage works, it appeared that Mr. Mann, the contractor for the erection of the schools, is of opinion these drainage works will interfere with the due performance of his contract, and that unless they are at once stopped, he will 
apply to the Court of Chancery for an injunction. Mr. North, the chairman of the committee, stated that the object of Mr. Mann appeared to be to get an extension of time and money from the guardians. 
Source:
The Builder 1869 Vol XXVII 30th October 1869 p.876
Submitted by Alan Longbottom.

St. Pancras Infirmary Question
Verdict after verdict of the coroner's inquests on deaths which are occurring in the infirmary of St. Pancras Workhouse leave little doubt about the unhealthfulness and overcrowding of the infirmary, and the imminent peril of death to poor persons placed within its walls.

There are gentlemen who, conscientiously, no doubt, desiring to uphold the sanitary merits of this workhouse infirmary, appear to imagine that they have discovered, for the first time, that cubic space is not the only or even the chief consideration as regards the healthfulness of sick-wards in an infirmary. Were they "constant-readers" of The Builder, they would be well aware that this is no new question at all. Every sanitarian is well aware that even where the utmost requirements of cubic space are fulfilled, there may be still great unhealthfulness in the inclosed space, unless it be well ventilated.

But ventilation is not everything itself, as such, any more than cubic space. Patients may be killed by "ventilation" no less than by want of cubic space. The utmost care and discretion are requisite in the ventilation of even the most spacious infirmary; otherwise the sick, who are, on account of their very want of healthful vigour, more susceptible and more liable than usual to the serious evils arising from draughts, may be killed by ventilation, no less than by want of ventilation. Where there is a want of adequate cubic space, moreover, ventilation becomes so urgently requisite that there is little or no chance of patients escaping the evils of draughts; and an aggravation of their disease may be just an accession of inflammation from too much ventilation in too little space. It is even doubtful whether the best possible ventilation, in the best possible ward, be in itself sufficient, without artificial defacation and disinfection by proper chemical means, - by such means as will give oxygen, as the alkaline permanganates do, instead of taking it, as some accredited defecating or disinfecting agents are said to do.

It is all nonsense, then, to talk of cubic space being a myth, and ventilation everything; neither the one nor the other of these propositions or assertions is true. Both are of very great importance; but proper ventilation in very small cubic space is not possible; and it is they who maintain that all depends on ventilation that are mystified by their own myth. 

Under the circumstances, we are nor surprised to find, not only that the Poor Law Board insist on the removal of the sick in the St. Pancras Infirmary to the new Infirmary at Highgate, which the St. Pancras guardians actually have already almost waiting for them, although they have hitherto tried to avoid using it; but that these heretofore obstructive guardians have at last, themselves, seen the necessity of adopting the Poor Law Board's decision, and of "cordially concurring" in the carrying of it out.

The Poor Law Board have also announced their determination to institute a public inquiry into the state of the wards of the old infirmary, and the charges preferred by the guardians against their medical officers. That the wards are not only ill-ventilated and far too small for the number of poor people crowded into them, but that the foul air is intensified by contributions from the sewers, would appear to be but too probable.

We are glad to hear that Miss Nightingale has offered her services in the nurse department at Highgate. 
Source: The Builder 1869 Vol XXVII 27th November 1869
Submitted by Alan Longbottom.

Records

London Metropolitan Archives
40 Northampton Road, 
London 
EC1R 0HB
 

Corporation of London Record Office
PO Box 270, 
Guildhall, 
London 
EC2P 2EJ
 

 



Page updated December 19, 2006

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