Market Lavington Museum

Born in the Workhouse

We are close to Christmas, a time when we’d like to think that there was goodwill to all men, women and children. It wasn’t always so. Back in Victorian times poverty was just about a crime. Such help as was given was, just about a punishment of inprisonment, away from friends and family, with inadequate food and a tiny cell as a room. This was space in ‘The Workhouse’.


At one time Market Lavington had a workhouse of its own, run by the parish. Such older workhouses may have been bad but they were not the forbidding institutions that were the union workhouses.  From 1834 parishes were grouped into unions and an imposing building was erected to serve all of the parishes in the union. For Market Lavington, the union workhouse was in Devizes.


Pregnancy, particularly unplanned, out of wedlock pregnancy was often a cause of poverty. If a pregnant woman was unable to work and had nobody else to support her, then her only option for survival was to go to the workhouse. This was often a life sentence – a short life sentence – for undernourished women expecting a child often failed to survive. But some did and babies were born at the workhouse. Sadly these innocent babes often failed to survive as well.


Here we see a list of Market Lavington mothers – or rather of their children, born in the Devizes Union Workhouse.


SURNAMEgiven name/sSexParent(s)Date of BirthParishComments
BARTLETTunnamedFWilliam & Ann20 Dec 1869Market Lavingtonlegitimate
BROWNunnamedFSarah Ann20 Aug 1879Market Lavingtonillegitimate
BURGESSThomasMEdward & Sarah10 Feb 1886Market Lavingtonlegitimate
BURGESSunnamedMEdward & Sarah20 Jun 1887Market Lavingtonlegitimate
COOPERunnamedFSarah24 Jun 1851Market Lavingtonillegitimate
CUMMINGSAlbertMSarah24 Mar 1866Market Lavingtonillegitimate
DANIELSunnamedFMary21 Oct 1857Market Lavingtonillegitimate
HOBBSArthurMLizzie11 Feb 1890Market Lavingtonillegitimate
HOBBSunnamedFElizabeth?? Apr 1894Market Lavingtonillegitimate
HOPKINSAnneFSarah09 Dec 1863Market Lavingtonillegitimate
HOPKINSCharlesMSusanna07 Jul 1861Market Lavingtonillegitimate
HOPKINSFrederickMSarah04 Apr 1865Market Lavingtonillegitimate
MEADElizabethFSusan25 May 1868Market Lavingtonillegitimate
ROBBINSAnnie MariaFAmelia09 Sep 1885Market Lavingtonillegitimate
ROBBINSunnamedFAmelia15 Nov 1878Market Lavingtonillegitimate
ROBBINSunnamedMAmelia25 Mar 1883Market Lavingtonillegitimate
RUTLEGAmyFMary09 Oct 1889Market Lavingtonillegitimate
WEBBAgnes EdithFElizabeth12 Jan 1888Market Lavingtonillegitimate

Just to get an idea of scale at any one time, here are the Market Lavington born inmates on census day, 1881.

Caroline MUNDAYW67FInmateImbecileEasterton,
Elizabeth SAINSBURY12FInmateScholarMarket   Lavington,
Florance SAINSBURY3FInmateScholarMarket   Lavington,
George ANDREWSU74MInmateBellows BlowerBlindEastcot,
George ELLIS8MInmateScholarMarket   Lavington,
George ORAMU38MInmateAg LabMarket   Lavington,
Harriet LANEU27FInmateNurse (SMS)Market   Lavington,
Henry MILESU41MInmateShepherd Ag LabEastcott,
James MOOREM43MInmateAg LabEasterton,
John WILTSHIREW65MInmateAg LabEasterton,
Kate CUMMINGS8FInmateScholarMarket   Lavington,
Martha CUMMINGS6FInmateScholarMarket   Lavington,
Martha SAINSBURY10FInmateScholarMarket   Lavington,
Mary A. RUTTY11FInmateScholarMarket   Lavington,
Mary SAINSBURY7FInmateScholarMarket   Lavington,
Richard SMITHW66MInmateCarpenterMarket   Lavington,
Robert ELLIS5MInmateScholarMarket   Lavington,
Sarah J. FIDLER1FInmateEasterton,
William CUMMINGSU21MInmateAg LabIdiotMarket   Lavington,
William ORAM12MInmateScholarMarket   Lavington,

That’s 19 people from the Market Lavingrton area. That represents almost 2% of the population.

Here’s hoping our readers will enjoy a happy Christmas, not shut away due to poverty.