Record Details

NHER Number:38034
Type of record:Monument
Name:Site of Swaffham Union Workhouse


This is the site of Swaffham Union Workhouse, which was designed by Donthorne on the unusual plan of a Y-stem within a polygon. It was built in 1836 and demolished in 1926, although some fragments are thought to survive on the site, which is now a housing estate.

Images - none


Grid Reference:TF 82400 08105
Map Sheet:TF80NW

Full description

Site of Swaffham Union Workhouse, built in 1840s.
Designed by Donthorne on the unusual plan of a Y-stem within a polygon.
Site now a housing estate.
Information from (S1). Also see plan (S7).
E. Rose (NLA), 17 January 2003. Amended by A. Beckham (HES), 20 December 2018.

2005. Field Observation.
Various fragments still survive including the mortuary infirmary and part of the perimeter wall.
E. Rose (NLA), 19 January 2005.

November 2005. Site Visit.
Documentary research confirms that the Swaffham Union Workhouse was constructed in 1836 and demolished in 1926. The plan of the complete workhouse building is depicted on the 1905 OS map (S3), while the structures remaining after the demolition of the workhouse are depicted on the 1928 OD map (S4). A press release from 1926 records that there was a Residence (formerly the Old Men's Infirmary), a bungalow, a large Laundry Building, and stabling as well as bricks from the demolished workhouse (S5).
The infirmary block is now 8 Oaks Drive. It had consisted of two men's wards and two women's wards, designed to house 20 patients. Nurse's quarters were constructed sometime between 1905 and 1926, and a rear extension has been added at a later date. It is thought that the single storey house adjacent to 8 Oaks Drive may also have been part of the main building, and could have been stables referred to in the 1926 press release (S5). A small brick building which may have served as a mortuary also survives along with other small outbuildings and the outer wall of the workhouse.
Two burial stones were recovered from the corner garden of 8 Oaks Drive and donated to Gressenhall Museum. These are the consecration stones, dated 1838 and 1869.
See (S2) for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 10 April 2008.

August-September 2007. Desk-based Assessment and Test Pitting.
Documentary research reveals that the workhouse was designed by William J. Donthorn, a local Swaffham architect, and was intended to house 405 inmates. The burial ground was first consecrated in 1838, and a second burial ground was consecrated in 1869 (as confirmed by the consecration stones noted above).
Twelve test pits were excavated within the burial ground in order to determine risk of contamination. Evidence of possible grave cuts was encountered in all but four of the test pits, although human remains were recorded in only one test pit. These were identified as the remains of two infants associated with remnants of wooden coffins. As no evidence for lead coffins, vaults or tombs were encountered and all remains encountered were skeletal, it was determined that the cemetery presents no risk of contamination in the garden.
See report (S6) for further details.
H. Hamilton (NLA), 10 April 2008.

Monument Types

  • WORKHOUSE (19th Century to Early 20th Century - 1836 AD to 1926 AD)
  • CEMETERY (19th Century to Early 20th Century - 1838 AD to 1926 AD)
  • INHUMATION (19th Century to Early 20th Century - 1838 AD to 1926 AD)

Associated Finds

  • COFFIN FITTING (19th Century to Early 20th Century - 1838 AD to 1926 AD)
  • GRAVE MARKER (19th Century - 1838 AD to 1869 AD)
  • HUMAN REMAINS (19th Century to Early 20th Century - 1838 AD to 1926 AD)

Protected Status - none

Sources and further reading

---Secondary File: Secondary File.
<S1>*Verbal Communication: Lodey, J. & Butters, Mr. 2003. [unknown].
<S2>Unpublished Document: Pope, S. and Gary, L.. 2005. Visit Report. Swaffham Union Workhouse..
<S3>Map: Ordnance Survey. 1905. Ordnance Survey 25".
<S4>Map: Ordnance Survey. 1928. Ordnance Survey 25 inch map.
<S5>Newspaper Article: 1926. Eastern Daily Press. 14 April. 14 April.
<S6>Unpublished Contractor Report: Keen, D. 2007. Investigations into the Swaffham Union Workhouse Burial Ground, Oaks Drive, Swaffham. AES Archaeological Excavation & Surveys.
<S7>Documentary Source: 1838. Swaffham, burial ground for Swaffham workhouse. Norwich Diocesan Archives.

Related records - none

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