Bulcamp House of Industry to Blythburgh Hospital
Relief of the poor became the formal responsibility of parishes in the sixteenth century. In the eighteenth century, in the face of rising costs, 15 groups of East Anglian parishes were incorporated by special acts of parliament to run large Houses of Industry, from Nacton in 1756 to Buxton in 1806, seeking more efficient and less expensive relief. Bulcamp was incorporated in 1764 for 46 parishes and one township in the Blything Hundred.
Designed for about 400 inmates, and built on 25 acres of land bought from John Rous of Henham (another 31 acres were rented), Bulcamp cost £11,033. The architect was Thomas Fulcher, also responsible for Stowmarket Union Workhouse, and the Assembly Rooms in Beccles. £500 damage was caused by a mob in August 1765, protesting against the loss of their traditional right to poor relief within their own homes and parishes. Soldiers were called from Ipswich - one man died and six were arrested. Bulcamp opened in October 1766 and in the early years there were c.250 inmates in the summer and 300 in winter. The number peaked in the 1820s at over 550.
Activities included wool spinning for Norwich, stocking knitting, and sack, rope, twine, net, matting and basket making, with spade-husbandry for able-bodied men. The humane intentions of reformers, and high standards of construction, led local gentry to refer to such houses as "Pauper Palaces". Married couples could have their own bedrooms and keep their children with them. Visiting outside was allowed, and material conditions were reasonable - ten cows were kept for milk and cheese, and there was a shop inside which sold tea, tobacco, and snuff. However, later critics saw Bulcamp, where c.25% of inmates died every year from 1766-93, as "that death trap".
Alterations were made in 1836 (creating essentially the plan that was to survive until the 1940s) establishing the deliberately harsh and deterrent regime required by the New Poor Law of 1834. Different classes of inmate were separated, husbands parted from wives, and children from parents. This sparked a second Bulcamp riot. It was intended that the workhouse should be feared, and it was. Well into the twentieth century, a retired District Nurse was quoted in the 1970s: "my villagers ... were scared stiff at the bare mention of Bulcamp".
Because the able-bodied preferred low wages outside the workhouse to the ‘prison with a milder name’, Bulcamp increasingly tended to serve the needs of the infirm, aged, orphaned and sick. The hospital function developed almost by accident from the sick wards of the workhouse. The Board of Guardians did not disappear until the Local Government Act of 1929, when authorities were encouraged to turn workhouses into hospitals. Bulcamp’s high walls did not come down until after 1945 - earlier proposals were rejected on the grounds of expense and the assumption that the inmates did not want a view of the country. The padded and punishment cells also went, and many internal changes made so that the building could reflect modern standards and attitudes in the role of hospital for old people. It closed in 1994, ending a 230-year chapter of Blythburgh history.
Alan Mackley, Blythburgh, April 1994.
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Some Favourite Websites For September 2019:
Michael Bullen – Walberswick based watercolourist and Artist
Watercolours are a moment in time with all the depth, light and simplicity of a haiku and just as elusive. Michael's paintings and prints can be viewed at his Studio overlooking The Market Square in Halesworth.
Chris Doyle Photography – Beautiful Photos of local recent horse riding events
View extensive online galleries of recent horse shows, show jumping, cross country and other events as well as galleries of racing dogs and wildlife. Prints are available to order online.
Poachers Cottage – Poacher's Cottage, Halesworth - Charming self-catering accommodation for three (plus cot) with beach hut option
A welcoming and charming one-bedroomed cottage, with space for a cot. Additional single sofa-bed. Highchair available. This cosy cottage is in a Conservation Area in a street of other interesting period cottages, yet countryside walks start opposite the front door. Stroll to the Market Place and the pedestrianised Thoroughfare. Just ten miles to the coast at Southwold where you have the option of renting a beach hut which is in the same ownership.
Golden Light Essences – A Gift of Transformation
Golden Light Essences comprise a range of flower and vibrational essences. These flower essences have been created to help us to understand and transform the negative beliefs we have about ourselves, and our world.
Green Haven Holidays – Caravan and Camping Site near Halesworth
Stuart and Katherine have enthusiastically established their campsite in the village of Rumburgh just north of Halesworth. From the outset they were keen that this would be an eco-friendly business. Village CAMRA pub close by. Re-opened on 1st May for the 2015 season.