Charitable institutions: The poor rates and poor-houses

Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead. Originally published by Mackenzie and Dent, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827.

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Eneas Mackenzie, 'Charitable institutions: The poor rates and poor-houses', in Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827) pp. 540-545. British History Online [accessed 24 May 2024].

Eneas Mackenzie. "Charitable institutions: The poor rates and poor-houses", in Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827) 540-545. British History Online, accessed May 24, 2024,

Mackenzie, Eneas. "Charitable institutions: The poor rates and poor-houses", Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead, (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827). 540-545. British History Online. Web. 24 May 2024,

In this section


The following are the sums that were raised as poor-rates (fn. 1) in the four parishes of Newcastle upon Tyne, at four different periods of time, viz.—

In 1784. In 1803. In 1815. In 1826.
£. s. d. £. s. d. £. s. d. £. s. d.
St. Nicholas' p. 660 0 0 2200 5 9 3479 0 0 2595 11 5
All Saints' ch. 1572 6 9 4285 15 5 6232 0 0 5934 3 8
St. Andrew's ch. 591 15 3 1179 18 3 3117 0 0 2606 1 5
St. John's ch. 483 11 1 969 8 1 2355 0 0 1835 4 1
3307 13 1 8635 7 6 15185 0 0 12971 0 7

The poor-returns to the House of Commons are required to be made up to the 25th of March each year. In the parishes of St. Nicholas, All Saints, and St. John's, one-fifth is subtracted from the gross rental, and the rate is calculated upon the remaining four-fifths; but in St. Andrew's, the rate is levied upon two-thirds of the rent. According to these modes of charging, the poor-rates, in the year ending March 25, 1826, in St. Nicholas' parish, amounted to 4s. 2d. per pound; All Saints' to 5s. per pound; St. John's to 3s. 1d. per pound; and St. Andrew's to 3s. 10d. per pound; making the average rate for the whole town 4s. 0¼d. In the year ending March, 1825, the average was 3s. 11¾d. per pound; and in the preceding year, 4s. 3½d. per pound.



The poor belonging to this parish were formerly kept in a house in Gallowgate, a little above the entrance to the manufactory of Messrs. Locke, Blackett, and Co.; but a parcel of ground at the head of the Long Stairs being purchased by the parish, a house was erected thereon, which was opened for the reception of the poor on October 17, 1803.

"There children dwell who know no parents' care; Parents, who know no children's love, dwell there; Heart-broken matrons on their joyless bed, Forsaken wives and mothers never wed, Dejected widows with unheeded tears, And crippled age with more than childhood fears."—Crabbe.

The situation is airy, and commands a fine view of the Windmill Hills and parts adjacent, and, though in the midst of a crowded district, is tolerably retired. The building consists of three rooms for the master, six rooms for the paupers, a hall, kitchen with cellars, oakum-room, a strong lock-up room, dead-room, and other appendages. The yard is large and convenient; and the house is abundantly supplied with water. The master, Mr. John Smith, uses every exertion to preserve cleanliness, which is the more necessary, as the rooms are very imperfectly ventilated. Another great defect, but too common in buildings of this description, is the want of sickrooms. Here the sick and the healthy are necessarily huddled together into small rooms, in each of which two or three beds are usually occupied by the diseased and dying. Thus are the unfortunate paupers doomed continually to witness the sufferings of humanity;—a situation sometimes disgusting and humiliating, frequently inimical to health, and always depressing to the spirits.

There are at present 36 inmates in this house. The average number is 38; though they have amounted to 50 at one time. This is not an asylum for the lazy and artful impostor. The average age of the 10 male paupers exceeds 71 years; and the average age of 17 women (exclusive of two young idiots) is nearly 69 years. A few are employed in teasing oakum; but the sick and infirm are so numerous, that it has been found impossible to do the business of the house without hiring a female servant. The out-door paupers, who could clean, sew, or attend the sick, generally contrive to exist upon the most miserable pittance rather than go into the house, which certainly possesses few attractions, even for those that are steeped in poverty and acquainted with misfortune. The following is the usual "Bill of Fare:"—

Breakfast, every day,—Hasty pudding, and one gill of milk. The sick allowed coffee or tea.

Sunday, Dinner,—Boiled mutton, with potatoes or vegetables.

Supper,—The broth warmed, and bread.

Monday, Dinner,—The broth warmed, and bread.

Supper,—The broth warmed, and bread.

Tuesday, Dinner,—Suet dumplings.

Supper,—Milk gruel, or boiled barley.

Wednesday, Dinner,—Pease or potatoe soup, from a hough of beef.

Supper,—The same.

Thursday, Dinner,—Boiled beef, and potatoes or pease.

Supper,—The broth warmed, and bread.

Friday, Dinner,—The broth warmed, and bread.

Supper,—The broth warmed, and bread.

Saturday, Dinner,—One pint of milk gruel, or barley milk gruel,

Supper,—Milk gruel.

This fare is occasionally varied with fish when cheap, or with bullocks' hearts. The coarsest pieces of beef seem to be used.

Formerly, the in-door paupers were allowed 3½d. per week, for the purchase of tobacco, &c.; but this extravagant indulgence has been for some time discontinued. On the whole, the dietry of this house is decidedly inferior to that of the other poorhouses in Newcastle. This may be attributed partly to the manner in which the select vestry of this parish is constituted, and partly to the want of public spirit amongst the respectable parishioners. The parish subscribe ten guineas annually to the Dispensary, and, by reserving their recommendatory letters for the use of the house, obtain the attendance of the apothecary and medical gentlemen of that establishment. (fn. 2) Each pauper is calculated to cost 3s. 9½d. per week.

The present number of out-door poor belonging to this parish amounts to 360, including three lunatics, who are kept in the town's Asylum, and for whom the parish pays Dr. Smith at the rate of 9s. 6d. per week for males, and 9s. per week for females. This is exclusive of clothing.


This extensive building, which forms a quadrangle, occupies the scite of the Augustine convent. Formerly, it was The General Hospital, for the reception of the poor of the several parishes of the town. The poor becoming numerous, the west side was added above 40 years ago, and bears the following inscription:—

"This addition to the General Hospital was built at the expense of the parish of All Saints, with the assistance of the corporation, and for the larger reception of the poor of the said parish: James Rudman, Esq. mayor; Edward Dale, Esq. sheriff. Wardens, Thomas Barkas, Peter Paxton, William Lloyd, Joseph Straker. Overseers, Thomas Guthrie, Joseph Liddell, George Hunter, Thomas Smith. 1785."

This house possesses every requisite convenience. The rooms, in general, are lofty, and well ventilated, by the upper sash of the windows being made to turn upon pivots. The dining-room is a large airy apartment, above which is another room, very commodious, and well lighted and ventilated by a row of windows on each side. Here the poor are paid, and the parochial Sunday-school is kept. Adjoining is a neat apartment, where the parish-officers hold their monthly meetings. On the ground-floor is a large kitchen and scullery, and a room where some are employed in teasing oakum and hair. The house is plentifully supplied with the New Water; and there is a pump in the yard, where this necessary article is procured for ordinary purposes. The attention and humanity of Mr. John Milburn, the master, and his assistants, is conspicuous in every part and in every countenance. The present num ber in the house is 69; but 75 is the average number during the last three years. There are only 12 children, who, as soon as their age admits, are educated in St. Nicholas' Enlarged Charity-school. The following is the usual "Bill of Fare" in this house:—

Breakfast, every morning,—Hasty pudding, and one gill of milk. The sick and infirm allowed coffee or tea.

Sunday, Dinner,—Boiled beef or mutton, and potatoes or vegetables—broth.

Supper,—Broth warmed, and bread.

Monday, Dinner,—Hashed meat.

Supper,—Bread and milk.

Tuesday, Dinner,—Bread and milk.

Supper,—The same.

Wednesday, Dinner,—Boiled beef or mutton, with potatoes or vegetables—broth.

Supper,—Broth and bread.

Thursday, Dinner,—Hashed meat.

Supper,—Bread and milk.

Friday, Dinner,—Bread and milk.

Supper,—The same.

Saturday, Dinner,—Frumenty.

Supper,—Bread and milk.

The food is of the best quality; and those who prefer it, may have good table-beer for supper instead of milk. The sick are well attended to; and every thing is given them that Mr. Baird, the house-surgeon, recommends, and whose bill usually amounts to 70 or £ 80 in a year. The cost of each pauper per week averages at present, including clothes, &c. about 4s. 10½d. The parish accounts are kept in a neat, accurate, and satisfactory manner, by Mr. Chater, the vestry clerk. When the present master (fn. 3) entered, in July, 1808, there were 144 paupers in the house. Since that time, to September, 1826, there were 242 males and 458 females discharged, and 111 males and 192 females had died. The present number of out-door poor, including children, on the books of this parish, is 845, besides 24 lunatics! the expense of whose maintenance must exceed £600 a year.


This house stands in the airy lane which leads south-west from the head of Gallowgate, and was first opened for the convenience of the Lunatic Asylum. It was enlarged and altered in 1810, and again in 1817; but it is still a very inconvenient house, having steep stairs, and no separate sick-rooms, though a pauper lately died there of a contagious fever. In every other respect, it might serve as a pattern for similar establishments. The master and permanent overseer, Mr. Richard Nicholson, continues free from the heart-hardening effect so often produced by being familiarized with scenes of distress; and the kindness and discrimination he displays in his treatment of the poor have gained him the esteem and approbation of the opulent parish for which he acts. The average number of poor in the house is 60; but, at present, it contains only 54, of which number 28 are children, whom Mrs. Nicholson treats with the kindness of a mother. Those of proper age are sent to school; and the grown girls, when usefully employed in the house, are taught writing and accounts by a master in the evenings, so as to qualify them for any situation in private families. The usual employment of the females and children is spinning, sewing, and knitting for the house. Every one receives a pecuniary recompence for work done, so that this may properly be called a House of Industry. The following is the "Bill of Fare:"—

Breakfasts, always,—Hasty pudding, and new milk in such quantities as may suit the peculiar age and constitution of the pauper. Old and sick people have coffee or tea.

Sunday, Dinner,—A round of beef, with pease, potatoes, or vegetables; and broth and suet dumplings.

Supper,—Children, bread and new milk; old people, tea.

Monday, Dinner,—Cold or hashed meat, with potatoes.

Supper,—Broth, or new milk and bread.

Tuesday, Dinner,—Suet dumplings, or fish.

Supper,—New milk and bread.

Wednesday, Dinner,—Beef or mutton boiled, with broth, and pease or potatoe pudding,

Supper,—Broth, or milk and bread.

Thursday, Dinner,—Cold or hashed meat, with potatoes.

Supper,—Milk and bread.

Friday, Dinner,—Suet dumplings, or fish, &c.

Supper,—Milk and bread.

Saturday, Dinner,—Frumenty, sweetened with treacle, &c.

Supper,—As usual.

The sick are attended by Mr. Wilkie, and, when necessary, by the other medical officers of the Dispensary. They are allowed beer, wine, spirit, or whatever else is ordered. The allowance paid for work done procures them tobacco, &c. The expense of each pauper per week for food is estimated at about 4s. There are, at present, 338 out-door poor upon the books of this parish, and 4 lunatics.


This house occupies a remarkably airy and pleasant situation, near to the Lunatic Asylum. It was built by the parish upon a plot of the Warden's Close, for which a small ground-rent is paid to the corporation. It has lately been enlarged and improved, and now contains every necessary convenience. The rooms and beds are uncommonly clean, and admit of a free circulation of air. Behind is a large flagged yard, with wash-house, bake-house, coal-house, dead-house, and every other requisite office. Further back is a lumber-yard, piggery, and three rooms, below which are two cells, the illegal use of which is discontinued. The paupers seem to be treated with proper humanity by Mr. Robert Chicken, the master, and also by Mrs. Chicken, who is evidently well adapted for the management of such an establishment. The present number of inmates is only 28; but 54 have been in the house at one time. The children are sent to the Sunday-school, and, during the week, to St. Nicholas' Enlarged Charity-school. The master reads on Sundays to those old or infirm people that cannot attend the church; and the Methodists frequently visit the house. The "Bill of Fare" is as follows:—

Breakfasts,—Hasty pudding, and one gill of milk. Those whose stomachs are too delicate for this food get bread and milk, and the sick coffee.

Sunday, Dinner,—Boiled beef or mutton, with potatoes or vegetables, and broth.

Supper,—Broth and bread.

Monday, Dinner,—Cold meat, with potatoes, and occasionally broth.

Supper,—Bread and milk.

Tuesday, Dinner,—Plum puddings.

Supper,—Bread and milk.

Wednesday, Dinner,—Boiled mutton, with mashed potatoes, and broth.

Supper,—Bread and broth.

Thursday, Dinner,—Cold meat, with potatoes, &c.

Supper,—Bread and milk.

Friday, Dinner,—Bullock's head stewed, with potatoes.

Supper,—Bread and milk.

Saturday, Dinner,—Plum puddings.

Supper,—Bread and milk.

The bread used is a mixture of wheat flour and rye. The diet is occasionally varied with fish; and the beef and mutton used are of the best kind. The house has been entirely exempted from any contagious disorders during the last ten years. At present, all are in health; and sickness, except what arises from the decay of nature, is extremely rare. Mr. Wilkie, apothecary to the Dispensary, attends the sick, who are refused nothing suitable to their case. Each pauper at present costs, for food alone, 3s. 1d. a week, and, including clothing, 3s. 6¼d. a week. The produce of their labour, in teasing hair, spinning, knitting, and sewing, is estimated at about one-tenth of the whole expense. Those who use tobacco are allowed ½ an oz. every week. The Visiting Book, in which every one who inspects the house is invited to enter his remarks and signature, shews the anxiety of the parishioners to secure the comfort of their poor, and offers a praiseworthy example to some other parishes in the town. The present number of out-door poor amounts to 145, who cost, children included, 2s. 2¼d. a head per week, There are 4 lunatics supported by this parish. (fn. 4)


  • 1. The money levied as poor-rates includes the county-rates, and many small sums paid for other purposes than the relief of the poor. The amount and application of the county-rate will be noticed hereafter. When a county-rate was first demanded of the parishes of this town, the inhabitants appeared disposed to resist payment; but at a meeting of delegates of the parishes, held on May 11, 1796, it was recommended to the inhabitants, on legal authorities, to pay the county-rate to preserve the peace of the town, as they conceive that such payment will not prejudice them on any future occasion, should they chuse to litigate the question whether such public burthens are not to be paid by the corporation out of their own funds.
  • 2. This parish, as well as the other parishes of Newcastle, subscribe five guineas a year to the Lock Hospital. (See page 524.) The writer, wishing to supply the want of information concerning this establishment, has continued his enquiries, and finds that it is deficient in economy, arrangement, and superintendence; that its funds are in a very unprosperous state; and that the diseased patients at night frequently elude the vigilance of Mrs. Lackenby, the housekeeper, and prowl about in their old haunts. Every praise is due to its humane supporters; but experience has shewn the necessity of converting it into a Penttentiary. Reformation, as well as cure, ought, if possible, to be aimed at; and habits of industry must precede habits of virtue. There can be no doubt but that such an institution would be warmly and liberally patronized.
  • 3. William Temple, master of this house, who died in May, 1808, was a singular character. He came originally from the borders of Scotland, and pursued his business of weaving during many years in Newcastle. He always rose early, and studied two or three hours before the commencement of his work. By severe application, he had acquired a tolerable knowledge of Latin and Greek, and was particularly well skilled in Hebrew and the other Biblical languages. Many learned linguists, by whom he was visited, expressed the utmost surprise at his acquirements. His manners were solemnly and pompously pedantic. He was a rigid Presbyterian,—never lost sight of the immense inferiority of women to the "lords of the creation," and strongly supported St. Paul's advice for "every man to bear rule in his own house."
  • 4. The poor-rates in the township of the Westgate, in the chapelry of St. John's, and one of the suburbs of Newcastle, amounted, in the year ending March 25, 1826, to £368, 3s. 8d. at 2s. per pound upon half of the rack rental. There are, at present belonging to this township, 60 out-door poor, and 7 in John Mason's poor-house, near the head of Gallowgate, and for whom 3s. 6d. per head is paid weekly, besides 4d. for tobacco and shaving. This is exclusive of bedding, and the payment of a proportional part of the rent of thehouse.—Byker Township, which includes the eastern suburbs of Newcastle, has, during the last 30 years, been much oppressed by heavy poor-rates. The poor-rates, in 1744, amounted to £2, and, in 1804, to £1490, 8s. 3d. In the year ending Easter, 1826, they were £681, 2s. 3d. of which £618, 16s. 10d. was expended in the maintenance of the poor. The present number of out-door poor is 137, exclusive of 2 lunatics, and 5 paupers, who are kept in Mr. Mason's poor-house, at 3s. per week each. Notwithstanding the vigilance of Mr. Coulson, the permanent overseer, the number of illegitimate children born in the township is rapidly increasing. In his "Observations," annexed to the last return to the House of Commons, he expresses his disapprobation of the existing law of bastardy, by saying that "it would be difficult to contrive or conceive absurdities so glaring." And again, "If the legislature would attend to the suggestions of overseers of the poor, of long standing and extensive practice, some good might be expected to result; but the whims and chimeras of barristers will never, on trial, mend the matter."